Bratislava to Cambridge – a quick update.

We left rainy Bratislava at 10am after an inordinately expensive taxi ride (when will I learn to look for a meter right away?!) to the airport and then the expected undignified crush to get onto the non-allocated Ryanair flight. Crammed together like sardines, we were at least grateful that the flight was only 2 and a half hours.

Stansted airport was bathed in glorious sunshine when we got there and after a long wait in a short line at customs we emerged, ready to give Matt a big hug and head to the nearest pub for a pint and a catch up. No Matt at the arrivals gate so we waited. And waited. And waited. Luke tried to call, sent messages to no avail. We’d spoken to Matt only the week before to confirm that he was picking us up so we started to get worried, both for his sake and ours. After a couple of hours and considering plans of hiring a car, heading to Nottingham by coach or catching the train into London and staying at a hostel, I realised that my friend (and former housemate when I lived in the UK) Andrew wasn’t too far away. We called him and he offered to come pick us up, which was amazingly generous, and was with us in half an hour. Thank god Cambridge is so close to Stansted!

We were overjoyed at Andrew’s arrival – he’s such a champ. He’s just bought his own place so we’re staying there for the moment and working out what we’re doing. This coming week was supposed to be a long drive along the south coast with the car that Matt was buying but we still haven’t heard from him. My guess is he’s either mixed up the dates or he’s had some sort of accident on the road and couldn’t reach us.

Hopefully we’ll find out what happened soon, but until then we’re hanging out at Andrew’s doing internet stuff, eating ridiculously cheap cheese from the omg-huge Tesco across the way. Apparently the third largest in the UK. It’s seriously the size of an aircraft hanger and just as charming.


To jump forward in time, since I wrote the above Matt called us to say that he thought we were arriving tomorrow and he feels awful about getting mixed up and hopefully will have acquired a car by the end of the weekend.

Fingers crossed! Now we’re off to the pub.

Farewell Zdiar, Hello Bratislava!

The last few days at the Ginger Monkey were pleasant and, thankfully, uneventful.

The front of the Ginger Monkey.

View from the front of the hostel.

Wally (the hostel’s dog) had come home from the vet (he’d been bitten on the face by a venomous snake) and then been let out (unwittingly by one of the Canadian girls who’d been on the walk where he’d been bitten… I mean… god, I’m not surprised they felt massively guilty even though, of course, none of it was intentional) and not come back for over 24 hours. In fact, he didn’t really come back at all. Danka, the manager (and continuing apologies if I’m spelling your name wrong, Danka) went out to find him sitting by the side of the road, probably debating the various merits of avoiding the vet and possibly dying or going to the vet and getting more injections.

Wally, not looking too happy.

In the midst of all this a new employee for the hostel, Mel, arrived. God knows what she thought of it all. The Ginger Monkey has really stood out to me as completely unlike every swish, modern, 100-room, multi-floor hostel we’ve stayed in so far. It feels a lot more like staying in some kind of log cabin share house, where everything is a bit dodgy but the people are really nice. Asa, the other employee (in fact, I’m not sure Asa and Mel get paid, it’s a few hour’s work for board… maybe? Feel free to correct me, Mel) had only been at the hostel for 3 days when we arrived. Danka had been the manager for 3 months. The owners were currently traveling… it was all a bit Fawlty Towers, tbh.

The kitchen. Note the little cuckoo clock under the red fairy lights. It scared the bejesus out of everyone on the hour with it’s loud monkey noises.

Oh, did I mention that there was a church next door that spent 5 minutes, morning and night letting us know when it was six o’clock? Why six I have no idea. Alternate peals at eight or nine would’ve been more civilised but that’s not what churches are about, I suppose.  And don’t get me started on Sundays, when it was every hour, if not half hour. There was also, even more mysteriously, the loudspeakers positioned around the village that blared incomprehensible (ok, probably Slovakian) folk music once a day.

Combine all this with the fact that Luke also saw a snake (the Canadian girls saw two) and … well. It was surreal. Fun, but surreal.

I take back what I said about the last few days being uneventful.

Luke, Wally and Jen (another guest) chilling in the loungeroom.

This morning we waved goodbye to Asa, Mel and Danka – and of course the beleaguered Wally, the other dog (whose name I’m not going to attempt to spell again) and Kevin the cat, and caught the bus into Poprad.

From Poprad we caught a four hour train to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of Bratislava. The general consensus seems to be that it’s dull. Mel said she liked it though, which gave us hope. The train journey was certainly picturesque, with castles popping up every so often and a few swan-strewn lakes and many little villages.

We found our hotel and its surly staff pretty easily and settled into our air conditioned, enormous room with our own bathroom. After a month of hostels and shared-bathroom hotels this is a luxury not to be sniffed at.

Immediate impressions of Bratislava are that it is extremely pretty. In the old part of town anyhow, which reminds me of those really over-the-top casinos where they recreate the canals of Venice but it all looks a bit too clean and nice. Bratislava could easily be transported into a Vegas casino to play the part of ‘ye olde European village’ as it is extremely tidy, newly painted, cobblestoned and full of quaintness, including ever-so-slightly cutesy statues around town – more on those tomorrow.

Tonight we’ve eaten an extremely tasty dinner at a gourmet establishment for the astonishing price of 20 euros (that included drinks) and estimated that something similar in Melbourne could be bought for perhaps three times the price. Already the prospect of paying Australian prices for things is boggling our minds. We bought enough groceries in Zdiar to last 6 meals with accompanying drinks for 5 euros. Ludicrous! Although we did hear today that the minimum wage is 3 euros an hour in Slovakia. Kind of puts things into perspective.

More photos, and hopefully something interesting to write about tomorrow, we’ve really no idea what to do here so we may take up Mel’s suggestion of the free walking tour. Night all!