TRAVEL THERE: NOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED IN BRATISLAVA
Bratislava is a lovely little town with the oldest surviving town gate in Continental Europe. However, I ran into several complications in my efforts to enjoy this stop on our cruise. The video includes the highlights of the shore excursion and I’ll tell you about my difficulties behind the scenes.
The Walking Tour That Wasn’t the Walking Tour
I had carefully studied the available shore excursions back in Dallas and after a careful examination, decided the Bratislava Walking Tour was superior to the Bratislava City Tour. Both involved walking around the Old City, but one included a bus trip to what I call Faux Castle.
See there once was a real castle up on Castle Hill. However, it was nothing but a ruin when the Communists showed up. They decided they needed to replace the castle, but all they did was build a modern building and call it a castle. I had no desire to see their modern day monstrosity.
However, when I showed up on the dock, we were ushered to a bus and I got the distinct feeling I wasn’t going to be happy about it. In Viking’s defense, I didn’t say anything to anybody once I feared I was on the wrong tour. I guess the jet lag or something had finally hit me, because I wasn’t feeling completely up to par and I just didn’t have the desire to rock the boat – or the bus. My bad.
The bus took us up Castle Hill and dumped us out at the Faux Castle for an orgy of picture taking. The scenery was great, but there’s nothing that makes you feel more like a tourist than being dumped off for a photo opportunity when you don’t really understand why you are there in the first place. The guide never even pretended the castle had any historical or architectural significance. She just said we had ten minutes to take pictures and abandoned us.
On cue, we filed back on the bus after taking our photos and rode down the hill. Then we went on a walking tour which was somewhat interesting, but not compelling. That might have been because the grumblings in my stomach were getting most of my attention, but I was also wondering how the tour sans the Faux Castle would have differed. My new friends assured me they had a great time on the real walking tour, but since Deb was the sort to have fun whatever she was doing, I don’t know if she can be trusted.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
Andrew Petcher (a fellow travel blogger I highly recommend), suggested free-style wandering was the best way to see the town, but with Mr. Bill in tow, free-style can be problematic. I think Andrew was probably right. With my Rick Steves’ tour book in hand and no tour guide to keep up with, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed the capital of Slovakia. The architecture was charming and the quirky sculpture sprinkled throughout the town made for some great snickering.
I think it would be a great place to spend a quiet weekend, but it’s a little far from Dallas for me to check out that theory. My greatest regret was not getting to the UFO Restaurant atop a bridge, another gift of the Communists. After the walking tour we were given some free time, but by then I desperately needed a little private time in my cabin.
A Slovakian Evening
By 6:45 I had gotten myself back into cruise mode and was front and center for the Daily Briefing. We had dinner with our cruise buddies and then made our way back to Lounge for “A Slovakian Evening.”
The entertainment was delightful. Those great big ocean liners can provide productions to rival Broadway and Hollywood, but you have to share them with your 3000 new friends. I’m sort of over that. I much preferred the intimate setting of the Lounge, where we gathered comfortably with 178 (give or take a few) other passengers. The show was marvelous. In fact, after some expensive entertainment in Vienna, our friends told us the onboard entertainment had much better performers than the Viennese show. We thoroughly enjoyed the Slovakian Evening, because the songs were familiar, the costumes were beautiful and performers were gifted.
Below I have included some photos of the entertainment. I hope you’ll come back next week for Vienna – the highlight of the cruise.