I can’t lie to you. Travelling to all twenty seven EU countries, while awesome in almost every way, has also proved to be pretty tough. Perhaps I never thought it was something that could become real and yet here we are in the final five. But the truth is that we’ve paid a price for all the experiences we’ve managed to gain; not just in the financially crippling stakes, but also the constant travel planning, plane delays and pure stress involved with two years of almost constant travel with a moody pre-teen! But I can’t complain. From Ireland to Lithuania, and Sweden to Malta, we’ve seen almost everything Europe has to offer. Almost everything. But the truth is that almost 2 years of travel has left us a little weary. We needed a rest to recharge before the final furlong and Slovakia was just the ticket.
When Mrs P and I stopped to think about it, we knew a surprisingly large number of people from Slovakia and we’ll talk to a couple of them later but in the meantime just feast your eyes on Bratislava. Just a couple of hours from Vienna, Bratislava is treated as a day trip by visitors and don’t get me wrong, we loved Austria, and yes, maybe there isn’t a huge amount to do in Bratislava but take it from me, there is more than enough for a good weekend city break.
Dominating the river side views of Bratislava is the UFO – a former Soviet observation post but now a bar, restaurant, nightclub and viewing platform all rolled into one, perched on top of the bridge giving some seriously great views across the city and also one hellofa sunset on a warm summers day. Let’s be fair, drinks were good if not great but with a view like that, are you going to care? I didn’t.
Downtown Bratislava was loads of fun, it’s compact which means you can walk around without fear of getting too lost and the squares were filled with bars, music and food. Of course, none of the locals actually eat in the downtown area (we were sent off to a Slovakianised KFC-a-like at a local shopping centre when we asked where the people who live here go), but boy do they party. The bars were rammo and with live music round every corner, the summer night we spent there was absolutely fantastic.
But it was in the mountains that we really found the true spirit of Slovakia that will keep us coming back. As is our way, we checked Airbnb at 9am and found a tiny cottage in the unfortunately named village of Bully situated in the Donovaly Snow park. A quick google search told us that while there would be no snow (it was August afterall), the park was open all year round and housed some amazing activities all within the Low Tatras National Park. Plus it was a mere 2 hours 30 minutes from Bratislava and so we committed within seconds and jumped in the car.
A few of the more astute readers will at this point have realised our error. It’s true that under most circumstances our impetuous and devil-may-care natures have provided the spring board for some incredible one-of-a-kind adventures, and Castle Bojnice is, without question, a truly beautiful and amazing place to visit – we recommend it whole heartedly. But please, for the love of God, don’t (as we did) visit the gorgeously stunning Bojnice castle on a record breakingly hot day having just spent 18 months travelling around Europe, the last 6 days of which in a car 24 hours a day with your significant other with nothing more than a hormonal pre-teen for entertainment and company. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I admit I may have been a little unforgiving in the expression of, what I now understand to be, my misguided opinions on that day and as a consequence spent most of the following 24 hours working out how to apologise.
I came to my senses just in time to experience exactly why our friends and family all talk about the Slovakian countryside the way they do. And speaking of family, we’re lucky enough to have the wonderful Erika in our lives. Born and raised in Slovakia and now firmly part of the extended family, she agreed to give me her view on Brexit as well as a few thoughts from some family back home as well. The conversation started as most Brexit conversations do:
“I don’t know anything! No-one knows! Everyone back home in Slovakia asks us what we think but but really they say Brexit is the UK’s problem, not Slovakia’s. They are confused by Brexit really, they say ‘Why don’t you like us? The UK has welcomed so many people from so many places, but now is Brexit about us from Eastern Europe?’ I don’t think so, I see people are moving back home because the cost of living is not that different any more. I think Slovakia would prefer Britian to stay in the EU because they could help change Brussels. I remember what it was like under communism, you could not say this or that. Brussels is trying to tell us what to do and what to say, I think Britain could have helped that.
The future is not good, not bad but a different way. British people cannot speak eastern European language but this skill will still be needed, companies will still need to work with Eastern Europe and that won’t change even with Brexit.”
An interesting view of Brexit with both positive and negative aspects. Erika didn’t know what was going to happen but I can confirm one thing very clearly; Slovakia refilled my body and soul with enough humility, humanity and enthusiasm to get back on course and back on the road with a much happier Family P. Next stop: bring on Budapest!
The #2MenEUTour Big Brexit Tour journey so far: