Bratislava by Bus

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
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Trip End Aug 26, 2010


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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Today, my friend had to work, so I was on my own. My hotel was right across from his apartment building, but well out of walking distance from the historic district. I thought about just staying in my room and catching up on my blog (I was well over a week behind at that point. I wrote the text every day, but I hadn't had time to go through all the pictures and sort them out for posting), but there were a couple of museums I was interested in that we had skipped yesterday and I also wanted to go back to the mall and see what shopping was like in Slovakia.

I decided to try to figure out the Bratislava bus system. It turned out to be extremely easy. There was a great website, http://www.imhd.zoznam.sk/ba/?lang=en, (with English) that allowed you to enter a start and an end stop, then gave you a list of options for getting there around the time you asked for. It listed bus/trolley-bus/tram numbers, the names of any transfer stops, the direction you wanted to go, the number of stops from where you got on to where you would get off, and the approximate times. The bus stops had the names and bus numbers prominently label, and even the buses themselves had electronic displays with the stop names.

I plotted out a few courses and started with a visit to the mall. It was identical to a mall in the US. There was some sort of Lego promotion going on, so there were Lego statues scattered throughout the building. I took a few pictures of those, and spent some time shopping for pants, as I had managed to rip a small hole in one of the few pairs I had brought to Europe while doing the ropes course yesterday. Slacks turned out to be very expensive (70 euros on sale), and I'm not a jeans fan, so I'll make do with what I have until I get back to the US.

After the mall, it was a quick bus trip into downtown Bratislava. The only small hiccup was the bus stop to go downtown was on a different side of the mall than the bus to the mall had been, so I spent a little extra time circling the outside of the mall to find the stop.

The first museum I went to was the Museum of Clocks. It was a small museum housed in the narrowest house in Bratislava, a Rococo-style building from the 1700's. There were a few unusual time keeping devices, such as a 4-glass hour glass and pocket sundials, but the main focus was on decorative clocks. The big fact I got out of the trip was that at one time half of the clock-makers in Slovakia were working in Bratislava, but that wasn't a big surprise as most of the rest of the cities seem relatively small and there weren't that many of them. It was actually more surprising the percentage wasn't higher.

On my way to the clock museum, I ducked into St Martin's Cathedral. It was a relatively large building near the Danube and pressed-up against a highway. (Or rather, the highway had been built pressed-up against it.) Nineteen kings and queens were crowned in the building over a period of almost 300 years, starting around the time when the Hungarian Kingdom was split into three parts by the Turkish invasion. The Hapsburgs ended up with the part around Bratislava, and I'm guessing some of them didn't want to have to go too far from Vienna for the ceremony, even after Székesfehérvár returned to Hungarian control.

After the clocks, I had one more museum for the day. The Slovak National Museum was extremely disappointing. Part of it was my guidebook's fault. Again I was hit by Lonely Planet's apparent inability to distinguish between permanent and temporary exhibitions. That made three countries with three different authors (Slovakia and Hungary for sure, but I think I encountered it in Croatia as well...), so it was definitely a systemic problem. I showed up at the museum expecting "a super overview of folk culture and customs", but there was almost on information about Slovakia or its history at all.

There was a (temporary) exhibit about petrogylphs of Central Asia that made me want to go to Kazakhstan. A (temporary) exhibit about books. It wasn't quite as informative as the exhibition at Pannonhalma Abbey, but a significant portion of it was devoted to Slovakian authors and literature, so that was a little information about the country. There was also a (temporary) exhibit with a handful of items from the Turkish occupation of southern Slovakia/northern Hungary. There was a little more Slovakian history there, but that was it for the museum. The other floors had a small exhibit on toys (Kecskemét was better) and two floors of "natural history" with rocks and taxidermy.

So for now, I'll have to rely on what I've learned about Slovakia from when it was part of Hungary or Austro-Hungary. Of course, I didn't have time to go to the Hungarian National Museum, but I still managed to figure out a decent chunk of that country's history from visiting historical places, so I assume the same with hold for Slovakia. We'll test that theory tomorrow on my first day outside of Bratislava.

Unrelated, but I'm watching Eurosport (European ESPN) while I typing this, since I don't get any English or German channels. I didn't know but apparently there's a summer version of Nordic combined where they use some sort of "skate ski" contraptions. Also, the word for Nordic combined in Slovakian appears to be "skiskyting".
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