Trip Start Mar 14, 2010
51Trip End Jul 11, 2010
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Today we leave Budapest and head for Prague, via Bratislava in Slovakia. Much cooler today. The stretch of hot over 35C weather has broken and we enjoy low twenties.
Orsi, our tour leader, fills us in on some of the background of Slovakia and the particular political enmity between Hungary and Slovakia. In the days when the Hungarian empire was chased out by the Turkish invasion (17th century), the Hungarians made Bratislava their capital. Present day Slovakia was part of the Hungarian empire until early twentieth century. Slovakia and Czech republic were arbitrarily joined together as Czechosolvakia after WW2 after the Potsdam agreement between the Soviets and allies divided up territories. They were separated again after the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989.
As we leave Hungary and cross into Slovakia, we're noticing a lot of Soviet era housing blocks that have been prettied up. This is happening all over former communist Europe. During the communist era, thousands of people were forced out of rural area into cities, requiring more housing to be built. Standard block housing was put up everywhere - same size rooms, same furniture, same drab colour, same everything. With the fall of communism, some of this housing has been razed and built on anew, while a lot has been refurbished and externally made over. It's quite interesting to see the contrast between the old and the mqde-over.
We stop in Bratislava for lunch. It's a small city and we only look at the "old town" bit. We walk through the narrow streets and borad squares of the old town. Smaller than Nuremberg and less modernised than, say, Trier it's an interesting and compact example of a typical medieval European city. Not a place you could spend many days in though. Slovakia generally is considered an economic powerhouse amongst fomer communist Eurpoean countries, due to its richness of natural resources.
From there we drive into Czech Republic, first the state of Moldavia, then into Bohemia, where will find Prague. We arrive in Prague at about 6:30pm, but bypass the old town to reach our hotel on the outskirts. A nice hotel this time. Despite not having walked too much today and having cooler weather, the heat of the previous days has caught up and we're pretty tired. We don't bother to catch a train or cab into town tonight. We'll see Prague tomorrow.