It was time to depart for Bratislava. First, we had the distinct pleasure of having our money
stolen changed down on Nador street, after which we sat in Ena’s weird apartment with her and her velour track suited husband, where naturally, some sort of argument broke out over what we were being charged versus what we expected to be charged. It came as a relief to us all that we had booked different accommodations for our return to Budapest, three weeks down the road.
At this point we were cocky metro escalator pros, so much so that I tried to casually hop on with a cup of unlidded coffee in my hand, wherein I was stopped by the people mover police and made to throw it out. That’s how fast and steep those things are; they have their own security detail for crying out loud. And, riding one with a cup of coffee is viewed as a threat to public safety. Respect. We rode the metro back to beautiful Keleti station
where we went back to our beer garden and ordered breakfast beers with some goulash soupa.
This goulash was not as satisfying as the version at John’s Bull Pub; it was tepid and lacked caraway, but it did have huge chunks of meat and was perfectly palatable. We boarded our train, which was just a train, nothing special, nothing terrible, and started on our way.
As always, we sat with worried anticipation…would there be a food and drink cart, or would this be a dry and vittleless journey? Soon, just such a cart arrived, provisioned with beer, coffee, water, and grab and go snacks.
We bought a round of beers and a turkey wrap.
And then, we all grabbed our various forms of entertainment and settled in for the ride. Soon, there was a commotion, which signaled that Mikey had just spilled Randi’s beer all over her lap. Sucked to be her.
Once in Bratislava, we had to procure our outgoing train tickets before we could go to our hotel. Randi and I walked up to the ticket window while the boys went to get the “Slovakian national snack;” a ham and cabbage sandwich, absolutely lousy with mayo (a plus, in my book). At the ticket window the lady asked me which train I wanted and what time I wanted to go; when I said “around eleven?” She responded that I had to go to the information window to get a train schedule first. I have no idea why such a thing would be necessary, why she couldn’t just tell me what trains were available to Zilina, but, she couldn’t or wouldn’t.
We found the information window, which had a line of waiting people, the first of whom was a man staring into it and saying nothing for a protracted period of time. Randi investigated and found that there was a woman, an employee, on the other side, with her back to the man, just standing there, doing…nothing. Eventually this reverse face off ended, when she handed the man something which prompted him to leave, after which the next person in line stood at the window and said nothing for another interminable stretch of time. It was impossible to comprehend. Two people then decided to silently cut in front of me, and after spending five or so minutes watching this bizarre scene, one of the cutters, a fat mouth breathing man, started yelling at the woman behind the window and then he left. Moral of the story; buying train tickets in Eastern Europe sucks.
We went outside to the line of cab drivers, who all sat in their cars, ignoring us. We paced around in front of their windows with our backpacks on, looking confused, holding papers with hotel info, and they just totally and completely blew us off. Having no other choice, we got a little more aggressive with one of them, who then referred us to another one, who then took us to our hotel (Design 21) which was basically in San Bruno, aka, the lamest, shittiest, most soulless part of town.
Design 21 is a “boutique” hotel that is supposed to be artsy (hence the catchy name). The lobby was a study in white plastic with hot pink accents, manned by a series of platinum blonds who I’m fairly certain were actually robotic sex dolls, all of them dressed in tight, hot pink pants and loafing around the lobby whilst watching some peculiar show on the large flat screen TV. The front desk looked like a bar, literally, there were martini glasses and maybe eight bottles of booze, possibly a tap or two, with some bright blond, freshly scrubbed, blue-eyed, ponytailed chick standing behind it.
Our room was #4, on the first floor, so you know, we walked past the front desk there on the first floor to find it, did not, in fact, find it, came back, asked if we should take the elevator, yes, then loaded ourselves into the hottest, pinkest, tiniest elevator that ever was, and somehow rode it on down to floor negative one. riiiiiggght. Good old floor negative one. Gets me every time. We folded ourselves back into the hotbox, took it to “actual” floor 1, which was, in reality, floor two, and located room 4.
Over in Mikey and Randi’s room, this was going on:
I mean, it was a design hotel.
We wanted to go to the Beer Palace, a place I’d been stalking on Facebook for months (Beer Food Fun is their Facebook name). We asked one of the sex robots how to get there; she explained that we needed to go to the bus stop out front, catch the 39, go under the bridge, and catch a tram. But first, we needed to get a ticket from the traffic police, who were in a hut on the corner. Makes perfect sense, right?
We set out, took a left to go to the corner and found there was no corner, turned back around as the 39 pulled up and left and walked to the other corner, where we found a red hut with barred windows, plastered with magazines so that you could not see inside. The only people in sight were two girls hanging out smoking, but no traffic police to be found. So, we went back into the hotel to ask for a cab. Children of the corn told me I was supposed to cross the street to get the 39, which means the one we would have gotten on would have been going the wrong way, and that the two smoking girls were the traffic police (both of whom were dressed like Forever 21 employees) to which I said, please, can you call a cab.
Cab ride later, we showed up at the Beer Palace, which was nowhere near our industrial area hotel; it was in a charming cobblestoned alley. Jake must take a photo with the first McDonald’s he finds in every foreign city, and we spotted one a block away, so we took a quick stroll there first.
As we got to the end of the block beautiful Bratislava revealed herself and she was breathtaking. We walked into a large square with an enormous Romanesque building, a fountain, etc. and another charming cobblestoned alley with lots of shops and a man playing a triangular guitar so giant, it seemed to be a joke.
Back at the Beer Palace we ordered a meter of beer or something absurd like that, which was ten half liters arranged in a row within a long wooden tray
along with this spectacular combo platter of duck cracklings, pretzels, house made head cheese, sausage, thick cut “raw” bacon, pickles, pickled vegetables and big thick slices of bread.
I was beside myself at the prospect of eating my very first proper Bavarian style pretzel, which was all hot, with a nice brown hue, and a sweet, malty flavor. The sausage delivered a most pleasant surprise, with a strong snap that was followed by chorizo-esque flavored juicy grease. There were three ramekins of “sauces.” A sweet mustard, a hermelin cheese, and a ramekin of lard. LARD, I said. Literally, a little bowl of plain old lard. God bless you, Beer Food Fun.
When we finished consuming that assortment of orgasm, we headed out to explore. Of course, no visit to Bratislava is complete without a photo with this guy:
We spotted a sign for Budweiser, knowing that in those parts, it’s a completely different brew than in America.
Real Budweiser was good, but, you’d be hard pressed to find a beer that isn’t, in Slovakia. This bud didn’t take me on some exciting journey to flavor town or anything. It was just a good, solid, beer.
What was better, was the bizarre courtroom drama on the television, a Bratislavan Judge Judy of sorts
Of course, everyone was smoking, everywhere we went. I mean, for three weeks. That’s just how it is. We made our way through the winding streets and alleyways up to Bratislava castle which sits perched above the city, atop a lone hill, a member of the Little Carpathians. Bratislava is a visual feast, the streets are positively littered with sculptures, art, stunning architecture, and my favorite, loads and loads of glorious graffiti.
Up at the castle crest, we looked over nighttime Bratislava, which was, by all means, enchantingly lovely
We soon made a triumphant return to Beer Food Fun where we sat in the dungeon,
ordered more of that snappy sausage, four pretzels, and the bone marrow.
All was fabulous, we got full, and we were ready to go home and have a night-cap. We asked them to call us a cab, went back to Design 21 Hotel, went to the bar/lobby and ordered drinks from the receptionist/bartender. She had no good hard alcohol or beer, or anything of the sort; she told us to go try the one bar that was located in the same strip mall complex as the hotel, but when we walked in, it was unbearably smoky, prompting us to ask for beers to go, which was a no-no. So, we went back to the lobby of Design 21, ordered 4 Jack Daniels on the rocks (desperate!) and brought them to the room, to sit at the bar behind jazz hands, watch Slovakian TV and drink.
And then, it was time for bed.