Thanks to the offer from Study Abroad Compass, I was able to explore more countries and cities in Europe during my study abroad experience. The weekend expedition was originally planned for the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava. However, due to the short 30 miles between Bratislava and Austrian capital, Wien, the trip was planned to include both locations. The combination proved to be an exciting adventure.
Marcin and I started the venture from Sosnowiec, Poland early on Saturday morning. The drive to the Slovakian border was about two hours and then another three once across to Wien. I was not aware that Wien was the Austrian spelling for the capital city – I am accustomed to hearing English version, Vienna. No matter the spelling, the activity and beauty of the town is conclusive.
While the streets and numerous churches were attractive in themselves, my favorite place to explore was the Belvedere Palace. I could have spent the whole day walking around the palace and all of its landscaping taking pictures, however, the inside proved to be just as handsome. After paying a small fee, guests were welcome to explore the three floors of art in the palace’s expansive rooms. Each room of each level contained art of all types and eras. Among our favorite pieces were The Kiss by Gustav Klimt and a version of Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Bonaparte at the St Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David. This palace created a beautiful setting for the different talents within Wien with its elegant rooms and spacious floors.
We left Wien feeling as if we saw much, yet, still only the surface of what the city has to offer. Our decision to visit Wien during the day and then arrive in Bratislava in the evening proved to be a good idea. After finding the hotel, we set out for some Slovakian cuisine. The capital city was alive with night life. Most places were filled with exciting chatter of many different languages – giving the night an exciting boost.
The restaurant, Flag Ship, was suggested to us and was the most interesting experience. When walking into the restaurant, a large cloth is pushed aside and you are introduced to a few tables at the bottom of a sprawling staircase, along with birds chirping in cages located in the corner. The soft music and birds don’t last long after you climb the stairs. The upper room of the restaurant is a massive area that has two levels. Outlining the room are numerous large wooden tables, with the one side being an expansive bar. Any open space has been filled with a table, covered in checkered cloth, allowing for such a sprawling crowd. In the middle of the grand room is another wooden staircase. The tables are long, reaching from one side of the room to another. Even with such an enormous crowd, the service provided was efficient. I have included a picture of the restaurant, however, it is from the website and not my own.
In the morning, we awoke early and ate in a small bistro of the main square. Unlike the night before, the town was calm and not many people on the streets. With the infamous Danube River running through this capital city, a walk to see it was a must. The river is the second longest in Europe and goes through many of the popular cities. While standing next to the river was a good site, we decided a view from the castle would be better.
Based on good arrangement from Study Abroad Compass, our hotel was situated about 10 minutes from the castle. The castle is located on the top of a hill in Bratislava and allows a beautiful view of the city. The path to the castle was an incline the whole way and then stairs followed once on the grounds. After reaching the castle, the view of the magnificent building proves to be worth the climb. The building has been maintained over the years and is in very good condition. This is the main castle in the capital city.
While this castle was preserved nicely over the years, the next castle we visited in Devin was much older and far less “there.” In fact, it was more so visiting the Devin Castle ruins. The castle has much history and at each point of the walk through, informational boards are present to tell about the sections of ruins. Rooms and windows could still be deciphered and were a beautiful site. I liked this scene very much because it was easy to imagine the way it looked in its glory days, instead of being renovated to be a gallery or museum – it was its own display. It also provided a spectacular view of the river located behind its walls along with a beautiful view of the city of Devin.
The trip was outstanding and, as always, too short. It is a very exciting thought that I was in three countries over the course of a weekend. I find it entertaining that to cross from country to country in Europe is the same as crossing state to state in America. It is very cool. J
A special thanks goes to Study Abroad Compass for encouraging the Bratislava location and providing the hotel room for the stay.