We’re going to leave Bratislava, Slovakia soon. We’re taking a train to Belgrade, Serbia (via Vienna) in a couple hours, so I have some time to talk about our few days each in Poland and Slovakia.
After a lovely night train (private compartment, free bottled water and croissant), we spent a day in Warsaw. Warsaw is an interesting, lively city, but it’s not a particularly pretty city. World War II totally devestated the city, and the Communists are not the type of people who do a good job rebuilding a city attractively. Actually, they did a fantastic job with the old town, rebuilding the castle and the market square and surrounding streets, but much of the rest was ugly Soviet concrete.
However, the city is doing well with capitalism and its reintroduction to the EU. We even saw large advertising statues of Wallace and Grommit overlooking one of the main intersections (ok, not everyone would think that’s attractive, but we like it).
Krakow was luckier in World War II than Warsaw was (architecturally; the Jewish communities of both cities were devastated). The Old Town Square with its churches and Cloth Hall is beautiful. Wawel Castle and its Cathedral were the center of Polish politics for centuries, and the Cathedral is a beautiful and gawdy mix of memorials and several centuries of architectural styles. We also made excursions to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which are both unique and fascinating, but in completely different ways.
We didn’t spend much time in Bratislava, but it was good actually to spend time on the ground in Slovakia (I had taken a night train through once, and Jenny and I took a boat up the Danube past Bratislava once, but we didn’t get out of the vehicle either time). Bratislava is a nice city, but it’s not in the same league as Prague, Vienna, Krakow, or Budapest. There are nice churches, good food and beer, and a moderately interesting castle, but nothing truly compelling here. The best is probably a set of castle ruins on the outskirts, Devin Castle overlooking the confluence of the Morava River with the Danube. It’s an impressive collection of ruins on a cliff over the valleys.
Now we’re on to a country that America bombed just a few years ago. We’ll see how we’re welcomed.
(No time for pictures now – I’ll post some in the Gallery later)