We made it to Bratislava in our second attempt. It is nearer Vienna, but we were too short on time the last round we were in the vicinity and had to give it a pass. This time, we even stayed the night.
I guess it would be a bit extreme (and mean) to say that the first impression I got of this city is one inhabitated by hobos. It is just a first impression, but not far from fact if you arrive at the main train station. We walked out with fellow passengers arriving from elsewhere; In the large crowd we formed at the small station, I could easily identify those who didn’t belong. They weren’t particularly sinister but I was uncomfortable that I had to be on alert. We were warned by tripadvisor. Good thing we knew beforehand how to get to our hotel so we didn’t seem too lost and looked like prey-worthy flailing fish.
The Mercure Centrum was a convenient 5 min walk from the main station, and about an easy 15 min walk to the old town. Locationally perfect. It was a nice place too with clean rooms and free wifi at €74.50 a night. Rate did not include breakfast though.
So we had to give the name the booking was made in at check-in. In our case, it was SJ’s name. Most angmohs we know would able able to pronounce some parts of his name. But this guy, he asked most naturally, “Is the booking for ChingChongChangSee?” Who?! Ay, confusion. Didn’t help with the first-last name switcheroo. I think SJ didn’t even recognize himself, hence the hesitation. SJ clarified, and the guy went all that-is-you-isn’t-it. It was a rather comical exchange. I am going to start calling SJ that. The guy was helpful, gave us early check-in so we can make our merry way into town.
The old town is typical of old European habitats – narrow cobblestoned streets leading to a main square surrounded by nice (insert architectural style) buildings and cafés. But this one I think is also kinda modest compared to say Brugges or Toledo though still pretty. Food is not expensive – €4 for a latte and a tuna bagel. Cheaper than a Big Mac meal in Singapore. The standard of living here is not as high as in the more established cities, and tourism here isn’t as vibrant as I’d expected. Probably cos we visited on a Sunday, so it was rather quiet. It was a good stopover nonetheless.
[First published: 6 May 2014]