Woke up to a sunny morning and the sounds of construction.
Across the street the large hostel chain I’d stayed with in Brussels and would soon stay at in Vienna were in the midst of building another location.
Construction began at sun up so it was early, just after 9am.
As I packed up my roommate, who stayed in the bunk below mine, came in and began to change
Nothing unusual other than she was female but seemed to have no issue getting down to her undergarments with a strange guy in the room.
I merely focused on my packing, same attention I’d give to a guy changing.
Dropping my bags in the kitchen I encountered a Swede who was standing guard over noodles on the ground.
‘We had accident, be careful of the noodles and good morning!’ He exclaimed.
Another guy soon arrived and began to sweep up the mess while they talked and laughed.
Fairly sure they’d just come in from a night out, but couldn’t confirm as they were talking Swedish.
By the time my water was boiling, they were done with the clean up and were also enjoying the rest of their noodles with coffee.
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the instant coffee go down…
Another group soon strode into the kitchen area and one guy grabbed the communal guitar and began to strum chords.
Soon a CSNY song was sung, then John Denver.
Europeans love John Denver and so do I.
It was a very nice send off right up until he said, ‘here’s one I wrote…’
The a song, alas, was in another language, but I didn’t know which one. He had played it before as a couple friends chimed in.
I was really pressing my luck today with this trip as I didn’t have a train ticket nor had I secured a hostel.
I didn’t have an issue finding a place to stay and didn’t think Bratislava was a big tourist destination.
Oh how wrong I was…
I emailed the 2 hostels I found in the city, but both weren’t on the booking websites I used and I figured one would hold a bed as I planned to arrive around check in time.
On my walk to the train station, I had roasted chicken from the place near my hostel.
So much mayo, so much mayo on their salads here but great tasting, cheap chicken.
The train station was about an hour walk so I felt it best to tram there.
I encountered the same Swedes from my hostel, crowded around the ticket kiosk.
They smiled and laughed and one came over to me.
‘Hello, yes, you need a ticket, a one way ticket, maybe? I just bought one but I actually need a round trip ticket so maybe you buy it from me? It’s good, valid I swear!’ He pleaded.
His friends all began to tell me not to do it, he is lying, it’s a scam. Friends are the same wherever you go haha.
I had exact change, so I bought his ticket, then shook his hand to the cheers of his friends.
It does suck buying 2 tickets when you only need one and have no way to get your money back for the incorrect ticket. I’d been there before for sure.
We parted ways and my ticket did indeed work to access the tram to the rail station.
Turns out the station was a labyrinth even with maps indicating ticket booths.
I saw that they were to the left but didn’t see a walkway on my left so I kept walking until I came to a dead end.
Walking the opposite direction, I saw a map indicating the tickets were to the right, as they should be but no walkway or ticket booth!
Somehow I made the correct set of turns and found myself on the platform with ticket kiosk.
I knew there were direct trains and a connection in Szob that would take me to Bratislava.
Kiosk was easy enough and had English option, just type in your destination city and it would quote a cost.
Bratislava was not an option but Szob was so I grew anxious. It’s always best to buy a complete ticket to your ultimate destination.
I knew that somewhere there was a person who could sell me the correct full ride ticket in this building so I walked around the platform.
To my surprise, they had signs, in Hungarian and English: international tickets.
I arrived into a small room full of people and, of course, a single lady seated behind a glass partition. This may take awhile to get a ticket.
I pulled a number and waited not even 30 seconds before it was called.
‘Sia, English please?’ I asked.
‘Not much, yes, uh where?’ She asked.
‘One way today to Bratislava please?’
I pointed to the clock and then down indicating, today.
She turned her screen towards me and pointed to a number in Hungarian currency.
I was out of fonits so I paid by card and asked what time and platform.
She held up 3 fingers and then pointed in the direction of the platforms I’d just come from.
‘Um 3…15 minutes, Bratislava. 5…track, too’ she managed.
‘So which one?’ I asked.
‘Bratislava, both’ she said as she swung the screen back to her direction and handed me a ticket.
I glanced down at it and it was all day, round trip Budapest to Bratislava, but I had asked for one way.
She was clearly done with me and didn’t seem to care she deliberately sold me a more expensive, incorrect ticket.
I had a moment to calculate the total in my head and it was around 10 bucks for the ticket.
I figured I’d just made a small donation to the Hungarian rail and left it at that. One cannot have an argument in a different language.
The platforms were labeled so I just hopped onto the one that read Szob.
I tried to get a conductors attention to confirm my route, but for some reason there wasn’t any around. Usually the platform was full of people that could help.
I sat down and tried to ask a girl across from me if she knew where the train was stopping but she shook her head no after I asked her if she spoke English.
My heart pounded as the train pulled away from the station.
Sigh, worst case, I had a round trip ticket, so I could just get on a train back if we were going in the wrong direction.
I used wifi maps as long as I could and we were going north, the correct direction, but I wasn’t sure if we’d turn east or west.
The landscape was bleak, not green, abandoned houses and buildings dotted the countryside for the first hour.
Finally after a couple stops, green hills and farms appeared.
I did see a conductor but all he did was motion towards another compartment after looking at my ticket. I’d sat in 1st class.
‘Bratislava?’ I ask.
‘Uh yes, please, next compartment.’ He said as he motioned to another compartment.
I didn’t see any difference in seat quality nor anything on my ticket indicating where to sit, plus both compartments were rather empty.
After a couple hours writing, reading and looking out the window, we pulled into Szob.
I quick waked to the conductor to confirm I was heading the right way.
‘Uh yes, Bratislava. Uh next yes,’ then pointed to his watch then held up 3 fingers, then pointed down to the tracks.
Ok so at 3pm another train would stop here that would be heading to Bratislava I conclude and thanked him.
It was hot, painfully hot and that seemed to be the norm around here as this small station had water misters.
Everyone stopped a moment and stood under the cooling spray, including the conductor who lingered awhile after removing his hat.
We smiled at each other as I joined him under the misters a few feet away. I closed my eyes and let the water cool me.
This station also had an outside, covered benches so I sat at one to dry off.
Soon, I was joined by the rail crew who sat a couple benches in front of me.
I was mesmerized by the lone female’s ample bottom. It was like that location was where all her excess calories went as she didn’t have any other part of her that was large.
The surrounding areas were very grim, industrial…the sign that hard work had been done to live here.
I got up in search of a restroom and saw the empty ticket booth in the 1 room station.
Men’s room had a locked steel gate on it, but no locks on the female room so I hoped for an inside lock or walled stall.
No women came in while I handled my business.
Back and forth I paced on the track, waiting for my train.
Other trains arrived on the 3rd set of tracks and when you cannot read the language, doubt creeps in.
‘Is that my train? Did something change? Am I stuck here?’
Another train rolled in from the direction of Budapest and the conductor waved at me and pointed to it.
I smiled and waved back as I boarded.
I slid into a small compartment with a sliding door and sat near the window.
We stopped several more times and I was joined by a five person family.
We all smiled at each other as I extend my hand for them to sit. I wish I knew how to say welcome in Hungarian or maybe Slovakian.
The views alternated between lush green and dull gray which stayed until we pulled into Bratislava.
My phone soon indicated I had cell service so I scanned my emails.
The horror was soon revealed: both hostels were full for the weekend.
I check Airbnb and send a couple requests.
Luckily they responded within 15 min but again, no they are out of town and cannot have guests this weekend.
What to do now? Hotel it would have to be I reckon.
Found one across the river about a mile away so I walk that way.
At the end of a very steep hill I find a nice hotel, going to be expensive, have to be prepared to negotiate.
The sun was going down as I entered the courtyard so this will have to be the place tonight.
“Yes we have 1 room left. I can give it to you at xx€. Best I can do, it’s busy season.”
I mention the online price I saw and he said no it’s the last room.
In my mind I calculated this room would cost the same as 4 days in Budapest. Why did I leave?!
At least I could afford this place, I think. It’s not so bad, I’m not out on the streets for the night, plus food soon.
I entered my sterile room and attempt to turn it to max a/c but chain hotels know this now so 70 is the lowest temp.
I lie down and cool off, been sweating all day and a bit road weary.
A nice nap while my phone charges and I’m ready to shower.
Whilst air drying I search for a local spot that serves beer and real Slovakian food.
There was a spot not a mile away that made their own beer and served Slovakian food!
It was another huge wooden place that smelled wonderful.
A good meal usually raises the spirits. Plus this place has a bar so I don’t have to sit alone at a table.
I order their house beer and ask the bartender what is their best Slovakian dish.
‘Steak is good, also we are known for schnitzel.’
Odd, those seem German, also most expensive items to get here, too. Haha same everywhere it seems.
I get real schnitzel made with pounded flat veal and sip my beer.
They are playing US music here too and I’m still surprised. I guess my thinking every place would have a live local band playing hits from their country was way off.
It made me realize how much influence US has on many facets of life around the world or maybe they just find a Pandora or Spotify playlist over here just like we do.
We talk a bit about what to see and do and I’m directed to another huge cathedral.
No statues, buildings, or scenery.
He laughs, ‘Not much to see in Bratislava, my friend.’
The beer was great as was the schnitzel. They did have a different gravy here vs. Germany, plus no pasta, just mashed potatoes.
Yup meat and taters, standard hearty fair worldwide.
It was after 10 when I left the pub.
Most of the city was closed so I found a cool square to sit and people watch.
The tram ran by here so I watched as people got on and off.
No matter what time, day or night, there’s always plenty of people out in the Euro cities I visit.
By midnight, I’m tired of people watching combined with the after midnight rain forecast, I head back to my room.
I don’t know how I got lucky but I literally arrived to my hotel just as it begins to sprinkle.
I watch it rain for a few moments before going to my room.
My most trying day was really only taking a break.
Tomorrow I would once again fight to leave Bratislava.
Song: Aaliyha ‘Try Again’
Beer: Mestiansky Bratislava Leziak 12