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December 5, 2014

As I sit here at the end of our third night in Vienna, I think about two things. One is that I am way too immature to avoid making tons of wiener jokes every time I see it written down, and the other was how much fun our short stay in Bratislava was.

Well, before I talk about Bratislava, I’ll tell a short story. Leading up to when we would be leaving, I noticed my shoes were making a squishy sound when I walked in puddles or they got wet. I ignored it, because I’m an idiot. The day before we left I noticed I’d worn holes in the bottom of the soles. I did *not* want to be breaking in a new pair of shoes for a 2 week vacation that would involve walking miles every day, so I bought some shoe repair goop and took a decent attempt at waterproofing the soles to last until I got back. I loved these shoes. They were super comfortable and I used them for last year’s vacation just fine.

By day 2 in Prague, I could tell the job wasn’t holding up, so I got some more goop from a shoe repair place down the street form our flat and made another attempt at repair that night. It held up *okay*, but by the time we hit Bratislava it was going downhill fast. So that’s where we pick up the journey.

We left the flat early in the morning and made our way to the train station to catch our 4+ hour train ride to Bratislava. Finding our host in Bratislava was easy and went exactly as planned. I’d mentioned earlier how we were doing Airbnb stays exclusively this trip, and I tend to prefer to find a place where we can rent a whole apartment. However, for this trip, since we were only staying a couple of nights, an interesting opportunity arose. We found a host who was renting a room with its own bathroom in a nice modern apartment in Bratislava, but we would be sharing the apartment with her, her husband, and her kitty named Pif.

So, despite this place being a 5th floor walkup (which is to say 6th floor for us North Americans), how could we turn down staying with a kittycat? We’re glad we did. Ingrid and Stephan were excellent hosts and spoiled us rotten. They treat it like a real Bed and Breakfast, so we got the whole treatment with coffee and a *wonderful* homemade tiramisu when we arrived. Breakfast every morning was a lovely continental breakfast with delicious coffee (and when she learned I had a cold, she made me some excellent ginger tea). We couldn’t have felt more welcome, and their kitty was super cute and adorable (and very much wanted to be in our room all the time).

During our brief stay in this tiny city, we got out and explored a nearby shopping center, saw the Church of St. Elisabeth (Blue Church), visited a couple of Christmas markets (of course), had more hot mead, punch, walked through an old cemetery, explored the old town, and bought some insoles for my shoes in an attempt to keep my feet dry, since they had now graduated from making squishy noises to simply taking on water. And it was raining more frequently. The insoles gave some minor relief, but I was not optimistic.

Oh, and we saw a hockey game.

I want to talk about that hockey game – it was amazing. It was a small arena (by NHL standards), with a hockey capacity of around 10,000 people. But this crowd was amazing, and it was infectious. I was so into this team winning, and I had never heard of them before we started planning this trip. They had a small section in one of the ends (nearest our seats, actually) that was standing room only, and had a fan-made cheering section. People with drums, flags, leading chants. This was a team that was flirting with last place at the time, but these fans were super into the game. And, my fellow Blackhawks fans who see games at United Center will appreciate this, they kept their butts in the seats while the puck was in play! Nobody sitting on their phone talking to people and getting up, blocking views without regard to what’s happening on the ice. Everybody waited until the breaks in play to do anything. And there weren’t so many breaks in play, either. Maybe one TV timeout per period, tops.

Here’s a video of what it sounds like during play — you can barely hear the official audio and sounds since the crowd chants are so loud:

It was a great game, we saw a penalty shot, it went to overtime, it went to a shootout, and Slovan won. I had the seats in the corner for around €17 (tickets ranged from €12 for standing room to €22 for the best seats which were sold out when I tried to buy them). I felt like I was at a playoff game, and we both had a ton of fun. I highly recommend it.

So, that’s the Reader’s Digest version of our visit to Bratislava. It, like Prague, is another place I can see myself going back to, especially since it’s so close and convenient to Vienna.

Next up, I’ll recount our stay in Budapest, wherein we learn that the most picturesque cities can suffer from a coldness that creeps into your soul and unceasing rains that creep into your soles. But, it was still a great city!

Dobrú noc!

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