Bratislava, Slovakia – a weekend away – Saturday

Coeliac shopThe next morning we awoke bright and early and headed off in search of further sightseeing delights. What we didn’t realise was that a mere minute walk to the left out of our hotel was a Coeliac shop! Not selling coeliacs, no, but just gluten-free food. Mrs C was therefore able to stock up on gluten-free versions of those delicious wafers and other snack goodies. It’s only a little shop, so if you’re in need of gluten-free food in Bratislava, do drop in. It’s at Medená 19 and is called Bezlepkový svet.

Slavin MonumentWe thought we would walk all the way to the Slavin Monument and then wind our way back to the Old Town. The Slavin Monument is dedicated to the soldiers of the Red Army who died in the liberation of the Slovak lands in World War II. You might read on trip advisor about people walking there who said it was a hard slog and it takes ages. Hmmm; these people can’t be very fit. I think it took us about 45 minutes to walk up the hill from the Old Town, past all the posh houses and ambassadors’ residences, and get to the site. I’m sure you can manage it.

CemeteryOn the way up we found a little cemetery off Sulekova, which made for an interesting fifteen minute detour; quite higgledy-piggledy, with functional and elegant rather than over-ornate graves. We were surprised that very few of the graves contained a photograph of the dead person; very different from our memories of Austria.

Slavin gravesWhen you get to Slavin, it’s very peaceful and respectful, quite rightly. Neat lawns (brown) are surrounded by 278 small gravestones, each bearing the name and rank of their late soldier. With my faltering understanding of Russian in Cyrillic, I could pick out a Smirnoff, and some Captains, Lieutenants and Aviators. The view over the city is splendid. I found it quite moving. A few locals were paying their respects, side by side with some skateboarders taking advantage of the wide approach to the monument.

Cabinet officeWe took a long set of steps down to Namestie Slobody (Freedom Square) which looks like it was once very grand and is now a bit of an anachronism; very wide, very 60s, and with a central fountain that doesn’t seem to work. Opposite it is a very attractive building, which I now discover, with the use of an online translator, is the Cabinet Office. No wonder it looked quite high security. A little further along and you enter the gardens of the President’s Palace – the Grasalkovič Palace. The gardens are elegant but simple, but the back of the building isn’t anything special. It’s much more attractive from the front, with its proud flags and swish gates. Police were cruising as we took our photos, but we had purely tourist motives, honest.

Grasalkovič PalaceIt was too early for a heavy lunch – all meals in Bratislava are heavy – so we found a really smart place to have tea and play with the wifi, – Café Dias on Poštová. Very comfortable, good value and nice toilets too. Two English Breakfast teas, including a little pot of honey and a sweet creamy profiterole come in at under 4 euros.

Church of the TrinitariansWe checked out the baroque Church of the Trinitarians on the corner of Zupne namestie, but it was closed. We then dropped down to the SNP Namestie, which has nothing to do with Scottish Independence, but commemorates the Slovak National Uprising, the anti-Nazi resistance movement. It features some quite stirring statues and a big block of Slovak text engraved on a grey stone wall.

Slovak National Uprising SquareFollowing a tip-off that Obchodná is “where it’s at”, we wandered down that street which in the cold light of day is rather drab and run-down. It has all the signs of being the kind of place that comes to life at night – but still didn’t look particularly welcoming. We took a couple of pictures and moved on.

ObchodnaRound the corner we discovered a church that was open! It was the Church and Convent of St Elizabeth on Spitálska. It was nothing special on the outside but boasted baroque splendour inside, including a stunning ceiling. We carried on back into the Old Town, past the Primaciálny Palace, and into the Hlavné Namestie, where we took funny pictures with the Napoleonic guy who leans against a bench.

Church and Convent of St ElizabethDefinitely time for lunch now, and we wandered into this place called the Minerva, on Michalská. It’s underground and very atmospheric. The service was very friendly and the food was good – Mrs C and I both ordered the Grilled Trout and it was massive. A large Krusovice and a white wine for the lady. We met a couple of very nice American girls who sounded relieved to hear some other English voices. Everyone seemed to have a good time – ideal for tourists and locals alike.

NapoleonThere’s nothing you can do after a heavy lunch but sleep it off. But we couldn’t rest too long as we were due at the National Theatre for Eugene Onegin. It was a very enjoyable evening, more of which elsewhere later.

Carnevalle RestaurantWhen you emerge from the theatre at 9.45pm food is a desperate requirement. We decided not to look too far, and picked Carnevalle on Hviezdoslavovo Namestie. We knew that it would be expensive and potentially a tourist trap, but it was a risk we were prepared to take. We found the service extremely friendly but polite; we sat in the conservatory area adjacent to the square which was comfortable and warm; we went for the Garlic Lamb Shank which was delicious, sharing some rosemary potatoes and grilled vegetables, washed down with the waiter’s recommended wine, the Dunaj, which, at 29 euros was quite expensive, but was also the cheapest of the Slovakian red wines on offer, and was completely yummy. In the absence of a gluten-free dessert on the menu, the waiter suggested to Mrs C a fresh-fruit salad, and it appeared massive and exquisitely fresh and tasty. I had the Lemon Meringue pie which was very nice. I’d have no hesitation in recommending this restaurant if you’re after a less pubby type of atmosphere. It was the most expensive of our meals in Bratislava but certainly no more than you would pay for something similar in London.

We ended up at the 17s bar again afterwards for a nightcap. You probably think we have a drink problem.

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