NOTE: This post was supposed to be posted about a month ago. I tried to upload pictures, it didn't work, and I gave up on the post. Sorry that it's late!
Here's something you might not know about Vienna. It's SUPER close to another European capital, Bratislava. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, (hey, not everyone knows this stuff!) and has a population of 460,000 according to Wikipedia. Seriously, look how close these cities are:
Literally, they are about an hour away from one another by train. For just 15 euros you can travel from Vienna to Bratislava and back with included use of the Slovakian capital's public transportation system. It's a great deal, especially because things in Bratislava can be so much cheaper than in Vienna. An example:
Ice skating in a public rink in Vienna (on a Saturday afternoon): 6 euros to skate, 6 euros to rent ice skates
In Bratislava (any time of day, on an admittedly smaller rink but less crowded day): 1 euro to skate for an hour and a half, 3 euros to rent skates.
I traveled with my good Au Pair friend Lucia, who is from East Slovakia. Our ride was uneventful and the train was fairly empty in both directions. I was lucky to have a native speaker, I don't know how I was going to get around the city otherwise!
Soon after getting off the bus that brought us more or less to the town center, we climbed to the top of the city to the Bratislava Castle (pictured below). From there we could see the whole town- admittedly small. Bratislava is cute in that the streets are narrow and seemingly very old, the architecture is interesting, and most of all, quiet. I was surprised to arrive in a city that purportedly has a "gypsy problem" to only see one crazy homeless-looking guy at the train station. My interest in gypsies is quite extensive, but I'll write about that another time.
We also saw St. Martin's Cathedral, which was nowhere near as impressive as those in Vienna. I'm so spoiled by living here.
What I was most excited for in Bratislava was to try Halušky (Ha-loosh-key). It's a traditional Slovakian Dish, similar to Gnocci (Wikipedia calls them potato dough lumps, mmm), with a soft sheep's cheese. My friend thought I would hate it and I was out of my mind to want to try it. But I liked it! It tasted like cream cheese that had been left out on the counter a little too long, but warm like the sun had been beating down on it. I could've probably eaten quite a bit, but I don't think my stomach would've liked it. It also has bacon cubes to top it off. What could be better?
Another typical Slovakian tradition, I'm told, is to drink tea with rum at lunch, or a shot of very strong liquor. I don't necessarily believe that, as the waiter seem perplexed by our order, and I think we ended up having Jasmine tea with rum. Mmm. Not.
Written February 3rd: Well...that's what I've got for Bratislava. Not a bad place to go and get out of Vienna for a day, especially since the shops are 1. cheaper and 2. open on Sundays. I'd like to see the city in the spring because it would certainly be more beautiful and fun to explore.