Walking tours. Uncool but invaluable.
As we head out into the big bad city, it appears the only people out are tourists on walking tours. It seems no one is capable of wandering around on their own.
Walking tours are incredibly uncool, but at our age cool has lost its appeal. Two hours walking around with a local pointing out what you are looking at can make a big difference to the rest of the trip. The city makes much more sense.
As it turns out we could have done with a guide to help us find the guided tour. But we got there in thd end. It’s not a huge city.
Richard, our tour guide, is a pleasant chap. He had even heard of wales. Mainly because he had studied in Bangor for three years.
He is refreshingly open, giving us a potted history of the city and whilst supporting the idea of communism, he is not a fan of the practice.
The tour starts at the scene of the velvet revolution of 1989. For the next two hours we casually stroll around this compact city, taking in street art, historic buildings and generally chatting about the history of the city.
As I sit on the veranda trying to pull things from my memory, things that have lodged themselves in my head include…
- Following the release of the film Hostel, the number of back packers fell by 75%
- Slovakia sided with the Nazis in the second world war, but most of the population were not happy about that and guerrilla rebels fought the germans all over the country.
- Following the war the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union. It was never a comfortable fit, resulting in Warsaw Pact forces invading in 1968 to quell the non believers. We went to visit the bridge where the tanks rolled in.
- The country separated from the former Czechslovakia in 1993
- The car industry is booming, mainly due to tax breaks. Turns out it’s a bit of a tax haven.
- Every easter they have a bizarre wife beating ritual using willow.
- After the napoleonic war, houses damaged by napoleon’s army were tax exempt, so loads of houses have bogus cannon balls embedded in their walls.
- Until recently there was a statue disrespecting Napoleon outside the french embassy. The official version is that three drunk students nicked it a few months ago. Richard suspects someone from the embassy nicked it.
- They do nice food and wine, allegedly.
After the tour we find somewhere to judge whether or not the claims to be a culinary destination are justified.
We head to what is apparently the largest restaurant in town, but it’s not actually very big. Just a nice size to be fair. It has an old world feel to it and is s riot of oak panels.
The extensive menu includes many traditional dishes, including dumplings, pancakes and a cheese and potatoes thingy. I opt for millet, cheese Zucchini and tomatoes. Plus a glass of the local blackcurrant wine.
Within a few bites I am wondering why on earth we do not have Slovakian restaurants in the UK competing with indian, Chinese and italian. Slovakian knocks Turkish food out of thd park. I’m a convert. The wine is quite nice as well.
After a quick trip back to the apartment to regroup we head for the fans game.
For a good few years now welsh fans have played a team of locals wherever they go. It’s fair to say, wales take the ‘fans’ bit seriously, its lads taking a break from drinking to play football. Some countries take the game a little more seriously and field semi professional sides that can play properly. Cheating bastards.
The venue for the game is a local club out in the sticks. Our taxi driver had never heard of it, but fair play he found it.
We could see floodlights and had glimpses of players, but it took three laps of the ground to find the way in.
When they kicked off the big topic of conversation was – why was the refs daughter running around the pitch holding her dads hand?
There was good start with wales going one up quite quickly, although by half time the home side were five one up.
The Pengam contingent did us proud by getting booked within two minutes of being on the pitch.
At least we had cider in the dugout.
Final score, Slovakia 13, Wales 2. I think. It was hard to keep up.
We head for the pub and drink beer.
After the beer we get a taxi driven by the only taxi driver in Bratislava that does not know how to get to the old town. We have to tell him the way.
We briefly crawl around pubs in the old town which is a sea of Welsh shirts, hats and voices. Which is pretty good when you consider the game is not even in Bratislava.
We refuse to be so classless as to drink in the Irish pub. We have a pint in the Loch Ness Scottish pub instead, although they have been just about drunk dry by the Red Wall. Strongbow on tap is long gone. We then stick our heads in a karaoke bar where the youth wing have discovered strongbow in bottles.
Old friends are met up with, new friends are made.
And so it melts. I’m sure you dont need all the details. But fun was had. Not too much fun though. Big day tomorrow .