The Hallmarks™ of civilisation

Day 9 - Bratislava

Breakfast was taken in Hotel Sacher in Vienna, home of the famous Sacher Torte. I wouldn't ordinarily begin the day with cake but holidays do strange things to a person. Suitably tortified we jumped on a train for the second of our two day-trips, this time to Slovakia. I had preconceptions about the places that we'd been to so far, some based on personal experience others less so but Slovakia ranked as a genuine unknown. Having great affection for Prague and by extension the Czech Republic I suppose I wondered if the Velvet Revolution of 1989 had cleaved off the less desirable part into the eastern state. Luckily we three had established a means of determining the level of advancement of a place, thus -

Question 1 - Does it have an Ikea?
yes, we saw one from the train.

Question 2 - Can you tour the place on a segway?
yes, one was sitting outside a tourist office.

Question 3 - From where you are standing can you see an H&M?
...oh Bratislava you were so close to maximum points.

But perhaps we should not expect too much as the city didn't have electricity until 1978. We walked around the cobbled old town and would have probably had a greater appreciation for its preservation and general easiness on the eye had we not been in so many cities recently of equal visual appeal. Hardly Bratislava's fault that we'd spun through 8 by this point. And liked them all to a greater or lesser extent. Except Jönköping. Jönköping can go to hell. We took a drink in the faded glory of the Roland Café with its frayed red seats, greek sculptures and octagenarian at the piano. It harked back to a more elegant, slower time in its look and feel but who can trust such a feeling these days when so much 'Disneyfication' takes place and the facade of the olde world is plastered over the cynical joists of the new. It turns us all into cynics I suppose. Whatever its provencance was it was a damn sight better than the place chosen for dinner. We'd also tried to establish rules for picking restaurants, chiefly - don't go to the first place you see and avoid menus illustrated by pictures. The former we achieved in Bratislava, the latter proved impossible. On the plus side my soup tasted good and arrived quickly (we had a train to catch), on the negative side it was probably made before I'd even been to Slovakia. Matt took has turn on the goulash and with disquieted bellies we made for the station.
The last time I was so close to a railway track abroad things had gone a little wrong. But this time I had waited for the train to stop before getting off. And the onward journey would be by bus rather than ambulance. A bus which, after a mildly concerning amount of time, did arrive and was shortly filled by the onrushing mob of fellow passengers. We hung back in the certain knowledge that another one would turn up and and there was absolutely, positively no way we would just be left in some tiny town in western Slovakia. The second bus did come and, despite the driver's assertion that there was no way he was taking us to Vienna, we found a seat. It transpired that there was another train that would finally get us to where we were going. We milled around on fully operational railway tracks at the next station awaiting the rumoured train. It had gone from 1st world to 3rd world in a remarkably short space of time and gave me semi-fond memories of the wilder places I've visited. The fondess largely drawn from having escaped those previous situations. Lights in the distance became our transport home and we were moving again.
The sun settled into an orange bloom on the horizon and an eerie mist rose from the green fields. Wind turbines cut lazy holes in the sky. It is ever the hardest balance for me when travelling to decide whether I should be photographing the passing sights, describing yesterday or simply feeling the moment. Whichever I choose I am losing something of the other two and risk deferring my enjoyment to retrospectives. In recording a moment through camera or words do I strip it of its emotional resonance? Is the real beauty lost in overly literal dissection? I hope not.

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