Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Looking Over Bratislava

This morning Doris drove me over to a harbor on the edge of the Danube and I boarded a catamaran to Bratislava, Slovakia. After warm hugs and kisses, I was suddenly very alone. I attempted to do the boat ride without Bonine (my motion sickness drug of choice)...about 20 minutes in, I sensed I couldn't handle another moment and pushed a little rasberry-flavored pill through a foil slot and immediately felt better. I figured the placebo affect would work until the actual drug kicked in.... Many aboard were taking a one-day pleasure trip in the that the ride between Vienna and Bratislava is just a bit over an hour. For me, I was moving on...deeper into Eastern Europe.

Upon arrival in Bratislava, I sensed I was in a very different place. The transit was slower and much less frequent than Vienna and Prague...and almost no one speaks English. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a Slovakian movie with everyone quietly speaking Slovakian but with no subtitles. So, what's it like here? Well, since the fall of communism's iron curtain in 1989, Bratislava has been courting capitalism. There's western music blaring out of all the clubs and bars...and the city is just filled with cafes serving coffees, alcohol, etc. And despite that there's wifi everywhere, I seem to be the only one using it. Everyone else is actually talking to each other!

Bratislava is the midst of a poignant transition from a staid post WWII communist country to being a darling of capitalist development. There are boxy cold war buildings, international development agencies like Habitat for Humanity and then megacorporations like Amazon.com. And then there are all the entreneurs selling in little markets, running cafes, etc. Tourists come and go, but it's not that much of a destination. I visited the castle and the Jewish Museum. Both were well done..the same time I'm glad I'm just spending one night here. Without an English speaking couchsurfing host, I'm pretty alone:)

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