Slovakia Travel Guide
Stupid Ideas / Airport Security / Travel Safety / Danube Wings / Travel News / Bratislava Travel / TAT / → All Tags
What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is wrong with security officials at an airport in Slovakia? A shocking series of bad decisions and dangerous mistakes was reported yesterday, when it came out that during a test of security screenings on checked bags at Poprad-Tatry Airport (TAT), officers hid actual bomb parts in the luggage of real passengers, heading out on scheduled international flights.
It just gets worse! The explosive devices were planted on the bags of nine passengers, and although eight of them were detected, one managed to slip through and travel with the unknowing passenger all the way to Dublin, containing 90 grams (3 ounces) of RDX plastic explosive. The flight was operated by a new LCC, Danube Wings, which only began operations at TAT in December. What an auspicious new beginning for them, then.
No, now it really gets worse...
Those cheerful Slovaks who run the budget airline SkyEurope have got so cheerful they've started a Happy Hour.
But while we expect some cheap cocktails or bigger beers during our happy hour, the SkyEurope gang are instead offering extra cheap flights. The Happy Hour coincides with the European lunch break so anyone who goes online to book a flight between noon and 1 pm Central European Time (6 am-7 am EDT) is apparently able to get some super-cheap flights.
They have different Happy Hour options each day so you have to keep checking back to see if what you want is available. Sure, we might get a cheap flight or two, but it's also a clever way to keep us clicking on their site--and we reckon it wouldn't be too long until we gave in and just booked a flight at the regular price. Which is exactly what they want.
Slovakia / Monuments / Castles / → All Tags
We didn't think ol' Queen Elizabeth II was getting so many gigs these days, but today she's journeying to the Slovak capital of Bratislava to do a spot of monument unveiling.
In fact she'll be just outside Bratislava at the old ruin of Devin Castle, on the border to Austria. Her Majesty will officially open an iron sculpture sitting on the spot where the Iron Curtain--in this case a barbed wire fence between Austria and Slovakia--used to stand.
Today it'll be all fanfare and nice cups of tea, but it wasn't that long ago that you could've been shot for trying to cross over that part of the border. Of course if the 82-year-old Queen tries walking around the rickety walls of Devin Castle, it'll be just as dangerous for her, so we hope plenty of Slovaks are there to catch her if she falls.
· British Queen to Unveil Iron Curtain Memorial at Devin Border [TASR]
· Devin Castle [Official Site]
· Slovakia Travel Guide [Jaunted]
From the front, the AquaCity building in Poprad looks like a harmless water park with a fun, twisty slide. But what they actually do inside is freeze people.
We're not trying to say that the pool temperatures are just a bit low or something. We mean that you can actually go there for some cryotherapy which involves walking around a chamber where the temperature is minus 184 degrees F.
Apparently doing this for a couple of minutes will give you (surprisingly) a warm glowing feeling and can suppress inflammation and pain for weeks. (Kind of like applying a full-body ice pack.) AquaCity has been winning a bunch of green awards for being all sustainable and eco-friendly, so they're doing something right, although we still wonder if they have a room full of snap-frozen tourists hidden somewhere.
SkyEurope / Airlines / LCCs / Low Cost Carriers / → All Tags
Central European LCC SkyEurope might've had humble beginnings in Bratislava, and tricked a few people by inventing an airport called "Vienna Bratislava" (which actually meant taking an hour-long bus ride across a border checkpoint after arriving in ordinary old Bratislava). But in recent years they just keep expanding and the deals are still as cheap as ever.
With dozens of flight routes that now center around Bratislava, Prague, Budapest and Krakow, there are more being added every time we turn our head. This October, new flights will include runs to the London Luton airport from Bratislava, Prague and Poprad in the Tatra Mountains, and a connection to Kosice in eastern Slovakia too.
Since they're now showing "all inclusive" prices on their website, it's much easier to be impressed with the bargains: Even at short notice there are heaps of flights on many routes for just 29 (less than $40) including taxes and charges. And last time we flew SkyEurope, the flight attendants wore denim: We like that.
Sometimes there's nothing quite like feeling a little support on your side, so grab your runnin' crew and head to this week's pick: The Last Legion. The movie's centered on young Romulus Augustus who flees his crumbling city and heads to Britain to track down his very own legion. This is the prequel to the King Arthur legend, for you Knights of the Round table fans out there.
Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley appear, as does stunnig Indian actress Aishwarya Rai. Expect dashing sword flights and misty walks across chilly bogs: Perfect for a humid summer afternoon.
The Last Legion was shot in some stunning locations, including Slovakia. Here are some interesting things to check out in this culturally rich country:
Where To Stay: Hotel Kamila -- Steal away from the bustle of the cities and tuck into Hotel Kamila, an 18th-century château owned by Slovak actress Kamila Magálová. With just 25 rooms, it's known as family-friendly and has activities to keep everyone happy like riding, golf, tennis, and a wellness center with a solarium. Tradition abounds here and the restaurant serves German and French dishes as well as famed Mövenpick coffee.
Where To Snack: Leberfinger -- Perched on the right side of the Danube in Bratislava, Leberfinger has had a checkered past including burning down entirely in 1992. It was reconstructed and now features an outside patio and traditional Slovak cuisine (think deer medallions in hazelnut crust), as well as a downstairs pub for after-dinner beers.
Where To Stroll: Michael's Gate -- This is the only preserved gate of the city's originally built three. It still retains its Gothic design and visitors can climb to the top for a city view, as well as check out antique weapons inside.
[Photo: pop yoo]
Today marks the beginning of a bit of a public transportation festival for Jaunted. All throughout this week and next, our contributors will be focusing on their favorite and least favorite transportation systems around the world, with some valuable tips and memorable anecdotes to come. Join us in celebrating the ultimate travel tool: a cheap way to get around. Share your own stories with us in the comments or by emailing tips [at] jaunted [dot] com.
Slovak capital Bratislava has, it must be said, a pretty good public transportation system. Left over from socialist times when few could bribe the right person for a car, an extensive bus, trolleybus and tram network criss-crosses the city and you really can get nearly everywhere you need to, and for a very fair price. That price, of course, cannot be paid on the tram, but at a ticket machine that is sometimes nearby and sometimes functioning (but usually only takes coins, which you'll never have enough of). You can also buy tickets in blocks from the people who work at small kiosks if you have good sign language skills.
Riding a tram in Bratislava can be a bit of a cultural experience. When I lived there in 2004, it was common to watch a tram pull into the station with a driver wearing no shirt (don't get excited guys, they were always men; and gals: they were nothing special), eating a sandwich with one hand and sending a text message with the other. Obviously trams can steer themselves. Rumor has it that (somewhat sadly, really) they have to wear uniforms now, that is, actual shirts, not just a uniform bare chest.
More after the jump.
Airlines / Air Slovakia / India / Punjab / → All Tags
Harjinder Singh Sidhu, an Indian-born businessman residing in the U.K., has purchased Air Slovakia. The Bratislava-based airline, which has a less than stellar reputation among its customers, is about to be injected with some Punjabi flava. Sidhu told the BBC that his rebranded Air Slovakia will have Punjabi "ambience and flavor," IFE, food, and flight attendants.
The aircrafts will also be facing an identity crisis of sorts, as tickets to and from India will be sold under a Punjabi name, and it seems the planes themselves, at least on those routes, will be dually branded.
Expansion plans are underway, and Sidhu expects that a fresh start will please the airline's heavy load of South Asian passengers. Let's just hope that more legroom is part of the new Indian "flavor."
[Photo: Java Cafe]
· Fly Air Slovakia for Punjabi experience [BBC]
Feeling all environmental and activist-like this month? Then your summer holiday should be in Slovakia, at the Ecotopia festival. The 6-20 August camp for those interested in alternative lifestyles, traditional crafts and permaculture is being held this year in Zajezka, pretty much smack bang in the middle of the Slovak Republic.
Along with enjoying a really green (in both senses) holiday in the mountains, the workshops attached to this fest sound impressive: Activist samba drumming, rebel clowning and large costume making are all featured in the program. We suspect the rebel clowns are the rejects from the Bestival fest in the UK, where the organizers were forced to change the fancy dress theme thanks to the high rate of those with a clown phobia. Hopefully the Ecotopia planners have already checked into possible protests from samba drumming phobics.
[Image via Altered Ego/Flickr
Art and Activism Caravan [indymedia]
Quit Clowning Around [Jaunted]
food / alcohol / Bratislava / → All Tags
It's not only alcohol that Eastern Europeans are good at drinking. With an unseasonably cool end of May bringing near freezing temperatures to many parts of central Europe, curling up inside a café with a hot chocolate is something we recommend this week.
In Slovakia's tourism-explodes-here-next capital, Bratislava, you just need to locate St. Michael's Gate at the top of the Old Town, then head down a few shops to number six Michalska Street: chocaholic's heaven, Čokoláda, is here. While they claim to make drinks, the glass full of melted chocolate your 70-odd koruna buys you requires a spoon, for sure.
A full page listing more than 30 types of hot chocolate takes time to work through, even if the staff supply you with the English version. Imagine pretty much any possible ingredient (think whisky, tomato juice, ice cream) and you'll find it on the list, though our favorite is the Sudánska with orange pieces, coconut and honey; almost healthy, right? So if you're in Slovakia this week and didn't bring your winter clothes, pig out on a hot chocolate instead. If that doesn't warm the cockles of your heart, many of the 30 types come with a shot of alcohol. It is Eastern Europe, after all.
[Image via Thomas Hawk/Flickr]
A Hungarian teacher learnt an important lesson this week: don't teach your students anything, or you could be arrested. He'd taken his history class to nearby Slovak capital Bratislava and was showing them through St Martin Cathedral when police arrested both him and his pupils. The teacher had been giving an unlicensed guided tour, the police alleged: and his students earned arrest by listening.
We've personally tried many a time without success to negotiate St Martin's erratic opening hours, and commend this teacher for even getting inside. What's more, we've heard more than a couple of stories where the police in this area fail to follow even the vague form of the law. It's unclear if there are other circumstances which led to the arrests: perhaps the teacher misinformed his charges on the dimensions of the gold pillow topping the cathedral tower or incorrectly attributed the chapel of St Anna to Anna Kournikova. If you're tripping through Bratislava, we still heartily recommend checking out St Marty's. Just be careful not to sound too knowledgeable when chatting to your traveling partner.
How did the school excursion end? The Hungarian embassy got in on the action secured the group's unharmed release. That'll learn 'em.
[Image via Jamie.Silva/Flickr]
Embassy requests clarification [mti]
Boating to Bratislava [Jaunted]
boats / Danube / → All Tags
While regions of Europe at the flooded Danube's delta are still plenty stressed about receding floodwaters and the dreaded clean-up, those closer to the river's source are planning ahead for the summer season.
Trips along the mighty river through Austria and into Hungary have long been a favorite for in-the-know travelers in Eastern Europe. This summer, the world's (allegedly) two nearest capital cities are teaming up to provide the Twin City Liner for nifty day tripping between Austrian capital of Vienna and the Slovak capital, Bratislava.
Starting June 1, there'll be three trips a day in each direction, with fares ranging from 15 to 25 Euro. While it's unclear whether the mode of transport is a high-speed catamaran to a giant motorboat, the Twin City Liner journey takes an hour and a half from Bratislava, or fifteen minutes quicker travelling with the flow from Austria. It's a touch slower than the train, but docks closer to the city centers, and gives you double the pretty scenery.
The ferry company makes a big deal out of having found just the right technology to navigate this part of the Danube, which can have a dangerously low water level in the summer months. Just don't eat too much of that heavy Central European cuisine before hopping aboard; you might be the passenger who gets the boat scraping the bottom.