Wel­come to my place ... Bratislava

The Irish Times Magazine - - TRAVEL- BAG -

Leo Sharkey, orig­i­nally from Let­terkenny, Co Done­gal, first ar­rived in Slo­vakia last Au­gust. He is a lec­turer and lawyer in the cap­i­tal Bratislava. He de­cided to move there so he could ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent cul­ture and ex­plore the neigh­bour­ing cen­tral Euro­pean coun­tries.

Where is the first place you bring peo­ple to when they visit Bratislava?

First stop is a tour of the his­toric and beau­ti­ful Old Town ( Stare Mesto). Go through St Michael’s Gate, one of five gates of the old city walls, down Michal­ska street to the two best bars in the city – Goblins, an Ir­ish rock and roll bar with lots of lo­cal and im­ported live mu­sic, and Uisce Beatha, a su­perb and mel­low tav­ern with an eclec­tic clien­tèle from all walks of life.

Sam­ple the de­light­ful lo­cal beers and the leg­endary Slivovica ( plum) and Borovica ( ju­niper) liqueurs. Both bars are fre­quented by mem­bers of the Slo­vak Sham­rocks, the friendly lo­cal GAA Club, where help and ad­vice can be found. Then take a walk along the mighty Danube and a look at the fa­mous UFO bridge which re­sem­bles a fly­ing saucer.

The top three things to do in Bratislava that don’t cost money are . . .

A must- see land­mark is the pow­er­ful and stun­ning Slavín mon­u­ment, a me­mo­rial to the Soviet soldiers who broke the Nazi war ma­chine and shaped the last 70- plus years of Euro­pean his­tory. The fas­cist client state of Mon­signor Tiso gave way to oc­cu­pa­tion by the Nazis in 1944 and con­quest by Rus­sia’s Red Army in 1945. It is perched high up over­look­ing the city. You can ei­ther walk up from St Michael’s Gate or get the bus or tram. You can then take in the im­pos­ing Soviet ar­chi­tec­ture and en­joy the unique out­lines of the city. Stun­ning.

The his­toric old town Stare Mesto, is fab­u­lous for a wan­der around. Its wind­ing cob­bled streets are lined with Gothic and Baroque ar­chi­tec­ture and the Slo­vak Na­tional Gallery is worth ex­plor­ing.

Tour the best Christ­mas mar­kets in Europe where the most de­li­cious mulled wine of all, Varne Vinho, which comes in red, rosé and white va­ri­eties, is served.

Where do you rec­om­mend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Bratislava?

The cui­sine is strongly re­flec­tive of Bratislava’s Slavic, Hun­gar­ian and Ger­manic her­itage. The Pulitzer restau­rants are ex­cel­lent and serve Slo­vakian del­i­ca­cies such as Ka­pust­nica, a tasty sauer­kraut and sausage soup, or bean soup, which in­vari­ably con­tains some meat ( usu­ally pork). With the beans, it is a hearty meal in it­self. And try Halusky, a unique and fill­ing sheep cheese dumpling and ba­con fat dish that his­tor­i­cally fu­elled Slo­vak farm­ers through their work­ing days. Ze­lenho stromu is a fab­u­lous restau­rant with ex­cel­lent and com­pet­i­tively priced lo­cal cui­sine.

Where is the best place to get a sense of Bratislava’s place in his­tory? Bratislava Cas­tle, a pic­ture post­card set­ting, is next to the Par­lia­ment and over­looks both the old town and the Danube, which shaped the early set­tle­ments of Rome, of which Bratislava was one. It is an easy trek from the cen­tre of the city. Bratislava was once the cap­i­tal of Hun­gary and now Slo­vakia and sits on the border of Aus­tria and Slo­vakia, re­flect­ing its very com­plex and rich her­itage.

What should vis­i­tors save room in their suit­case for af­ter a visit to Bratislava?

A bot­tle of the great Du­naj wine named af­ter the Danube in the Slo­vak lan­guage, which is a warm ma­genta- coloured red wine with an aroma of black­berry. Along with that, a bot­tle of Ta­tratea, an­other lo­cal tea- based liqueur with strengths rang­ing from 17 per cent to 72 per cent al­co­hol. Also some pot­tery, modra ma­jolica, which has var­i­ous tra­di­tional pat­terns painted on to a white back­ground, in greens, blues and yel­lows, beau­ti­ful.

If you’d like to share your lit­tle black book of places to visit where you live, please email your an­swers to the five ques­tions above to [email protected] irish­times. com, in­clud­ing a brief de­scrip­tion of what you do there and a pho­to­graph of your­self.

We’d love to hear from you.

■ Leo Sharkey has lived in Bratislava for over a year

■ Bratislava Cas­tle: a pic­ture post­card set­ting

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