Last week I spent four days in Bratislava, Slovakia. It’s a small capital city, very small, in fact, with a population of only 450,000 or so. It’s the kind of city that always feels like a town, with a relaxed atmosphere and a lack of things such as heavy city noise, maniacal traffic or crowded streets.
Take a stroll along the Danube River, head through Hviezdoslav Square and into the nicely renovated Old City – where you’ll find a collection of interesting baroque palaces, Gothic Cathedrals, medieval towers and welcoming plazas – and walk up through the narrow medieval lanes that lead to the imposing Bratislava Castle, and you’ll enjoy yourself. It’s just all so very pleasant, everywhere you go.
Bratislava, Slovakia is almost entirely walkable, it’s attractive and it has an interesting history, good food (garlic soup and chicken with peaches are my favorites!), dirt cheap and excellent beer, as well as plenty of parks, forests and lakes nearby. It’s also only 60 kilometers from Vienna, 60 kilometers from the border with the Czech Republic and just a short 20 minute drive from Hungary. Not a bad location at all.
In fact, as I sat in the quiet backyard of my friends’ house each night during my brief stay, sipping wine and looking out over the Danube River, with the Bratislava Castle as well as Austria and Hungary in the distance, I found myself taking a strong liking to this place. I don’t think I could live here for too long as it may be too quiet for me, but a country town feel with access to everything you could need from a city sure makes for an appealing destination to spend some time in.
A Quick Tale About Slovakian Face Wash
On a side note, I can’t tell you all how happy I was to find myself able to read and understand a decent amount of the Slovak language during my stay. This was due to a relationship I had several years ago with a girl from the Czech Republic when one of my side hobbies was trying to see if I could pronounce words such as zmrzlina and spolubydlící in less than 29 minutes.
And since the Czech and Slovak languages are very similar, this proved quite useful during this recent visit to Bratislava.
Simple things such as ordering food in restaurants, reading signs around the city and differentiating between the face wash and shampoo in my friends’ shower, were made so much easier as a result.
Actually, I might have messed up with the face wash. In fact, I know I did.
You see, on my first morning in Bratislava, as I prepared to shower, I spent a few minutes staring at the nine bottles of soaps and shampoos on the shelf inside the bathroom. And because I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses or glasses at the time, I had to take each bottle off the shelf, put it close to my eyes and try to decipher the purpose of the liquid inside.
I easily found the shampoo (šampón). I easily found the body wash (sprchový gél). And then, I found a nice small bottle of Nivea face wash as well.
I used the shampoo. I used the body wash. And then, I gave my face a thorough cleansing with the face wash.
The next morning I did the same and on my third and final morning as well. And on that final morning, after I dried myself off and put in my contact lenses, I decided to write down the name of the face wash I had been using as it seemed to be quite a good one to me.
So I grabbed the bottle off the shelf and began reading.
Well, wouldn’t you know it. Now that I could see more clearly, I realized that I had previously failed to notice a few things, important things mind you. I had assumed it was face wash after trying to decipher some of the Czech/Slovak words on the bottle. However, I had failed to read the words “Wash Lotion” that were written in English. Not only that, it was actually written “Intimate Wash Lotion”.
Further, not only was the ‘face wash’ called “Intimo”, but under that very word were two more words that I had severely misread before I had taken that first shower.
What I believed said “Dermatologically Tested” actually said “Gynaecologically Tested”. And the worst part was that this was written in English as well. Oops.
Very different meanings there, although there’s no denying that my face did feel quite smooth. Anyway, as a result, from now on, I’m quite sure that I will always put my contact lenses in my eyes before I step foot into any shower.
On a brighter note, due to this little incident, I’ll shall certainly never forget my trip to Bratislava. I shall also look forward to visiting my friends there again and exploring more of the countryside next time around. Of course, if I want my friends to actually invite me again, I should probably send my friend a new bottle of “Intimo” considering how much of her current bottle I used on my face.
Have you been to Bratislava, Slovakia? Is it a place you’d be interested in visiting? Any face wash recommendations?
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Oh my word that’s so funny! Still, I don’t suppose it could have hurt using it as face wash – after all it’s designed to be fairly ~delicate 😉
I’m heading to Slovakia for the first time on Saturday and I’m so excited! I haven’t got a super detailed plan just yet but I think I’ll be spending a couple of days in Bratislava before heading for High Tatras.
Lived for one and a half years in Bratislava a few years ago and still really enjoy each visit of the city. Bratislava might be small, but the city got it’s own charm to say the least. 🙂
So we just got back last night. It was an interesting visit although we had a few bits of bad luck and some not so nice annoying thing that dragged the overall experience down a few notches. Still really glad we went but not sure i’ll be rushing to get back… Although a summer visit may be needed to balance my viewpoint. I wrote about it here: https://everydaynomad.com/weekend-bratislava/ and linked this post at the end.
Hey Forest – That’s a shame to hear…I’ll go check out the post now.
[…] One of my favourite travel bloggers, Wandering Earl, also gave his impression of the city and gave me a huge laugh here: Bratislava, A Great Little City […]
Ha ha ha! I have read this before but just revisiting because I am off there tomorrow morning for 3 days. Will swing by again and let you know what I think after I get back.
I know Hungary isn’t on the top of your list by a long shot but if you are in the area, give me a shout! Maybe I could change your mind a little on Budapest 😉
Loved your post. I visited Bratislava one weekend when I lived in Prague. Now I am considering moving to Bratislava. Although I have been there, I did not realize how quiet it is…..that is something that is attractive to me! Prague felt so crowded and noisy to me. Could you expand on this comment? I felt that the people in Bratislava were friendlier than in Praha. Nice to hear that Bratislava is a quiet town. That is more my style. Thanks for the post!
I am always happy when I see that people from different countries like to visit my home town. It is funny that you consider it really small town, since it is the biggest in the country =) Of course in comparison with Paris, London, Rome etc it is just like a village, yet for us it is busy, noisy and big. I had to laugh out loud when you wrote about zmrzlina, in fact it is one of the most difficult words in our language for foreigners. Thanks for nice post about Bratislava and good luck with traveling.
[…] I went to visit a friend in Bratislava, Slovakia and a few weeks after that trip ended, I was off to the Balkans where I visited Belgrade, Serbia, […]
Im heading here in November. I had no idea that it was only a 20 minute ride to Hungary. I think during 3 day stay here I should take a ride over to Hungary. Thanks Earl!
Enjoy your trip Kaitlin!
Yes I do have an interest in visiting Bratislava. Will be in Slovakia for only a limited time. Any suggestions for a nice, smaller city in the east of Slovakia?
Hey Stephen – I’m not too sure about the east as I haven’t really been out that way. But I did like Piestany and Trencin, two nice towns that are to the north of the city.
[…] Source […]
Hahaha… okay, the “face wash” story definitely had me chuckling.
But, laughter aside, Bratislava looks lovely! Slovakia is definitely on my list (I had hoped to make it there this summer, but it’s not going to happen). I have family I’ve never met in a village in the eastern part of the country, and I’d really like to visit them eventually!
Hey Amanda – Then you definitely have to go and try to find that family…that sounds like a very cool idea for a trip!
Your “face wash” story is so so hysterical! Thta’s the only blog post tghat made me laugh so so hard.
Bratislava sounds fasicnating. I make sure to visit next time in Eastern Europe.
Hey Marisol – Glad you got a good laugh from the story. I keep laughing myself every time I think about it, especially whenever I’m in a shop and I see that Intimo wash lotion for sale!
Just started following your blog! It’s so great! Love this post and the pictures are beautiful!
Thanks for that Alex!
Amazing story (the second half)! Liked what you had to say on Bratislava, too. I loved that little city, even in the dead of winter – I just went for a couple nights this past February. I heard it can get pretty crazy in the summer with all the stag parties that come through but so it goes with the cheaper, attractive cities in Central/Eastern Europe. Looking forward to going back someday when it is patio weather.
Hey Larissa – I heard that also about the stag parties but I didn’t see anything while I was there. Even at night the city was quite quiet and most of the bars we found closed at midnight!
So glad you liked it!! Next time you should definitely get out of Bratislava as there is so much more our there. Very recommended – hiking in Mala Fatra National Park and visiting Orava Castle (Oravsky Hrad).
Even though the country is quite small in my year in Slovakia I failed to go to High Tatras, which are supposed to be very beautiful. Definitely coming back for that!
Hey Masha – The last time I was in Slovakia I did some traveling around the countryside, on a road trip along a big circuit that included Trencin and Piestany and a bunch of other towns along the way. But I’d love to do go back and visit the other corners of the country as well!
Reminds me a bit of my first little funny experience/mistake while visiting the US for the first time. I was on my way from Trondheim, Norway to Los Angeles and my flights connected in Chicago and cause of a snowstorm all the flights from Chicago were canceled, luckily they provided us with a hotel room, I believe it was at the Hyatt. So the first thing I do when I walk into the Hyatt was going to the front desk and get my room key, therefrom I went to a little kiosk they had there, I walked around got me some reese´s pieces and something to drink and then I saw a toothbrush there and remembered that my toothbrush and toothpaste were in my bag that was still in the airport/airplane or where ever they keep the luggage, so I took the first toothbrush I saw and on it´s right side was toothpaste, so I grabbed that as well, went to the counter made my purchase and went to check out my room. In my room I sat down and munched on some candy while flipping through the tv, after finishing the candy I went to the bathroom and took out my toothpaste and brush, and started brushing, after some seconds of brushing I felt that this was different, cause the toothpaste was sticking to every part of my mouth, teeth and tongue, really awful stuff,(took me some hours to get the whole thing out of my mouth), so I checked out the expiration date and that checked out, so I read a little more on that box I got it in, and what do you know, that “toothpaste” was not toothpaste at all, it was DENTURE ADHESIVE CREAM!! and after realizing that I immediately saw the complementary hotel toothpaste and brush, I felt like such a fool!!(but I have a real easy time laughing at my own mistakes, so it´s all good) but it gave me a good story to tell when I got to LA, you see I was visiting my girlfriends parents for the first time, so at least I was able to make some god laughs on the first immpression : ) but for my defense, who in their right mind keeps the denture adhesive cream(which looks exactly like your regular toothpaste pack) right next to the toothbrushes!! that´s just wrong 🙂
Anyway just wanted to share this story here, just popped up when I read about your “facewash” mistake 🙂
btw: my girlfriends parents LOVED that story 😀 (who doesn´t love a fools story)
Hey Olafur – That’s a hilarious story and I can only imagine what it must have been like to have that stuff all over your teeth! Of course, your story also makes me feel much, much better about my own 🙂
And the fact that you can laugh at it all, which is how I react to my own mistakes as well, makes all the difference. Us humans are funny creatures from time to time!
“I should probably send my friend a new bottle of “Intimo” considering how much of her current bottle I used on my face.”
ha ha ha!!! lol!! I burst into laughter at work after reading this 🙂
So funny! My first day in Korea I texted pictures of all of the shampoos, conditioners and lotions to a friend that could read Korea and made him translate everything for me…toiletries can be intimidating in another language! Food mix ups can be bad too…my husband once bought apple vinegar somewhere in Europe thinking it was apple juice. Ya win some, ya lose some!
Hey Andrea – That’s a good idea to get some assistance with the translation. I guess I should have taken an escort into the shower with me to translate everything 🙂
We spent one solitary day in Bratislava. It’s a beautiful place and worth a lot longer than that. Someone we were there with had previously spent two weeks there living like a king. It’s beautiful and relatively cheap compared to many of the other cities in the region.
This place looks awesome for a visit. It’s a part of the world I have been nowhere near but my partner and I have discussed Hungary before because we have a pal who lives there…. May have to swing by one day! What is the Visa situation like in this part of the world for you?
Hey Forest – Slovakia is part of the Schengen Zone. But for me, I have just been able to obtain temporary residency here in Romania (which is not Schengen yet) so I’m able to come and go as much as I please. But as of right now, I’m still limited to 90 days in Schengen countries in any 180 day period.
i laughed when reading the part of “face wash” ha,,ha,,
I have indeed been to Bratislava. Loved it. Did you try halusky?
Hey Roy – I didn’t eat the halusky this time around but I have eaten before when I was in the Slovakian countryside and in Czech Republic. The problem is that whenever I see that chicken and peaches dish, I refuse to eat anything else.
That just made me laugh out loud. 🙂 Thanks – I needed that!
This post definitely makes me wanna go. Sounds nice. Thanks for sharing.
Forgot to mention – gynaecologically tested? HILARIOUS!!!
Gorgeous! Thanks for the virtual tour. I’d want to try the garlic soup along with the chicken and peaches! Mmmmm. I’ve never been to Bratislava, though my friend was a diplomat there. She is Slovak and I visited her small town in Slovakia. The outskirts, the small towns and the countryside is the best in Slovakia… though, I agree, that it’s not Prague, if that’s more your pace. 🙂
Hey Barbara – On my previous visit to Slovakia I also visited parts of the countryside and loved all of the small towns and the abandoned castles atop all the hills. Definitely a great place…although, as long as there is chicken and peaches, I’ll be happy anywhere.
I’ve also got a short story from that part of the world. Back in 2006, my family and I took a night sleeper train between Budapest and Prague. Other than being awakened 4 times by customs as we crossed the two boarders, things went pretty smooth for us.
Except, our cabin was the only one out of all the cabins in our train car to not be robbed. I suspect it was because I had done my homework ahead of time and knew about this possibility. After every time the customs officers left our cabin, I made sure that our door was re-locked.
This is the type of story that should be passed on from one traveler to another. It’s interesting that out of all the people riding in our train car, I was the only one that knew this. It’s also interesting that the train lady, sitting in her little booth at the end of our car who checks tickets, didn’t mention it to anyone either. We all suspected she was in on it, but couldn’t prove it.
So, the lesson is: always lock your cabin door.
Hey Steve – That’s definitely a good piece of advice. I’ve heard of similar things happening on the train from Bucharest to Budapest as well, but regardless, it pays to lock that door no matter where you’re headed on a train.
What a gorgeous city! And that is too hysterical about the misread.
I’ve flown over Bratislava, with an excellent view of the castle (flight was from Prague to Budapest) and have stopped there many times on the train, but have never actually visited. I know in 1998 (when I was in Vienna, Prague, and Budapest) there were all kinds of stories about the Slovakian Gov’t and how foreigners had been harrassed on trains so I did not visit, and even in 2006 on a stop there on a train from Budapest to Prague, their customs agents gave me a hard time…apparently no one stamped my entry into Slovakia when we entered from Hungary, so they just stared at me. I kept saying they could see my exit stamp from Hungary just a couple hours before….they eventually stamped my exit from Slovakia……was very odd. I do want to visit one day.