I’m not sure when we actually decided to visit Bratislava, until our trip I had never even heard of it and was easily mixed up by Slovenia and Slovakia. Yet here I found myself on the train to the capital of Slovakia with very little idea of what to expect. The train was rustic and quaint taking just over an hour, winding through various fields before arriving in Bratislava Hlavna station. Taking our first steps into Bratislava however, we were confused it felt like walking into what I could only imagine the streets of communist Russia would look like. We knew it was only a twenty-minute walk to the old town so using harries trusty map we set off hoping that the scenery was going to drastically change. Once we were past the parliament building the scenery began to change into more of what we had envisioned Slovakia to look like. We quickly discovered it seemed to be a place of great contrasts from the seemingly untouched quaint beauty of the old town, to the vile concrete mess that the Russians had assembled, to the new a sleek business district all pressed together into one capital city. We spent most of our time in the streets of the old town and went to find the square that the walking tour began at. There was only one free walking tour we could find in Bratislava so we knew it was going to be different from the company tours we had become accustomed to. While perhaps a little less professional it was still very informative and unlike the rest, it was given by a real native and gave an insight into her city and culture that perhaps wouldn’t have been as deep and authentic from anyone else. We walk through all the beautiful old town learned about its history, people and traditions. One story that stood out, in particular, was that every Easter Monday a man would knock on a woman’s door pour water on her and whip her with thin branches of Willow. This symbolises youth and health, I made a mental note to avoid visiting around this time. We continued on past the large clock tower and through most of the old town, learning how the tourist industry has been struggling since the release of the film hostel and how truly bad their national minimum wage was made me feel blessed for all the hours I thought I had been underpaid. By the end we were starving, following the advice of our tour guide who mentioned that most of the cafes on the main street were incredibly overpriced we found a more traditional looking spot a little of the beaten track that I believe was just called Bratislava restaurant. It was a very impressive building inside almost like an old library turned banquet hall. We realised that in comparison to all the other capital cities this was by far the least English speaking so ordering posed a slight challenge. I managed to order their traditional soup however as we were starving I ordered aside. My waitress gave me a very confused expression, not realising why until my meal arrived I had ordered a giant soup encased in a bread bowl with an extra side of bread (Lucy and Harrie found this hysterical). It was delicious but I understand why she gave me a crazy look it was bread overload. The food was delicious and just what we needed to refuel before our walk up the hill to the castle. Bratislava castle is easy to find without directions as you just follow the hill straight up, we didn’t enter the castle but instead walked around the grounds and admired the impressive views. I think this was possibly my favourite part of the city the view from up there, you could see for miles and the contrast between the old and new town was breathtaking. After a busy day of walking in the heat, we had just enough time to stop off at one of the shops to purchase some of their traditional honey wine and try a few samples! On the train back to Vienna we were once again exhausted but I’m so glad we went to Bratislava, it showed me a place I had never thought of visiting, that was staggeringly different from anywhere I had been before in Europe. It gave me a real insight into a city focused on shaking its oppressed past and re-establishing its own identity. But hey what do I know! It’s well worth a visit to decide for yourself and now I hope to one day to explore more of Slovakia.