I had a nice lie-in this morning, so it was after 9am before we left the hotel and started walking into Bratislava. It was another lovely sunny day; warm, but not too hot. We decided to walk into town via a different route to the one we'd taken yesterday, so it wasn't long before we came to the Presidential Palace.
There were some beautiful flowers in the gardens...
...and the front of the building is impressive too.
We walked through the gate into the old town...
...through the main square...
...and onwards to McDonalds, where we had breakfast for €4.50 each; significantly cheaper than the €16 in the hotel and it included my favourite Cappy apple juice
It wasn't a bad view from a McDonalds either!
After breakfast, our plan was to catch a bus to the nearby town of Devín, where there is an impressive castle that we have visited a few times before. The bus leaves from the station near the UFO bridge and it only costs €0.90 for a ticket as far as Devín. I knew the bus was supposed to be the 29, but when we got to the station we struggled to find which bus stop it was due to leave from. Eventually we realised there was an electronic sign, which announced that it would be leaving from bus stop number 6, but despite walking up and down the platforms several times, we couldn't find number 6. In the end Tim realised that there was another bus stop outside the station on the main road. This turned out to be number 6, and we found it just on time to hop on a passing bus
Devín is only about 12km from Bratislava, so it doesn't take the bus long to get there. From our last visit in 2012, I remembered that the bus stopped in a large carpark below the castle. After around 15 minutes, the bus arrived in Devín and drove along the high street. I expected it to then turn off towards the castle car park.... realising slightly too late that it wasn't going to do any such thing and was continuing down the main road out of the town. Oops!
We quickly jumped off at the next stop and began walking back towards Devín. Luckily it turned out not to be too much of a hardship, because we soon found a pathway to follow alongside the river.
It wasn't long before we got our first glimpse of the castle in the distance.
As we got closer it became clear what an imposing position the castle has, towering high above the river and the rest of the town.
One of the most striking bits of the castle is this little turret, perched on a tiny rocky tower of its own.
We followed a pathway around the bottom of the castle rock. Devín is located at the point where the river Morava flows into the Danube, and so we had a great view from here out across the water.
The Morava looks like a calm river, but the Danube was flowing incredibly fast.
After we'd followed the path for a while, we turned back up into the town of Devín.
It's a small but pretty place...
...and occasionally you turn a corner and get a view of the castle in the distance
We eventually made our way back towards the castle.
It costs €5 each to get in, which is a bit more than last time we were here, but a lot of restoration work has been done since then, in particular on the upper part of the castle.
Although from a distance the hill which the castle is on looks quite high, in reality the path up has quite a gentle slope and it wasn't long before the castle was looking noticeably closer.
Or maybe the climb up to every castle will just feel easy in future compared to climbing up to the palace in Sintra
Soon we were up high enough to look down on the little turret we'd been staring up at earlier.
There was still a way to go to get to the upper castle, though.
We explored the lower part of the castle first.
From here the view of the confluence was even better than at ground level.
Then it was time to climb to the upper part. Again it was easier than we expected, with modern staircases all the way up.
Once we were at the top we had a view back towards Devín and could make out the white church we'd photographed earlier.
We could see along the Morava too, where we'd been walking earlier after overshooting Devín.
And if we looked really carefully, we could just make out Bratislava, in the form of a row of tower blocks on the horizon.
There was a helpful map up here which showed us what we were looking at.
The dotted line on the map represents the border, and showed us that everything we were looking at across the river was Austria.
As we climbed back down, we realised that there were some sort of medieval games going on in the castle today.
Some people were practising archery...
..others were playing a game which seemed to involve splitting an apple with a sword...
...and some seemed to be engaging in what looked like a medieval version of It's A Knockout
It was mid-afternoon by this point and we were starting to feel hungry, so we walked back down towards the river and had a late lunch at a restaurant we've eaten in before.
Tim had goulash with dumplings...
...while I went for the traditional Slovak Bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings with sheep's cheese - it tastes a lot better than it sounds!!)
The food was so good that we gave into temptation and ordered pudding too. Although it looks like red cabbage, Tim's strudel was full of cherries
I went for a more traditional apple one
We were absolutely stuffed by this point, so had a final look at the castle before setting off to catch the bus back to Bratislava.
We'd solved the problem of the bus earlier when walking through the castle car park. There is indeed a bus stop, but it's the bus 129 which stops at here and we had been on a 29. From the timetable it looked like the 129 might be a special bus which runs straight to the castle on weekends, whereas the 29 is the normal bus which runs through the town every day.
Once we were back in Bratislava, we had one more task we had to accomplish before we could go back to the hotel and relax: buying our train tickets for Budapest.
We are due to travel to Budapest tomorrow, but research had revealed that it wasn't possible to buy the tickets online, so we'd had to wait until we were in Bratislava. As with all international tickets, it was difficult to work out online what the price would be. The website of Slovak railways referred to a "special offer" price of €9 which was available for purchase in advance, but it wasn't really clear about how far in advance the tickets had to be purchased. It also implied that there was a limited number of these tickets available each day, without specifying how much the journey would cost if the cheap tickets had all sold out...
I don't like this sort of uncertainty, but luckily when we got to the station, everything turned out to be fine and we got the €9 fare I've really enjoyed being back in Bratislava, but I'm very excited about going to Hungary tomorrow And it seems incredible that I can travel from Bratislava to Budapest for €9 when it costs me £11.15 every day to get from Nuneaton to Birmingham!