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Although we had flown to Košice yesterday, we actually needed to be on the opposite side of Slovakia today. Fortunately, Slovakia is not a huge country and the trains are amazing, so this wasn't going to be a problem. I had already arranged our train tickets in advance online, booking us onto a train which was leaving Košice at 09.07. Our hotel started serving breakfast at 08.00, so we made sure we were there at the start to make the most of it before setting off on the short walk back across down to the train station. I'd paid slightly extra to travel in first class and it was definitely worth it. The tickets were unbelievably cheap, with what was ultimately going to be a four-hour train journey to Trenčín costing just EUR 20 each. The first class carriages were really nice and we had two comfy window seats with a table to ourselves. We even got a free bottle of water. Considering it costs more than £13 to get between Nuneaton and Birmingham these days, it felt like a real bargain! Slovakia is very scenic and it was a lovely journey. The weather wasn't as good as it had been on Friday, being quite cloudy and misty in places, but the landscape was still really beautiful. We went past hills.... ...and alongside rivers. Some time after 1pm, the train pulled into the city of Trenčín. This was another place we'd been to on our 2016 holiday, coming here to visit the large castle which is visible from just outside the train station. We were meeting some local Esperantists here, who came to pick us up and took us for a walk around the town centre. When we're last been here it had been August and I remember it had been incredibly hot climbing up the hill to the castle. It was much cooler today, though luckily the weather was staying dry. We didn't climb up to the castle today but we had some beautiful views of it from the centre of town. We had lunch in Trenčín before travelling to the nearby town of Nová Dubnica, which is where the Esperanto organisation we'd come to visit is based. We spent the afternoon visiting their various premises, before going out for another big meal in the evening. We stayed the night in a hotel in Nová Dubnica. The room was rather basic, but we couldn't complain about the price - just €40 for the night! We had breakfast at the hotel in the morning, before getting a lift to the small nearby station of Trenčianska Teplá. From there we had a much shorter train journey than yesterday - around 1.5 hours - to Bratislava. We couldn't visit Bratislava without staying in the hotel formerly known as the Mercure, near to the train station. We weren't technically allowed to check in until 3pm, but we decided to go and ask whether we could leave our bags at reception. Our luck was in because they found us a room and we were able to check in nice and early. Despite the hotel seemingly changing its name, the rooms look very much the same as they always did, including the bathrooms with the strange windows! Today was a bright sunny day, so once we'd dropped off the bags we decided to head out and make the most of the daylight. Bratislava looked lovely in the winter sunshine. As we walked down towards the main square, we found they were in the process of setting up booths for the Christmas market there. That meant most of the main square was blocked off, though it looked like it would be a while until the market was open. We made our way down past the national theatre... ...and back round past the cathedral. When we first came to Bratislava, I remember this being completely covered in scaffolding for restoration. It looks fantastic now. We had lunch, then another stroll around town. As we were walking back towards the hotel, we popped into a large bookshop to look around and found it had a cafe. I had an amazing piece of Sachertorte with my coffee. Bratislava is a lovely city and it's fun to be back here for a short trip
We weren't planning a trip to Slovakia this year, but when an opportunity cropped up to combine some Esperanto work with a bit of travel, we decided to take it. Tim booked some unbelievably cheap flights to Košice, the only catch being that the plane was departing at 06.10. So we had a rather early start to the morning, leaving home at 02.30 to drive towards Luton. Luckily, everything worked like clockwork with the journey. We made good time on the motorway, found the airport parking and jumped on a bus to the terminal straightaway. The only slight hiccup was that my toiletries got selected for a random liquids check at security and - for reasons which absolutely baffle me - my conditioner got flagged up as being in some way unacceptable, with the result that it was confiscated We just about had time to get some breakfast at Luton before boarding our Wizzair flight to Košice. Wizzair planes are slightly nicer than Ryanair, so we had a decent amount of leg-room and the flight passed quickly. Before we knew it, we were touching down in Košice and queuing up to get through passport control. Collecting our baggage didn't take very long and we were in luck because an airport bus was scheduled to arrive soon. Arrive it did, but it turned out to be one of those airport buses which don't have any space for people to actually put luggage, so we ended up having quite a cramped journey into the centre of town. We're staying one night in a hotel here and I'd booked a hotel which wasn't far from the main railway station, which is where the airport bus had deposited us. The hotel had said we could arrive early and leave our luggage at reception, so we set off to do that. Once we got there, we found that our room was actually already available, so we were able to check in unexpectedly early It turned out to be a really nice hotel. As well as a bedroom... ...we've got a really nice separate living area with lots of comfy seating. I didn't dare sit down for fear of falling asleep straightaway. Instead, we set out to make the most of the daylight hours in Košice. We've actually been here once before, back when we spent a week in Slovakia in summer 2016. Back then we were staying in Poprad and came to Košice on a day trip, trying to avoid rain in the mountains. Rain definitely didn't look like it was going to be an issue today; there was a beautiful bright blue sky. I didn't recognise everything from our previous visit, but I definitely remembered the cathedral. It's absolutely huge and has a really pretty roof. We probably managed to get some better photos of it today than when we were here in 2016 with grey skies. The cathedral isn't the only attractive building in the centre of Košice. Not far away we found this rather unusual turreted building. And there were lots of colourful painted buildings all the way up and down the main street. It was a really nice place to stroll around and enjoy. And definitely not overrun with other tourists on a Friday in November! Towards the end of the main street we found what looked like a plague column. There were some other really pretty buildings around here too. Once we'd finished exploring we set off in search of somewhere to get some food. We'd eaten somewhere good in Košice before, but didn't manage to track that down again. We did, however, find another nice restaurant where we were able to get chicken schnitzel and chips, plus some amazing nutella-filled pancakes for dessert Then it was back to the hotel room to catch up on some sleep after the very early start!