My first days in Bratislava were, as expected, days of discoveries. There’s not much of a cultural shock an European could experience in Slovakia, especially in Bratislava. Travelling so much helped me realise Europeans are not very different, especially the young ones :). Slovakia may look very vintage but, in many ways, it is extremely modern (at least Bratislava is, probably because of being so close – geographically – to other cultures). Westerners might notice a lower level of life and all its consequences, also the abundance of soviet-style buildings. Let’s not forget the annoying bureaucracy, so typical in the former communist block. But I come from mighty Eastern Europe and all this looked like home. And I think Bratislava is really pretty.
There are fun (and not-so-fun) facts about Bratislava & Slovakia I discover every day. Here are some of the first impressions:
- Slovak lunch time starts at 11.30 am. Many Slovaks take their lunch break between 11.30 am and 12.30 pm, even if they normally start working at 9-9.30 am. To be able to join them, I had to give up breakfast.
- Slovaks love to celebrate name days, even if they are not so popular (like Andrew or Stephen). Name days are more often celebrated than birthdays, especially after a certain age, so I was told. Apparently it’s my name day on October 27th. Where I come from (Romanian-Orthodox religion), this day is dedicated to some other event.
- You’re not supposed to thank the person who’s giving you medicines. If you have a headache and someone gives you a painkiller, don’t say anything.
- Bratislava’s public transport is (almost) amazing. Seriously, it’s better than the one in Leeds. Mostly on time and a great network, even during the night. The online journey planner is good, but it does lack few information (e.g when to change platforms). Unfortunately, every time a route changes, the announcements are made in Slovak only. Also great about public transportation in Bratislava: low prices, the various kinds of tickets you can get from the ticket machines and the 70-minute SMS ticket you can get for €1 by sending an empty SMS to 1100 (valid also for night transport).
- Taxis are cheaper if you call for them instead of hailing one on the street. Doesn’t really work if you’re a foreigner though 😦
- Drivers never seem to give way when a person moves onto a crossing. Still looking for the local laws!