A Travellerspoint blog

Museums and a Soviet war memorial

Bratislava


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Since I still felt very drained and cough-ridden today, I took it quite easy again.

I started with what I didn't manage yesterday; the Arms Museum, held round the corner within St Michael's Gate, and the historic Red Crayfish Pharmacy Museum, a couple of doors down from there.

Both are tiny and handily share the same ticket; entrance to one gives you free entry to the other. I went to the Arms Museum first. I admired their collection of pistols, giant metal 'speaking trumpet', Central European, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese daggers and swords, Central European huntsman's bag and stag- and cattle-horn powder flasks, and Austro-Hungarian armour, drum, uniforms and field-glasses.

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I also walked round the viewing platform at the top of the gate, managing not to get blown off in the process (it was an extremely windy day today). Intriguingly, when looking down on one side, I noticed small coins in the copper gutters below, and that the gutter ends were shaped like dragons.

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The Pharmacy Museum didn't have the dried pufferfish and bats, collections of exotic biological and mineral materials, or historic medical texts which I've seen in other pharmacy museums, but it was still interesting to have a look at its collection of wooden cabinets and ceramic, wooden, glass and tin jars, and I admired the painted ceiling in the main room. After taking a photo of a wooden cabinet near the start, I was told that photos weren't allowed, so I didn't get any of the rest of the interior, though I did get ones of the exterior; the metal crayfish sign and the historic metal gates.

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After that my intention had been to go to the castle, but I was so lacking in energy I decided to leave that until the next day, when the weather is due to be better in any case, and just wander round the City Museum this afternoon instead. It's held within the beautiful Old Town Hall, practically on my hostel's doorstep. After a decent sit-down at the hostel, I walked over. However, the lady at the ticket desk told me that although the main part of the museum was open, the tower was closed today (due to the strong winds, I assume), so since I didn't want to miss going up it, I decided to leave the museum until the next day as well.

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After then finding out that the majority of the Slovakian National Gallery is under refurbishment and/or having new exhibitions installed, I settled on something a bit different; the site of Slavín, the largest war memorial and cemetery in Europe.

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I assume they mean the largest in terms of numbers buried there, because I'm sure some of the WWI cemeteries I saw in France and Belgium were bigger in terms of site size. This one contains the bodies of nearly 7000 Soviet soldiers who died in April 1945 during the liberation of Bratislava from the Nazi forces who were occupying the city. The statue on the memorial column shows a Soviet soldier crushing a swastika underfoot.

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The memorial/cemetery lies on a hill, so there were some impressive views of the city. Very cold and windy, though, and the setting of course was sombre.

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Posted by 3Traveller 15:29 Archived in Slovakia Tagged bratislava museum slovakia soviet_monument Comments (5)

St Martin's Cathedral and the Blue Church

Bratislava


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I had a quiet first day in Bratislava today. After quite a long lie-in, I went round the corner to St Michael's Gate. It was chilly and overcast outside, though not wet.

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My aim was to visit the tiny Arms Museum within the Gate, then the equally small Pharmacy Museum a couple of doors down. I'd forgotten that museums are nearly always closed on Mondays, however - so I decided to go tomorrow morning instead.

From there I slowly made my way to St Martin's Cathedral. As I have done all day, I felt very drained and lacking in energy. I still have my cough, too. On my way to the cathedral I passed lots of lovely architecture and two intriguing sculptures; one of a man coming out of the pavement, manhole cover pushed to one side, and another of a melancholy-looking Hans Christian Andersen with a giant snail at his feet.

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I'd got up so late it was now lunchtime, so I had some potato and cheese dumplings with chopped fresh chives on top from a street stall. My appetite wasn't as big as I thought it was, though, so although I liked the dumplings I wasn't able to finish them.

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St Martin's Cathedral was definitely worth visiting, despite being smaller than most. It's three-nave, Gothic, and dates from the 15th century. It was the seat of coronation for the Hungarian kings from then up until the 19th century. I lit a candle when I first came in, then wandered around for a while. Amongst other things, I admired the Baroque Chapel of St John the Almsgiver (John the Merciful) and a famous equestrian statue of St Martin in typical Hungarian hussar dress, dividing his cloak to give to a beggar.

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Although the tower was closed, by paying to see the tiny Treasury I got to go up to platform at the back where the organ is and the choir sit, so I got a good view internally at least.

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There were some more beautiful street scenes on my way to my next stop (Tesco). A couple of interesting wall paintings on one of the buildings caught my eye.

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I went to Tesco to see how it differs to the British version and to get something to have for dinner later. I thought some extra vitamin C would be a good idea, so I got two tins of mandarins in juice in addition to a filled wrap and a pot of rice pudding.

My last stop was St Elizabeth's Church, more commonly known as the Blue Church. This Art Nouveau wonder is definitely well worth the accolades! It certainly lives up to its name, although it isn't 100% blue, especially on the inside.

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As I entered and sat down to rest, a voice started chanting something over a sound system, and four or five old ladies in other pews replied. This chanting and responding continued the whole time I was there - never a physical sign of the person chanting or of any other person working for the church. I thought it discreet to go to the back before taking photos - luckily I wasn't the only tourist there, so I didn't stand out too much.

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It was dark by the time I left. I admired the Old Town Hall all lit up on my way back to my hostel for dinner and an early night.

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Posted by 3Traveller 19:12 Archived in Slovakia Tagged churches art bratislava cathedral slovakia slovakian_cuisine Comments (1)

Multi-country journey from Basel to Bratislava

Basel, Strasbourg and Bratislava


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Very late in the evening I safely made my way from the hotel to the Flixbus stop for the first leg of my journey to Bratislava: a couple of hours on the bus to Strasbourg, where I had a four-hour changeover in the middle of the night. There wasn't anywhere to go inside, but I managed to find a covered area on one side of the bus stop area with a seat where I could set up camp for the next few hours and stay dry if it started to rain. I could see that we were close to a bridge over a river - it would have been nice to walk round a bit and explore if it hadn't been between 1 and 5 a.m. and I didn't have anywhere safe to leave my big case. Instead, I kept myself awake by reading and, at a couple of points around 4 a.m., by blearily trying to dredge up some French from 20 years ago to use in response to an old lady who had come up and started asking me things....

The bus to Bratislava came on time and left Strasbourg at 05:10. The journey took 13 hours but there were no issues and time passed relatively quickly. We made stops at Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Munich and Vienna, plus the occasional service station. At the stop in Vienna the coach went through the coach wash while we were inside - something I hadn't experienced before.

On arrival in Bratislava I found my way to the magnificently-named Wild Elephants Hostel pretty easily, admiring the architecture as I went. It was about 7 p.m. by the time I'd got settled into my dorm, and I was too knackered to go out again, so I made snacks leftover from the bus trip my dinner and after going online for a bit, got an early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:40 Archived in Slovakia Tagged bratislava france austria germany hostel buses switzerland slovakia Comments (0)

Birthday, Museum Tinguely and a return to the Rhine

Basel


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My birthday went well yesterday considering I was in recovery from my illness. I was well enough to teach during the day and help with the running of the Show in the evening - one of my two groups had decided to do a big quiz with audience participation, so my role was to hand out sweets to those who got correct answers. Earlier in the day, I was serenaded with 'Happy Birthday' by the first class I had, and I got a card and some Lindt chocolate from my colleagues. After the Show, a video call home was just the thing to round the day off.

This morning I had a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast of coffee and yoghurt before packing all my stuff and heading downstairs to put it in the luggage room and check out.

I took a bus to Museum Tinguely, which looks out over the Rhine.

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I was able to use my Basel Card to get my ticket half-price; this card was an unexpected bonus we received in our hotel rooms on arrival last Sunday. This had our names and dates of stay written on them and allowed us free public transport within the wider city, half-price museum tickets, public wifi at certain points and one or two things I didn't use.

The museum was playful and interesting, as I expected after remembering the intriguing moving fountain I saw last September, which is one of his works. Jean Tinguely was famous for his kinetic, often noisy, mainly mechanical sculptures, reminiscent of Heath Robinson's inventions - amongst other things, I was impressed with a series of mechanical automatic drawing machines - though he also made some 'still' works.

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I managed to get a couple of videos, though not unfortunately of one of the crowning glories - an entire wall-sized musical contraption with wheels, piano, bell, horns and other things (the video I thought I was taking didn't come out).

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That big one set off automatically every hour, but lots of the others could be set into motion by pressing a button with your foot, though they would only work if a certain minimum number of minutes had passed since the last time (usually between 5-10).

Unfortunately, while walking round I started feeling really lightheaded and drained. I still liked the rest of what I saw there, but decided not to go on to the other museum I'd had my eye on, but rather stick to the rest of my walking route.

This took me along part of the route along the side of the river which I took last September. Only saw one person floating down it this time... The emptiness of the stony river banks/beaches from humans benefitted the seagulls, however, who took advantage by taking baths. Just as I got to the first bridge a boy punted his unsteady way along the edge in a very bare wooden boat. The seagulls ignored him, as did the ducks and swans who were feeding in the shallows.

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After buying a late lunch from a supermarket I crossed the historic bridge I remembered from September and wandered up an invitingly cobbled and twisted path which followed the other side of the river.

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I came out at Minster Square, which appeared very handsome, with the red sandstone Minster on one side and then round the edge of the square, white buildings with green shutters.

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Although I was keen to go in and have at least a quick look, my plans were foiled by the service just about to begin; no tourists allowed. I could have gone to the service, I suppose, but I didn't have time, as I needed to get back to the hotel before 5:30 to collect my stuff before the receptionist went home and I lost access to the luggage room.

I took a bus a couple of stops to the station to help speed the process along. At the station I bought some supplies for the long journey to Bratislava and found the Flixbus stop for later, then walked down the road to the hotel.

To help while away the time In my long wait in the hotel lobby I started a fascinating book called 'Travels with a Tangerine'.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:46 Archived in Switzerland Tagged art hotel museum cathedral buses switzerland basel english_teaching birthday_celebration river_rhine Comments (0)

Ill in Basel

Basel


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I'm typing this in a very dazed manner in my hotel room, where I've been holed up (except for a daily walk to Aldi) since Tuesday night. I've been ill all week but was only actually off work yesterday and today.

I felt absolutely fine on arrival on Sunday, when we went out for pizza in the evening, and during the couple of hours of prep I did afterwards. But the moment I got into bed - literally the first time I swallowed after lying down - I noticed that I had a sore throat. This had got worse by morning and over the course of the day on Monday I also developed a very chesty cough, a headache and aching knees. My head felt very heavy.

I went to work on Tuesday despite not feeling any better in the morning. The non-teaching Director of Studies offered to take my classes in the afternoon if I wanted to go home at lunchtime, but as I did feel a bit improved by then, I said I'd be OK to stay on.

On Tuesday evening we went back to school for a dinner some of the staff put on for us - it was very convivial. The Home Economics department had made lasagne and a salad buffet for us, with really good coffee and a selection of muffins for after. The staff were all really nice, and I got a recommendation to visit Augusta Raurica, the largest Roman site in Switzerland, which is about 10 miles from Basel. I'll have the full day on Saturday, as my Flixbus doesn't leave until 11pm - I can't decide now whether to go to Augusta Raurica or to explore Basel further and go to the museums here that I really want to go to... a good problem to have, I suppose!

The reason why I was recommended this place was because I was chatting to the French and Latin teacher and found out that she had been to St Albans while on holiday in London! I'm not used to people knowing about St Albans when I mention where I'm from when abroad. She said she'd been there in order to go to Verulamium Museum, and that she'd also walked round Verulamium Park and seen the Hypocaust. When I mentioned the Roman theatre, she said she hadn't known about it, but would love to go there in the future!

Although my sore throat and aching knees had improved by yesterday morning, the rest of me felt worse, plus I felt unsteady when I stood up and had started feeling sick on and off, so I finally succumbed and said I wouldn't be able to make it to work. The others were all very supportive. The DoS and one of the other teachers knocked on my door later in the day and gave me an orange and some cup-a-soups. One of the other teachers was also off work sick on Wednesday, but it sounds like they managed OK without us.

I hope to be better enough to go to work tomorrow and be there for the Show, which is going to be quite a big event apparently and will be in the evening. All the parents will be invited. It's also my birthday tomorrow so it would be nice to be at least somewhat improved by then!

Update from July 2022: Looking back now, I wonder if this was Covid. I would have to have caught it in the UK, on around the 21st, but the first official cases weren't confirmed there until 31st January... No temperature or loss of taste or smell, either... but I wonder if it had been in circulation unofficially for a while before then. I'll never know.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:06 Archived in Switzerland Tagged hotel switzerland basel Comments (0)

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