Leaving vibrant, crazy Budapest was difficult. We had made so many friends in such a short space of time but the city, and it’s friendly locals reinvigorated us as we continued our exploration deeper into central Europe.
The capital city Bratislava was our first stop on our Slovakian adventure, and while this little capital often cops a bad rep from movies like Hostel and Euro Trip, I assure you we were never in fear of being kidnapped and chopped into pieces, nor were we able to buy the city with a only few Aussie dollars. As always, we took a local free walking tour to see the city and learn from a young local expert the history and what life in Bratislava was really like. We were pleasantly surprised walking around the compact city to see unusual colourful building and innovative little bars and cafes all set amongst the bleak and unimaginative buildings remaining from the communist era. It was these sites, the picturesque old town and the bold memorial monuments scattered around the city that set up the scene of a country that is in the process of designing it’s bright future. Being gluten free in Slovakia is surprisingly easy. On one of the main shopping streets, Obchodná, you will find a drollery markt (displayed simply as “DM”), I have already talked up this amazing gluten free wonderland, but it honestly does have so many delicious gluten free treats, breads, flours and pasta that I can’t help myself. A short trip to the supermarket, located on the same street, and you can easily make sandwiches to get you through the day. Most large supermarkets (even outside Bratislava) also carry gluten free goodies, the larger the supermarket, the greater the variety. The national Slovak dish Bryndzove halusky, a sheep cheese gnocchi, is unfortunately not gluten free. But of course there are some amazing gluten free meat dishes (as expect from this part of Europe) that will satisfy any celiac. The portion sizes are also out of control! I highly recommend sharing, even with a large appetite, Ben and I struggled to finish most of our meals.
My Short Guide to Slovakia
- Call the locals Slovaks, not “Slovakians”.
- Don’t call the country “Czechoslovakia”, they had a peaceful spilt from the Czechs 21 years ago.
- Try and go to one the many weird and wonderful cultural events in Slovakia. For example, at Easter woman are given a friendly whack with a woven oak branch and drenched with cold water. In return, they “thank” the men by giving gifts alcohol and chocolate. Crazy stuff!
- If you are going to travel outside the capital (and I really recommend you do!) be respectful of locals and always ask when taking photos.
- Slovakia is safe. While its main station certainly has it’s own brand of weird and wonderful characters, we never felt unsafe.