In this exciting episode

You may recall that in the last episode our intrepid hero was attempting to infiltrate himself in the eastern block – planning indeed to blend in with the locals by working with them and speaking their language.

Tune in this week to see our hero escape by foot from a grey Stalinist city back to Western Europe and tangle with border guards. . .

It’s been an interesting fortnight actually. I’ve made terrific progress in Prague.

So I do now have a phone, and have almost finalised a job.

The job doesn’t start till the middle of March, so I have had time to do a bit of travelling, (and will manage to fit a bit more in yet)

So I thought, why not go to Bratislava?

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia which is the other half of what was Czechoslovakia and so seemed worth a visit albeit that it’s not a tourist destination.

I like going to places that aren’t popular with tourists, Sometimes you discover places that are beautiful and unspoilt. Of course sometimes you discover places that aren’t popular with tourists for a reason – they are horrible!

To be fair, Bratislava has a very attractive 1 sq kilometre of medieval city, somewhat akin to a randomly selected 1 sq km of Prague, just not as well maintained. The Museum is also very good.

Bratislava also has a medieval castle, but the fact that it burnt down in the 19th century and the current version was rebuilt by the Communists in 1950 somewhat spoils the magic.

The rest of Bratislava is grey, Stalinist, pre-fabricated concrete and horrible. I have enclosed a couple of photos, one showing a view of the Danube (check that skyline!) and another shows Slovakia’s national liberation monument. The statues look a bit unhappy I think, but this is only in keeping with the rest of the populace who also seem to try hard to blend in with the greyness.

Happy Liberated Ones

So after three days I’d had enough. Luckily I had an open dated rail ticket to Vienna, so I checked out of the 1970s retro Stalinist Hotel Kiev, and made my way to the train station to learn that the Slovak Public Transport system was on strike – indefinitely!

Had this been another place I might have retuned to the hotel and carried on searching for the hidden cameras, but instead I felt a compelling need to move along. I had also pre-paid for accommodation that night in Vienna.

So I caught a local bus to a suburb near the border and walked across into Austria.

Quite interesting really, as there was still a strong cold war feel about the border, and they were also a bit “surprised” that I was doing it on foot.

In any case, after walking about 7 km, and being stopped at gunpoint by some Austrian border guards who jumped out from behind a bush, I eventually found an Austrian railway station, and here I am safe and sound in Vienna.

From here I am going to head down to Zagreb, then Split, Dubrovnik and Sarajevo – which is now apparently reasonably safe.

Auf Wiedersehen.


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