One of the best things about travelling is exploring a new place in unexpected ways.
I’ve just come back from a long weekend in Bratislava, which is one of the best trips I’ve taken in a while, mostly because of the things we did while we were there.
One of my favourite things was a Post Socialist City Tour with Authentic Slovakia, which we booked after coming across a flyer in our hotel. Authentic Slovakia offer a variety of interesting and quirky trips in and around Bratislava, but also further afield.
We booked in for a two hour tour on our last day and were picked up from the hotel by our guide, Peter, in a retro 1970s Skoda.
The tour took us to parts of the city that we hadn’t explored on our own and that I wouldn’t have thought to visit without a guide.
We drove to abandoned factories, Soviet housing estates and defunct public artworks, wandered around historic memorials and visited a hotel where the Queen stayed when she visited Slovakia (it looks like something from a James Bond film).
Peter was a fantastic guide with masses of interesting stories about life in Slovakia over the last few decades, many of which were about his own family. It really helped us to understand how much the country has changed and how much upheaval the people have experienced having been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czechoslovakia, before Slovakia became an independent state in 1993. In his lifetime alone, Peter has known four different currencies and as a child couldn’t visit neighbouring Austria due to the Communist rule.
Over the last couple of years I’ve travelled to a number of countries in Central and Eastern Europe, so it was really interesting to learn more about Slovakia and how it fits into the region’s history.
As part of the tour, we drove up the hill to the Slavin Memorial, which commemorates the liberation of Bratislava from the Germans during WWII. It’s also a cemetery where almost 7,000 Soviet soldiers killed in the fighting are buried, many in mass graves beneath the manicured gardens. If you look closely at the soldier atop the monument, you can see he is stamping a swastika into the ground.
We also toured the residential neighbourhood surrounding the memorial where a number of foreign ambassadors and the Slovak prime minister live. There are some beautiful villas that provide a strong contrast with the apartment blocks in other areas of the city.
Peter also showed us a number of historical photographs of the city to show how buildings have been redeveloped, and even brought along an old propaganda magazine featuring some of the now abandoned factories seen on the tour.
If you’re ever in Bratislava and would like to see another side of the city, I can’t recommend this tour highly enough.
We paid €32 each, but prices vary depending on the number of people in your group. If you have a bit more time than we did, you can also take a four hour version of the tour.
To find out more, check out Authentic Slovakia’s website. Booking is really straightforward, just fill out the online booking form with the date and time you’d like to go, and they will email or text you to confirm details. You can also book a tour through your hotel if you prefer.
And this isn’t a sponsored post, it’s a genuine recommendation!