May 2018

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 21:34
iguana: The Tilley Hemp Hat (Default)
[personal profile] iguana

The main thing I did in May was visiting Vienna to attend PyDays Wien with [personal profile] katzenfabrik, and I finally got to meet up with my friend Gil after 12 years of knowing her online! After Vienna I took a short trip to Bratislava which was great. I also beat The Fourth Samurai escape room with my family in Bristol for my brother's birthday.

Vienna

Vienna was as pretty as I remembered it from 2012 when I visited it with Emily. Gil was kindly letting me stay in the spare room of her apartment there and it was so nice to finally spend some time with her and her partner.

PyDays was good; it was being hosted for free as part of Linuxwochen Österreich and there were some good talks; in no particular order:

* Python for Social Good
* Python in Game Development
* Humanising Coders
* Unsafe at Any Speed (Rae's talk!)

The food was good; they also had cake!

In the evening Gil made us homemade hummus for dinner, which was delicious. I've been rather into chickpeas since then; I've even started rehydrating and cooking my own.

On Sunday the three of us went to Schönbrunn palace and it was really nice to hang out with them both. I'd been to Schönbrunn before but I don't remember doing the hedge mazes last time, and I also climbed a thing.

Schönbrunn in 2012 using my old PowerShot.


2017; it hasn't changed much. Though that guy in front of me taking a photo has changed his top since then.


Hedgemazing


After Schönbrunn we got oddly-flavoured ice-cream from Eis Greissler. I had Pistachio Salt+Nutmeg.


Bratislava

I believe this was the first time I've visited a country entirely on my own, so yay for that!

Getting to Bratislava from Vienna was super easy; they're only an hour apart by train and the ticket was only around €15. It also included that day's travel on Bratislava's public transport, which turned out to be really convenient.

Bratislava's main train station is well-connected for public transport (trams and buses galore) but terribly labelled for non-locals. Fortunately I knew which bus I was supposed to be getting and it was easy enough to find the waiting area for it. I went straight to the UFO tower on SNP Bridge.



Finding the entrance was somewhat tricky, but after getting to the top there were fantastic views of the city and Danube.

Bratislava, with the castle on the left and main town on the right. There's also the TV Tower on the hill in the background.


The Danube


On the UFO side of the bridge was the shopping centre I had to go through to find the tower entrance, and a large communist-era suburb. Czechoslovakia, as it was then, was never part of the Soviet Union, but the architecture was very similar.



Visiting Pripyat in Ukraine last year clearly has had an effect on me; every time I see this sort of architecture my mind fills with what-ifs.

Below the outside viewing deck at the top of the tower is a restaurant. I had been warned by tourist sights it was expensive but I had decided to treat myself. The place was empty and the waiter, seeing my appearance (camping rucksack and all) decided to show me the menu before offering me a seat. It *was* exquisitely expensive so I ordered just a starter, which was tiny but (a) delicious and (b) came with a buttload of bread so I could fill myself up on that. I decided to get a drink and dessert too which were both amazing.

Yes, I post photos of food now.


I caught the bus back across the bridge and went for a wander in the old town.





It was very pretty and very tiny; easily doable in a few hours (just as well, because that's what I had allocated for exploring the town).

I checked into my hotel and then went back out again, catching the bus as close to the TV Tower as one can get; about a 45 minute walk away. The walk was well worth doing though, as it goes through a wonderful forested national park.





The TV tower itself was rather disappointing: there was no viewing platform; rather a bar on one floor and a restaurant on another, both of which had rather dirty windows to look out of. The bar was, however, deserted, so I was able to get a good look around without having to lean over people at the tables around the edge.

Continuing my accidental habit of visiting places when everything is closed, I found the cable car that would drop me off further down the hill to be under maintenance, so I took a different route down the hill towards the hospital where my phone told me there were also buses. This turned out to be a great route, and the little wooden lookout tower I found in a picnic area clearing had much better views.



As sunset approached, I visited Bratislava Castle on the edge of town, which was much prettier -- and much larger -- than I'd expected.



I had dinner outside in a restaurant in town (mushroom risotto) where a nearby busker was covering Daft Punk on an acoustic guitar and somehow making it work.


Slovakian castle ruins

I'd booked a tour of the Carpathian Castle Ruins the next day (would recommend). I love a good ruin and unfortunately only had time for the shorter version of the trip where we saw two ruins. (Something for next time, then!) These were built circa the 13th Century and there were some more great hikes through rural Slovakian woodland to get to each one, at the top of their respective hills.





I happened to be the only person in my tour (the guide said it was the first time it had run this year) though it was a public holiday (well done me), so the ruins were a little more busy with Slovakian visitors than usual.



The views were fantastic, as was the walk up to each ruin, with the scent of wild garlic in the air (I could take or leave the hornet's nest we hurried past on the way back down from the second ruin, though!)

After getting dropped back in town, I had time for an ice cream before deciphering a public transport sales machine (photo from here; basically: coins only, Slovak language only) with help from the internet.

The airport was a lovely tiny one, and I got a RyanAir flight from there to Birmingham, where I caught a train to Bristol where Emily picked me up. RyanAir has a terrible reputation but my fears were unfounded on this trip; I think the reason most people dislike them is that they actually enforce their baggage rules which, frankly, is amazing. I'd paid for overhead baggage and the overhead lockers were not crammed and none of my stuff in my backpack was getting shunted around by other people. I'd also used the check-in-as-late-as-possible trick (admittedly not great if not travelling solo) to snag a better than average seat; I got the extra-legroom emergency exit seat!


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