Given our car issues we decided to book a second night at the airport hotel (originally we planned just one for our flight). From there we figured we would take a train to Slovakia. In one way, this was our one big mistake of the trip (Not that we had much of a choice). Cheap, yes. Location, yes. Everything else a big no. Noisy, smoky, cruddy, and exactly what you’d expect from an airport hotel. However, we weren’t doing much there other than sleeping so we made the best of it. Also, we grossly underestimated how long it would take to get back to Vienna. What should have been a 5 ½ hour drive turned into a 10 hour, four border-crossing ordeal. So in some ways we were lucky we didn’t add a fifth crossing into Slovakia. We had a crappy dinner at a local restaurant and crashed for the night. The next day we headed to the train station to navigate our way to Slovenia.
We purchased the tickets from a machine without a hitch, but figuring out the right way to go was problematic. Either option seemed to get us close, but not there without some level of walking. Given that it was a Saturday, trains ran less frequently. We showed the tickets to a pair of local women and they indicated that we should take the arriving train. It was ok, but it dropped us about 6 miles from Bratislava (the city in Slovakia we were headed for). There was actually a bike path that many people were taking, the only problem was we had no bikes. The train ride was actually quite pleasant. Views of the rural landscape were awesome. We traversed through small villages with lots of non-monocultured farmland. Instead of endless fields of corn, fields were planted in rows of sunflowers, corn, wheat and other crops. In the backdrop were giant wind turbines. It was all very sustainable. My only disappointment was that we weren’t able to take a photo of Jennifer in the fields of sunflowers. That would have rocked.
As we got off the train, we debated a cab, but decided to huff it on foot. It paid off. After ten minutes we passed a gorgeous field of sunflowers. I looked to Jennifer, she knew what was coming. We did a quick shoot and headed down the trail. However, once we got past the farms, the trail was a disappointment. While we were meters from the Danube River, it was blocked by trees.
Eventually, we winded our way into the city. Did a quick photo shoot to score our 29th country, had a quick lunch and then headed back. This time we took the bus where we met an interesting local named Eric. He worked for the special assistance department of the airport and was not shy about anything. Again it was an interesting look into the local perspective. He ranted about Greece (surprisingly to us in support of debt forgiveness) to the people he helped at the airport. While he had no issue assisting the handicapped, apparently the uber wealthy use his service as well. It seemed, they used it primarily out of laziness and entitlement. Eric had very strong feelings that money didn’t buy you the right to anything and expressed it in ways that will make you think twice before you demand anything. He claimed when the Sheiks demanded water, he gave them toilet water. We couldn’t tell if he was 100% serious, but it seemed it. He talked about the debt locals get into trying to impress their neighbors (sound familiar?). All that said, he was very sweet and kind and helped us navigate our way back.
We closed out trip with a nice dinner and then headed to Barcelona for a quick pit stop on our way home. Primarily, we stopped in Barcelona because it greatly reduced the taxes on our flight home, however given our short stay we couldn’t really get a great dress shot. We tried to do a shot in the Case de Batllo, but we weren’t allowed. Given the strong summer haze (smog) and cranes everywhere, there wasn’t much we could do in the time we had. Instead, we bagged country #30 from the hotel and plan to come back for an improved representation of Spain.
You can check out all the photos in the Europe 2015 Gallery.