Vikend v Bratislavi

Če so me tujci kdaj ogovorili z: »Aha, Slovenja, to je zraven Češke, blizu Rusije, kajne?«, sem vihala nos in odvrnila kar malce vzvišeno: »Ne, tisto je Slovaška. Slovenija je zraven Avstrije in Italije!« Misleč, da bom z navedbo bolj »eminentnih« sosed dvignila ugled naše države in svojega izvora. Dokler nisem pred nekaj leti, po službeni dolžnosti, za nekaj ur obiskala Bratislave in po sestanku pristala na večerji ob Donavi. Mesto me je preprosto očaralo in takoj pristalo na mojem popotniškem seznamu za kasnejši obisk v dvoje. Letos avgusta sva končno našla prost vikend, da sva ga lahko »odkljukala«. Kaj si o primerjavi Slovenije s Slovaško mislim sedaj? Berite dalje in presodite sami 😉

 

Takrat, ko gredo vsi na morje

Najboljši čas za obisk Bratislave je med majem in septembrom. Če želite ob večernih urah posedati ob Donavi brez skrbi, da vas bo zeblo, pa raje izberite kak vikend v avgustu. Takrat, ko gredo vsi na morje, je najlepše iti v obratno smer. Mesto ni ravno na seznamu top turističnih destinacij, zato ni skrbi, da bi naleteli na gnečo, ki jo je pričakovati v kakšni bolj »obljudeni« evropski prestolnici.

Za skok v Bratislavo sva se odločila praktično čez noč, kar z vidika načrtovanja res ni poseben dosežek. Vse, kar potrebuješ, je avto, nekaj lahkih oblačil (vremenska napoved je bila odlična) in osebno izkaznico. Hotel sva rezervirala kar na poti. Za razliko od Ljubljane, kjer poleti težko najdeš prosto sobo za spodoben denar, je v Bratislavi izbira res pestra in ugodna.

Dobre štiri ure vožnje in dve vinjeti

Slovaška prestolnica je od Ljubljane oddaljena okoli 450 kilometrov, kar pomeni dobre 4 ure neto vožnje. Najhitrejša pot vodi skozi Avstrijo, za kar boste potrebovali vinjeto. Za 10-dnevno boste odšteli 10 evrov (najbolje, da si jo priskrbite že v Sloveniji), enako vas bo stala tudi slovaška, ki jo lahko kupite na turističnem uradu, tik za avstrijsko-slovaško mejo. Ko me je referent vprašal za registrsko številko, so njegove besede zvenele tako domače, da sva se vse zmenila kar vsak v svojem jeziku. Simpatična izkušnja, ki sem jo večkrat ponovila tudi kasneje v Bratislavi – nekako nenaravno se mi je zdelo, da bi se s Slovaki pogovarjala izključno v angleščini.

Po mestu peš in s tramvajem

Bratislavo je najlažje in najceneje raziskovati kar peš. Večina glavnih znamenitosti se nahaja v starem mestnem jedru ali v njegovi neposredni bližini. Tako kot za vsako prestolnico, tudi tu velja, da so cene namestitev nižje izven strogega centra. Priporočljivo pa je, da pri rezervaciji sobe preverite, ali so v bližini postaje javnega prometa. Priznam, da sva imela tu precejšnjo srečo, saj sva po naključju izbrala hotel Lindner Gallery Central z eno najboljših povezav in s pomočjo nasvetov prijazne receptorke že čez 10 minut samozavestno sedla v rdečo »puščico«. Vožnja s tramvajem po Bratislavi je resnično dobrodošla, prijetna, tiha in okolju prijazna izkušnja. Vozovnice kupiš v kiosku na vsaki postaji, na voljo pa so za različne časovne intervale. Najcenejša se začne pri 0,70 evra, za tedensko pa boste odšteli 11,40 evra.

Čudovito staro mestno jedro

Roko na srce, vožnja do centra iz najine smeri, razen nekaterih svetlih arhitekturnih izjem, ni bila ravno turistični presežek. Veliki dolgočasni bloki in stavbe iz časov socializma, brez omembe vrednih zelenih površin ali parkov, so v meni zbujale rahlo negotovost, ali si nisem, pod vtisom dobre večerje in še boljšega vina, takrat pred leti Bratislave predstavljala malce preveč romantično. A ko sva izstopila na zadnji postaji prometnega obroča, ki vodi do starega mestnega jedra, so se moji dvomi hitro razblinili. Ozke ulice, ki vodijo do mestnih trgov, se hitro zapolnijo z butiki, restavracijami in bari, vmes pa je polno domiselnih turističnih atrakcij. Med raziskovanjem slej ko prej naletiš na enega izmed bronastih kipov, ki so priljubljene točke za fotografiranje: tako na tleh srečaš Čumila – delavca, ki kuka iz kanalizacijskega jaška, medtem ko dekleta še raje pozirajo ob »lepem Naciju« – Ignaca Lamarja, ki je slovel po tem, da je pred vsako mladenko spoštljivo privzdignil klobuk in ji rekel: »lepa, lepa«. V poletni vročini je dobrodošla atrakcija tudi mokra osvežitev – skoraj ga ni turista, ki se ne bi sprehodil skozi vodno meglico, ki prši izpod jeklenih obročev na različnih koncih mesta.

Med najlepšimi arhitekturnimi znamenitostmi v Bratislavi so vsekakor Mihaelova vrata z 51 metrov visokim belim stolpom, v katerem je Muzej orožja in mestnega obzidja. Vrata vodijo v živahno Michalsko ulico, kjer je poleg številnih barov in restavracij tudi najožja hiša v Evropi – njena sprednja stran je »široka« le 130 centimetrov, v njenem pritličju pa danes kraljuje nihče drug kot prodajalna kebaba. Sicer pa so ulice in trgi sami po sebi tako slikoviti, da zemljevida praktično ne potrebuješ. Na vsakem koraku je kakšna lepa cerkev, vodnjak, galerija ali muzej, vreden ogleda. Očem oziroma koraku še najbolj odmaknjena je Cerkev Svete Elizabete – zaradi svoje kičaste barve in okrasja imenovana kar Modra cerkev – ki bi jo, če nama receptor v hotelu tega ne bi namignil, verjetno res spregledala.

Za prste obliznit

Za ležeren sprehod po starem mestnem jedru je sicer dovolj eno popoldne, vendar bi bil greh, da si v njem ne bi privoščili vsaj kosila ali večerje. Še raje pa kar obojega. Cene hrane in pijače niso pretirane, restavracije in bari pa resnično ponujajo vse, kar ti srce poželi. Kot ljubiteljica dobre kave sem bila navdušena nad lokalom v Michalski ulici, ki ponuja kavo z vsega sveta, ambient v lokalu pa je tako prijeten (na stranišču imajo celo milo s pilingom za roke), da ti za kofeinsko razvado ni škoda plačati malce več kot v kakšni stranski ulici. Za kosilo sicer velja poskusiti kakšno tradicionalno slovaško jed, kot so golaž in cmoki, poplaknjeni s slastnim »lokalnim« pivom (če sem iskrena, so najboljša tista iz Češke), medtem ko zvečer prija kaj bolj lahkega – italijanskih, vegetarijanskih in kitajskih restavracij je v Bratislavi malo morje in vse, ki sva jih preizkusila, so bile vrhunske.

Od višine se zvrti

Z ogledom centra pa obisk Bratislave nikakor še ni zaključen. Le streljaj od njega je namreč Bratislavski grad, ki se vzpenja na gričku s pogledom na Donavo, katedralo Svetega Martina in staro mestno jedro. Za sprehod do gradu in njegovo okolico sva porabila slabo urico, žal pa v notranjost nisva uspela priti, saj sva imela s seboj kužka – le-tem je vstop prepovedan. Vsekakor je grad vredno obiskati tudi zaradi njegove razgledne ploščadi, za katero vam ni treba plačati vstopnine.

Če želite Bratislavo videti s še višje točke, je najlepša, najmanj stresna in celo brezplačna možnost obisk spomenika padlim v drugi svetovni vojni, ki stoji na griču Slavin. Omenjena vzpetina je tudi zaključek Karpatov, na kar so Slovaki zelo ponosni. Razgled na Bratislavo s Slavina sicer mestoma zastirajo visoka drevesa, a je ploščad, na koncu katere se vzpenja visok stolp s kipom na vrhu, ravno toliko umaknjena od mestnega vrveža, da se jo splača obiskati in si oddahniti v njeni spokojni tišini.  Drugi dve plačljivi opciji z verjetno lepšim razgledom (zaradi kužka se o tem nisva uspela prepričati), sta bratislavski TV stolp in pa »UFO« – stolp v obliki letečega krožnika, ki se dviga na drugi strani Novega mosta čez Donavo. Oba stolpa imata na vrhu dobro obiskani restavraciji, zato se pravočasno pozanimajte o rezervacijah.

Romantična promenada ob Donavi

Za konec sem pustila meni najljubši del Bratislave, v katerega sem se zaljubila že ob prvem obisku. Vzhodno od Starega mosta se ob reki Donavi razprostira zeleno nabrežje, ki je kot nalašč za romantične sprehode ter ležerno posedanje po travi ali na za to urejenih površinah. Mondeni lokali se zvečer prelevijo v živahno promenado, ki vodi do priljubljenega nakupovalnega centra Eurovea. Ko sem že pri nakupovanju, brez katerega v Bratislavi verjetno ne bo šlo, naj omenim še Central, ki je bil tudi najina izhodiščna raziskovalna točka. Nad njim se namreč dviga hotel Lindner, ki zaradi svoje visoke lege ponuja čudovit razgled na mesto. Lokacija, nakupovalni center in razgled obenem – včasih mora imeti človek tudi malce sreče, mar ne? 😉

Za konec pa še namig za podaljšan vikend ali počitnice 

Poletne počitnice si večina še vedno predstavlja kot ležanje na plaži, marsikdo pa zaradi vročine, gneče in zasoljenih cen pri naših južnih sosedih že razmišlja o alternativah za prihodnja leta. Podaljšan vikend lahko zaključite z obiskom znamenitega gradu Devin, ki leži na vzpetini nad sotočjem Donave in Morave, nedaleč od njega pa je tudi bratislavski živalski vrt. Ljubitelji narave in pohodništva pa lahko počitnice v Bratislavi združite s čudovitimi Visokimi Tatrami, ki slovijo po številnih planinskih poteh in idiličnih gorskih jezercih. Ob vračanju domov se lahko ustavite še na Dunaju, ki je od slovaške prestolnice oddaljen slabo uro vožnje.

*** vabljeni k všečkanju moje Facebook strani, kjer boste lahko spremljali vse novosti

*** vse fotografije iz Bratislave lahko najdete v mojem Facebook albumu

*** če želite rezervirati hotel v Bratislavi, preverite Booking.com – preko te povezave lahko dobite 15€ popusta pri naslednji rezervaciji. Če vam bolj odgovarja Airbnb, pa boste preko moje kode dobili 30€ popusta v obliki voucherja

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Weekend in Bratislava

Ok folks, first of all, Slovenia and Slovakia are NOT the same countries. Repeat after me: Slovenia and Slovakia are NOT the same countries. Now that we got this straight, let me tell you a few words about Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia (or more accurately Slovak Republic). One of the smallest and coziest European capitals is nestled along the Danube river, just an hour drive from Vienna. Small enough to be handled within one weekend, a perfect stopover on your way to other Eastern European cities (like Budapest, Brno or Prague) or a great starting point for a road trip to Slovak High Tatras – beautiful mountain range in the northern region. Whether you are an architecture lover, history enthusiast, museum freak, night bird or shopaholic – the city should be put on your bucket list rather sooner than later. If you are planning a city break or just happen to be in the neighborhood, here are a few tips how to make the most of your Bratislava visit.

When to go

Best time to visit Bratislava is from May to September when the weather is more or less steady. My thumb up goes to August, when you can sit along Danube river and not worry about having to wear a sweater in the evening. Plus, it is always smart to get away from the crowds – usually locals head to the seaside during the summer (this is where Slovenia comes in handy) and since Bratislava is not very high on “most wanted European capitals” list you will easily blend in with other tourists.

 

What to take with you

Bratislava is a very smooth tourist destination, you can find everything you need there, so don’t beat yourself up with too many details. Take your ID, a few clothes, health insurance and a credit card you should be fine. Slovaks have adopted Euro currency a long time ago and overall prices are very decent – not at all as high as in some more “eminent” European capitals. So, don’t worry if you forget something – you can probably get it cheaper in Slovakia than in your own country. What you shouldn’t forget, if you are coming by car, is to buy Slovakia e-vignette – you can buy it online here or at the tourist office on the border.

Choosing the hotel

There are plenty of accommodation options in Bratislava and of course it all depends on your budget. We decided to indulge ourselves over the weekend so we searched for 4 – 5 star hotels with parking, good public transport access and “pets welcome” options because we wanted Sky to come with us. In the end we chose Lindner Gallery Central hotel and given the fact that I hadn’t done my homework at all (I just picked it up based on the guest rates), we ended up being very lucky. You can read my full hotel review here. Whatever option you chose, just make sure it is close to public transport station – this turned out to be very helpful for us.

Getting around

The best and cheapest way to explore Bratislava is on foot. All the main attractions are concentrated in and around the old town, and you can do it easily within one day. Nevertheless, Bratislava is very well covered by trams, buses and trolleybus lines and the public transport is really user friendly. Just grab a map or download their apps, buy a ticket and you are on the go. You can read more about it here. To reach more distant places like TV tower, Bratislava ZOO or Devin castle, you will need a car, or you can always grab a taxi. By the way, if you are coming by plane, you can take the bus number 61 which will get you directly from the terminal to the city center. Unfortunately Uber is not available in Bratislava.  

What to see in Bratislava

If you are not museum and gallery enthusiast (by the way, Bratislava is full of them), 2 days should be enough to easily conquer all instafamous places. Unless you want to spend some time hiking around and across the “lungs of Bratislava” – Koliba hill, or take a stroll along Danube from the other side to catch different views of the city. Then you might consider stretching your visit to an extra day. You can check 5 things to see in Bratislava in this post and you can check my Bratislava photo gallery in my Facebook album.

Is Bratislava dog friendly?

Yes it is. Limitations apply, of course. I was pleasantly surprised that Sky was allowed to enter shopping malls, public transport (she enjoyed the tram ride very much), even most of the restaurants. What was a bit disappointing: dogs are not allowed in Bratislava Castle, Kamzik TV tower and Devin Castle. I should have checked this before, I know (spank, spank).

A few basic costs in Bratislava:

  • 15 minute public transport ride: 0,70 € (small dogs ride for free <3)
  • 7 days public transport ticket: 11,40 €
  • Beer: usually not more than 2 € (yep, quite cheap)
  • Cappuccino: from 1,20 € to 3 € in top locations
  • 10 day vignette: 10 €
  • Museum and gallery fees: 4-5 €
  • UFO platform: 7 €
  • Yes, they do have Starbucks, Subway and McDonalds

So this is it, now all you have to do is take a few days off, book a hotel (click here to get 15€ off your next booking) and you are ready to go! Got any questions? Scroll down and send me a comment 😉 

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5 things to see in Bratislava

So you have decided to visit Bratislava but you don’t have the time or the patience to google it all up? No problem, I have done it for you (you can thank me in a comment 😉 ). In this post you can find 5 things to see in Bratislava, and in this link you can catch up on other basic information about the city, such as when is the best time to visit, which hotel to book and other handy stuff.

1. Old town

This is so cliché, I know. But Bratislava old town is indeed something that has to be considered as a whole. I can’t even begin to describe how cute and easy going it is. Starting from the iconic St Michael’s gate, which leads to lively Michal street, minding your step not to stumble over Cumil (a worker statue sticking out of a manhole), say cheese to silver Schone Nazi guy, pass by Maximillian’s Fountain and the Primatial Palace all the way to the instafamous Blue church – a kitchy Art Nouveau style beauty – while enjoying the refreshing water mist spraying gently from steel constructions on your way. And don’t worry, you practically won’t need a map – there will be lots of interesting and photogenic buildings and squares waiting for you behind every corner. Just make sure you take your time for lunch or dinner – Bratislava is crowded with fantastic restaurants, offering both local and foreign cuisine. And all of them are yummy!

2. Bratislava castle

Bratislava castle is nestled on the hill overlooking the Danube and the New Bridge. It has a very nice viewing platform which you can enter for free and make some nice shots of the old town and the river. Dogs are not allowed in the castle, so if you are taking your hairy friend with you, keep that in mind. We weren’t too disappointed because the stroll up the hill and around the castle and the views were really nice. We spent around one hour there (bought a magnet from a hippie, yay) and walked back along the old city wall from where you can also catch a nice photo of the bridge.

3. Slavin

This memorial monument and military cemetery, dedicated to the fallen Soviet soldiers during the World War II is located on a hill above the castle and thus offers beautiful views of Bratislava. Slavin is also a very nice and quiet place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city – lots of people come up there jogging or just for a stroll to enjoy in the tranquility of the monument. You can reach the hill by car and easily park up there, or you can get the trolley bus Nr. 203 or 207 and get off Budkova stop – from there you will have to walk a bit but you’ll enjoy the views at the same time so that shouldn’t be too big of a headache.

 

4. Danube river walk with Eurovea

On the prime riverside, a few minutes’ walk from the historical center, lies Eurovea – Bratislava’s most popular shopping mall. Eurovea is not only popular for shopping but also for many nice bars and restaurants, nestled along the Danube, overlooking the river and two bridges. About one kilometer long green promenade is a fantastic opportunity for a nice romantic stroll – have a sit on the grass or on one of the benches and blend in with the locals.  Eurovea has become a commercial heart of the city and a popular social spot as a counterweight to Bratislava’s old town. This one is definitely my favorite place in town.

5. Kamzik TV tower and UFO

For more glamorous views you will want to visit either UFO or Kamzik TV tower. UFO is a viewing tower with a restaurant in a shape of flying saucer, located in the end of New Bridge, overlooking the Danube river, Bratislava castle and much more – from the platform you can enjoy 360 degrees views of the city. The lift to the top costs 6,50 € but if you decide to eat in the restaurant, this fee is deducted from the bill. The story is similar with Kamzik TV tower, but this one is located on the hill and is the second highest point of Bratislava. If you are lucky enough to have a good weather when being up there, you can actually see Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic. To enter the TV tower you will need a reservation for the bar or the restaurant, so do your homework.

Accommodation tips: If you want to book a hotel in Bratislava, check Booking.com and click here to get a 15€ off your next booking. You can read review of Lindner Gallery Central hotel here. If you are more comfortable being hosted by locals, you can try with Airbnb – through this link you will get a 30€ (or $36) travel credit if you sign up and book with Airbnb.

You can see the rest of my photos from Bratislava in my Facebook album. What are your favorite places there? Have I missed something out? Scroll down and write it down in a comment 😉

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Hotel review: Lindner Gallery Central (Bratislava, Slovak Republic)

There are two things that are very important to me when I visit a city for the first time: planning the weather and choosing the right hotel. Being an experienced traveler, I have learned to manage both 😉 Bratislava was our second option for a short weekend escape (due to the bad weather our motorbike ride to Dolomites was off), and since we couldn’t find anyone to babysit our dog (august really sucks when it comes to finding a nanny), we had to find a pet friendly hotel as close to the city center as possible. After I had read that dogs are welcome in Bratislava public transport, I decided to book Lindner hotel Gallery Central, which is not directly in the center but has very good reviews and all the perks that I need: high floors and rooms with views, non-smoking rooms, pets allowed, wonderful breakfast, free wi-fi, good transport connections, restaurants and shops within the walking distance and parking garage. Yes, Lindner Gallery Central in Bratislava has it all!

Location

The hotel is situated literally on the roof of the shopping center “Central”, less than 10 minutes’ bus drive to the old town. The bus station Trnavske myto is just around the corner (I promise), and the connections are very good: you can take Tram nr. 2, 4, 8 or 9 and exit after 3 or 4 stops. Although the public transport is quite cheap (0,70€ per ride), we decided to take a walk back to the hotel one evening (to digest awesome food and wine in one of the restaurants in the center) and with lots of laughing and not minding the time too much, I believe it took us around 20 or 25 minutes. As I already mentioned, Lindner Gallery Central has a parking garage within the shopping center and this one is a bit tricky: you need to go all the way down to the 3rd floor (the lowest) and follow the hotel directions (well marked, though) to park as close to the hotel elevator as possible. The parking fee is 20€ per day, which is not cheap but it is a far better option than having no parking space at all (if you stay in the old town).

The rooms

We booked a business room in the highest floor (12th) and got a fantastic panoramic view of Bratislava castle. The photo which is included in this review shows that it is quite possible to take an awesome shot even with windows closed – they were impeccably clean. The room itself was not very big, but enough for what we needed. One thing I didn’t pay attention to when booking (yes, I am human too) was the carpeted floor which could be a problem for my allergies. Fortunately the room was very clean and I had no problems. A fun part was the bathroom – the glass doors are made to open one side and close the other, so I got a mini heart attack when I couldn’t find the toilett 😀 It was behind the doors which I thought was a glass wall. But don’t mind me, I am blonde and it was a good laugh. The rooms include a mini bar and complimentary tea/coffee, which is always a nice and helpful gesture.

Restaurants

Breakfast choice was absolutely fantastic. I am a healthy eater and I appreciate a variety of fruit and wholegrain choices, but this was more than I could wish for. Teas, fruits, yogurts, all kinds of healthy bread choices, muesli, as well as a rich choice of very good salami, cheese, dressings and vegetables – really high five to the hotel! The restaurant is very spacious and it has a terrace, but it is located on the 3rd floor so the views are not as fantastic as upstairs. But it doesn’t end here – you CAN enjoy your food or drink with a great view if you book a table at the restaurant on the top (13th floor). Panoramic view spreads even further than in the room, and the atmosphere is very cozy. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed up there, so we only enjoyed a quick drink while our beast was resting in the room.

The reception and staff

I loved the fact that they serve complimentary water in the lobby (and if you are lucky you can also get an apple 🙂 ), as it can get crowded during the peak hours. The reason for queue is usually the guests asking about this and that… and the staff really tries to do their best to indulge. Kindness takes time, what can you do 😉 The reception is very spacious and I saw that the hotel also offers meeting rooms, which is very convenient if you are traveling on business.

Anda’s rate: 9,5 from 10

Bottom line: There is absolutely nothing to hold against Lindner Gallery Central hotel, and I can recommend it to random tourists, business travelers and all who appreciate sustainability (the hotel operates with high efforts to act environmentally friendly). The -0,5 point goes to a quite high pet fee, but if you have a small dog, you can ask nicely when you make a reservation (like I did) and I am sure something can be arranged 😉

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5 places to visit in Latvia

After having seen so many wonderful places in Lithuania I was beginning to regret that we didn’t have more time for our Baltic road trip. But with some good research, careful planning and sticking to our travel priorities, I believe we somehow managed to make the most of it. The next on our list was Latvia, a country with a population of little less than 2 million people and capital Riga, which should definitely be on every traveler’s bucket list. If you like our travel style (seeing the capital, some coast, a few historical places and enjoy the local food), you might want to consider these 5 places to visit in Latvia.

 

1. Liepaja

Latvia has over 500 km of coast which means that tons of (mostly sandy) beaches are waiting for you. All of them are open to public, so you can literally choose from busy coastal towns like Liepaja and Jurmala, to having the beach to yourself – butt naked. We decided to go for Liepaja, which fitted better into our road trip schedule and it was a great decision to make. Set on the west coast, less than 100 km north from Lithuania’s charming Klaipeda (see 5 things to do in Lithuania here), Liepaja is a port city with an interesting mixture of art nouveau buildings, historic churches and remaining of Soviet military legacy. Besides enjoying Liepaja’s beautiful Blue Flag sandy beach and delicious local food, you can catch the annual Summer Sound festival (a weekend of pop music and parties on the beach) or spend a night in Karosta Prison hotel.

Travel tips: While in Liepaja, you should definitely taste Liepaja’s mencini, a popular local dish, prepared by using an old-fashioned country cooking recipe – potatoes, smoked cod and onions in a hot pot. Flush it with one of the refreshing local beers, yummy!

2. Kuldiga and Ventas Rumba

A cute little town where time seems to have stopped decades ago is an ideal destination for those who want to experience the tranquility among historic buildings, surrounded by green parks and Venta river. With a mixture of Baroque buildings, timber houses, a couple of really nice churches and atmospheric cobblestone streets, Kuldiga is a candidate for UNESCO world heritage listing. Crossing my fingers here for you girl! And just a few minutes’ walk from the old town center, across a charming 19th century brick bridge, you can find Ventas Rumba, the widest waterfall in Europe.

Travel tips: If you are fond of churches (at least in the architectural point of view like me), make sure to find St. Anna’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for some nice and quiet photosession. And for coffee lovers I suggest a really cozy place with delicious Lavazza coffee, free wi-fi and cool toilets, called Makkabi, located in the main square, not far from the City Hall.

3. Riga

About 2 hours’ drive east of Kuldiga lies the capital Riga, Baltic’s biggest metropolis. I fell in love with the city instantly! With over 800 Art Nouveau buildings, Gothic cathedrals and well-preserved old town, surrounded by cobblestone streets, Riga has been enjoying the status of UNESCO World Heritage for over 20 years. Our hotel was located just around the corner from Academy of sciences, which came as a total surprise. If you want to see Riga from above, you should definitely come here – the structure itself is quite impressive and totally different from most of Riga’s old buildings. It is a very nice example of Soviet architecture and due to its shape, they called it Stalin’s cake. I will soon be adding top “5 things to see in Riga”, so stay tuned and come back 😉

Travel tips: Of all the Baltic capitals we found Riga the most expensive (but still not as much as other European capitals). So if you are on a budget, try to grab a snack or coffee around the corner, not in the very center of the city. This tip usually works for all popular places. We found it very convenient to stay in the area near the Academy of sciences – nice for a morning and evening stroll to the Central Market and also a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. Not to mention cheaper 😉

4. Sigulda with Turaida castle

If your travel style and bucket list is similar to mine, then visiting Turaida museum reserve is a must. Less than an hours’ drive from Riga, nestled in Sigulda municipality, surrounded by forest and pristine nature, this red brick castle with its intriguing museum is the best way to experience Latvia’s history and ancient traditions. From the towers you can see the meanders of Gauja river and landscapes of Gauja national park around it. If you are more adventurous type, Sigulda is known for several exciting activities like bungee jumping, bobsleigh, flying in a wind tunnel and other fun stuff.

Travel tips: You will have to leave your car in a large parking space in front of the museum, which will cost you 1,5€ (free of charge in the winter period). Entrance fee for adults during the summer is 6€, and half less during the winter.

5. Cesis

A little bit different, but still well worth the visit for history and architecture lovers is Cesis castle. Unlike Turaida castle, this grey stone beauty is located in the center of Cesis – a nice cozy town, covered with lots of green parks and cafes in the old town where you can rest and observe the people doing their daily routine. If you visit Cesis on summer weekends, there is a high chance you will see some wedding couples and musical or artistic events, going on in or around the castle. Similar to Cesis castle structure is also Bauska (Bauskas pilseta), which rises above the river and offers some really nice views from the bridge and river banks. If you are on a road trip, make sure not to miss this one as well – it is located in the south, very close to the border with Lithuania.

Travel tips: Latvia is full of castles and manors and some of them have been restored as hotels. The prices are quite reasonable, especially if you book in advance and after an exciting road trip it is really nice to treat yourself like a lord, even if only for a night.

Accommodation tips: If you want to book a hotel in Latvia, check Booking.com and click here to get a 15€ off your next booking. If you are more comfortable being hosted by locals, you can try with Airbnb – through this link you will get a 30€ (or $36) travel credit if you sign up and book with Airbnb.

You can see the rest of my photos from Latvia in my Facebook album. What are your favorite places in Latvia? Have I missed something out? Scroll down and write it down in a comment 😉

 

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Baltski trojček – 2. del: LATVIJA

Tako kot Slovenijo ogromno ljudi zamenja ali celo enači s Slovaško, imajo tudi Litovci in Latvijci kar precej dela z razlaganjem, kdo so in od kod prihajajo. Dejstvo je namreč, da se baltski trojček, vključno z Estonijo, največkrat omenja kar v eni sapi. Razlog verjetno tiči v tem, da so bile vse tri države nekdaj članice Sovjetske zveze, vse tri so majhne in vse tri so »tam nekje, na severu«. A kljub temu, da imajo veliko skupnega, jih je krivično metati v isti koš. Vsaka ima namreč svoj čar in posebnosti, ki pustijo nepozaben pečat v popotniškem srcu.

Po Litvi je na vrsti Latvija

Če na poti ne bi bilo označevalnih tabel, bi težko vedela, kdaj sva prestopila mejo. Vse tri baltske države se namreč ponašajo z ogromnimi zelenimi površinami. In ker v nobeni od njih nimajo avtocest (z izjemo hitre ceste od litvanskega Kaunasa do Vilniusa), se številna polja, travniki in pašniki, še posebej ljubiteljem hitre vožnje, zdijo, kot da se nikoli ne bodo končali. Marsikje pogled spominja na naše Prekmurje, tudi zaradi simpatičnih štorkelj, ki se samozavestno sprehajajo tik ob cesti in na videz sproščeno vabijo k fotografiranju. Na obali je zgodba podobna – dolge peščene plaže in plitvo morje se nadaljuje vse do severne obale, vmes pa so posejana letovišča, ki se poleti z zabave željnimi turisti napolnijo do zadnjega kotička. Za razliko od Litve pa je Latvija precej bolj gozdnata in s številnimi jezerci in mokrišči še malce bolj mistična.

Dežela gradov

Latvija se ponaša z zavidljivim številom lepo ohranjenih srednjeveških gradov, v katerih se lahko sprehodite skozi njeno pestro zgodovino. Eno najlepših lokacij ima grad Turaida, ki leži na vzpetini sredi čudovite pokrajine Sigulda. Njegovi opečnato rdeči stolpi, ki se ponosno dvigajo iznad drevesnih krošenj, so najlepše vidi s sosednjih gričkov in če ste ljubitelj narave, si rezervirajte nekaj časa tudi za ogled bližnjega naravnega parka Gauja, skozi katerega teče slikovita istoimenska reka.

 

Povsem drugačna, a prav tako čudovita sta kamnita gradova Cesis in Bauska, ki sta zaradi svoje mestne lege precej bolj obiskana. Njuni idilični vrtovi in urejene poti privabljajo številne sprehajalce, med vikendi pa se prelevita v priljubljeni lokaciji za prireditve in poroke. Če se želite tudi sami za dan ali dva počutiti kot prava gospoda, lahko v kakšnem izmed manjših dvorcev celo prespite. Po koncu srednjeveškega obdobja so v Latviji namreč kot gobe po dežju zrasle čudovite graščine, ki danes služijo bodisi kot muzeji ali prostori za prireditve, ali pa so bile preurejene v turistične namestitve.

Mestece, kjer se je ustavil čas

Le streljaj od zahodne latvijske obale leži simpatično mestece Kuldiga. Njegov osrednji del predstavlja granitno tlakovan trg, ki ga obkroža obroč raznobarvnih stavb, med katerimi izstopa mestna hiša v baročnem slogu. Do trga vodijo ulice, posejane s tematskimi trgovinicami in bari, za katere se zdi, da vanje že dolgo ni stopila človeška noga. Celotno mestece daje vtis, da se je v njem ustavil čas, a v najlepšem pomenu besede. Nihče nikamor ne hiti, središče je popolnoma zaprto za promet, okolica pa je odeta v številne potočke, ki se na koncu zlijejo v reko Venta in s kamnitega mostu ponujajo čudovit pogled na sotočje brzic.

Impresivna Riga

Medtem ko Kuldiga čaka na uvrstitev na seznam Unescove kulturne dediščine, je Riga, latvijska prestolnica, že 20 let njena eminentna članica. Živahno staro mestno jedro, impresivno obzorje nebotičnikov, ki se razprostira nad reko Daugava ter idilična mešanica gotske, srednjeveške in art nouveau arhitekture so zagotovilo, da vas največja baltska prestolnica zagotovo ne bo pustila hladne. Najboljšo predstavo o veličini mesta boste doživeli z razgledne ploščadi Akademije znanosti, ki je s svojimi 107 metri višine in 23 nadstropji dolgo veljala za najvišjo stavbo v Rigi. Akademija je tudi sama po sebi prava paša za oči in predstavlja lep primer sovjetske arhitekturne dediščine – zaradi svoje večslojne oblike ji pravijo kar Stalinova rojstnodnevna torta.

Riga se ponaša tudi z največjo pokrito tržnico v Evropi, ki se razprostira na kar 72.300 kvadratnih metrih. Na več kot 3000 stojnicah lahko najdeš vse, kar ti srce poželi. Na tem mestu naj omenim predvsem nakit in okraske iz jantarja, ki ga morje v izobilju naplavlja na obalo in pa kulinarične dobrote, s katerimi se velja založiti in doma ob kakšnem tematskem pikniku obujati spomine na baltsko avanturo.

Soljanka, krompir in prekajene ribe

Govorim o prekajenih ribah, ki sva jih prvič preizkusila že na litvanski obali. Prodajajo jih na stojnicah ali pa kar v potujočih kioskih. Gneča pred stojnico v Klajpedi, iz katere se je kadila mešanica dima in slastnih vonjav, naju je prepričala, da sva kupila zavitek za na pot in od takrat dalje sva jih jedla skoraj vsak dan. Ponudba prekajenih rib je izjemno pestra, vsem pa je skupno to, da so kar precej mastne, slane in resnično nekaj najboljšega, kar sem kadarkoli poskusila.

Druga kulinarična posebnost baltskih držav bo navdušila ljubitelje juh oziroma jedi na žlico. Ko sem natakarja v Rigi vprašala, kaj je to soljanka, je rekel: »vse, kar ostane, vržemo notri«. In bila je odlična. Soljanka sicer izvira iz Rusije in v vsaki državi jo priredijo malce po svoje. Večinoma je to mešanica manjših koščkov mesa in zelenjave, še posebej kislih kumaric, zaradi česar ima slankast okus in morda še najbolj spominja na joto. S koščkom kislega temnega baltskega kruha je lahko zelo spodoben in cenovno ugoden obrok.

Sicer so za baltsko kuhinjo značilne tudi raznovrstne krompirjeve jedi. Eno najboljših sva jedla v latvijskem obmorskem mestecu Liepaja, od koder tudi izvira – liepajški »mencini« postrežejo v glineni skodeli, skrivnostna mešanica dušenega krompirja in kreme iz prekajene ribe pa je preprosto božanska. Ob vseh baltskih jedeh, ki so kar precej slane, resnično tekne kozarec baltskega piva, ki ima poln in sladkast okus. Sama sicer nisem ljubiteljica, a sem si ga, še posebej v temni različici, z veseljem privoščila kar nekajkrat. Dnevno zaužitega števila kalorij pa, kot se za dopust spodobi, na najini baltski avanturi nisem štela.

Informacije za popotnike:

  • Če želite rezervirati hotel v Latviji, preverite Booking.com – preko te povezave lahko dobite 15€ popusta pri naslednji rezervaciji. Če vam bolj odgovarja Airbnb, pa boste preko moje kode dobili 30€ popusta v obliki voucherja.
  • Preostale fotografije iz Latvije lahko najdete v mojem Facebook albumu.
  • Riga je izmed vseh baltskih prestolnic najdražja in kot v vseh turističnih krajih, jo boste tudi tu odnesli ceneje, če kave ne boste pili v najbolj strogem središču mesta.
  • Najvišja stavba v Rigi in hkrati tudi najvišja v Evropski uniji, je 368 metrov visok riški radijski in televizijski stolp (Riga Radio and TV Tower), a je razgled z Akademije znanosti zaradi bližine starega mestnega jedra vseeno lepši. Vstopnina za vzpon na razgledno ploščad je 4€.
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