The river Danube runs through the heart of historic Bratislava. The river that served capitalists and conquerors alike dominates the old town serving as both a romantic backdrop and essential feature. If you prefer the company of rivers and long to gaze down from the storied heights of your private room over swift waters, then book yourself into the Hotel Devin or have a travel professional do it for you. I found The Hotel Devin through a family friend and travel agent Danielle Santal (Tel.: 203-393-3002). Danielle has consistently demonstrated an uncanny ability to find the best of Europe and I was fortunate to have her as my long distance guide. The Hotel Devin sits on the banks of the Danube and is backed up to the historic Old Town on the grand square which ends at the National Opera house. From the front door it is a five minute walk to the best sights in Old Town.
The rooms run from modest to luxurious. My room felt like a berth on an old ship, wooden paneling, a small comfortable bed, cozy and quiet. But if you are in the mood for something fine ask for the room that ex-president Vaclav Havel, the rock and roll president, stayed in. Prices vary but I paid $121.50 all inclusive. Hotel Devin, Riecna 4, 811 02 Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Tel.: +421 2 599 85 111.
The Hotel Devin gets it's name from the famous ruin of Castle Devin which is located nearby and is a short bus ride from the hotel. I took a few hours to visit Castle Devin while waiting for my boat to Vienna. Castle Devin ranks among the most important historical sites in Central Europe. Situated by the ancient Danubian fords on the cross roads of the Danubian and Amber roads, it's attractive location, the site of numerous historic paintings, resulted in it's playing an important strategic role for several empires over two thousand years. The oldest archeological finds on the site go back to the New Stone age (5th - 4th millennium BC) with obvious evidence of human habitation up to the present day. The Celts -- carving their passions into the stone caves that sit beneath the castle high over the river -- lived and traded here with ancient and distant tribes the names of which are lost to history. A safe and fertile haven in a world dominated by nature and outside of time. The foundations of the castle were built by the Romans who moved into the valley in the 1st century BC and who established an ancient Christian church which has been preserved to this day. They were shattered by Napoleon almost two thousand years later. The Castle stands as a ruin and monument to be explored and admired. Castle Devin:
Take bus # 28 or 80 to Hrad Devin 30 minutes from the stop near Hotel Devin.
Bus ticket is cheap.
After Castle Devin I returned to my hotel, walked across the street to the Danube River and boarded a boat for the 2.5 hour trip to Vienna. It was a fantastic idea and a colossal mistake. There are two boats that will take you from the heart of Bratislava to Vienna. One boat company, the Twin City Liner, is located right across from the Hotel Devin, and will take you to the center of Vienna in approximately 1.45 hours for around 15 Euros. The other boat company will drop you off in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, I elected the latter. After a nice cruise up the Danube I found myself stranded in a working class neighborhood on the outskirts of Vienna and quite simply in an undesirable situation. I soon realized there wasn't a phone nearby to call a taxi or a friendly Viennese to consult.. I determinedly walked for about an hour wearing the wheels on my suitcase down to the bearings and not having a single idea if I was even headed in the right direction. I soon found myself being accompanied by a pack of American undergrads that were similarly stranded and mystified. Fortunately Vienna has a robust transportation system and I eventually found, with the help from a kind lady and much gesticulation, a subway. To successfully navigate a subway, or for that matter a bus, in Vienna you must understand that every single stop either ends in Strasse or Stradde. Not having figured this out I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my hearing as every stop sounded like the last. Again through the kindness of strangers I eventually found my hotel and foot sore, hungry and road worn I met up with John and Mike for dinner.
Twin City Liner: Prices vary depending on day and time and run from $15 EU to $25 EU. Reservations and info: Central Danube, Vienna, Tel: 431-727-10-212, 137/ email: OFFICE@CENTRALDANUBE.AT
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