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European Peace Walk: Day 1: Vienna, Austria to Bratislava, Slovakia

Pretty flowers

Pretty flowers

In a Nutshell

Today’s post will not be filled with the usual stories because I have none.  People provide the best inspiration and I met exactly no one.

In a nutshell, I took a train and then a long walk in the scorching sun and to put it mildly, it made me pretty cranky.  The best part was an evening walk through old town Bratislava.  That was splendid and beautiful.

Two Types of Readers

Today, as I walked and recorded the experience with video and photos, I realized I was documenting for two different types of people.  Some readers have generalized wanderlust and some are new readers following because they are thinking of walking the European Peace Walk themselves.

Some of my documentation is tip-oriented for walkers and will only be of value to them.  So, I’m going to elaborate a bit on the guide book’s information but not get too detailed.  By signing up with my mailing list (blue bar above) you will get an update if I provide a more comprehensive guide.  Of course, if you are going to walk soon and need information, feel free to contact me.

About the Walk

The European Peace Walk provided two options today.  We could either take the ferry directly from Vienna to Bratislava or we could take the train and then walk 10 kilometers.  To be honest, I needed the walking warm-up but if I weren’t a masochist I would have chosen the ferry and that would have been an excellent choice. The scenery on the walk was not breathtaking and the heat.  The heat.

I was out of the hostel by 7:30 AM.  Vienna is a quiet city with little activity in the neighborhoods I traversed.  Outside of the train station the usual sketchy characters and drug addicts walked their territory.  It seems that this is one thing the all great cities of the world have agreed upon:  Sketchy characters must meet at the transit stations.

Sunflower

Sunflower

After getting my ticket I had an hour to wait before boarding.  The trip to the end of the line took 70 minutes passing landscapes that looked very much like California’s foothills and featuring vast swaths of agricultural land growing mostly corn and sunflowers.  And enormous wind turbines, hundreds of them, which reminded me of sections of the Camino de Santiago.

By the time I departed the train it was about 10:30 AM and the sun was scorching but mercifully there was wind.  Thank God for wind.

I followed sidewalks and bike paths.  A biker sped past shouting “Buen Camino!” and it startled me as much today as every damned day on the Camino.  Put me in a nice head space though.  After a roundabout, as instructed, I went into the fields of sunflowers, their heads so heavy with seeds that their faces tilted downwards like they were attending a funeral.

The path was unshaded for a long way and the sun was unrelenting. I was surely solo, passing nobody, and seeing only a distant tractor.

Soon I went into a bushy, shady path and the mighty Danube River (which was actually blue today) was there before me.  Swimming was tempting but the current too swift.  I followed it’s banks on a dirt path for a long way.  As a solo female it felt spooky with tall bushes on either side of the path.  Didn’t love that.

Alongside the Danube River

Alongside the Danube River

Somewhere on this path I entered Slovakia and thus began a long walk on a concrete bike path that seemed never-ending because of it’s lack of scenery.  Finally, like a mirage, I encountered Auspic restaurant in desperate need for a cold beverage.  I ordered three: a Fanta, a water, and a lemonade and still little relief from the feeling that I had magma in my veins.

I continued on, walking across the iconic and unusual Most SNP Bridge aka UFO bridge which was built in the late 60’s and reminded me of Seattle’s Space Needle.  And like the Space Needle it also has a restaurant on top.  As I walked across, the bridge shook so much I wondered how it stayed together.

Soon I was walking below Bratislava Castle on cobblestone streets towards the hostel.

The hostel is a student residence building with a distinctly Soviet-ish flavor.  For 15 euros (a room), the price can’t be beat but the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired.  The stone stairs are wavy with the wear of steps, the hallways are long. Cold. White. And yellow.  It is devoid of decoration or expression of any kind. Homey it is not.  But a place to sleep it is.  I was fascinated by the institutional look of the bathroom and am only happy that nobody arrived to discover me taking pictures of urinals.  That would be a hard one to explain.

Fountain in Bratislava

Fountain in Bratislava

After a nap that occurred against my will, I headed to the old town of Bratislava and was awe-struck by it’s beauty.  Musicians seemed to be around every corner playing classical tunes that added another layer of magic to the scenes.  Bratislava is aptly nicknamed the City of Music.

I headed to the fountain at 6 PM which is where PeaceWalkers are instructed to meet other PeaceWalkers. But alas there was no one.  I felt both saddened and relieved as I am introverted and fear socialization as much as I crave it.

I rushed around before the sun set, seeing all I could.  Our whole lives we are taught to fear back alleys but I’m telling you from years of traveling experience, this is where the gold is.  The old town was swamped with tourists and is clearly a destination for stag parties with the men and the scantily clad hostesses to prove it.  There are discos and clubs advertising amongst the medieval structures.  But going just one back alley over I found quiet and beauty and decay that is REAL and not some tourist fairytale.  It’s good stuff, back alleys.  Photos below.

Distance Walked Today: 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) at least.

Map: [mappress mapid=”10″]

European Peace Walk – Day 1 Tips

Important: BRING WATER leaving Vienna!!! There are no shops or fountains on the way.  Nor are there toilets.

Tip: Get your train ticket for the S-Bahn 7 from the OBB office at the station.  They open at 7:30 AM.

Terrain: 90% pavement. Flat.

Accommodation: A student dormitory with floors separated by sex.  You will have your own room with a pillow, sheet and duvet.  Nothing more. The front doors are open 24 hours. Wifi: yes, there is wifi but my understanding is that it only works well on 1st (male floor) and in lobby. I had difficulty getting wifi with my iphone but my laptop worked. Same complaint from another guest.  Food: There is a Tesco Grocery store just around the corner.

 

Photos of Day 1 of the European Peace Walk (click to view):

 

10 Comments

  1. I have just discovered your blog, Laura. I’m planning on doing EPW next year so am really interested in hearing all about your experience on the walk this year. I too am introverted yet crave some socialization – I know exactly what you mean! You have taken some great photos. Hope you have now lined up with other walkers – you can still do your own thing, but much safer for you if other walkers are in the vicinity. Stay safe!

  2. Hi Laura,

    Just popping by to say that I’m with you too on this journey. Always enjoy your writing and your insights.

    Cheering you on from the west coast of Canada.

    Buen camino! And many more.
    Cecelia

  3. You’re a wonderful writer! I really enjoy reading each post and coming along on your “adventures.” Looking forward to each new installment and wishing you a safe journey. <3 #peace

    • Many thanks Mary. Glad you’re following along!

  4. Interesting that you walked alone. It was my understanding that groups walked together, leaving as a group on the same day based on the capacity for accommodations along the way. Am I misunderstanding?

    Kudos to you for taking it on during the summer months. We walked the Camino in April/May of this year and we had many scorching days. Ugh! I’m waiting for the EPW to develop more so we can walk NOT in the summer.

    Looking forward to following this journey.

    • Hi Patti. Perhaps it was MY misunderstanding because I imagined there would be people departing everyday. Evidently not. I know there was a maximum of 20 walkers per day but I did not know there was a minimum. I walked the Camino in May of 2013 and we had so many freezing days – literally freezing! The weather has gone wacky.
      After a difficult day today I have been informed that a group is a day behind me and I am going to wait for them for my safety. It’s not crime I’m worried about but the heat is dangerous. Fortunately, at the moment a storm (and it’s cool breezes) is rolling in! Hallelujah!

      • It seems wise to wait for those walking a day behind you, especially since the EPW is so new.

        You’re right about the weather. Not only did we have scorching days on the Camino… we crossed the summit near Foncebaden in wind, rain and hail and we got pummeled! 🙂 Made for a great story though!

        Safe travels ~

  5. Huzzah! Now you’re officially begun. I imagine it’s a real disappointment to find you’re walking solo. Hopefully there will be a few more show up overnight. Thanks for the photos. Bratislava was part of Austria-Hungary, but still I’m surprised at how much the architecture resembles Austria. Was Bratislava one of the “make your own lodging reservation” places on the EPW plan? How was the food? Were you able to manage the restaurant and shops with English and perhaps German? The heat sounds like a real challenge – hope you get cooler weather soon.

    • I have mixed feelings about walking solo. I have arrived in Hungary and hear there is a group of five a day behind me so I will wait for them. The lodging in Bratislava was the one recommended by EPW. I didn’t taste any food except a croissant…all I wanted was fluids.
      I spoke to a few people and fewer people than in Austria knew English. Thanks, I hope so too.

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