He experienced the horrors of two wars and during this time he also covered an immense geographical area. The trip described in this blog is an attempt to retrace his steps from Prague across the Eurasian continent to beyond Lake Baikal in Siberia. The first part of the trip will follow the precisely described route of Josef Švejk, Hašek's inspired literary creation. I left home on April 30 2010 and was back on October 29.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Day-trips from Bruck

NB! This is a more or less pure travel entry and covers day-trips to Bratislava and Neusiedler See.

Bruck and der Leitha with it's good railway connections is ideal for trips into neighbouring Slovakia and Hungary, as well as to Neusiedler See. These destinations are only half an hour away and Vienna still only around an hour. We set aside time for Bratislava and Neusiedler See, as I would be going to Vienna the week anyway and Oddny and Jan would go there whilst I was either sleeping or involved in some haškology.
 
Bratislava. Michalská ulica.
Bratislava is mentioned in Švejk but by it's former name of Pressburg. In 1914 the city was part of Hungary and known as Poszony. It had even been the capital of Hungary during the time the Ottoman Empire controlled Buda and Pest. In 1914 it was a multi-ethnic city; inhabited by Hungarian, Germans, Jews and Slovaks. The latter were actually a minority, only 20% of the population were Slovaks. With the creation of Czechoslovakia this changed. In 1919 the city was renamed Bratislava to to honour the brotherhood of Slovaks and Czechs. The city became increasingly dominated by Slovaks and Czechs as many Hungarians and Germans left. WW2, Holocaust and the following expulsions of Germans left the city predominantly Slovak although some Hungarians still remained.
Oddny and Jan. The Danube and Petržalka in the background
Our first day-trip was to Bratislava via Petržalka where the train from Austria stops. Situated south of the Danube, Petržalka is an enormous mass of paneláky, i.e. apartment blocks. It is not a pretty sight and for these tourists it only served as a stop to catch a bus into to the centre of Bratislava. The Slovak capital has now become a popular tourist destination and rightly so. Its old town has been brushed up and is pretty, although set on a much smaller scale than Prague. Bratislava was quite a contrast to the rather ossified Bruck. The latter seems to have gone to sleep for ever, whilst the former is coming alive after being dormant for 50 years or more. No wonder that Bratislava and Bruck are different though, one is a national capital, the other a provincial town.
 
Crossing the border is a dream nowadays as there are no controls and no hassle with changing money. Slovakia introduced the Euro from 1/1-2009. Back in Petržalka the men had a few pivo for under 1 Euro, but Oddny wasn't impressed with the inglorious setting of wrecked benches, concrete slabs and high-rise buildings. And then there were "these men drinking pivo". I could assure here that these men were just my thirsty Slav brothers, but I have to admit that they were far from being the aesthetic highlight of the trip.
 
Cyclists in Burgenland
Our second day-trip was of an entirely different nature: cycling from Bruck to Rust along the Neusiedler See. This shallow lakes, only 1.8 metres deep at the most, straddles the border of Austria and Hungary and the area is popular for cycling. The lake is mentioned in Švejk, more precisely by Vodička who had one of his many fights with the Hungarians here. The first major point after Bruck is Parndorf, a town partly inhabited by Burgenland Croats. There are a few Croats signs around, notably on the Town Hall. In Croat the towns name is Pandrof. Parndorf is an unusually drab place by Austrian standards; with it's wide avenues, low houses and lack of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists we had a feeling of having entered an American suburbia. This was further underlined by the existence of a shopping mall! Down by the lake we got back into Austria though; wine-growing villages like Breitenbrunn and Podersdorf are invariably pretty, and prettiest of them all is Rust. The latter is a major tourist attraction, famous for its many storks. The nests are visible on the chimneys all over the town.
 
Stork in Rust. Photo Oddny Ringheim.
It was a very hot day, the town square in Rust was totally deserted, no-one were sitting outside. We had a meal at the micro-brewery, unfortunately the beer was disappointing. The trip here had been tough, not only did we have the heat to contend with but also the wind against us. We decided to cycle to the railway station in Schützen am Gebirge, and take the train home. Unfortunately there was a bus replacement service from Neusiedl am See, so we got eight "bonus kilometres".
 
Margaret Thatcher once reported that "we have become a grandmother". Back in Bruck we learned that we had become uncles and an aunt to Jakob Hønsi, born precisely when we were admiring the marshes of the Neusiedler See. The news was celebrated in the beautiful garden of Schlosskeller Prugg with appropriate quantities of Gösser for the men and Holundersekt for the lady. Hardly have cold and tasty beer come in handier than on this hot summer day in Bruck an der Leitha. And I am convinced that Holundersekt was appropriate too.

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