over the border
Date: 5th March
Location: Hainburg a.d Donau
Temp: 10 C, sunny.
With a fuzzy head from one too many the night before, I got on the bus with my flatmate and 2 companions to make the 25 minute, 3 euro journey across the border to Hainburg a.d Donau, (Hainburg on the Danube)Austria.
As I stepped off the bus, I couldn’t help but notice that Austria was cleaner, prettier and a bit more pleased with itself than neighbouring Slovakia. This last comment grates on me immensely as I long for Bratislava to jump up and say “look at me! I am the capital of Slovakia and I am proud of it!” To say that the Slovaks don’t have much pride in their capital may seem harsh, but it’s unfortunately true. The beautiful buildings look tired, the green and residential areas are strewn with litter and it has to be said that the locals don’t smile as much as they could. Sadly, leaving Slovakia for the day only confirmed that unpleasant notion I had growing in me.
Hainburg, the focus of this blog ( excuse my rant) is overlooked by two steep hills – one holding the remains of a once protective castle and the other a wooden look-out tower, and popular hangout for kite flyers. Had I known the height of such hills, and the speed at which my companions wished to ascend, I would have had at least (or considered) 4 beers less the night before.
As we reached the summit, I broke into a beery sweat and happily peeled off one of my many layers of clothing to enjoy the welcoming sunshine and inviting views of the town, gentle Danube and countryside of Slovakia beyond.
A wander around the ruins provided my camera with a reason to stay out of its pouch and had I asked my German-speaking flatmate for a translation of the inscriptions I may have learnt something about where I was standing. What I do remember is that in the 17th century a group of women, who were later found not guilty, we executed for being witches. Nice.
A walk along the delightful cobbled streets of the town centre also lead me to a street called blutgasse (blood alley)delightfully named as the location of mass slaughter during one of those big wars…
Despite pleading with and willing my poor brain to come out with Slovak when needed in Bratislava instead of Si, gracias, vale etc., the moment I step across the border, of course ALL that comes out of my mouth is Ano, dakujem and dobre.
The menu for lunch proved to impossibility for me, but with a little help, I was able to order and confirm my dislike of Schnitzel. It really is just a very large piece of meat. Fried.
Along the Danube flanked with snowdrops on one side and frozen Danube overspills on the other helped to walk off my fried lunch before making our tiresome climb to the summit of the other hill. The view from this side of the town was equally rewarding and certainly worth the sweat, to see the sun making its way back down over the river.
The day was almost hitch-free (there has to be something!) apart from a non-existent bus timetable for our return bus. Problem solved by finding a bus stop on the correct side of the road, with people waiting who were hopefully heading to the same destination as us!.