If I tell you the highlight of my trip to the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, was sitting on the toilet, you'd be forgiven for thinking I’d been on the holiday from hell...
Bratislava is situated on the River Danube with a surprisingly gorgeous Old Town on the river’s north bank, and Petrzalka – a grim residential suburb of tower-blocks, power stations and cranes - to the south. Linking the two is the sexy new SNP suspension bridge, or the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising.
Walking across the river from the Old Town, you will reach the bridge’s single support column which reclines at a crazily laid-back angle. An elevator will whisk you to the UFO bar (www.u-f-o.sk) at the top of the bridge support, which for some reason is proud to be a member of the “World Federation of Great Towers.”
Entry is 100 Slovak Koruny (around £3) – extortionate for locals, so expect to share the ride with Germans, Austrians and rich Czechs. The UFO bar, so named for its flying saucer-like design, markets itself with the slogan “Watch. Taste. Groove". From the tower above the bar you can look down upon Bratislava’s castle and Old Town, trying in vain to spot your hotel in the distance, before retiring to the restaurant/bar area. Here, the décor, waitress service and menu hint at 5-star luxury and enjoying a bottle or three of the deliciously creamy local beer, Zlaty Bazant, is mandatory.
It’s after a few beers that you’ll need to spend a penny and see Bratislava in all its splendour from the best observation deck in town – the glass-fronted gents’ toilets. From the art-deco urinals, you get panoramic views of Petrzalka which looks a lot more attractive from above than at eye-level. The green-seated stadium of Slovakia’s leading soccer team and European Champions League also-rans, Artmedia Bratislava, is visible in the distance with a leafy park full of buskers, joggers and Slovaks at play leading up to it.
After a bracing walk along the Danube and through this park to the stadium, I was gutted to have just missed kick-off in the big match, so consoled myself with one final trip to the loo in the sky before returning to find my friends in the Old Town.
Taking pride of place in the Old Town is Bratislava's castle. It's nicknamed "the upturned bedstead" by locals, and it's easy to see why - it's a massive, square building with four tall towers in each corner resembling bed-legs. Set on a hillside, a stroll around the castle grounds serves as an excellent platform from which to take pictures of the SNP bridge and the UFO bar. Bratislava is a small city and the pedestrianised Old Town is tiny - you can see it all in a day, but the relaxed atmosphere, the lack of stag-dos and tourists and quirky sites like the castle and the UFO bar make it the ideal city for a long and lazy weekend.
I stayed at the Botel Marina Bratislava, a 3* floating hotel on the banks of the River Danube right next to the castle and under the shadow of the UFO bar. Twin rooms cost 3,050 SK (around £90).
Aother good budget option is the Old City Hotel - www.oldcityhotel.sk - slap bang in the middle of the Old Town with clean, spacious doubles (from 200sk) and triples (from 2800sk).