Nigel's Slovakia trip - introduction

It all started when I had been looking around the web for information both on Dani and Slovakia. I got a map and guide book, and started reading up on the country.
I discovered the CP and .sk forums, and noticed that the Slovaks there used good english (better, sometimes, than people for whom it wasn't their second - or even third - language!)

Channel4 in the UK showed a series about a couple that went to Slovakia to buy a property, to use as a hotel. I wasn't particularly impressed by them (although it may just have been the way they were portrayed), but watched it to see more about the country. See my screen-grabs here

Then one of the holiday programs mentioned that SkyEurope had an offer of cheap flights, so I checked it out, and booked a return from London Stansted to Bratislava. The offer only ran until the end of March, so I picked the latest dates with suitable times.

Now that had committed to going, I started to prepare. I bought books on the country and language, downloaded maps and pictures, and searched for other information.
I found a few sites with some sound samples of common words and phrases, and downloaded them into my MP3 player. I also borrowed a book and cassette course from the library - I converted the audio to mp3, and have renewed it several times..

Several events distracted me from making as much progress as I had hoped - including work problems and a short stay in hospital - but as the date drew closer, I managed to arrange where to stay, and also printed out maps and train times for getting between places. I must say that although I couldn't book online, the train information for Slovakia was better than the equivalent UK facilities.
In Bratislava, I also found an interactive map showing the bus information (although I was unaware of road works affecting some routes).

I took my camera, print-outs and phone (although I forgot its charger), and have created pages for each place I visited:

Bratislava Nitra Banská Bystrica Košice Poprad
page 2
Žilina Back to Bratislava

I realised after the first couple of days that arriving later in the day wasn't a good idea. As well as making it more difficult to find my way to the hotel, it didn't allow me to drop off my bags and look around in daylight. By the time I got to Košice, I decided to travel in the mornings, so that I could explore in the afternoons.
I had read up on the local transport in Bratislava before I went, so I knew that you could get tickets (for 10, 20 or 30 minutes) from machines at most stops, which are stamped by a machine on the bus/tram. The only other buses I caught, tickets could be purchased from the driver. Prices were typically 14-22skk (approx.0.35GBP), and even the train tickets were cheap compared to the UK; less than 3GBP for 100km. It would have cost me more than 65GBP just to get to the airport and back if I hadn't booked weeks ahead. Even the bus I caught for the last 14km cost 2.7GBP

Conclusion Take your own toilet paper, if you like it soft; take a travel hairdryer (only one hotel provided one); I had an adaptor, but didn't think I would need my phone charger; I was only expecting to switch it on for short periods to check for messages, but the battery seemed to go down quicker than leaving it on. Check my links (below) for interactive maps and bus/train connections.


Links:
Map - zoom into streetmap detail.
Bus/Train connections
Public transport in Bratislava

My Slovak links page
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Last modified on ... 7th May 2006