That’s usually the comment someone has after visiting Brati. I mean.. not exactly, but something like this -yet the visits only last a day or two. And, after my first visit there -4 days- I would have agreed. I mean, after visiting all the huge mega capitals of western European. Of course its gonna be cute! But it really felt, to me, and most other people that come, as a comfortable place to be. Easy to slide into. And the local mentality has something to do with this, no doubt. A small town, capital city.
Very kind people these Slovaks; they are hard-working people that were the grunt field men of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and were treated this way. In the mid-eighteen hundreds they went and migrated to Canada, and cropped the prairies. They were the backbone of prairie development in the early years over in Canada.
Now-a-days, eastern Europe is struggling to eat in a new era, and the higher powers are still getting richer. The government decisions and corruption keep options limited, but at least they line their pockets with corporate money, bringing in big firms to set up shop and give people in Brati work. That’s a good thing for the local. And for the struggling Spaniard or Italian etc. etc. Because there is work! Downside is, they are all white collar jobs in administrative roles, -that might leave in a dime’s drop- behind little white desks, with little white walls between windowed offices. ACK! Fuck me. That sounds depressing!
On the positive side, you can walk along the Danube to work every day. And after work you can go chill on the river as well. And every few nights you might be able to hear some music on a little boat, docked on the riverside.
Though there is little for live music like in Berlin or Amsterdam or Barcelona, you can still see the The Raw Bishops play around the town! And you can catch some Balkan Beats spinning from time to time at KC Dunaj. These were, for me, saving grace. A little bit of creativity, outside of a very plain and predictable environment. There are certainly a few other options, I’m just laying out my favourites.
‘So.. There aren’t a hundred warehouses to party in, or huge discos… why am I here, Savvy?’
First off, its an old city with a lovely castle that resisted the Huns of Mongolia in the 13th century. The only place in the hood that fought them off. The castle burnt down unfortunately, much later, so its not in its original form, but its cute. And there is another, very rustic one at Devin only about 20 km away. There, you can find some great local wine and taste a few as well. The wine is good. And like all alcohol in this neighbourhood, it is very reasonably priced. But lets get away from the wine and talk about the beer!
Oh. So positive numbers 1, 2 and 3.
1. Beer is less than two bucks a pint just about everywhere (even if its not the greatest).
2. A shot of Borovica (gin) is about a buck.
3. There is a place called ‘Five Fingers’ where you can warm up with 1 euro Jamesons .
I mean, it’s been a year since I was there, but my instincts tell me that these deals will be going a little while longer. Hopefully I’m not wrong.
So. Hit the pub! The local is very easy to find because just about everyone goes on a pilgrimage there, at least once a week. Goblins is run by an Irishman (of course). Its dark and grimy. It will do just fine.
Where to stay? Well, its not the Ritz Carlton. But if you like my writings here, then… You don’t want Ritz Carlton.
- Wild Elephants Hostel Its the only place in town hands down.
Its cozy, you can run with the elephants every night, and the man running the show behind the desk, Jacob, will not only fill you in on the town and everything happening, but also in Vienna, and everything you need to know, as well, in Budapest, and 10 reasons you should head east to India; just make sure you don’t pass out in the kitchen!
And don’t run off too fast. You must, must get involved with a bender of ridonkulous proportion, once, before running away. Because its only gonna cost ya, about a 20! And locals can drink! Especially the women. I’ve never met women more capable of balancing their drink and staying out to the late hours, better than these lasses. Gotta put my hat off for that one. For real. And looking good while doing it. Top points.
So a night out goes a little like this:
Wake up, brush off the dirt from the night before, get a quick shower -hoping there is hot water left- and then brush the teeth. Hit the kitchen for some free fruit and cook a couple eggs. Maybe finish that last 40 cent tall can you picked up from Lidl the night before, why not, eh?
Everyone is talking about the meal that was made the night before (I’d been cooking a few days a week to make some extra bread, while teaching 3 hours a week while it was slow in the winter).
They are looking forward to the meal coming up. Make a sign, and make it clear. Sign up the staff. Head over to ‘Next Apache’ (a very quiet and comfy cafe in a corner of the ‘village’) and do a bit of writing.
I turn around,
‘What’s up?’ One of the new arrivals from the day before is there, he’s from Uruguay and young, and very positive; fear fills me up, for what might be coming as I try to escape.
‘How bout goin over to that place you were talking about last night?’ Couldn’t remember the conversation if I tried. This blonde, nearly white haired, eccentric young lady, from Ireland kicks in,
I think a minute, to escape to the cafe and then go shopping for dinner this evening. Then I look at them glaring with energy, ready to have a cheeky mid afternoon splash.
‘Sure fuck it. I’ll have one and then do the shopping from there.’ Lidl is only a few feet from the place after all.
The ‘one’ turns into six. It’s nearly 9 pm and far too late to be cooking. Jacob is not impressed. ‘Well, I’ll..’ as I swerve from side to side a bit, ‘do it tomorrow, I mean it’s not written in stone!’
The crew waiting for dinner don’t mind, pretty indifferent and they are all gathered and ready for drink anyway.
‘So, let’s go to Sub-Club!’
It’s a gang of about fifteen, marching to Sub-Club for the ‘underground’ scene, though scarce to be called that. It’s empty because of a huge party taking place outside of town. There are maybe ten other peeps but us, so we take a huge table and fill it with glasses and start to talk shit, over the half-assed techno music.
The dancing is not exactly dancing, or at least mine, or the Uruguayn, Paht-reee-see-O or Helen, the third leg of our far-too-early-party at ‘Five Fingers’.
We decide to split because the crowd is nought. And hit up a little bit more posh of a place,Rock Bar, guaranteed to have a crowd (and no cover), but overpriced beers (2 bucks) and horrible rock music. I (the ‘crawl guide’) decided against Rock ‘Ok’, because I’d been there the past 10 days out of 15 and didn’t want to see the place this night.
So we march in, the whole gang, and twenty minutes later Helen smashes a glass on the floor, gets thrown out, and I wake up in a bunk bed.
I wake up being shown a video by five others, laughing and grabbing their guts, like they’re being stitched with throwing knives, in the morning. A video of myself passed out in a chair, falling, then fallen over, onto the floor of the kitchen and to be left there (and in the morning found by Jacob).
‘Savvy! I’m sick of your shit!’
‘Sorry mate. Great night though.’