Oktoberfest was near approaching and wanting to escape the huge crowds of Munich and the overpriced camp sites, I decided to spend this beer-swilling festival in somewhere a little bit different; and as I wasn't travelling solo for this part of the trip, I met up with a friend to spend Oktoberfest in Bratislava; the capital of Slovakia!
Where you may ask?
Slovakia, not Slovenia, that's south west of the country and a bit further down (but here's why I love Slovenia). Slovakia is sandwiched in-between Romania, Hungary, Austria, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Slovakia is south of Poland and incredibly easy to get to from Vienna. In just one hour with no border crossing, you can find yourself in Bratislava, the capital city. From there it's a tram ride away to the centre of the city.
Although it was obviously on a smaller scale (very small in fact), I was able to enjoy a ginger beer and a pretzel for a fraction of the price that I would pay in Munich and it came with live music too!
Why visit Bratislava?
As well as being so much cheaper for accommodation during this time (€8 instead of €80 for a night). It's quieter, there's no huge crowds and no Bavarian outfits in sight! Plus it's a really unusual capital with great nightlife and small enough to explore on foot. And…they have a blue church known as the ‘smurf' church – where else can you see one of them!
What is Oktoberfest?
It may come as a surprise but Oktoberfest actually originates from a horse race, part of the festivities of the wedding of King Ludwig I, back in the early nineteenth century. Since then the horses have long gone and been replaced by fairground rides and even more beer!
It's doesn't start in October either and usually begins the fourth week of September to avoid the coldness (and the snow). The whole festival lasts for weeks and is an annual event on any German (and Aussie) calendar.
My Tip – If you're thinking about going to Oktoberfest, book as far as you can in advance. Although I wasn't in Munich for the most famous beer festival, I stayed there way before the event and only paid €22 for a dorm bed. During Oktoberfest, you're looking at more than €100 for a night's accommodation and that even includes sleeping in a tent.
So book ahead.
You can rent your costumes in Munich but again, try and pick one up before as the later you leave it, the more expensive they become.
Accommodation in Bratislava:
I stayed at the Patio Hostel in a 4-bed dorm which had normal beds (not bunk beds!) and was an easy walk into the centre. The nightlife is great here and there are bars crawls where you can sample the nightlife and meet others. I definitely recommend the New Spirit Bar = very funky, and the Masquerade Club.
Restaurants in Bratislava:
Shtooor Homemade Cafe is a really cool cafe with a basement and what makes it extra special is that it's fair-trade.
There's Italian restaurants too and Primi is cosy and very quick at serving your food.
There are traditional Slovakian restaurants but some are just for tourists so check the prices before you go in to make sure it's an authentic one (it'll be cheaper than a tourist one).
Sushi+ Japanese restaurant is great too and very posh!
There's even a Scottish pub (yes, not just an Irish one) where you can grab a meaty burger in its dark red decor.
If you can't get to Munich for the annual beer festival, I definitely recommend coming here. There's no horses or fairground rides in sight!
Have you been to Bratislava?