Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nothing to see here. Just, you know, more of the usual.

Europe has so many small, charming towns. You know, river, hill, castle, winding cobbled streets, market square, cosy coffee shops, grand buildings, battered and busy trams, history, churches... Bratislava's just another. And that's exactly why it's worth visiting, of course. Such a delight! Even on a perishing cold day with rain that really feels as though it should be sleet.
The afternoon tour was for that reason a bit of an ordeal, as the day and I got colder and colder - but after a return to the ship for some more layers (six, on the top half, and two on the bottom) everything got better. It helped that the wind dropped, but also as it got darker the lights shone more brightly, and then the locals finished work and came out to play. Near the Opera House, they were ice-skating, and in the main square the tables in the centre filled up with people enjoying mulled wine and punch, standing laughing and chatting. Families wandered the stalls, the children as entranced as I was by the colourful displays of crafts, Christmas decorations, live sheep and goats in the nativity scene, and food.
As for that, well, it was all about potatoes, it seemed. First there was a big, deep fried hash brown, hot and crispy. Then one of those irresistible spiral-cut spuds on a stick that are essentially one long potato chip. Then, for pudding, a potato pancake rolled up with chocolate inside - hot and messy, but much more chocolate than potato. There were also baked potatoes, sautéed potatoes, potato crepes...
Our guide had told us all about the history, invasions, politics, literature, music of the city, but it was the recommended chocolate shop that stuck in my mind, so I escaped from the cold and dark into its warmth to have one. Once I'd sorted my fogged-up glasses and peeled off the layers, the hat, the gloves, and got comfortable, I must say I was a bit disconcerted. Hot chocolate here is nothing like at home. For a start, it's barely liquid. It does come in a cup, but it's really melted chocolate, as easy to drink as lava for temperature and viscosity. And so rich!

Really, the mulled wine afterwards was just practical, to unstick my tongue from my teeth.

The day finished with two local musicians in the ship lounge performing some remarkably athletic music on a variety of instruments that included a stick. Well, ok, a tube, but with no other holes - it was amazing how tuneful it was. Those Aboriginals need to up their game.

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