by Lea Wiser
Spending a night on a boat and waking up to views over the glimmering river is not something that happens every day. After a long night, a hearty breakfast helped us to regain our energy for the last guided tour with Peter Pisut, who specializes in the historical geography of Slovak rivers. Even though we did not have much time, it is mandatory to walk up to Bratislava Castle, which overlooks the Danube.
The site has been a strategic location for fortified strongholds since the 5th Century and earlier remains suggest an even longer history of habitation. The location of the castle hill has been optimal for ruling parties due to its prime view over Bratislava, Austria, and Hungary, but particularly the Danube ford. The most important consequence of these geographic features is that the site became a major crossing of several ancient European trade routes, the most significant being that used to ship amber from the North and Baltic seas to the Mediterranean.
We all felt slightly sad to jump onto the bus again, but in the end we were able to spend more time together due to the traffic. We had such a wonderful time over the course of the trip—we got to know great people, and we learned and experienced a tremendous amount in just one week!
And last but not least: Annka and Pavla did a great job—more than great—in organizing this excursion and making sure we didn’t starve. In fact, the opposite was the case: those not yet familiar with Bavarian and Austrian food learned to love Schweinshaxn, Knödel, and Käsespätzle, and everyone will remember and reminisce about this trip the next time they see little Salzbrezeln. (Although most will probably never want to eat them again!)
Annka and Pavla also made sure that nobody got lost on the way—a great accomplishment when traveling with 40 adults who were, at times, not so grown-up.
And they made sure we had the best experts to learn from—all remarkable characters who so kindly shared their enthusiasm and knowledge with us.