Well, we woke up this morning and drove from Vienna to Bratislava.
It's only 37 miles.
(this is the sucker section...)
We got the Bratislava, drove around for a while and found the "HRAD".
That's the castle for the city. The lady in the giftshop said she'd
only convert a little bit of our money, because the rate was much
better down town.
Was it ever. She gave us an exchange rate of 32 Kronen, while we
were offered 37 Kronen by some teenager who kept looking over his
shoulder - I guess the black market is thriving in Eastern Europe.
So Dan and I decided to convert $50 each. Here's what happened (in
slow motion - don't miss it!)
1) The guy checks his pockets, and pulls out a huge wad of Slovak
2) He hands the was of bills to me.
3) I start sorting and counting. It comes up to only 3,580 Kronen.
I tell him it's too short.
4) He takes the money back, and counts it. After agreeing with me,
he finds another 120 Kronen, and gives me that, plus the other stack
5) Dan gives him $100.
6) We walk away, feeling really good with ourselves, and a bit exhiliarated.
7) Dan asks me: why would this guy change the money at this rate?
How does he make his money?
8) I, since I'm such an expert (sic) in the black market, tell him
that he saves it, and then converts it later. Or maybe he's money
laundering. Or maybe there's yet another black market, where he
sells the American dollars for 45 Kronen each.
9) Dan doesn't buy it. And neither do I. How do they make their
But wait - there's more!
10) I get ready to pay for something, and Lo and Behold! There's
only 880 Kronen in my pocket!
11) Dan and I start laughing - the guy palmed the 3,000 Kronen in
12) Dan's question is answered. Giving us an exchange rate of 8.8
Kronen leaves him a huge profit margin.
So we each lost 38 bucks. I guess the old saw "If a deal is too
good to believe, it probably is" is true. And both of our sucker
gagues are running pretty high right now.
(this is the History section...)
Bratislava has been around since the Romans - it was one of their
outposts. The Salvonic peoples moved in the 9th century AD, and
it became the capital city of Hungary for 300 years (16th - 19th
centuries). The capital city was moved from Buda because the Ottoman
Empire/Turks conquered it.
Anyway, Slovakia has, until 1993, always been "owned" by someone
or the other. In 1919, they joined with the Czechs to form Czechoslovakia
separate from Austro-Hungary, and remained that way until January
1, 1993. Now they are Europe's newest country - 6 years old.
(the city portion...)
The city has its beautiful sections, but it is also overrun with
these huge housing projects. Kind of takes away from the medival
sections, but it IS an eastern european, old warsaw pact country.
Most people have dark hair, and blue eyes.
(what we did...)
Here's what we did in Bratislava:
1) We went to HRAD - the castle, and toured the national museums.
We also climbed this tower in the castle.
2) We parked near the city center and got taken in the money conversion.
3) We bought crystal stuff.
4) We ate at a Slovakian restaurant. Great food! We ate Halusky
and Kapusta, plus some really nice spicy beef and potato pancakes,
and the national dish of Halushky with some really strong cheese.
For dessert: cheese curd dumplings in plum sauce. Nice meal. We
like this kind of food - a bit sour, with strong spices.
5) We decided to drive to Budapest Hungary, which is where we are
now. We're going to walk around the Buda castle section, and maybe
even the Pest district, and write more later tonight.