One of the weirdest feelings is hearing nine other strangers softly snore and wiggle in their beds next to you.
But that’s exactly what a hostel is for.
Megan and I woke up at 8am ready to conquer our full day in Bratislava, Slovakia. Day TWO. (Pssssst… if you haven’t read day one it’s here.)
“Alright, we have two main goals,” I started as we stepped into the fall crisp air. “The Body Exhibition and sewage man. Let’s go.”
The night before, Megan was extremely excited to find out the Body Exhibition, a display of real, preserved human bodies was in Bratislava and I was excited to find the statues that were a part of this towns quirkiness including the statue of a man taking a break from the sewer and resting in the street. If it sounds weird it’s because it is.
I tapped the directions to the sewage man into my phone and off we went.
Soon, we were roaming the main street filled with souvenir shops and cafes when I passed by a coffee shop that caught my eye the day before. “Megan, can we?” I asked. She nodded enthusiastically and we stepped into a cafe that was built from your most perfect Pinterest fantasies. Clean white walls held beautiful accents of greenery and small, white metal houses. Gray chairs lined shiny white tables with throw pillows ranging from jade to mauve to gray. A sign hung in the main entrance made of a chalk board with an arrow pointing to coffee cups and tea that read “Shop”.
We smelled the array of organic teas before seating ourselves, taking three thousand pictures of this cafe. It was adorable and cozy.
We both excitedly ordered organic smoothies and when they were delivered, drank them so fast we hardly had time to marvel at the presentation of it. A small cut grapefruit accenting a purple smoothie poured into a glass jug. This coffee shop felt like everything I wanted my home to be. We each ordered breakfast, healthy chia and oat pancakes drizzled with a bit of nutella and berries, and barely talked between the “mmmms” and “ohhhh yum” that kept talking place. We could have stayed there for hours but instead bought tea to savor at home and continued the quest for sewage man.
We continued to walk down the cobblestone streets when a bright advertisement of a huge ice cream cone came into view. Megan turned to me, “Ice cream?” I shrugged my shoulders and started laughing, ordering cookie ice cream and taking it into the streets to savor and enjoy it.
When you’re travelling, you rarely say no to trying new things.
Our directions continued us on a path up and up and up and when we finally reached our destination and my phone told us that we had gone the wrong way. Luckily, we were once again on top of the hill right by the castle. We reminisced through the walkways we wandered last night and commented on the fall season sweeping Europe before typing in the sewage man’s location again.
I’m still convinced my phone knew I had a big breakfast and ice cream and forced me to climb up that hill to work it off. Either way, it was quite a beautiful stroll.
Finally, we reached a cute side street with tons of chocolates shops and pubs to find the Man At Work statue located right on the corner. Tourists crowded and suffocated the piece of art, making it impossible to get a picture. So we came back later to capture moments of our own, like me having quite the animated chat with my new friend.
We left with smiles on our faces for the the Body Exhibition. Along the way, we found a display of antique fire trucks with a small cart of coffee nearby. We bought two espressos from the nice man and for some reason, I kept fumbling with my coins and dropping them all over the cobblestones. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” I joked, bending over for the third time to pick up three more coins I had dropped.
The coffee man laughed, clearly understanding English, and handed me my espresso with a smile. I can’t tell you how happy that small moment made me. A foreign man not only understands English but also understood my sarcasm. It’s so hard to make Czechs smile and so when this Slovak man smiled at me, I felt so proud to cause a stranger to smile for the first time in a while.
We walked across the Danube river which glowed a light turquoise color in the sun. We somehow found the Body Exhibition through a complete mess of locked fences and parking lots and entered through curtains to be hit by the smell of formaldehyde.
This exhibition was filled with actual bodies that showed different functions of our incredible bodies. Not only did I learn a ton about how our bodies work but they also included bits of poetic information that truly moved me. My favorite one being about breath.
To breathe, to live. Life begins with a gasp- a sudden rush of air into the lungs followed by the harsh cry of the newborn declaring ‘I am ready’. And so it beings, a lifetime of breaths.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
The quiet breathing of the sleeping child as its parents look on. The hurried breath of the teenagers as she runs from a party when the police come knocking. The hard draws of the victor and the vanquished. The purposeful breathing of the Yogi. The calming breath of your love in your arms late at night. The conscious pull through the nostrils to take in all the scents of the moment.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Beyond culture, beyond race, beyond religion, breathing is an undeniable need shared by all. This is inspiration, an invitation to the spirit of life to fill the empty sponges within us yet again. A willful, defiant act of our unconscious, it declares ‘I am’ again and again through the cycle of minutes and years. With each breath comes a new beginning making all things possible.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Isn’t that beautiful? I learned about how our body rids of waste, how our heart beats non-stop, how we chemically fall in love, how a baby looks at 7 weeks old, how our brains look and so much more.
After we left this exhibition, we walked back across the bridge not yet deciding what we were going to do next. Suddenly, a man in a grim reaper costume came walking towards us. I jumped back, noticing his face painted completely white with two huge black circles around his eyes. I stopped Megan who yelped at the sight of him in which he slowly nodded at her. The grim reaper nodded at her.
He walked past us and soon after we heard a ton of shouting in the square below. Perplexed, we stayed where we were on the bridge and looked at each other before drums started pounding close by. The shouts continued as we saw a mass amount of people coming towards the bridge.
As they got closer, we saw the parade was clothed in medieval dress. “Where the heck are we…” I muttered, feeling utter glee as each costume passed and soldiers marched in perfect sync.
“LET’S FOLLOW THEM,” Megan exclaimed. And so… we did. We followed them right back over the bridge and to a camp of white cloth tents and burning fires.
We were in the middle of a medieval festival.
Men covered in furs clanked their metal tins together and ladies in long dresses giggled while sashaying from tent to tent.
We wandered in and out of the paths of fur traders, knights and generals. After about 30 minutes, we decided to go and get dinner and come back in time to see a battle re-enactment. We had absolutely no idea what was going on but there was so much shouting and gunfire that it was quite entertaining to watch.
All of a sudden, a huge cannon rolled before us and was set off with a deafening BOOM. They went all out, I tell ya. We left a little early to find a previously spotted craft beer pub. This place was so cute. We watched ski jumpers on TV and tried two different beers before deciding on a place for dinner and walking back home.
We stopped in the basement of fire (we called it hell) that had a bar before crawling into bed and passing out from another day of weird adventure.
Bratislava- full of surprises.
I loved it entirely.
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