Having lived in Bratislava for only seven weeks I am still new to Slovak culture, particularly as I knew very little about either Slovakia or the city before I came here. It is true to say, however, that I have spent the first few months getting to know the food and drink at numerous festivals that I have already attended around my new home.
Burciak and Beer Festivals
Last month, I was introduced to burciak, or ‘new wine’.
Burciak is a sweet and flavourful grape must that has just started the fermentation process. It is no longer grape juice, but not quite wine. If you buy a bottle of it your final glass will be stronger than your first. My Slovak colleagues warned me to proceed with caution when attending the numerous burciak festivals happening around the city during September and October. Burciak is refreshing and sweet, but I imagine it will give you a nasty hangover if you drink too much.
In April and September, Stará tržnica – the farmer’s market – hosts weekend beer festivals. Bratislava takes beer very seriously, and so the market is packed with vendors selling locally produced beer, wine, cider, and, of course, more burciak. The festival operates on a token system in which each beer is around 3 tokens. We paid €20 for our tokens and returned home with a handful of them left. I hope we can use the same tokens in April.
Cabbage Days (yes, really!)
One of the strangest invites I’ve received so far is undoubtedly to the Stupava Cabbage Festival. I honestly thought it was a joke. But, no, Cabbage Days are a thing in Bratislava – you can Google to see when the Cabbage Day festivals will take place.
Stupava is a town 18 km from Bratislava that has hosted cabbage festivals since 1996. I guess it’s not really so surprising when you see how prolific cabbage is in Slovak cuisine. The festival upholds traditional culture, and so you will find many local artisans selling their crafts on the market stalls. You can also try local cuisine: maybe you might participate in the Cabbage Soup competition in order to determine once and for all where you can get the best Cabbage Soup in the country.
At night, the artisans pack away and concerts begin which feature local and national artists. Beer, burciak, and medovina (mead) flow into the early hours and the food stalls offer everything from burgers to pork knuckle or lángos– a deep fried bread loaded with garlic, butter, and cheese.
You can see my snapchat story from the Cabbage Festival in the video below:
Biela Noc – ‘White Night’
Saturday 8th October 2016 was Bratislava’s second Biela Noc. This is an evening of art and culture attended by an estimated 100,000 people. For one night Bratislava is adorned with colourful lights, which includes spectacular light sculptures. Churches and museums are open featuring concerts and exhibits.
Sadly, I underestimated White Night, so I didn’t participate in the events, but I did take a stroll (with thousands of others) around the Old Town at night to photograph the lights from the bridges. I think you’ll agree that the effect is spectacular. Of course, there was plenty of food, beer and burciak around too!
I must say that I really love my new city. Bratislava may be small, but it is keen to provide a consistent programme of cultural events for both locals and tourists. Winter may be coming, but right now my social calendar is buzzing, let’s hope that the festivals last the whole year. The Christmas markets are next!
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Which of these festivals do you think sounds the most interesting? Would you like to attend a festival in Bratislava? Leave a comment below.