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.
I’m not big on beer but I loooooooooooove wine and ciders, so weekends in April and September at Stará tržnica sounds like an amazing time. Would love to try burciak- I love wines that are on the sweet side and not too dry!
I don’t drink beer either, so I was just on the cider. You would really like burciak then; it is sweet just like juice, but very potent – that’s why it’s so dangerous!
Oh that bride lit up is so cool. I’m not a cabbage fan but I think I’d love to participate in the Cabbage Festival. I like off-beat local traditions.
I didn’t have any cabbage either, I was happy enough with the fried garlic bread and the wine!
It sounds like you’re making the best of your time in Bratislava! Toronto has a cabbage festival, but it’s nothing like the ones there — I wish it were!
What is the cabbage festival in Toronto like? I must admit, I wouldn’t have imagined Toronto to have something like a cabbage festival!
Hahahhaa, I love cabbage! I would have thought that was a joke too, but at the same time hoped it was for real 🙂 In Japan, we eat cabbage all the time and when I moved to the states I found out that it’s not as popular here.
Cabbage is one of those foods that is either often in a cuisine or rarely. I have to say that I’m not a fan – I remember it being common in Japan though!
This is really interesting. I love wine and I think I’d really enjoy burciak — I had never heard of it before. Also cabbage festivals — makes me think of kimchi festivals in Korea hehe 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Kimchi festivals sound fun! I love the burciak, I think it’s a regional things around here as I’ve never seen it before either.
That’s amazing that they had a cabbage festival! It’s really interesting to see which foods dominate different diets in different places. I’m not a big fan of cabbage, but it is healthy! Looks like you really enjoyed Bratislava and did a lot of exploring.
Yes, I like seeing what food is common in places too. I’m happy when I find a country with potato as the staple food 😀 I have moved to Bratislava, so I’ll be here a while yet. It’s really nice to get out and explore – tomorrow I am going to some war bunkers.
These are all such interesting and diverse events! I’m curious about the cabbage festival – I would love to attend and see (and taste) it in action!
You should come here next October! We can go cabbage tasting 😉
What an interesting mix of events! I’d love to attend one of those cabbage days, namely just to taste all the different cuisine. I actually really like cabbage but I’ve never had it Bratislavian style!
The events here are really diverse – you never quite know what to expect!
I heard Bratislava was THE place to be this summer, so I envy you for being able to spend 7 weeks there!
I haven`t been there yet, but I have lots of articles about it saved in Facebook for the day I will!
Meanwhile, I`ll drown my sorrow with some Burciak and avoid all kind of cabbage – the smell of the cooked one is a huge turn down for me bleah
Bratislava had some really good events on this summer – they seem really keen on encouraging locals and tourists to enjoy the city. It works for me!
I’d heard there’s been efforts to make the city more visitor friendly and maximise what the city has to offer, because it’s a fact that it will never be Vienna!
So, it’s nice to hear that there’s such things going on and that the city’s using most of its potential, unlike other places that take their beauty for granted and make no effort.
Did I make sense? 😀
Yes, you absolutely make sense. Bratislava is always going to be the younger sibling to its big brother, Vienna (or should that be sister), but I think it is starting to hold its own more and more. I actually prefer Bratislava, and my colleague who works in Bratislava but lives in Vienna is looking to move to Bratislava because she says it’s more sociable and fun 😀
Hello, I have just come across your blog while searching “living in Bratislava”. Really glad that you like the city – and you’re right, it’s a lovely place. Bratislava is chock full of interesting buildings (the castle, the blue church, futuristic skyscrapers, apartments from the Communist to the regal), patches of green space, and lovely little bars tucked away. Biela Noc did indeed look great – sadly I couldn’t make it, but the night of the first day of the EU presidency by the Danube was one of my summer highlights. Anyway, looking forward to reading more of your adventures. Ciao (as they say here – really!) Paul, another new Brit in BA
I love how they light up the bridge! I really don’t think I’ve been to a cabbage related festival before!
Beautiful Bratislava and those events looks great. wish to see more photos cos the event must be so exciting. Also im curious about the Burciak taste
Burciak is really sweet, kind of like a traditional cloudy apple juice. It is dangerously easy to drink a lot of it!
Ah, didn’t know that they had langos in Slovakia. We had some in Budapest and thought it was a local specialty.
I have a hard time getting excited about Cabbage festivals 🙂 But the lights on the bridges are something else! Looks lovely.