Peeping through the trees ahead of me, the iconic shape of the castle reminds me that although I am kayaking in the countryside, I’m actually still in the city. That’s the beauty of Bratislava, one of the world’s smallest capitals; you don’t have to go far to reach the countryside. Incredibly, few tourists know that close to Stare Mesto’s crowded souvenir shops there is extensive nature to be found.
An afternoon on the lake
Last Wednesday afternoon, friends and I hired kayaks on a lake less than 15km from Bratislava. We rented with Vodácke Centrum, a local business that runs expeditions for the International Award programme at school. In addition, they offer a range of excursions to anybody wanting to explore Bratislava’s lakes and waterways. In fact, the body of water we are on is a slow-flowing branch of the Danube, not a lake at all. Boathouses of every shape, size and design imaginable fringe the water’s edge, their occupants lounging on their terraces. With long, hot summers, Slovaks have months of endless sunshine to enjoy their waterside paradise.
Gazing at the castle, I move slowly enjoying the gentle lapping of water against the paddle. Nearby, the murmur of my friends’ conversation blends softly with the faint hum of cyclists passing along the EV6 ‘Rivers Route’ cycle track to our left. The most delightful way to reach the water is to rent a yellow city bike from one of the many Slovnaft Bajk stands around town and cycle. With a flat, wide, straight dedicated cycle path, it’s a pleasant ride. Of course, you might stop along the way for a cold Kofola, a soft drink that tastes like cough syrup. If that’s not your thing, there’s plenty of beer.
With only two months left before I leave Slovakia, I am saddened that I have only just discovered kayaking. Still, I intend to make the most of it in the following weeks.