We departed at early Saturday morning, picking all members of the expedition at various places of Prague. We were leaving Prague around 7:00 and the traffic was surprisingly high. Perhaps the people who had not left Prague on Friday evening tried to catch up with others. It was freezing but sunny day. When we were leaving Vysočina, we could see clouds of water vapor exhaled by Dukovany power plant. It had never occurred to me before but Greece is not a good country to build a nuclear power plant (unstable bedrock with frequent earthquakes). We crossed the Váh river in the vicinity of Trenčín and along this watercourse we got to Oravský Podzámok (last kilometers along the Orava river).
It felt like arriving into a mountain region, people skiing, big heaps of snow around roads and trees covered in white. We learnt only later that there had been extremely heavy snowing the days before and authorities had to take special measures.
The Orava castle actually consists of three castles of different age, the oldest one is on the hilltop and the younger were built lower later. We’ve got a kind guide who was willing to talk in English despite her qualification was Polish. It was the first time I was in a castle in winter so after one and hour “inside” we were frozen enough to get into a car heading towards Žilina.
We made our dent to excessive housing prices by renting the most expensive apartment offer in Žilina. Žilina nicely combines historical center with newer palaces and the buildings of socialist era do not spoil the impression.
The second day started at normal time (departure around 9:00) and we enjoyed the drive through the Váh valley again. That is something missing in Czechia – a valley that starts with meandering river between steep hills and slowly opens into a wide landscape with hills on horizon and medieval castles on mounds.
The climb to Bradlo monument was made more adventurous because of a navigation error and the winter conditions. However, when we saw a car with Prague registration plate going down, we were confident we would reach the site as well. Despite hardly accessible top platform, there were quite many people visiting the place. The story of Štefáník’s death is still interesting today.
We approached Bratislava via highway D1 that spans at some places three lanes. Too bad they are only provisional and the outer one was adjacent to the ditch (note it was still a highway).
The arrival to Bratislava from north presented the city both as industrial (refinery) and expanding (quarter with new high-rise offices being built). Crooked streets in the center were similar to medieval centers of many Central European cities. The main square named Main square (Hlavné námestie) was a bit disappointing. Much more ordinary sounding Hviezdoslav square was a place better matching a modern capital.
The main castle building was surprisingly plain (and well maintained), there was also recently refurbished baroque garden and the Slovakian parliament on the castle hilltop. During the castle visit, the sun slowly set and so we finished a circuit back to car and with a short break in Brno we arrived back to Prague in the evening.