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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Live Cruise Review: Viking Embla, Grand European Tour 2013 – Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austri

Our summer Viking River Cruises journey on the Viking Embla has been a treat. My mom and I loved the Christmas Markets, but returning to these great European cities in the bright warm sun is like visiting entirely new destinations because the atmosphere is so radically different. Plus, Bratislava, Slovakia is an entirely new city and country for us to have visited.

Our First View of Bratislava

We did make it to the main dining room last night and enjoyed our meal, but the alfresco Aquavit Terrace experience has been so sublime at dusk that we’re finding it hard to say no to that dining option, especially since I’ve captured so many great images and videos there. Expect a river bank tour to follow in the coming days, highlighting the gems in between our primary ports of call.

A Quintessential European Image, Slovakia Style

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava can best be described as quintessentially European with pockets of historical elements nestled within the hustle and bustle of an industrial center. The capital of Slovakia is known for auto manufacturing which accounts for a staggering 80% of their economy, and 99% of those cars produced are exported elsewhere. Even amidst the smoke towers seen off in the distance, the Bratislava Castle soars well above and stands out against the vivid blue sky with its incredibly clean whitewashed exterior.

The Impressive Bratislava Castle

The old town was particularly charming with its narrow cobblestone streets for pedestrians only. The architecture was even historically annotated with fascinating golden cannonballs placed in a number of the edifices to indicate where they were once struck during war time. The shops and cafes were popular among locals and tourists alike and some even referenced the ubiquity of the city’s auto industry.

Cars Are Celebrated in Old Town

Examples of cars built in Bratislava include the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, and even Kia appropriately builds cars in Slova’kia’ as the residents joke.

New and Old

To be sure, the modern world is never too far away as contemporary architecture can easily be seen off in the distance from within the old town, making for an interesting juxtaposition.

Cobblestone Streets

Vienna, Austria

Vienna was one of our favorite cities from our last river cruise, and we found ourselves appreciating it even more this time. The city has an energy unlike any other. Nowhere else have we seen so many cyclists commuting through a city nor so many dedicated bike lanes to support them. It’s a refreshing sight.

The Famous Ferris Wheel

The ferris wheel that played a prominent role in the famous film noir classic, The Third Man, remains quite the focal point while the remaining architectural fingerprint, in my estimation, feels like the perfect cross between Rome and Paris.

Vienna Hustle and Bustle

In fact, the lighting struck many of the buildings in such a way that they appeared almost like forced perspective flats of a film studio backlot, going to show just how well Hollywood emulates the worldly styles.

No Christmas Markets Here

We also passed by the monumental town hall where the Christmas Market was set up last December. The once vendor-filled courtyard was now home to an annual film festival where various screenings were being held. It was a great use of the space.

Royal Winter Palace

Just off from the royal winter palace is a curious outdoor shopping mall open only to pedestrians save for deliveries in the morning. It’s rather bizarre to see classical architecture dressed with modern neon signage and overhead power lines. Cartier perhaps was one of a few that blended in well.

Retail Corridor

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is also just a few steps down from the retail corridor and is a gothic gem encircled by an intriguing mix of buildings (as you can see in the header above). The variety of styles so close to one another is surprisingly harmonious with many of the newer buildings’ edges repeating shapes from much older buildings across the way.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Of course, the minute you step inside the church, all of the modern world just disappears as the dramatic stonework and religious icons remind you of another time. Some of the more modest areas off from the nave were refreshingly stark, letting the celestial lighting tell the story.

Dramatically Modest

And what would a Popular Cruising post be without at least one food image? We stopped off at a cafe chain called Aida to grab some tasty sweets and a cup of rich coffee. To my mom’s credit, she tried the coffee, but proceeded straight for the sweets to mask the previous flavor. I, on the other hand, enjoyed both.

Yummy Goodies

Do you have any questions about our journey? Please feel free to ask away in the comments section below, and we’ll be happy to answer you…



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