I had five days in Bratislava which was more than enough time to see the majority of ‘tourist’ sites so I decided to take a trip about 20 kilometers to the south to the Modern Art Museum, the Danubiana, perched on the edge of an island smack dab in the middle of the Danube River. The problem was getting there. There wasn’t exactly any direct route. My curt and mostly unfriendly, unhelpful hotel staff told me just to go to the bus station. The cute young guy at the tourist information office told me of a public bus I could take that would bring me to the town where the museum was located and then I would ‘surely see signs to follow’ to walk there. The best laid plans…
So for about thirty cents I hopped on the bus (which turned out to be right around the corner from my hotel–thanks guys) and rode south through the charmless communist-era apartment blocks, through corn fields, and through lovely little ‘subdivisions’ of surprisingly newer expensive-looking homes. I had been told to ride the bus to the end and get off at the final stop… which I did… and I was in the middle of nowhere with no sign of any museum… or really anything at all.
I asked the bus driver who spoke no English and just shrugged at me. I asked a little old lady who was waiting for the bus. She spoke no English either, but spoke German, a language I am quite ‘unfluent’ in except for a few words. But through body language (I’m learning how much we really can communicate with this under-praised language) and a few ‘jas and neins’ I was on my way down a random path in the woods, past a church, through a tiny town, through another trail in a second set of woods, across a highway, onto a bicycle path—full of Sunday rollerbladers (Slovakians love ice hockey so it’s no surprise to see so many in line skating in the summer) and cyclists, across a bridge and dam and lock system on the river, and finally an hour after getting off the bus, I reached the museum.
I think I practically walked back into Hungary. Perhaps I should have rented a canoe and paddled my way here downstream from Bratislava instead—that may have taken less time. Okay, probably not. The bus ride took me thirty minutes, but the walk from the bus stop took me one hour. Something just didn’t seem right about that.
The museum was actually a bit of a bore, although the building itself was really cool and the grounds were nice with interesting sculptures dotting the landscape. But I realized that I actually had more fun (using the term ‘fun’ quite loosely here) walking through the woods and different neighborhoods of ‘every-day-life-Slovakia’ than seeing the inside of this museum. It was one of those ‘it’s all about the journey not the destination’ moments that I’ve come to love. I liked seeing the town and as I sweated my way down the one mile path that linked the mainland with the island I had ample time to take in the surroundings especially the huge white fluffy clouds that hung low in the blue summer sky. It got me thinking about how little time in our busy, work, work, work lives that we have to just gaze up at the clouds like we did when we were kids.
Traveling like I’ve been doing and breaking out of my everyday routine has made me much more cognizant of things I didn’t notice before. We all know how easy it is to get caught up in a ‘routine’—it’s almost like being on auto pilot all day. We walk around like zombies listening to our ipods or staring at our latest text message on our cell phones. It seems like all our senses all dulled. We barely notice the simple sights, sounds, or smells (unless it is a very stinky urine soaked hobo sitting on the train next to you) all around us.
Remember the days lying on the plush green grass in your front yard and just staring at the sky for hours on end? How great was that? I tried to do this as I walked, amazed at the wondrous clouds and all their shapes and mystery. It was nice… but of course, I got bored with it after five minutes.