Bratislava Castle © Andrew Ingersoll
Standing atop Bratislava Castle, I looked out across the Danube toward the communist block housing. It’s composed of big, grey, square blocks designed for one purpose: to house the working class Bratislava community. I was only a child when the red curtain fell in Eastern Europe. I vaguely remember history lessons on communism, but the message was always “democracy good, communism bad.” I felt privileged to be in such a place so vastly different to my American community. I am a firm believer in the fact that travel opens minds and challenges the ignorance of what we know to be “true.”
One of my grandmothers remarried after my grandfather passed away from cancer. Her new husband has three children. Regrettably, I never really got to know those two step-uncles or my step-aunt as a child. But I did however know one of them worked for the American embassy in Bratislava. So I thought I might as well see if he was around.
Looking down at the old city below, I could see Embassy Row from my perch at the castle wall. I made my way down to the tree-lined lane way. The American embassy was easy one to find. It was the one surrounded by barbed-wire fencing. I approached the guard and, matter-of-factly, asked to meet with my Uncle Sam. It wasn’t until I spoke those words that I realized the irony of my request!
After I reassured the guards I wasn’t joking, I was able to enter and Uncle Sam came down for a chat. We shook hands, exchanged some kind words, and I left him to finish his work day. Bewildered by what I had just done, I smiled. I met my Uncle Sam in former communist Slovakia. Huh? The world is an amazing place.
Bratislava is a short train ride from Vienna, Austria. I was only there on a day trip via train. Travel was on-time, easy and clean, as well as a good way to see the countryside.