In our short time here to date we have crossed borders into and back out of a few countries once behind the Iron Curtain, either by train or by vehicle. Although I’ve always held a romantic notion of border crossings (I’ve probably seen Sound of Music too many times), most of the transit zones are as depressing and unromantic as you might expect. Why should Communist leaders have inspired people to leave, right?

Entering Hungary from Austria?  No passport stamps, just a gray snapshot for the photo books.

Exiting Austria into Slovenia (part of the former Yugoslavia in its day).

Entering Slovenia once past the neutral zone.  This is the sole exception to the dreariness we’ve discovered so far, doubtless put into place once Slovenia joined the European Union.
Transiting out of Slovenia rekindles the dreary. Maybe the EU Welcome Package didn’t include a chit for exit border restoration.

Croatia’s frontier. More former Yugoslavian indistinguishable dreary. Croatia officially joins the EU in July; here’s hoping for a new look at the border.

Last summer we trained from Vienna to Bratislava past abandoned railway border zones. 
On Sunday we drove to Bratislava, Slovakia, once part of Czechoslovakia.  I realize now that I do not have a photo of our transit from Austria into the Czech Republic in January, that’s how unremarkable it must have been.
Almost immediately upon entering Slovakia we were offered directions to drive out of the country! Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, anyone?  

 Our purpose for being in Bratislava was to shop. Vienna is closed on Sunday; Bratislava is not. We have an upcoming event at our home for which I needed worry-free stemware, and had time on Sunday in which to obtain it.  The beauty of the Bratislava IKEA is that it does not matter that we do not speak Slovak; we don’t speak IKEA, either, and can muddle through the store just fine.

 Not in the mood for a sit-down lunch after shopping, we opted for cafeteria-style food nearby. With awesome plate descriptions!

I took a pass on the “Alcatraz” for the “Silver Lake Plate,” be that either Minnesota’s or Nevada’s city. What I enjoyed was a pork cutlet with perfectly boiled potatoes, unsoggy peas, and the ubiquitous Central European cream sauce. I’m fairly certain this is not what folks in Minnesota or Nevada eat, but I recommend the dish should you find yourself in Bratislava.  We all enjoyed our respective orders, actually, reminiscing about how similar the food was to the inexpensive and delicious Communist time warp of Krakow’s Bar Mleczny.

 Shopping completed and tummies happy, we paused to take in the view from atop Bratislavsky Hrad before crossing back into Austria and its gently whirling modern windmills.

A pretty, pretty welcome home. Even without the passport stamp.