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CAFÉ

Review: Social climbing

Winter in Bratislava can be a dark experience. Minimal sunshine, long work days and low cashflow lead many city dwellers to a cavernous existence. Weekend getaways can be expensive or difficult to arrange. Sitting in a smoky bomb shelter dabbling in the local brews while battling a slab of fried cheese is not the most refreshing of outings. Fitness centres are numerous but the treadmill/meat market scene has always been lacking in escapist value. How can a Bratislavan sufficiently recharge batteries before tackling that inbox Monday morning?

Café Stena / Bloc Bouldering ClubWhere: Záhradnícka 93
Tel: 02/5557-2124.
Open: 10:00 - 22:30, Sun 15:00 - 22:30
Price: Sk50/90min (Sk100 for adult and child)
Rating: 7.5 out of 10


The climbing wall at the Bloc Bouldering Club.
photo: Ján Svrček

Winter in Bratislava can be a dark experience. Minimal sunshine, long work days and low cashflow lead many city dwellers to a cavernous existence. Weekend getaways can be expensive or difficult to arrange. Sitting in a smoky bomb shelter dabbling in the local brews while battling a slab of fried cheese is not the most refreshing of outings. Fitness centres are numerous but the treadmill/meat market scene has always been lacking in escapist value. How can a Bratislavan sufficiently recharge batteries before tackling that inbox Monday morning? The sauna or a massage seems to be the standard answer in central Europe, but are there really no bold adventures and dashing forays left?

An afternoon of indoor climbing capped with excellent tea and tasty treats in a unique, relaxing atmosphere sounded like just the fix I was after. Sadly, the Bloc Bouldering Club facility did not provide the high-risk, stomach-churning experience I was hoping for. Bouldering is enough to wreak havoc on forearms and ruin wrists, but without the height and the thrill of hanging at 20 meters by one arm, the excitement is short-lived. Still, this is the experience of a novice looking for distraction. For hardcore climbers preparing for summer adventures, the 220 square metres of wall space is undoubtedly a good place to train for outdoor climbing through the winter.

The attached Café Stena is seemingly worlds away from the powder bags and sweat pants down the hall. Spacious and well-lit, a variety of interesting nooks and crannies, funky light fixtures, restored furniture, and soft hues of orange and yellow create an environment perfect for whiling away the hours on a Sunday afternoon. The service was English-speaking and quite prompt. The food menu is limited to snacks and side dishes, but the daily specials are noteworthy. I started with the hummus (Sk32), an exotic bird rarely seen in these parts, for the sheer, cynical pleasure of inviting disaster. However, my suspicions and snickers proved unwarranted. It wasn't overpowering, but entirely satisfying and served with fresh bread and black olives. The Crostini (Sk30), toasted bread with herbs, tomatoes and melted cheese, turned out to be a rewarding creature that went perfectly with a dark Zlatý Bažant (Sk24).

Perhaps the high ceilings went to my head at this point. Perhaps I was inspired by the always invigorating 'No Woman No Cry' anthem. I decided to begin the ever-looming, daunting task of writing my biography. Faced with hours of work I ordered a cappuccino and the daily bábovka (fudge cake) to fortify myself. Lucky enough to snag one of the cushioned seating dens along the wall, I savoured the subtle flavour of a lovely, nutty homemade cake in a moody corner and pondered a twist that would send readers squealing for a sequel. But, as the aches of the bouldering experience drifted away and Sade began wafting through the café, I began to wonder if it wasn't an overly ambitious project for a Sunday afternoon.

David Buchanan edits Bratislava In Your Pocket, the best city guide for Bratislava. Over 150 reviews of restaurants, cafés and hotels, a calendar of events, transport schedules, special features and much more all at your fingertips! Pick up the latest copy at local newsstands.

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