The air is crisp, a palpable chill in the atmosphere signifying the arrival of a new season in Bratislava.
In autumn, few things rival the simple joy of walking through one of Bratislava’s many parks, littered with crisp linden leaves, but if you can withstand the sometimes shiver-inducing breeze, this season is best experienced on a bicycle.
A riverside ride
I have made the trip to Devín, one of Bratislava’s most popular boroughs, several times by bus and on foot, but I’ve never attempted it on a bike. So, on a clear and cool day in October, I paid €36 (€6 + €30 refundable deposit) for a daily ticket on the Slovnaft bike sharing website, entered the pin code I received via email into a bike at the Promenáda Riverpark bike station, and started cycling towards Devín Castle.
This impressive fortress, towering over the confluence of the Danube and the Morava rivers in all of its historical glory, is just 12km from the city centre. To get there from the Promenáda Riverpark bike station, I simply pedalled along the Danube promenade towards the Devínska cesta bike path, which took me directly to the castle.
How to register
1) Register at https://slovnaftbajk.sk/en
2) Choose the program that suits you best and make an online payment.
3) After payment, your personal PIN code will be sent to you via SMS and through the email address you used to register.
4) At the docking station of your choice, enter the PIN code into one of the bikes, unlock it, and enjoy the ride.
5) Return the BAjk to any docking station with an empty space, ensuring the bike is locked completely in place.
6) Information about the ride will be saved to your account.
Those who ride a Slovnaft bajk for more than 12 consecutive hours in a day will be charged an extra fee of 12 cents per each 6 min, which will be subtracted from the deposit. But, I found that 12 hours was more than enough time to explore Devín.
It took me under two hours one way, and as a novice (and slow) cyclist myself, I believe just about anyone can manage the trip. Perhaps the promise of wine by the castle will give you that extra push.
Racing towards ríbezlák
Don’t worry, you don’t have to race. There is plenty of delicious ríbezlák wine to go around. However, as I have tried this sweet elixir made from red and black currants before, I was eager to pedal towards the base of the castle where the homegrown specialty is sold by amiable wine connoisseurs.
Permitted alcohol level
Under Slovak law, you are not allowed a glass of beer or wine before driving a car. The same rules apply for cyclists riding on roads, but an exception applies for biking within a town or village and on bike ways. In such a case, cyclists are allowed 0.5 per mil of alcohol, which roughly equates to a glass of wine, but it depends on the individual. To be 100 percent safe, pedaling after drinking is not advised, so best to save the bottle(s) for supper at home.
The winery traditions of Devín date back to the second century BC, so to say this part of the city is experienced in its craft is a serious understatement. Devín’s ríbezlák is refreshing, sweet and all around scrumptious, and at around €5 per bottle, it’s near impossible to resist.
Princes, maidens, and the Iron Curtain
Stunning, vast, and vital to the cultural identity of Slovakia: there are several reasons so many occasional visitors and inhabitants alike make the trip to Devín Castle.
Since there is no docking station at the castle, I brought my own bike lock to ensure my trusty steed, so to speak, was not stolen.
The castle grounds are large and varied, populated on its grassy outskirts by some rather disinterested sheep and donkeys.
- Adults: 5 €
- Reduced (children, students, pensioners): 2,50 €
- Family ticket: 10 €, children under 14 years
- School groups: 1,50 € per person, at least ten children
Opening hours: October: Monday - Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00; November-March: Monday - Sunday 10:00 to 16:00
It is believed that in the 9th century, a fortress linked to ruler Prince Rastislav stood here. The original fortress also served as a starting point for saints Cyril and Methodius, the two revered brothers who brought modern Christianity to Greater Moravia in 863 AD.
Although Devin Castle was blown up by Napoleon’s army in 1809, it can hardly be called a ruin. Its strong and fortified bones remain, with plenty of secret rooms, deep wells, and gorgeous viewpoints to be explored.
I learned a lot about Devín’s history and admired some of the incredible artefacts that have been unearthed during archaeological research excursions in the castle’s exhibition room.Read also:Read more
At the bottom of the castle by the river, the infamous Iron Curtain lined with barbed wire, so close to the Austrian border, stood until 1989. A part of the curtain remains as a memorial of those who fell victim to the communist regime. From the memorial, I looked back up towards the castle’s Maiden Tower, where many beautiful girls where said to be locked up. Although it served a dark and oppressive purpose, it is the most scenic and photographed part of the castle.
After exploring the castle grounds and reading by the rushing river, I got back on my bike, my trusty bottle of ríbezlák in tow, and pedalled away from Bratislava’s past back towards the modern, bustling Danube promenade.
Keeping track of time
After you have unlocked the bike from the docking station, click the lock into the designated place by the front wheel. The screen on the bicycle will then keep track of how long you have been riding for. Once you have completed your ride, make sure the bike is completely locked in place. The bicycle’s screen will confirm whether or not the bike is properly locked.
Slovnaft bikes have adjustable seating and several gears, so they can be used by anyone. However, the Slovnaft BAjk service is intended for users who are at least 16 years of age. Children up to 15 years of age are required by law to wear a helmet and while adults are not required to do so within the city's limits, it is highly recommended (the yellow bikes do not come with helmets, so you need to bring your own).
This article was created with the support of Slovnaft BAJK, which provided the author with several complementary PIN codes for bike sharing in Bratislava.
9. Oct 2019 at 12:54 | Anna Fay