This year's January trip was to Angie's homeland - Slovakia! The plan was two days of sightseeing, followed by a day at Comenius University to deliver some talks.
Day 1: 7 January 2020
Rui, Iain, and Philip met up at Edinburgh Airport for a 05:45 beer, before the 06:45 flight to Bratislava. After some power naps on the flight, we met up with Angie at Bratislava Airport, and after dumping off our stuff at the Apartments Koliba, we set off directly to 1. Slovak Pub for lunch. After some great food and a couple of local drinks - including beer and Kofola - we walked up to Bratislava Castle, and visited the Slovak National Museum - Museum of History. Then it was time for more beer, and to visit Bratislava Flagship Restaurant for another amazing Slovakian meal. The party continued at some 'interesting' local bars before the day's events finally caught up with everyone.
Day 2: 8 January 2020
Angie helped us revive with some local bread and sausages for breakfast, and Iain had a fight with a self-service checkout in the local Tesco. Then we went to explore the historical centre of Bratislava, including the Michael Tower and its Museum of Arms, and the Pharmaceutical Museum. After a restorative beer (Zlatý Bažant '73 becoming the beer of the trip) and fried cheese (for some), it was time to visit the UFO Tower on the SNP Bridge. Then it was time for a burger and cocktail, and some final drinks (and fried cheese) back at the 1. Slovak Pub, including various strengths of Tatratea (up to 72% alcohol!).
Day 3: 9 January 2020
This was going to be a long day... We had to check out of the apartments early, leave our luggage at the railway station, and then head to Comenius University to visit the Department of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry. We were very kindly hosted by the Department Head, Professor Ivan Černušák. Even though it was early in the New Year, and skiing conditions were good, the audience at our presentations was highly engaged, and we all had a lot of really interesting questions and discussions, and were cheered on by Angie's friend Tina. After our presentations, Professor Dušan Velič took us to see his laboratories ("DuVel Labs Do Well!"), where his group is carrying out cutting-edge experiments on solids using secondary ion mass spectrometry, and ultrafast laser techniques. After the visit, we went to Devínsky hrad, located on the Slovakia-Austria border, at the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers (after a quick beer in the café, of course). It was a bit of hike up the hill to the top of the castle, but the views were great, and the information about the significance of the site during the Cold War and in the Velvet Revolution was fascinating. Then it was time for a late lunch/early dinner (dumplings, fried cheese, and schnitzels), and some more drinks, before collecting our stuff and heading to the airport for the 21:45 flight home.
We had a great visit to Slovakia, thanks to Angie's expert tour guiding, the hospitality of our friends at Comenius University, and the incredible food and drink!