Martinský Cintorín in Ružinov – image by www.englishmaninslovakia.co.uk
I was in Ružinov for a work meeting. I was quite excited. This was not because I was expecting anything particularly amazing from this large neighbourhood of Bratislava, the southeastern extension of Nové Mesto (New Town) just east of the city centre’s Staré Mesto (on this site we generally refer to it as the Old Town). It was because I am always excited by new things, and this was Englishmaninslovakia’s first chance to really scout out the area.
On first appearances, Ružinov appears largely industrial. Lots of Bratislava’s major businesses are based here, including the Slovak Tourist Board with whom I had the appointment – plus most of the large financial companies which make Bratislava’s economy tick. The neighbourhood’s streets are very wide, there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of rather big impassive multinational company facades (the flip side is quite a few green spaces, including a couple of cemeteries and lakes which are good enough for a jog or dog walk). The neighbourhood’s very name, actually, refers to the many rose gardens which were supposedly once hereabouts (where are you now, rose gardens?)
But I’m not going to wax lyrical about Ružinov because Englishmaninslovakia neither likes to deceive nor indeed tempt travellers away unnecessarily from a city centre which is far more charming. However it does contain two exceptional attributes, and one of them was right in the building I happened to be visiting, at Doktora Vladimira. Clementisa 10: namely the exceptional cafeteria of Apores.
What I whimsically call Communist-style cafeterias are still, 21 years on, an important part of Slovak eating culture. Picture a canteen, perhaps like one where you once had school dinners. Picture fixed formica tables, and cheap set-price lunches, and invariably surly old women ladling something unidentifiable and colourless out of a vat, and, perhaps most intense of all, water that comes with different colourings, including a garish pink. These canteens or cafeterias are perhaps not so prevalent as they once were, but they are still ubiquitous and still, I would argue – for better or for worse – an interesting cultural phenomenon for the outsider to behold. But what is almost always true about them is that the food is, well, school canteen style food. It’s not renowned for its presentation or succulent taste.
But this cafeteria was clearly cut from a different cloth. Perhaps you could even say it was a sign of how, slowly, Ružinov itself is changing. There were four gluten-free options, including delicious roasted veg, for which I opted. There were tasty soups. There was serendipitous, really decent espresso, which always cheers me up. There was a view onto the nearby park (so none of those starkly strip-lit canteen images that probably come to mind). Apores was a traditional Slovak cafeteria with a touch of city sophistication.
Because Ružinov, these days, does have a touch of city sophistication (alongside all that rawness!). The cool city hangouts are spreading out from the centre (it started with the revamped ice hockey stadium and the pretty chic eateries around Slovanet, just back across the other side of Bajkalská, which marks the conventional city centre-Ružinov divide). Watch this space. Ružinov is becoming an increasingly trendy place to go out, as evidenced by such chic hipster places as the Film Club Nostalgia, a cinema-cafe-bar
For now, however, rest easy: a good cafe serving strong espresso will hardly get tourists flocking. Nor, indeed, will one of the city’s main cemeteries, Ružinov’s Martinský Cintorín. I checked it out afterwards: a leafy spot where a few famous people in Slovakia are buried (Jozef Budský, for example, a Czech actor who helped to raise the standard of professional theatre in Slovakia no end). Nor, quite probably, will the nearby presence of Miletičova, the city’s largest fresh produce market (best day is Saturday; for an excellent post on the market visit this blog).
But should work take you out to the Ružinov area, it’s not quite the industrial wasteland it first seems.
Oh, and the colourful candle holders in the bottom right of the picture? They are part of Slovakia’s most touching traditions, and get lit up at night to remember the cemetery’s incumbents – particularly on November 1st when cemeteries country-wide are mysteriously-flickering seas of candlelight… the ceremony is known as Dušičky
GETTING THERE: Tram 8 or 9 from Trnavské Mýto will take you there – see our list of key Bratislava transport routes for more.
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From Ružinov it’s only a couple of Km the other side of the admittedly ugly Slovnaft complex onto some of the Englishman in Slovakia’s favourite Forgotten banks of the Danube locations (there are a few around Bratislava, see the post for more)