So – Slovakia, land of beer, charming old cities and the aggressively timed bus ticket. Here we are perched high on a hill over Bratislava with a great view of the Danube, but not much in the way of local facilities. Getting into town requires taking a bus or a trolley bus, and when it comes to purchasing a ticket you have a choice: you can spend 14 crowns on a 10 minute ticket, or 18 crowns on a 30 minute ticket. The girls in reception assured us 10 minutes would be all we needed. It is not quite clear what the penalties are for travelling beyond the time validity of the ticket but if the fierceness of the ladies at breakfast were anything to go by when I asked for yoghurt without muesli, I suspect this is not a culture that takes rule-infringement lightly.
Once on the bus you punch your ticket and the clock starts. A helpful digital clock in the aisle counts down the minutes until sudden death, dismemberment or possibly just life imprisonment. Meanwhile the bus behaves as buses do everywhere. It meanders. It stops for passengers, or traffic lights, or just for a rest. The printed timetable proves to have been optimistic in its seven-minute estimate for our journey time. We made it with a minute to spare, this time. Next time I think we’ll spring the extra 4 crowns (about 10p) and get a 30 minute one and be able to relax and enjoy the ride.