Trdelnik (aka baumkuchen or chimney cake) in Bratislava

As you can probably imagine, every time we take a trip, whether it’s to Poughkeepsie or Boston or Bratislava, I always spend a good amount of time researching what to eat and where. I want to know what local traditions and foods are and what regional specialties we can seek out and taste. One of the things that came up in both Czechia and Slovakia was trdelnik, which is a round, hollow baked cake that is wrapped around a stick, rotated and baked, then rolled in sugar, cinnamon, nuts, and other toppings. When I saw photos of trdelnik, I immediately remembered seeing it virtually at every Christmas market we’ve ever visited throughout Europe in the last ten years (in Germany and Austria, it’s called baumkuchen). I just never stopped to try one. It seemed a little touristy to get it, and I wasn’t sure how good it would actually be. But given trdelnik originates in the general Czechia/Slovakia/Hungary area, I figured that this was a good time and place to finally try it.

We ran out of time to get it in Prague, so when I saw a stall at the Bratislava main square Christmas market freshly churning them out, I knew I had to get it. Thursday was the first night of the Bratislava Christmas markets, so it was quite quiet and there weren’t any crowds. Thus, I was able to walk right up to the stall and ask for a fresh one. I got it the traditional way, simply rolled in cinnamon and sugar. When the vendor handed it to me, it was still warm from the oven. I took one bite, and I was in love: the chimney was nice and thin, super crunchy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. The cinnamon sugar coating was just enough to add a bit of sweetness, but not too much. Pookster started whining immediately when she saw me eat it, so I caved in and indulged her with some. I liked it so much that on our last night in Bratislava, I waited at least 15 minutes in a long line at the same stall for one just-out-of-the-oven (on Saturday, the market was PACKED, nothing like the first night of the market on Thursday!). It was SO fresh, piping hot and steaming when the vendor handed it to me. This time, I got it with vanilla sugar, and I loved it just as much. While the line was long and moved slowly because all the trdelnik were being made to order, it was fun to watch all the workers inside the stall rolling the dough around the spits, putting them into the open oven, and periodically pulling them out to check for doneness.

Now that I know the beauty and deliciousness of trdelnik, I have a feeling I will always get it now whenever I see it being made fresh at a Christmas market. It’s fun to eat and look at, and I loved watching it be made. Plus, I have a feeling Pookster is going to want more, too.

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