Bratislava, Slovalkia. D-Day plus 15

by - September 09, 2010

I will be honest with you and tell you that it is now midnight in Bratislava and I have just done the posts for Salzburg and Vienna.  As a result, this post may not be the most exciting, but I shall do my best.  We left Vienna on Tuesday morning and arrived in Bratislava, capital of Slovalkia at about lunchtime.  It may have been the rain, but our first impressions were pretty dire. It later became clear that the reason for this was that the station was in the ex-communist section of the city.  Just for your general information, and with no political bias whatsoever, pretty much everything bad in Bratislava came as a result of the communists.  And we found ourselves slap bang in the middle of the concrete jungle.  We got the bus (it seems you don’t have to pay to travel in Slovalkia, or our first act in Slovalkia was to break the law and dodge the fare), to the hostel.  The room was nice, but had been decorated for a five year old.  Complete with pictures of ladybirds, deer and a giant canvas leaf.  To sum up our first impressions of the city, I will upload the view from our window.  It was in fact the only photo I took that day, as the rain and Soviet architecture meant that we didn’t feel like leaving the hostel.  Apart from to find food.  In all honesty, we were starting to think about going to Budapest a day early.

LUCKILY the next morning, the sun was shining, so we decided that we would give the city a second chance, starting with a walking tour.  This was actually really superb - it was taken by an Aussie student who had studied Czechoslovalkian history at Prague and, while it was for the most part a recap of our school’s overly 20th century based history courses, we all enjoyed it.  He divided the tour into two parts - the old town and the new town.  The old town was for a long time the capital of Hungary - twelve Hungarian kings were crowned in the cathedral, and was based around ornate buildings and pretty squares.  Unfortunately, the Hitler/Stalin double team managed to ruin much of this - the Soviets actually building a highway through the old town OVER what Hitler had left of the Jewish quarter.  This highway was so badly planned that the vibrations from the traffic were causing the cathedral to collapse, so once again we had a great view of the scaffolding surrounding the spire.  It became evident that, according to our guide, Prague tended to steal a lot of Bratislava’s thunder.  This was most evident when we were told about the Prague Spring of 1968 - the iconic photo of the local man baring his chest to a Soviet tank was in fact taken in Bratislava, not Prague.  Unfortunately the photographer had to remain anonymous - for obvious reasons concerning his safety, so the location was credited to Prague.  Today, major publications still get this wrong, so to prove that our guide was right, I shall show you the original photo, and show you a photo of the location today. Other sites on the tour included the little blue church - quite possibly the bluest building I have ever seen, the Slovalkian Parliament, the old route of Hungarian coronations and several other churches.  Amongst other things.

We tipped the guide well and then found a Slovak pub for lunch.  This was really cheap and seemed kind of authentic, so we were happy.  There is a real culture/price difference between Bratislava and Vienna, which is only 50km away. After getting on some warmer clothing, as the sun had gone in, we split up and headed in the vague direction of the fortress, with the intention of taking some photos from its strategic position over the town (it was one of very few cities that managed to resist invasion from the Huns).  We had been told that the fortress wasn’t very attractive, but in its own way it was interesting in a minimalist way.  The fortress, on the north bank with the old town had a good view over the Danube, which we crossed as we headed towards perhaps the most major impact the communists had had on the city - the “UFO” bridge, named because at night, its bizarre architecture means it looks like an alien spaceship.  The views from the top of this - we got student discounts, was EPIC.  The city is actually really small, so from this high vantage point we could see the countryside in all directions.  We waited up on the open air viewing platform as the sun went down and the city lights started to turn on, taking photos, before heading back to the hostel via a quick meal at McDonalds (it is actually quite a useful traveller’s tool, honest), ready for our weekend in Budapest.

You May Also Like