My return to Bratislava, many pleasant surprises!
Bratislava Travel Blog› entry 1 of 7 › view all entries
Rob had business in Vienna for the week and as Vienna is one of my favorite places on Earth, I had to go with him. It was also an opportunity for further exploration of neighboring countries of Hungary and Slovak Republic. I thought I might try to get to Maribor, Slovenia but, it is far and the weather was challenging so….not this time.
We had an early flight on this Sunday morning. I had us leave a day early so that I could take Rob to Bratislava, the capitol of the Slovak Republic. I had visited it on my very first trip alone in my new adventures over 2years ago. The trip was Vienna and Bratislava and I will never forget it. It opened my eyes in a ways that I couldn’t even imagine at that time.
Since I was traveling with Rob, we had a car waiting for us at the Vienna Airport. That was nice……I don’t usually travel in a BMW 5 series. He dropped us off at our hotel which was in the south, near Schonbrunn.
After dropping off the luggage we returned to reception to get info on transport to Sudbahnhof. This hotel is in a business park and 2 miles from the nearest metro. We had about 20 minutes to make it to the train station to make the next train to Bratislava. We asked for a taxi which was to be 10 minutes and the distance was to also be 10 minutes. The driver took us for a ride, literally. He took the long way which cost 1/3 more than it should and additional time.
The train departed and we snaked through the outskirts of the city and across the Danube River. The journey took us across the flatlands near the river so, there really wasn’t much to see. It was only an hour and that went pretty fast.
High-rise block housing was soon all around us and soon we were at the main train station. We exited the train and made our way out. I was happy to see that the station, however old, was cleaner and seemed to be less sketchy.
The weather was holding out….
After crossing the bridge, taking a left, you are entering the Old Town area along a wide street with many, many stately mansions, obviously of the Habsburg era. They are amazing in their details and also their level of decay. It seems that a few, however, have been painted and some have been restored, since my last visit. If I had the money……..what I could do with one of these!!!
At the end of this street you come to a large open area with the Baroque, Grassalkovich Palace on the north end.
I found a passageway that leads from just south of the Palace to Michael’s Gate. There is a little bridge and several statues……very quaint. I looked over the side of the bridge to notice that someone had lost a hat…..a red traditional Slovak hat, interesting.
We rounded a corner and down the hill from us was Michaels’ Gate. It’s the only gate that remains from the Medieval fortification. In the 18th century it was topped with a statue of the Archangel Michael and changed from it’s original Gothic style to Baroque. There is an interesting arms and military museum housed in the tower. The view from it’s balcony, just below the clock, is worth the climb.
We found the statue of Schone Naci, one of eight humorous/strange statues around the Old Town. His real name was Ignac Lamar, as his nickname means handsome Ignac. He was famous for strolling the Korso Promenade. He appears quite happy but was never the same after his fiance was deported to a concentration camp, by the Nazis, where she died. He never married and died completely forgotten…..until this monument was erected.
We found the second statue, Paparazzi, when we stopped to eat at the restaurant of the same name. The restaurant was tasty but pricey….by Slovak standards. Two years ago, prices were about one half or less what we paid on this day. The food, however was very good….
I had to stop just down the walk as there was a crafts store, closed but some interesting goodies. There were some decorated ostrich eggs and Slovak national costumes, both very colorful.
Hlavne Namestie, the main square, where the Old Town Hall, a church, a palace, and two museums are located. Today there were some crafts booths set up as well. We browsed and ended up with some Slovak treasure. We bought two intricately designed and cut eggs to add to the collection, a set of hanging bells of interesting design…..will compliment the Lithuanian bells nicely, and an artistic interpretation of the big, bad wolf. It is plush and had moveable arms and legs. The girl running the booth, Paula, is one of two sisters that create all of the items for sale.
The next stop was St. Martin’s cathedral which is of supreme importance. A church was first constructed here in the 13th century in a Romanesque style.
We crossed under the Staromestska (highway)to get to the castle side and then up the cobbled stone streets. The “skinny house” looks to have had a fresh paint job since I last walked past….nice.
We stopped briefly before entering the castle grounds to take in the view across the Danube. The UFO bridge……..is hideous!!! Surprisingly, it seems that the socialist block housing that was quite run down has also been face lifted and new ones are under construction.
From a distance, it seemed to me that the castle looked….cleaner…..maybe whiter. Upon entering the gate and getting a closer look, I was right. They have been doing a clean and paint job on it and have plans underway to restore it’s gardens. As such, we could not enter but, give it another year, it will be a sparking beacon upon the hill, once more.
The Bratislava Castle has been settled since the late Stone Age, with the first written record in 907 A.D. The Crown Tower, on the southwest corner, was built in the 13th century. During the era of Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387-1437), the castle went through a radical Gothic reconstruction. After 1526, the seat of the Hungarian monarchs was moved to Bratislava Castle and under the reign of Maria Theresia (1740-1780), the castle was transformed into a luxurious Baroque residence.
The view of the city from the top of the hill is one of colorful rooftops and green Baroque spires. It’s not quite a fairytale-like as Prague but, it’s not overrun with tourists, either.
We returned to Old Town and found Andy Warhol, a new addition to the statues around town.
The courtyard of the Primate’s Palace (Pink Palace), built between 1777 - 1781 for the Archbishop of Esztergom, who was the Primate of Hungary. This was used as his winter palace. In the courtyard stands a statue of St. George with a three headed dragon.
Next to it is the creamy stone and colorful roof of the Old Town Hall (13th century). It stands on the former marketplace with the Maximillian fountain (1572) at it’s center.
Just before leaving the square, Rob found Napoleon……had to stop for a quick chat!
In the square and across from the stalls was another folk art store…….good it was closed…I guess. There were some creative examples of traditional wood and leather crafts. I would love to have any one of their pieces….MUST COME BACK!
On our way walking out of the center…we found the sculpture of the man coming out of the manhole. A cute little boy was having fun sitting on his head….cute picture. A drunken man approached as we tried to photograph the statue of Hans Christian Andersen but, I scared him away with one of my looks!!! Then to the gargoyle, which is easy to miss as it’s within a wall on the main street.
On a last pass of a street with the Castle in view, I caught a view of the back of an old building …..and OLD building with the most amazing Slovak detailing….mostly lost with time and weather.
On the walk back to the train station, we had one last window shopping stop for some crazy metal wire art…….eggs, baskets, spider webs, and even a hydra.
The train was on time and soon we were back in Vienna. It had been such a nice thing, revisiting Bratislava. I had made an impression on me, the first time. I am so happy to see that it is getting some love. I hope to return, sometime in the future, and see it looking all dressed up for the ball. She’s a beauty.