We're off to Slovakia for a couple of nights, staying in Bratislava the capital. Not a spot I've ever given a lot of thought too, infact truth be known I had to get the map out to see where it was, but courtesy of David Lines leading the charge we're off. A chance to visit a new country, and it turns out that for David and Judy getting a flight from Bratislava to Malaga (their home) it is by far the cheapest option. So a quick one hour bus trip from Vienna finds us slap bang in the middle of Bratislava. The other travel option had been a boat trip down the Danube, which sounded rather romantic but as we dug a little deeper we discovered that this was described as the 'most boring part of the whole river'.
It's Saturday afternoon and it's quiet - a far cry from what we've just left in Vienna. But with a smaller, lesser known city comes better deals on accomodation and we were to enjoy two nights in a wonderful appartement very close to everything we needed. Plenty of room, which is a treat after the ultra cozy accomadation we’ve had for the last few days, a great view of the city plus the old town is minutes away.
After torrential rain the previous evening it was lovely to see the city bathed in sunshine the next day. Bratislava has a population of about 450,000 and the old town is quite small and compact, mostly closed to cars so easy to stroll through the historic core. Its a lovely mixture of small art and antique shops, lots of restaurants and cafes and different small markets scattered through the town. We enjoyed a walking tour with a very enthusiastic young Slovak who was keen to share her version of the Slovakian history.
Slovakia has an interesting history that intertwines with its many neighbours, at times volatile and others harmonious. But it has proudly preserved its own identity with distinct cultural traditions and own language. The ‘velvet divorce’ with Czechoslovakia in 1993, a surprisingly smooth uncoupling, has allowed the country independence and is now seen as one of Europes biggest success stories. Over the years rapid economic growth driven by the exporting of electronic goods and cars.
But tourism is now becoming a focus as the country is known for its natural beauty, with nine stunning National parks. Majestic mountains, many rivers and springs that lead to both beautiful rock formations, canyons and waterfalls. A number of mineral and thermal springs that have been developed into world renown therapeutic spas. Also the unbeknownst to us Slovakia has a the highest number of castles and chateaux per capital in the world. Sadly our two nights and one day in this country hardly gives us permission to even give an opinion.
The Bratislava Castle sits majestically up on a hill overlooking both the city and the Danube. Its a good walk up the hill and worth it for the view. The castle is mainly a 1950 reconstruction, after a huge fire in 1811, and nowadays is utilised by the Slovak Parliament, and the National History Museum.
From the castle you get a great view of the mighty Danube and one of the newest bits of Slovakian architectural feats the Appollo Bridge finished in 2005.
The Art Nouveau Church of St Elizabeth, or far more commonly known as the Blue Church, was built in 1911 and is almost fairytale like. It almost has a marshmallow type of look to it with many shades of blue both inside and out, even the roof tiles are pale almost sky coloured blue. It almost has a Gaudi look to it!! The church is quite an attraction in Bratislava as its so unique and used for many weddings but sadly as you come out the door you look straight across the road into a huge derelict grey Soviet communist styled building that was used as a hospital years ago. Such contrasts!
Michaels Gate and the tower above are one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava. The baroque styled building was one of the four gates into the city, this is the only one still standing. Originally built in the 1300's this was part of the medieval fortifications.
This rather delightful sculpture is of a local man, Ignac Lamar, who was known around town as a true gentleman. On his regular walks from Michaels Gate to the river he would wave his hat in the air and greet the local ladies with flowers.
Cumil the workman, or known as Rubberneck, pokes out of a manhole in the sewers. We’re told that he was a typical communist era worker who would rather just stop and watch the world go by than do his work. Others say he liked to look up the women skirts!! Who knows, but he is probably the most photographed man in Bratislava these days.
We finished off the day with a few hours in a traditional Slovakian restaurant. Certainly not an expensive tourist trap but it was a popular spot with the locals and looked like fun. We’d been told what the local delicacies were so were off to indulge - sheep cheese gnocchi or dumplings and cabbage and bean soup all washed down, thankfully, with plenty of local beer and wine. Not really a memorable meal or one we could recommend to anyone but a fun afternoon.