With Bratislava being a scant one hour from Vienna, it’s a common day trip for visitors to the Austrian capital. We therefore decided to make an overnight stop in Slovakia’s capital, on the way to Budapest, to see what the city had to offer.
Bratislava is a bustling city with a pleasantly segregated Old Town, consisting almost entirely of pedestrian streets running between shops, churches, fountains, and Baroque mansions that were originally constructed by royals, and are currently in use as various state and government buildings. Hanging over the entrance to the old city is a large metal portcullis, demarcating the original location of the Laurinc Gate, part of the oldest protective city walls that were built in the 13th century, but were demolished to allow city expansion in 1778.
Just a short walk outside the old town is the Bratislava Castle. As we entered the castle grounds, we came across a bronze sculpture which depicted an unidentified woman being gazed at adoringly by a large group of birds – Jenn claimed she was the inspiration for the statue, but since we couldn’t find a plaque, I had to take her word for it. The castle itself is an impressive mansion constructed on a hill overlooking the city, and it’s believed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since the Stone Age. While written records of Bratislava Castle go back as far as 907 AD, the current construction is fairly recent, as the fortress was razed in 1811 and only rebuilt in 1953. The views from the castle walls provide a terrific panorama of the historic center and surrounding modern metropolis, including a good look at the so-called “UFO bridge.” Officially named Most Slovenského národného povstania or Most SNP (translation: Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising), the bridge was named to commemorate the Slovakian insurgents who fought against the German occupation during WWII.
On another hill, just a few kilometers away, stands the Slavin War Memorial. The large monument honors the fallen Soviet forces who liberated the city from the Germans in 1945, and rests on a cemetery where nearly seven thousand soldiers are buried. The views from this hill were, if anything, even more impressive than from the castle, providing a good look back at the fortress, as well as at the quirky Slovak Radio Building, an upside-down pyramid that was apparently rated one of the world’s 30 ugliest buildings by the Telegraph newspaper.
Unless you’re going to visit the depths of every museum in the city, Bratislava is definitely more of a short visit, but was nevertheless an enjoyable stop on our journey through Europe.
[Note: make-your-own ice cream pops are a brilliant idea! This restaurant (Mondieu Laboratoire, in Old Town) handed you an ice cream on a stick, had you dunk it in a chocolate fountain, and then offered a variety of toppings to create a delicious masterpiece. Amazing.]