From our base in Budapest, we took an overnight trip to Bratislava, capital city of Slovakia. It’s surrounding geography has been added to or carved up by empires since Austro-Hungarian times; after WW I the Slovak and the Czech republics’ were combined into the victorious Allies muddled construction of Czechoslovakia.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and mostly through the efforts of Václav Klaus, in January 1993 these two culturally autonomous regions were formally split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This “Velvet Revolution” should stand as a model for currently contentious independence and separatist movements in both Europe and Africa; it was a peaceful and collaborative endeavor.
|Slovak National Uprising Bridge|
We entered the city from the south, over the 1970’s iconic Slovak National Uprising Bridge, with its asymmetric cable-stayed construction and strangely perched UFO restaurant, shaped as a Soviet inspired flying saucer, at the pinnacle.
Our hotel, Radisson Blu, was well located on Hviezdoslavovo Námestie (“square” in Slovak), although the hotel itself was a bit tired and dated. We were quickly out to the old town.
|Old Town Hall|
|St. Martin's Cathedral|
We returned to the hotel looking for the Esterházy Palace; unfortunately some misguided architect had grafted on a hideously contemporary dark stone boil of a structure, totally annihilating the esthetic of this classical building – thankfully it was closed for renovation (hopefully demolition).
The hotel’s restaurant was inexplicably completely closed for a private function (to hell with its guests, comrade!).Trip Advisor gave La Monde Restaurant a good review, so I booked there. It was close to the hotel, the décor a bit odd, but the food and wine didn’t disappoint. A short walk after dinner, we crashed to bed.
Up early the next morning, we visited the Bratislava Castle, first foundations dating to 907. History
though the competing architectural styles, but in 1811 it burnt down,
reconstruction not beginning until the 1950s and still ongoing. Eventually its
Baroque splendor will be restored; there is a pleasant new picture gallery on
the second floor. Afterward, we returned to the Old Town Hall to visit the City
Museum, well worth the time. By noon we had checked out and were on our way
back to Budapest.
Bratislava is still finding its way from a provincial administrative center of Czechoslovakia to the capital city of Slovakia within the European Union. Its geography pins it to the western boarder of this new country of 5.4 million and awkwardly, it is more closely in tune with Vienna than its eastern citizens. An old civilization trying on a new skin and political reality – I will be curious as to the future.