Ahoj Bratislava – Hello Bratislava
This post is not about a country. It’s just about a city. Hence the slightly different headline than usual.
Because on the way from Hungary to Austria, I only made a 50km detour to the capital Bratislava in the far west of Slovakia.
The country is actually a mountainous landlocked country. Without access to the sea. But for the east with the High Tatras mountains now in mid-November the weather was just too bad. And it was not directly on my route.
According to the distance traveled in this country, this will probably be the shortest post of my road trip. But to give you an idea of the route through Europe as a whole, here’s also an overview map.
By the way, Vienna and Bratislava are closer together than hardly any other capitals in the world.
By car it’s 80km and only 55km as the crow flies.
In the heading you can still discover something else. “Hello” in Slovak (and Czech) means “Ahoj”. With “j” am Ende at the end and not with “i” as in German. “Ahoi” in German is actually a greeting, a warning or a farewell formula among sailors
Strange in a state that is not located by the sea. At first I didn’t want to believe that myself. But according to several sources on the Internet, it really is.
There are various assumptions as to why this is so. The Nordseezeitung from Bremerhaven has given some thought to this (in German only). But of course, as everywhere in the world, the English “Hello” or “Hi” also work fine in Bratislava 😅
Bratislava was more often a capital city already
For almost 1000 years, today’s Slovakia belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary. When the Turks occupied large parts of it, Bratislava became the capital of Hungary 1536 to 1783. Just like 1939-1945 during the first Slovak Republic. After that Prague was the capital of the newly founded Czechoslovakia. But since its dissolution in 1993, Bratislava has been the capital of Slovakia again.
The country has been part of the European Union since 2004, the Schengen area since 2007 and the Eurozone since 2009.
So here I could pay in euros again and there were no more exchange fees. I only needed a SIM card, which I got right after arrival.
That was quite clever of me that I walked the four kilometers into the city in the afternoon. And also took a few photos. Because the next day it rained cats and dogs and I couldn’t get out of the hotel. Walking through a foreign city in the rain just doesn’t make really sense.
I used the one day stay in the hotel room to plan a bit for my next destination, Vienna.
And to see what mail had arrived. Both electronically and at home with my son as a postal letter. Well, mostly bills 😢
By the way, he did it very cleverly and made photos of the letters. And the pictures he sent to me via WhatsApp. So I had all the information for the money transfers together.
I extended the hotel for one night as well though. Because I wanted to look around Bratislava for at least another full day.
That worked the day after, because the weather was fine again.
First I passed the blue church at the edge of the city center. Officially it is called the Church of St. Elizabeth.
She was born as the daughter of the Hungarian king in Bratislava, which was called Pressburg at that time. Later she was married to Thuringia. She was committed to the poor and sick and is still considered the patron saint of Hesse and Thuringia in Germany.
Inside, too, the church should be kept entirely in light blue tones. But unfortunately it was locked and so I couldn’t get in. In any case, it is considered to be the most beautiful church in Bratislava.
A little later I was in the old town of Bratislava. With narrow streets, small shops and cozy cafes.
At the northern end of the old town is the Michael’s Gate, one of the oldest buildings in the city. It is the only gate left from the medieval city fortifications.
It got its present form with the chic onion tower in the middle of the 18th century. If you like, you can also climb up the tower and look around over the roofs of the old town.
To the right of the gate there is also something special: the narrowest house in Bratislava, only 1.30m wide.
Old Town Hall and Primate’s Palace
The Old Town Hall has not been a town hall since 1868, but a museum of the city’s history. It had become too small and so the city had bought other houses for the administration in the course of time.
They are built in different times but they fit together perfectly into an overall picture.
But there was more to see.
The Primate’s Palace is located directly behind the old town hall. The Hungarian archbishop had the dream in pink built for himself in 1781. The archbishop did not want to be inferior to the secular rulers with his residence.
The statues on the roof represent the virtues. And in the center above the entrance there is a huge cardinal’s hat. But I think you can only recognize it with a little imagination.
By the way, the signing of the “Peace of Pressburg” also took place here in 1805. After Austria and Russia had lost the battle of Austerlitz against Napoleon.
Let yourself drift!
The old town of Bratislava is small. Very small. So you can just let yourself drift away without a specific destination. You can also stroll through small alleys that look less inviting at first sight.
But if you keep your eyes open, you will discover interesting little things everywhere.
Or end up in a restaurant or pub that is only frequented by locals. And you can imagine that The Good Soldier Švejk will come through the door at any moment.
Because you can’t get lost in downtown Bratislava! After a few minutes at the latest, you are back on a larger street or on a busy square.
And then suddenly you are standing in front of the Cathedral of Saint Martin. Between 1563 and 1830 it was the coronation church for 11 Hungarian kings and 8 queens. The most famous is probably Maria Theresa of Austria.
In 1835 Ludwig van Beethoven performed his “Missa solemnis” here. And in 1884 Franz Liszt performed his Hungarian Coronation Mass.
Of course, the cathedral no longer looks as it did in the Middle Ages. Its present form dates from the last reconstruction in the middle of the 19th century. But on the top of the tower there is still a gilded Hungarian St. Stephen’s crown.
But now it’s finally time to make your way to the castle. The landmark of the Slovak capital city, Bratislava.
And on the way there, I first passed a pretty narrow house.
It is perhaps the most beautiful Rococo building in Bratislava, built in 1765.
It has been now a clock museum for almost 50 years. With many mobile sundials of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Bratislava Castle is located 85m above the Danube on a hill. During the day, Bratislava Castle looks pretty massive. Just as it should be for a real castle. It was the residence of the Habsburgs in Hungary. And this is where the crown jewels were kept.
After a fire in 1811, it was rebuilt true to the original between 1953 and 1968.
The first time I was here on the evening of my arrival day. And in the evening sun it suddenly looked suddenly completely different. Like a fairytale castle.
And a nice panoramic view from above
From the castle you have a unique view of the city. Both on the old town and on the other bank of the Danube.
Towards the old town you can see how the skyscrapers are eating their way closer and closer into the city. Hopefully this will be preserved.
A bridge leads to the other bank. Until 2012 it was called Novi Most (new bridge), since then Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising of 1944.
It connects the Old Town with the new building area Petržalka, in which many residents of Bratislava live.
The special feature is a UFO-shaped restaurant on the bridge pillar. And above that, a viewing platform.
I have not been there, but you certainly have a great view of the old town from there.
On the way back to the city I passed this pretty sculpture, The Witch. Well, not every witch is as pretty as this one.
A few more sculptures
When you stroll through the city you will always notice small works of art. First of all the “Čumil”, the gawker from the gully. It even has his own sign.
It took quite a long time before I was able to take a picture of it without having a group of Japanese on the picture.
And then there is the “Beautiful Náci”. No, Náci not with “z” like the German Nazis from the Third Reich 1933 to 1945, but with “c”!!!
He really lived. Because this is a statue of a well-known original in Bratislava. His name was Ignác Lamár (1897 – 1967) and he always walked around in the old town of Bratislava in tailcoat, top hat and patent leather shoes. He greeted women with a “Kiss your hands, Ma’m”, sometimes handing them over a flower.
Whether he was just elegant and friendly or a bit crazy and schizophrenic – who wants to judge it today…
There are more such pretty sculptures in Bratislava. That of a paparazzo with a camera and that one of a Napoleonic soldier at a bench. And others. But I didn’t find it.
In any case, these little eye-catchers are something very special. That I only have seen in the Eastern European cities, but never in Western Europe.
On the edge of downtown Bratislava
If you now dare to walk a few kilometers more, you can discover even more on the outskirts of the city center.
The Grassalkovich Palace for example. This was built in 1760 for Empress Maria Theresa’s advisor of the same name. Today it is the official residence of the President of the Slovak Republic. And therefore unfortunately you are not allowed to look inside.
But the garden is accessible, though I spared myself that now in mid-November. Although, there should be some quite interesting sculptures there too.
But I was still at the Slavín Memorial. That is located on a hill west of the old town.
It was built in 1960 in honor of the Soviet soldiers who died in the conquest of Bratislava in 1945.
In addition to a statue of a victorious Soviet soldier, there is also a cemetery here with the graves of almost 7,000 Soviet soldiers.
Except for Mongolia, I have seen such sites in every country I have passed through on my road trip. And this shows me that even today, 75 years after the end of the World War II, the events of that time in these countries have not been forgotten.
On the way back to the hotel I passed a very modern building.
It looks like an upside down pyramid. And it is the building of the Slovak Radio.
In Bratislava it is also called the “Building of the Century”. Some call it the “Building of the Century” because its construction lasted from 1967 to 1983. Others call it that way, because its architecture is so unique. And exceeds the socialist architecture of that time by far.
It is 80m high and actually consists of two pyramids. But I couldn’t see the inner one with its broadcasting facilities and recording studios. Meanwhile it is listed under monument protection.
Because I hardly drove in Slovakia, the dashcam video is not that exciting either. Nevertheless, I don’t want to withhold it from you here (2m 22s, 424 MB; Music: The Engagement – Silent Partner, YouTube Audiolibrary).
- Slovakia border
- To Bratislava
- From there to the Austrian border
And as promised a few weeks ago, the link to my YouTube video of 2019 for the first part of Europe. From the arrival in Bulgaria to Slovakia.
In any case, I can only recommend to take a side trip to Bratislava for two days if you are in Vienna and still have some time. This city is also worth it!
How things went for me in Austria then, the penultimate country on my road trip from Australia to Germany, I’ll tell you in my next post.
Cheers, Ruediger 😎