Dobry den. (Good day.) Welcome to Bratislava.
BRATISLAVA, the powerful capital of Hungary for more than three centuries during the Middle Ages, is now the bustling modern capital of Slovakia (the home of Andy Warhol’s parents). This picturesque city, situated where the Danube River meets the Carpathian Mountains, borders Austria in the west and Hungary in the south.
Formerly a part of Czechoslovakia, Bratislava became the capital of the Slovak Republic on January 1, 1993. It is the seat of the most important political, scientific, industrial, commercial, educational and cultural institutions of Slovakia. Bratislava, formerly known as Pressburg, is populated by some 599,000 Slovaks.
Bratislava Castle, built more than 1000 years ago on a promontory some 270 feet above the Danube, dominates the city as it stands guard over the river. The landmark castle derived its nickname of the “upturned table” from its silhouette that gives that appearance. From the castle grounds, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city’s contrasting architecture.
The baroque, historic, Old Quarter of Bratislava is in sharp contrast to the unsightly concrete structures erected by the Communists in the 1970s. The Old Quarter houses a wide spectrum of museums and galleries.
The Slovak National Theatre has housed Slovak National Theatre ensembles since 1920, but today only the opera and ballet ensembles are resident. It was restored between 1969 and 1972, when a new modern technical building was added behind the old building. Immediately in front of the theatre is the famous Ganymede's Fountain by Bratislava native sculptor Viktor Oskar Tilgner.
|THE OLD SLOVAK NATIONAL THEATRE BUILDING|
The Slovak National Museum (Slovenske Narodne Muzeum), a monumental building completed in 1928, features a department that documents and honors the culture of the Jewish people in Slovakia. The Museum of Viticulture, that documents the history of wine-growing in Bratislava, and The Clock Museum are also worth visiting.
The Museum of Jewish Culture (Muzeum Zidovskej Kultury) founded in 1991, displays an interesting collection of Jewish artifacts, The once-vibrant Jewish ghetto was destroyed by the Communists and replaced by the Novy Most (New Bridge). In 1972. When the Communists demolished the run-down Jewish Quarter, they justified their actions by claiming they were destroying houses of ill repute. A touching Holocaust Memorial, inscribed with the single word Pamataj! (Remember!) stands on the site where the old synagogue was destroyed. A likeness of the old synagogue is etched into the granite wall behind the memorial.
|HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL...PAMATAJ! (REMEMBER!|
Bronze street sculptures, like the one of plumber peeking out from a manhole in the street, are fun works of art.
PLUMBER PEEKING OUT FROM MANHOLE
A statue of a Napoleonic soldier leaning on bench is one of several humorous statues which grace the streets of the Slovak capital. This one is in the Main Square (Hlavne namestie).
NAPOLEONIC SOLDIER AND FRIENDS LEANING ON BENCH
Slovak dishes that go right to the hips and the arteries include: palacinky (crepes) served with chocolate sauce, ice cream or preserves; vyprazany syr (fried cheese with tartar sauce); and tatranska hrianka (Tatra toast), a sinful concoction of goose livers sauteed with sweet red peppers and served on thick slabs of homemade bread. Hradna Vinaren, housed in the former Castle stables, is one of the best restaurants in town. With a panoramic view of the Old Town, huge chandeliers cast a glow on a feast of hearty Slovak and international cuisine. Slovenska Restauracia, opposite the Carlton Hotel near the Opera House, is also a good place to try traditional Slovak cuisine. During dinner hours, Slovak music adds to the atmosphere.
|SLOVAK DINNER MUSIC|
In addition to Slovak food, restaurants in Bratislava feature Italian, Asian, Balkan, Kosher, and French food.
Wine bars and cellars scattered throughout Old Town are the best places for tasting the Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and other wines (vino) of the region. Martiner and Gold Fassel are the beers (pivot) of choice.
Shop for handicrafts including valenky (brightly colored felt boots), porcelain, ceramics, wood carvings, embroidery, lace, and pottery.
Do videnia. (Goodby) Bratislava/ ’Til we meet again.
TEXT AND PHOTOS by JANET STEINBERG. STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writer Awards. She is also a Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Cincinnati, Ohio.