History of Bratislava and Slovakia
On our Emerald Waterways river cruise it was hard not to feel sorry for Bratislava. As one of the newer capital cities along the Danube in Europe it might easily have an inferiority complex compared to Vienna or Budapest. But it does have a certain gritty determination to it that we discovered on a very quick, due to river traffic delays, walking tour.
Our local guide explained how Slovakia has had a rough history that included ethnic cleansing of Slavs by Hungarians; a process which became known as “Magyarization“. The Hungarians employed a brutal forced assimilation of Slavs by forbidding them to use their language, confiscating their historical and artistic treasures, taking their money and even, in some cases, taking their babies away to be raised in Hungary as Hungarians. There are still a lot of hard feelings (to put it mildly) about this and its lasting legacy of diluting the Slovakian sense of heritage.
Then, after World War I, Slovakia was reluctantly incorporated into the newly created country of Yugoslavia. Next the Nazis came goose-stepping in and deporting and killing the 15,000 Jews in Bratislava.
Ah – but the country was finally safe after World War II – oops it was the Commies and next thing they knew Slovaks were part of the Soviet Bloc! (That old problem of you say “liberators'” I say “occupiers”.)
Finally, in 1993, Slovakia became its own country after, love this term, “The Velvet Divorce” that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the anti-communism Velvet Revolution.
Trust us – that’s a lot to take in before walking the mere 3 blocks to a small park in the heart of the city where some decidedly Eastern European art with a vaguely subversive air was being displayed!
Our guide emphasized that now, for the first time in modern history, Slovakia’s fate is in its own hands. No more old hand-me-down Communist machinery that couldn’t manufacture competitively. Now they have a new, thriving automobile production industry which produces Kia, Peugeot Citroën, and Volkswagen (including Audi) cars.
As we got pelted by rain and blown about by wind our guide, who has endured worse things than some lousy weather, hustled us through the old town of Bratislava.
Sights in the old city of Bratislava
When travel bloggers go on trips we all post pictures on Facebook of where we are. Then everyone else tells us they have already been there and what we should do – hence the hot chocolate reference. This would be useful if we weren’t always getting the information with a time lag because of only having access to wi-fi on the ship. So we are giving you a heads up and you can plan for your hot chocolate at Schokocafe Maximilian and not miss it as we did!
What is an old European city without a cathedral that once held coronations? Bratislava can hold its own in that department with St. Martin’s Cathedral where Hungarian kings (so what if they were despised?) held their coronations between 1563 and 1830. They might have some deservedly bitter feelings toward Hungarians but not to the extent that they don’t hold an annual festival each September re-enacting the coronations! (Hey, Communism failed so this behavior logically followed..)
Our guide didn’t say what inspired the Cumil, the man peeping out of the manhole, but she did say there are two interpretations of what he’s doing. One is that he is emerging from cleaning the sewers. The other says he is looking up women’s skirts.
Originally it was probably looking up women’s skirts but he can come on up to the sidewalk now because the skirts are short enough to make this vantage point unnecessary.
With more time and better weather we would have really enjoyed some time to just wander around the city and perhaps sit at some of the many outdoor cafes. There were also a lot of very tempting shops.
Blonde, being one of those people with a knack for making the most of things, went indoors and quickly bought a pair of shoes with her precious free time! Brunette took notes and used up her Kleenex. Weather affects us differently!
Sample cute cafe that we might have enjoyed under other circumstances.
There is a lot of ancient architecture and some old amazing doors in Bratislava. When trying to figure out the building for this door the only result we got with a reverse Google image search was that it’s in Hungary. Those damned Hungarians are still trying to take credit for what the Slovaks have created! Cyber-bullying over a door is stooping low indeed!
The part of Bratislava we walked did not have anything new in it. But behind our ship was this bridge which has more names than politicians have lies! (OK, not really that many.) Completed in 1972, this cable-supported bridge is the longest single-pylon suspension bridge in the world. (Spellcheck wanted to say it was a “python” bridge which would be way cooler!)
The bridge was named “Most SNP” after the Slovak nation uprising against German forces. But over time it became known as the UFO Bridge because of the UFO-shaped (and named) restaurant which would be worth checking out on a clear day.
The city didn’t like the name confusion so changed the name to Novy Most,” or “New Bridge”. But the citizens objected to that name and it’s once again the “Most SNP” bridge!
We were told this statue had something to do with honoring those who stood up to the Soviets and other repressors. But we think it’s just a woman throwing up her arms in disgust over all the fuss about the bridge’s name!
If you get an opportunity to visit Bratislava take it. We had so little time (and did we mention the lousy weather?) that we couldn’t do it justice. There’s more to see and it is probably more visually appealing than we were able to capture.
You can send us your pictures and torment us when you go there but at least give us credit for the in-advance tip as to where to get your hot chocolate before it’s too late!