A June 2002 trip
to Bratislava by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Bratislava is Slovakia's beautiful, old capital. It's cobbled streets, castle, and churches bring you back to the time of when it was under the control of the Hapsburg monarchy. It is a good day trip from Vienna.
Bratislava was known by its German name Pressburg until 1919, and by its Hungarian name, Pozsony, too. In the past, it was known as a cultural center in Europe, and since the fall of communism in 1989, Bratislava has experienced a revival due to reconstruction and easy access by train from Vienna, less than an hour away.
Bratislava has been known to be a "suburb" of Vienna and was the favorite of the Austrian Empress's daughter, Maria Christina, and her husband, Duke Albert of Sachsen-Teschen, who lived in the hilltop Hrad (Castle) Bratislava.
St. Martin's Cathedral was the place where the Austro-Hungarian monarchs were crowned from 1563-1830 and should not be missed, but the hours that the Cathedral are open are very limited because of masses, and the caretakers strictly monitor the traffic through there. It was hard for my friend and I to get close to the sculpture gem St. Martin the Beggar because of the caretakers. We managed to sneak in under the roped-off area to get a quick photo before leaving St. Martin's Cathedral. It would have been embarassing to be arrested for being "an ugly American."
Bratislava is a great day trip from Vienna or other parts of central Europe. All of the action, restaurants, sights, and churches are in the Main Square (Hlavne Namestie), but the castle, Novy Most Bridge, and the Blue Church of St. Elizabeth are a short walk from the square and are not to be missed. Restaurants are cheap, and it is best to get take-out food and eat it on the many park benches in Hlavne Namestie. But I went with a friend up to the top of the SNP Bridge that spans the Danube, where there is a restaurant with a spectacular view of Bratislava, and beyond that is not to be missed. The bridge was built in 1970 and is dedicated to those who fell during the Nazi Occupation from 1939-1945. It is the only sight in Bratislava that is constructed in the bleak communist-style architecture.
There are four statues scattered throughout the old town, and you might just get to have lunch with Napoleon Bonaparte or see a construction worker coming out of a manhole.
Attraction | "Novy Most (New Bridge) and Observation Deck."
The Novy Most or SNP Most (New or SNP Bridge) was completed and opened to traffic in 1971. Unlike most monstrosities of Slovak Communist architecture, the Novy Most and tower actually blend into Bratislava''s centuries old architecture. Situated about 300 feet above the Danube River, the Novy Most, to me looked like the Seattle Space Needle from the distance.
When I took my second trip to Bratislava with my friend Jana in June 2002, she took me to the Novy Most and the observation deck. We walked to the bridge from Bratislava Castle and through the old town. There is a walkway for pedestrians to walk to and from the Novy Most without fear of getting turned into road pizza.
Once Jana and I arrived at the Novy Most, we went into the elevator that takes you to the observation deck. There is a small admission fee (about 10SK), and an old man who worked there, took us to the top in the elevator.
After a quick ride up, we arrived at the observation deck where there is a restaurant you can go into and have a meal or a quick snack. It is a little pricey, but it is worth having a snack or dinner while admiring the classic beauty of Bratislava.
Jana and I sat at a table that had a great view of Bratislava Castle and ordered a fruit cup from a surly waiter who thought our presence in the restaurant was an interruption. We had our fruit cup and I took pictures of Bratislava Castle from our seat. The views were breathtaking and worth the surly service from our waiter and the high price for the fruit cup.
There are souvenirs available at the Novy Most observation deck, and it is open almost daily for visitors to see and take photos of the panorama of Bratislava that surrounds it. It is worth about one or two hours of your time when you visit Bratislava.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 6, 2003
Novy Most/New Bridge and Observation Deck
Straddling The Danube On The Staromiestka
The Second Church of St. Elizabeth or the Blue Church (Kostol Modra) was built from 1907-1913 according to the design of Hungarian architect Odon Lechner. Today, the Blue Church also has a high school and rectory.
The Blue Church has one nave and a cylindrical tower and the exterior design is of the Hungarian Art Nouveau style and is decorated with bright and beautiful blue majolica tiles. Majolica is a tile indigenous to Slovakia and is manufactured in the city of Modra (Western Slovakia). The roof is also decorated with glazed blue tiles.
Ulica Bezrucova is located outside the old town and is a short walk from St. Michael's Square. You definitely should make a special trip to see this work of art and beauty if you visit Bratislava.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 31, 2003
Second Church of St. Elizabeth, The Blue Church.
Ulica (Street) Bezrucova
Grassalkovich Palace was built in the 1760's by Count Anton Grassalkovich, the President of the Royal Hungarian Chamber and advisor to the Empress Maria Theresia. It is said that the inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen introduced several of his inventions, including a speaking machine, in the palace's State Rooms.
Grassalkovich Palace is guarded 24 hours a day by an honor guard who can be seen marching in front of the castle daily by visitors. If you are lucky, you will get to see the changing of the guard which I got to see a little of when I visited Grassalkovich Palace for the first time in September 2001. The second time I saw the guards at Grassalkovich was in June 2002, and I felt bad for the guards in their woolen uniforms marching in the heat with barely any shade.
Grassalkovich Palace is situated in a huge, open park with a Baroque garden that is open to the public, even when the President is in residence. My friend Jana and I went to the Park after a long day of sightseeing in Bratislava to rest and get into some shade to avoid the summer heat and sun. We were lucky to get one of the last benches in the shade and sat down and read our new books that we bought in downtown Bratislava.
There is a fountain with statues of naked nymphs that children can play in, but be careful. I was tempted to wade my feet in the fountain, but didn't want to go back to my friend's house in Trnava soaking wet.
Grassalkovich Palace is located in the Namestie 1 Maja and is best (and safely) reached by walking under the underground passage that connects Namestie Staromietska to Namestie 1 Maja. Grassalkovich Palace is open to the public daily, except when the President is in residence, and the park is open all the time.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 1, 2003
Slovakia's White House--Grassalkovich Palace
Namestie 1 Maja (May 1 Square)
Most of the building on the Michalska Ulica date from the 18th Century and have survived several wars, occupations, and Communist rule, which was notorious for tearing down old, historic buildings throughout then-Czechoslovakia and replacing them with unattractive cell-block like high-rise apartments.
I first saw St. Michael's Gate and Street with friends in September 2001. It was early autumn, but warm, and the Ulica Michalska was still crowded with tourists and locals enjoying a night on the town and sightseeing. I found it one of my favorite things about Bratislava.
The second time I toured Bratislava's main street was with a friend. Her father dropped us off at the beginning of Ulica Michalska at Embassy Row in Bratislava at 7:30 a.m. We walked into the Ulica Michalska, and it was uncrowded and the weather was still cool on this late spring day. My friend and I had the street to ourselves to enjoy and strolled along Ulica Michalska and through St. Michael's Gate while waiting for a grocery store to open so that we could get some breakfast.
The most eeriest place around the Ulica Michalska is the Executioner's Gate (Bastova Ulica). It was where executions took place in Bratislava in old times. According to locals, if you talk while walking through the Bastova Ulica, bad luck will happen to you. My friend said she paid special attention to this superstition, especially during exam time, and I made sure that I shut my mouth while walking through the Bastova Ulica so that I would not have a bad flight home.
I went to the Ulica Michalska for the 3rd time with my then boyfriend. He took me to tour the Museum of Historic Arms in St. Michael's Gate Tower. After seeing many arms dating from Medieval times to the Present, we went out on the balcony on the top floor, where I was greeted with the most spectacular view of Old Town Bratislava and The Castle in the near distance.
Day or night, all seasons, St. Michael's Street and Gate are not to be missed during your trip to Bratislava.
St. Michael's Street and Gate
Attraction | "Bratislava Castle (The Castle)"
Bratislava Castle is known as "the Castle" by locals. During my first visit to Bratislava in September 2001, I only saw the Castle from the Old Town. It was dusk, and the old Castle looked beautiful and imposing over the city of Bratislava from its hilltop home.
I finally got to see the Castle in person twice during my 2002 Slovak sojourn. The first time was with a young friend, Jana. In Bratislava and most of Slovakia, people get dressed up more than we do in the USA. So I dressed up to blend in with the Bratislavans. I wore a pair of dressy 1.5" sandals and with my friend marched up to conquer the Castle. Big mistake! After I returned to my temporary home in Borovce, I cursed sacrificing comfort for beauty and the blisters on my little toes.
To locals, the Castle is known as an "upturned table." It was a Hungarian fort, stronghold, and residence ever since its existence was first published in 907 AD. The Castle towers over Bratislava at 279' (85 M) and overlooks the Danube River.
The Castle's present-day look started to come into existence in the 13th Century when it was remodeled in the Romanesque style. Its present day exterior dates from the 15th century, and the well that drew water from the Danube and was the Castle's only water source still exists and can be seen by visitors.
Bratislava was known as Pressburg during its occupation by the Austrian Hapsburgs and became the capital of the Hapsburg Empire in the 16th Century when the Ottoman Empire had conquered most of the empire but left Pressburg alone. The Castle was then remodeled into the Renaissance Style and its interior was done in the rococo style.
During Maria Theresia's reign, the Castle was given its final remodel in the Baroque Style, and Pressburg and its Castle became a favorite place for Maria Theresia and her family to stay and hold formal ceremonies. Maria Theresia's favorite daughter Maria Christina and her husband, Duke Albert of Sachen-Teschen lived in the castle and its palace.
After Maria Theresia's death in 1780, her son Joseph II moved the Hapsburg Empire's Central Offices to Budapest, and the Castle fell into decay from neglect and war. In 1811, neglectful French soldiers caused a fire in the Castle and destroyed most of it. For over 150 years, the Castle lay in ruins above Bratislava and was going to be torn down by the Communists after 1948. But after talks, it was decided to rebuild the Castle, and construction began in 1953 and continues through today.
A tour of The Castle takes about two hours in order to see everything. The interiors are open from 9am to 5pm daily, and there is a souvenir shop on the grounds.
Above the Bratislava city
Attraction | "The Primate's Palace"
Upon seeing the Primate's Palace in person in July 2002, it reminded me of a giant birthday cake with its neoclassical design and pink and gold marble exterior. I just wanted to add candles and blow!
The Primate's Palace was constructed from 1778 to 1781 and was designed by Hungarian architect Melchior Hefele. It was originally built for the Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary, Cardinal Josef Batthyany. Today, the Primate's Palace is part of the Bratislava City Hall.The Primate's Palace became a favorite place to stay for many members of the Hapsburg family. Leopold II was said to have stayed here in 1790 following his coronation as Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After Bratislava Castle burned down in 1811, many members of the Hapsburg family came to stay at the Primate's Palace whenever they were in town.
A historic event did take place at the Primate's Palace on 26 December 1805, when the Treaty of Pressburg was signed in the Palace's Versailles-like Hall of Mirrors. The treaty followed the Battle of Austerlitz and allowed Napoleon to carve up huge amounts of Hapsburg lands and territories. The Hall of Mirrors and a plaque commemorating the treaty can be seen when visiting the Palace.
The State Rooms of the Primate's Palace are beautiful and contain six tapestries that were buried behind wallpaper until remodeling was done on the Palace in 1903. The tapestries come from Mortlake, England, and date from the mid-16th century.
The sunny courtyard of the Primate's Palace is beautiful with its statue of St. George slaying the dragon. I got to pose with the statue, and it is one of my favorite photos from Bratislava.
The Primate's Palace is open daily, except for holidays and special occasions. There is a small fee to go inside, but it is free to tour the exteriors and the courtyard. Don't miss it.
St. Martin''s Cathedral, built in the 13th century in the Romanesque style, proved too small for Bratislava''s growing population and, in the late 14th century, was replaced by a Gothic cathedral designed by Viennese architect Hans Puchspaum, who was inspired by the hall churches in Swabia, Germany.
The new St. Martin''s Cathedral was consecrated in 1452 and underwent several reconstructions and remodellings in later centuries. The reconstruction included a baroque chapel (1729-1732) and a complete transformation to neo-Gothic architecture (19th century).
From 1563-1830, St. Martin''s Cathedral was the sight of 19 coronations of Austrian-Hungarian Emperors and Empresses. After 1830, the coronations were moved from St. Martin''s to Budapest.
The sights not to miss in St. Martin''s Cathedral are St. Stephen''s Crown, located on the church tower, about 240 feet above town, and the statue of St. Martin and the Beggar sculpted by Viennese artist Raphael Donner between 1733 and1735. The statue used to be the high altar''s centerpiece but it''s now located in the southeastern corner of the nave.
St. Martin''s Cathedral is closed to the public during mass and is only open from 11am to 2pm weekdays. Admission is free, but you must pay for the brochure and postcards located at the cathedral entrance.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 2, 2003
St. Martin's Cathedral