Last month’s photo gallery focused on the beauty of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, part of three weeks spent exploring pint-sized Slovenia, which, in terms of value per square mile, features perhaps the most bang for your buck than anywhere else in Europe.
That trip was tackled onto the end of a thrilling African adventure that included safaris in Kenya and Uganda, and my summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, arguably my finest travel moment. But after all of that, I still wasn’t sated. From Slovenia, I embarked by train to see one last place, the Old City of Bratislava, Slovakia.
The centuries-old Danube River city languished during several decades of Communism as second fiddle to Bohemian Prague, when it was dismissed by many travelers and world leaders as little more than a mere dot on the map that was Czechoslovakia. Bratislava is thriving again, this time as the capital of independent Slovakia, one of the first “Eastern” countries to adopt the Euro as its official currency.
In the picture above, shoppers and trolleys ply commercial Ulica Obchodna, which leads into the heart of the Old City.
Contrast the bustle of the previous image to the tranquility of this picture of a cobblestone street just a few blocks from Ulica Obchodna. Also notice the late afternoon sky, which finds the sun battling slow-moving storm clouds.
The rain ultimately prevailed, but didn’t last long. The street lamps reflecting off of the wet stones made for evocative strolling.
Parts of Bratislava are downright quirky. Take this paparazzi statue, for instance. It is one of several bizarre, sculpted oddities.
Another oddity, and supposedly the city’s most-photographed sight, is “The Watcher.”
This street performer attempts to cash in on the photographic fever…but is he fooling anyone?
I stayed in a hostel, not far from the train station, that had a basement bar themed after the horror movie “Hostel,” which was set in (but not filmed in) Bratislava. The 20-minute walk from the hostel to the Old City passed the current presidential residence, Grassalkovich Palace.
As is the case in many other European cities, public squares serve as open-air gathering places, and typically feature fountains, sidewalk cafes, and have churches doubling as backdrops. Hlavne Nam Square is perhaps Bratislava’s loveliest plaza…
…and it is even lovelier at night.
Bratislava Hrad (Castle), so vibrant in the first picture in today’s entry, towers over the rest of the city from atop a hill that was once topped by Celtic and Moravian settlements. Post-Moravia but pre-Czechoslovakia, Hungarian royalty was crowned here, and the city’s glory days – centuries, really – found it flourishing as the de facto capital of the Kingdom of Hungary.
The castle Treasury today functions as a museum, and its climate-controlled gallery displays shelf-after-shelf of gold and silver ostentatiousness. The city’s biggest church, St. Michael’s Cathedral, features even more riches on display.
I rather like this shot of the castle’s approach from lower Old Town.
“UFO Bridge” is what locals affectionately call Most Slovenského národného povstania (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising), for obvious reasons.
Check out the view from the top!
A rather striking contrast, the view in the opposite direction is of Petrzalka, a sprawling borough of Communist-era apartment blocks, an ugly scar on the landscape but commonplace in big cities throughout the former Soviet bloc. (GringoPotpourri note: this picture was taken not from the UFO Bridge but from Parliament Hill, east of Bratislava Hrad.)
The Slovak National Theatre, a Baroque gem just one block inland from the river.
Russian soldiers posing for a picture along a Danube River walk, just east of the Slovak National Theatre.
Last light in Bratislava. Time well spent.
All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.