Sailing out of Budapest was once again a very beautiful experience, especially moving slowly past the incredibly beautiful and imposing Hungarian Parliament building.
As evening fell so did the temperature and we awoke the next morning to a very cold (7degC) and wet Bratislava. Initially, the boat docked at a berth where some items were taken off and then we moved up 4 berths where the boat would stay until 6pm. Much as we might have liked to stay inside with a good book, when travelling to see the world the only time not to go out is if there is a life-threatening situation. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these travellers from the discovery of their chosen ports of call” (with apologies to the mailmen of the US).
General Millan Rastislav Stefanik
We, just like other tourists, cannot do anything about the weather but we can decide to take the attitude of, ‘whatever the weather, we will make the best of it’. Should you have a disability or other issue which might change your form of getting around due to the weather, find out from you tour leader how to arrange something suitable. When we returned in the afternoon a few people, who were able but had chosen to keep warm, expressed disappointment in their decision not to go out at all. Although Etienne de Grellet’s comment was about courtesy, the opening words can have relevance for us, “I shall pass this way but once …”
So on went the warm clothes and rain jackets with hoods and off we went. One enters the city, which is in the very centre of Europe, at the Old Town which is significantly smaller than those we had seen in other cities. The reason for this is that Queen Maria Theresa, as Holy Roman Empress of the Austrian Empire which included Slovakia, arranged for much of it to be destroyed and rebuilt according to her requirements. What we did see though was very interesting.
Entrance to the Children’s Art Museum
A very narrow steet from the Square
Memorial to Jewish victims
On the way to the main town square we came to a smaller square which had beautifully decorated buildings on 3 sides, the main entrance to St Martin’s Cathedral and a most unusual design monument to the victims of a backlash on the Jewish population in 1939 when the Slovak state was created. Up to 14 000 were sent to deportation camps at that time and then in the 1970s, during the National Uprising, the rest of the Jewish Quarter of was destroyed.
Side and steeple of the Cathedral
Information on the Jewish Community
Picture of part of the Jewish Quarter
Lookout Tower on suspension bridge as seen from old castle wall
We walked down the road past a number of curio and food shops and arrived in the very large main square in the centre of which was Maximilian’s Fountain, named after King Maximilian who made a large contribution for it to be built in 1572. In the centre of the fountain is a 10.5m high column on the top of which is a sculpture of a knight, believed to be Knight Roland who was a legendary defender of Bratislava. We walked around the busy square just taking in the atmosphere even though it was raining, but only lightly. Various buildings, including the old Town Hall from the 1400s, the French and Japanese Embassies and Trinity Church besides shops and other administrative buildings surrounded the square.
Holocaust Arch leading from the town square
Clever advertising for a restaurant
Town Hall with decorated tiled roof
Up a hill off the square is Michael’s Gate, the only remnant of the original town fortifications. It was originally built in the 1300s but was reconstructed in Baroque style under Maria Theresa’s reign with a statue of Michael & a dragon being placed at the top. On the road at the entrance to the Gate was a brass circle representing the circumference of the earth. At various points around the circle were the names of places around the world showing distances from Bratislava. It even included Pretoria!
Entrance to St Michael’s Gate with brass compass on the floor
Part if the compass showing Athens, Pretoria, South Pole and Rome
We eventually found the Tourist Information (TI) which we always like to pop into just to learn about the place wherever we are. We had also been looking and asking for a public toilet but no luck. When we asked the TI we were told to “go out the door and down the street”. With 2 doors and 3 possible streets from which to choose, we went the way that he appeared to point. WRONG! We went past the old market and up a street with modern shops at the top of which was a sign to the toilet. We went in that direction and were back at the TI. Back inside we went and were told by another fellow to go in the opposite direction and that was RIGHT. We found a very clean and modern facility costing just .30Euros.
Once relieved we made our way up to the Bratislava Castle which, as always, was right on top of a hill. We had been told to go through the arch and up the steps. On the way we passed a number of buildings in very poor state of repair. Much of the damage could be seen to be as a result of war – shell damage etc – but most simply because they have been either abandoned or not repaired probably due to costs. They were clearly former Socialist buildings and many had been abandoned after 1990 once people were able to travel beyond the country’s borders. After Budapest which has been so upgraded and rebuilt seeing these buildings was almost eerie. We also saw the narrowest street in the city and the back of St Martin’s Cathedral where there is a tiny chapel.
Part of the old castle wall
Ruins of the old castle
A part of the Castle gardens
Castle gates with path to the river
When we were advised to go ‘up the steps’ I don’t remember being told up 500 steps but we did so and were very glad that we did. The gardens were beautiful. The actual castle had also been reconstructed in baroque style by Maria Theresa and seemed very bland but with extra facades and statues of Hungarian Horse Riders holding their skirts up to each side gave the place quite a regal look. The views of the city and the river from there were quite stunning. Due to limited time we did not go into the castle but spent a good 20mins just enjoying the view.
The Witch with flowing hair
Visitors’ entrance via a part of the old castle
Front of the Castle with statue of Svatopluk I of Moravia
The other wonderful thing that we saw from the high point was a much easier way back down to the river and our boat. It was a ramp without stairs until the very bottom. What a relief.