Episode 99 – Postcards from Bratislava 2013

NOTE: These travel pictures are from travels prior to us becoming nomadic in 2018. Like most of the world, we are staying put right now until the threat from COVID19 is either over or preventable via a vaccine.

Bratislava was one of our more “interesting” river cruise stops. Located on both banks of the Danube between stunning Vienna and spectacular Budapest, arguably two of the most beautiful cities in the world, we were underwhelmed by the city itself…. but completely fascinated by the stories our local guide shared.

The streets were empty compared to everywhere else we had visited on our tour, but tourism was growing. Note the red “tourist train”; not quite a hop-on-hop-off bus, but it got the job done!

Bratislava Castle (below). A major reconstruction was set to be completed not long after our visit; we were not able to tour the interior, nor was the garden yet replanted to look like photos now found on the internet.

The Neo-Renaissance style old Slovak National Theatre building, with Ganymede’s Fountain in the foreground, was quite beautiful. According to our guide, the sculpted busts of famous composers adorning the theatre’s entrance were removed during Soviet rule, and replaced with busts of Stalin, Marx, and Lenin. (I could not find anything to substantiate that).

(Above) Maximilian’s Fountain.

(Below) The wall of one of the old town residences, with an imbedded cannonball from the Napoleonic Wars. Homes which had been hit by cannon fire were eligible for financial reparations after the war; apparently a few enterprising citizens “installed” cannonballs found on the ground in their walls in order to claim their share.

The “Man at Work” statue erupting from the sidewalk was unique – and a bit of a trip hazard!

Looking across the Danube from our vantage point at the castle, we had a view of row upon row of the Soviet-built housing, made of concrete panels. Note the rows of uniform square windows and absence of balconies. Apartments were assigned on a strict square footage per person basis, to be “fair” under communist rules. Interestingly, government officials and officers in the military lived in relative luxury in detached homes and historic apartments. Our guide told us about her childhood in a family of 4 living in a 3 room, roughly 600 square foot, apartment in a building that, like most, had no elevators. She was “fortunate” that her grandparents were not alive, and so did not share their space. She remembered having no access to international radio or television, and being told via Soviet broadcasts that life in nearby communist Budapest was exactly the same as their own, and that people in Vienna had no better life than theirs. It was only after the breakup of the soviet union that she realized that Budapest had been used as a showcase city, with significantly better living conditions, and Vienna was a completely different world altogether. Her anger had not diminished and came through quite clearly during our guided tour.

Based on our experience in 2013, we would not hurry back to Bratislava, but, looking at more recent pictures from other travellers, we might just reconsider.

6 comments

  1. Your description of Bratislava- Soviet rule brought back memories of stories that I have heard regarding the so called Soviet communistic government which had two sets of rules, standards & advantages for the privileged government officials which contrasted severely with the “masses”. And life is not that much better even in today’s climate for the general masses. It is no wonder that the citizens there wear such glum expressions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really miss Bratislava, 2020 will be the first time since my first visit in 2012 that I have not been able to plan a trip to the city. I can really recommend you to reconsider a visit after the pandemic, but I must say that I preferred the Bratislava of 2012 and 2013 for some weird reason 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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