Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bratislava, Slovakia

The 13th and final country on our European adventure turned out to be Slovakia, though only because Vienna and the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, are the two closest European capitals. They're separated by only about 50 miles or around an hour train ride. We couldn't pass up the chance to jump off from Vienna (sometimes called the "Gateway to the East") to go east behind the former iron curtain - always fascinating - another time (previous times being Prague and East Berlin).

Bratislava borders both Austria and Hungary and is split by the Danube, which as you'll recall from the last post was bursting from its shores at the time of our visit. At right you see the Nový Most ("New Bridge") straddling the river, with its famous "UFO" restaurant on top.

Laura and I didn't have any significant plans for Bratislava other than to walk around, get a feel for the place, and take advantage of cheap Eastern European food and drink. (On that note, Slovakia just recently converted to the Euro in January.) We briefly walked up the hill to Bratislava Castle, which provided an excellent view of the city. Below you see the spire of St. Martin's Cathedral.

St. Martin's Cathedral

The view also afforded us a glimpse of the many identical Soviet-era panelák (or panel buildings) on the other side of the Danube. These are pre-fabricated concrete buildings that provide a hideous addition to many city skylines in the former Eastern Bloc. You can find a picture of Slovak panelák on Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, the old parts of Bratislava were very attractive and inviting. Below you see Michael's Gate (at center), built around 1300. The streets were lined with sidewalk cafes and people happily enjoying the sunny weather.

Michael's Gate

We also stumbled by a market for artisans and those hocking tourist swag during out walk through the city (seen below).

Small Market

This statue of a jovial Napoleonic soldier was a favorite of ours. He's like an old chum when you lean over the bench with him, but he's just a creepy Frenchman when he is leaning over your shoulder.

Napoleonic Soldier

You can find more pictures from Bratislava at Flickr.

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