Friday, July 28, 2017

Bratislava Byways

One of the first things we saw when we docked at Bratislava was a UFO.
UFO Bridge
Actually it’s a restaurant on a bridge that looks like a flying saucer. Slovakia, where Bratislava is located, became its own country in 1993 and has been on its way to establishing itself as a world leader in economics and politics. To that end it has participated in the European Union, NATO, the Eurozone, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Although this is a very forward looking country, it has not lost its links to its past. The area we visited was just as charming as the other small towns we saw along the Danube.

The several archaeological finds near present-day Bratislava show the area has been inhabited from 25 to 15 million years ago with permanent
Left T to B: Bratislava Castle, Old Walls
Right: Holy Column
Neolithic settlements just on the edge of town. There is even an Eneolithic fortified settlement where the medieval Bratislava Castle was built. The city continued to thrive through the rule of the Celts, who actually built a mint in the town, the Romans, who built baths, and the Slavs who built the next Bratislava Castle. Trade increased from 1000 through the 1200s, as did battles for the area; for centuries Hungary loses and reclaims this area many times. The 18th century marked the rising of the Slovak National Revival and Bratislava becomes one of the important centers of cultural revival. Unfortunately, the city was hit with the plague which killed almost 4000 people. Once this epidemic ended, the Holy Trinity column was built in thanksgiving.  This ushered in a time of economic growth, expansion (the town walls are demolished in 1775), and the beginnings of art appreciation.

Religion and education were on the rise throughout Bratislava’s history
Top L to R: Chapel, St Martin's
Bottom L to R: Lion with snake, Stained glass
and the General Seminary for Catholic clergy was housed in the Bratislava Castle. This began the standardization of the Slovak language. With the arrival of the Royal Academy, in 1787, the ‘Department of Czechoslovak Speech and Literature’ was created. The arts and sciences also claim the city as home because of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1820s) and Franz Liszt. But back to the 14th Century: built into the city’s defensive walls in 1311 was Saint Martin’s Cathedral. It took until 1877 to finally finish construction, but the gothic chapels and baroque sanctuary were attractive and important enough to become the site of several coronations. As always I found the stained glass windows appealing, particularly those around the sanctuary. There were some really great carvings within the Cathedral. My favorite was the dragon, but unfortunately I never got a good picture of it.

And of course, I was enamored with the public art. Bratislava has lots of statues, most of which I didn’t get to see. However, I did spot three
Top L to R: The Watcher, Hans Christian Anderson
Bottom L to R: Ignac Lamar, Hubert and Cynthia
famous statues as we strolled through town, as well as several others. One was ‘The Watcher’, although there is also a sign naming him ‘Man at Work’. This happy little guy appears to be watching the world go by from his spot in a man hole – the stories he could tell! Another is Ignac Lamar; he is said to have loved a woman who scorned him so he gave flowers to random women on the street. I’m not sure I like the story, but I did like the statue. Napoleon and his army were in Bratislava in 1805 and one of his men stayed. He was in love with a local girl and together they produced sparkling wine that bears his name: Hubert. I would have loved to have found the rest of the statues hiding in Old Town, but we had to go back to the ship.

Our last stop on this trip was Budapest – another place I’d never been. That’s the topic of my next blog!
Top L to R: Franz Liszt's house, Cute couple
Bottom L to R: Sprinkler for humans, What to drink
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