A short and very sweet visit to Bratislava

Our good friend Viktoria is from Slovakia, so on our tour of Central Europe we took a short daytrip to Bratislava, the capital city. We were fortunate to arrive in October 2018 as the city and country were remembering the centennial of the separation from the Hungarian Empire to form the country of Czechoslovakia in 1918 (after World War I) and the 50-year anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion (by the Soviet Union) of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

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Today’s Slovakian flag is only 26 years old, dating from the separation of Czechia and Slovakia.

The country and the city have seen great turmoil within our generation. In fact, if you’re as old as we are you might remember this photograph of a brave soul in Šafárikovo Square resisting one of the 2,000 tanks of invading troops on August 21, 1968. Unlike the young man facing a tank in TianAnMen Square in 1989, this man, Emil Gallo, was gunned down on the spot.

Photograph of Šafárikovo Square from an outdoor photo exhibit in Bratislava commemorating the events of 1968.

By 1989, Communist rule in Czechoslovakia ended. In 1993, Slovakia and the Czech Republic became two separate countries.

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Šafárikovo Square during our visit in 2018.

Small reminders and memorials are scattered throughout the city.

Remembering several of the martyrs of the August 1968 event. “Here in the fire of Soviet occupation, their lives were snuffed out.” Note that one was only 15 years old.

This statue honors Bulgarian partisans from earlier conflicts.

“Who falls in the struggle for freedom, does not die. To the heroic Bulgarian partisans who gave their lives for our freedom.”

We know about the Holocaust in Germany, but sometimes forget that many people were impacted across Europe.

Outside an earlier synagogue, this statue honors the 105,000 Slovakian Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Bratislava today is one of the most beautiful cities on the Danube River, with a modern business center and charming Old Town.

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The UFO Bridge in Bratislava over the Danube. Notice that it stands securely with no pillars in the river!

As we walked from the train station we passed Grassalkovich Palace, the home of the Slovakian president. Although it is late in the year, the large gardens still had plenty of beautiful color.

Bright begonias in Bratislava

Almost looks like lavender…

Bratislava Castle is a striking figure on top of the hill overlooking the city. Although the site has been occupied for thousands of years and protected with multiple fortresses, castles became passé in the 1800s and this one fell out of use. Fortunately, a restoration starting in 2008 has brought it back to its former glory.

Bratislava Castle, impressive white fortress on a hill

King Svatopluk I ruled this area of Greater Moravia in the 800s. Now he guards Bratislava Castle on his horse.

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King Svatopluk could never have imagined today’s Bratislava. Note all the windmills beyond the city too.

Like our other Old Town experiences, Bratislava has plenty of shopping, tourists, cafés and very old buildings. Michael’s Gate and Tower are about 1,300 years old, part of the fortification for the city that remains from medieval days.

There is actually a dragon at the top of Michael’s Tower.

Speaking of cafés, on to our dining experiences…First we had the national dish of Slovakia: Bryndzové Halušky. It is a potato dumpling like gnocchi, but smaller. Then it’s smothered in sheep’s cheese and sprinkled with bacon and scallions.

Better than mac and cheese. Yummy!

Continuing our journey eating cakes, we found an excellent cake shop in the Old Town, Konditorei Kormuth. We expected it to be good as we saw the bakers hard at work out front.

Konditorei Kormuth, Bratislava

Inside are cakes “made with love.” They are treats for the eyes and tastebuds. Not only do the cakes look and taste lovely, but they are also served on elegant porcelain china.

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Both cakes were great, but it is hard to beat chocolate and blueberry.

View the cake shop gallery. It is very difficult to choose just one cake. They are all works of art (like the cakes Viktoria makes!)

The whole elegant porcelain china pattern continues, whimsically, in other areas.

Yes, this is a urinal. And isn’t it beautiful?

We almost felt that we had been here before.

Squint a bit. Couldn’t this be Liz, Chris, and Pat in their younger days?

Zbohom from Slovakia.

(Bratislava was a midpoint of our Central Europe trip. We’ll catch up on other cities in future posts.)

 

 

 

 

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