A Day Trip to Bratislava

As part of the Vienna trip, everyone was given a free schedule on Sunday meant for exploring the city on our own; I of course took this opportunity to go to a different country. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is a little over an hour away from Vienna by bus and such a ticket only costs 15 Euro round-trip. Michael and I left in the mid-morning with plans to get back to Vienna around 10pm.

Our first stop in the city was Most SNP, commonly referred to as the UFO bridge. Located at the top is, of course, the restaurant and viewing platform shaped like a flying saucer. We walked across the bridge and then took the elevator (Euro 6.50) up to see the views.

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A view of Most SNP and the Danube River from the castle hill.
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The UFO at twilight.
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Both levels of the Most SNP from underneath.

From the observation deck, you can see as far as 100km in every direction, including into Austria and Hungary. There are also helpful maps on the deck walls identifying buildings and other landmarks.

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A painting of the view from the UFO’s observation deck.
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The view from the observation deck including Bratislava Castle on the right.

After taking some pictures, we walked back across the bridge into the center of Old Town. In the main pedestrian walkway, we found a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish fairy-tale author. It was created by Tibor Bartfay in honour of Anderson’s visit in 1841.

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A sculpture of the Danish fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen.

While walking, we decided it was time for lunch and so picked a nice-looking restaurant on the strip: Zylinder. Michael went with the classic Austrian dish of Wiener Schnitzel while I wanted to try some more traditional Slovakian food. Therefore, I tried “Bryndza” dumplings, traditional Slovak potato dumplings with Ivachnová organic “Bryndza” sheep cheese, sautéed bacon, and sour cream. It reminded me a lot of the German Spätzle or Austrian Kasnocken, just with a stronger and creamier cheese.

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A pitcher of elder-flower and apple lemonade.
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My main meal of “Bryndza” dumplings.

After gaining some energy, we started exploring the Old Town, beginning with what seemed to be the Arts District.

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The Slovakian National Opera House.
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The Slovakian National Symphony Hall.

Bratislava has some interesting sculptures, two of which we encountered while exploring the center of Old Town. The first of these was Čumil, known as one of the most photographed “citizen of Bratislava.” Created by Victor Hulík in 1997, it features an emerging sewage worker at the crossroad of three streets. The other statue was Napoleonec, created by Professor Juraj Meliš. Napoleon and his army spent time in Bratislava in 1805. The soldier portrayed here, Hubert, was supposed to have fallen in love with a local girl and stayed to become a producer of sparkling wine–the name of Slovakia’s most popular sparkling wine brand is named Hubert.

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A close-up of the sewage worker.
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Michael recreating the soldier’s pose.

It wasn’t long before we were ready for another snack. I had read beforehand about the best gelato shop in Bratislava, Koun so we headed there for a sweet treat. The flavours of the day were Sexy Chocolate (both our choices), Vegan Chestnut, Mango, and Lemon Cake.

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The various ice cream cakes sold at Koun.
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A view towards the coffee section of Koun.
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A scoop of the Sexy Chocolate flavour with a Koun waffle cookie.

We then decided to climb up to Bratislava Castle. We took the scenic route through the city streets up to the castle hill.

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An example of one of the many cobbled streets in Bratislava.
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A little alleyway up to the castle walls (though the gate at the top ended up being locked).
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The view of the alley from the other direction.

On our walk, we passed St. Martin’s Cathedral.

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The side of St. Martin’s Cathedral.
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Paintings filling the windows next to the Cathedral.

From the Cathedral, we climbed the many stairs up to the main gate. Built from the ninth century onward, today the castle houses the Slovak National Museum and the rooms of the Slovak National Parliament.

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The Vienna Gate, one of four located around the castle.
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The bronze statue of Svätopluk, remembered as the greatest king of the Great Moravian Empire, in front of Bratislava Castle.

The Castle also provides great views of the city.

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St. Martin’s Cathedral in front of Old Town.

In the back of the Castle lies a baroque garden, reconstructed off the gardens destroyed in the 1811 fire. There is a huge focus on white and the contrast against the plants. I assume the garden is much prettier in the spring and summer when the trees have leaves and the flowers are in bloom.

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The back of Bratislava Castle.
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An overview of the Baroque Garden.
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One of the many cherubs dotted across the Baroque Garden.
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A non-working fountain in the Baroque Garden.

 

Located across from the Baroque Garden is a statue of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. The daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, she was supposedly born in Bratislava. At the age of 14, she married Ludwig IV of Thuringia. It was with him she became associated with Franciscan friars. During the spring of 1226, when floods, famine, and plague hit Thuringia, she gave away alms (including state robes and ornaments) to the poor and built a hospital beneath Wartburg Castle which she visited daily. After her husband’s death, she took vows similar to those of a nun. She died at the age of 24 and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX.

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The statue of Elizabeth of Hungary with her story written on a plaque below.

After walking around the castle grounds, we headed back down the hill the other side. During this walk, we encountered another statue (Statue of the Witch by Tibor Bártfay) and the old city walls.

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The Statue of the Witch on the castle hill.
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The old city walls with St. Martin’s Cathedral in the background.

By the time we got back to the center of old town, we needed a snack again. We discovered Arthur’s Mini Mini Pancakes stand and got ten to share topped with Nutella, bananas, and blueberries. I found these similar to Dutch pancakes, fluffy and slightly doughy in the middle.

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The stand for Arthur’s Mini Mini pancakes.
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The making of the mini pancakes.
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The finished pancake product.

As we ate and walked, we saw some more of the famous buildings in Bratislava. First we saw the Old Town Hall, which was created in the 15th century, though the tower dates from 1350. Today it houses the Bratislava City Museum, founded in 1868. Close by was Michael’s Gate, the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications and ranks among the oldest town buildings. Originally built in 1300, it was reconstructed in 1758 when a statue of St. Michael and the Dragon was placed on top. Today the tower houses Exhibition of Weapons of Bratislava City Museum.

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The Old Town Hall in the heart of the city center.
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The top of Michael’s Gate

It was at this point we decided we had enough time to walk to the famous Blue Church, formally known as the Church of St. Elizabeth. On the way we saw a nice mural of a sleeping fox.

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An example of street art in Bratislava.

Consecrated to Elizabeth of Hungary, the saint previously mentioned before, and built in 1913, it is often referred to as the Blue Church because of the colour of its facade, mosaics, and blue-glazed roof. We weren’t able to go inside, though pictures online show it to continue the blue theme.

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The wall over one of the doors.
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A mirrored mosaic.
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A separate building gated and off to the side.
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An image of St. Elizabeth above one of the doors.
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The Blue Church from a little farther away.
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An abandoned building right across from the perfect-looking church.

Not quite ready for dinner, we decided to walk back to Most SNP and walk along the banks of the Danube. To get there, we passed the Slovak National Gallery which was hosting an exhibit on propaganda during World War II. I wish I would have had more time in the city to see this exhibit.

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The Slovak National Gallery with a poster advertising the propaganda exhibit.

By the time we got to Most SNP, we were feeling a little peckish. Underneath the bridge was a vending machine filled with local cheese products; we decided to try one. It reminded me a lot of the string cheese I would eat growing up.

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The cover of the cheese package, providing a good example of the Slovakian language.
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The twisted cheeses in the package.

We ended up walking for around 45 on the banks of the Danube during twilight, giving us great views of the city.

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A kayaker rowing underneath Most SNP.
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Bratislava Castle lit up in the evening hours.

We headed back to the city after the walk as we needed some dinner. We decided on Flamender in the city center. I chose the house-made noodles with smoked ham, white wine, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes smoked on farmer’s butter with fresh basil and cheese. It was an ok meal, but the highlight was the water I ordered: a lemon and thyme mixture.

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Thyme and lemon water.
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The House-made noodles from Flamender.

It was dark by the time we were finished eating and basically time to head back to the bus station. On the slow walk back we saw some laser lights directed at Michael’s Gate, but never figured out what the purpose was.

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A green laser light hitting Michael’s Gate.

I really loved Bratislava and think a day was the perfect amount of time. A much smaller capital, the old town was easily walked around and it felt very friendly and calm everywhere. I also greatly enjoyed all the foods I got to try.

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