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.
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.
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.
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.
After gaining some energy, we started exploring the Old Town, beginning with what seemed to be the Arts District.
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.
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.
We then decided to climb up to Bratislava Castle. We took the scenic route through the city streets up to the castle hill.
On our walk, we passed St. Martin’s 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.
The Castle also provides great views of the city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We ended up walking for around 45 on the banks of the Danube during twilight, giving us great views of the city.
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.
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.
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.