My announcement of a four day stay in Bratislava has met with bemusement and interrogation from friends and strangers alike with some travel forums advising travellers to limit their stay to one day here. 'The consensus seemed to be that the city was worth a visit for an afternoon or so – perhaps as a day trip from Vienna, to tick ‘Slovakia’ off your list of world countries.' https://www.thecrowdedplanet.com/ and the Austrian couple I met whilst dancing in the park in Vienna (that's another blog - stay tuned) urged a day trip to Prague from Bratislava - only 2 hours each way, they said, such was their horror at the thought of me spending 4 days in Bratislava.I guess that challenges me even more to prove them wrong. And my first day and evening have proven just that. My home-exchange apartment has provided me with an ideally located central position with old town cafes and clubs to one side of me, a 6 minute walk to the Danube and the SP (UFO or Bridge of Slovak National Uprising Bridge.
Today, without knocking myself out too much as it was relatively hot at 28 degrees (yes it does get hot in Europe in Spring), I walked to see:
The Blue Church
SNP Bridge (Bridge of Slovak National Uprising)
Slovak Technical University
Slovensky rozhlas (Building of Slovak Broadcasting)
and of course there were many other interesting churches, castles and soviet sculptures and buildings along the way too numerous to mention. Here's a bit on each in no particular order that hopefully relate to the photos I've uploaded:
The Blue Church or The Church of St. Elizabeth is a Hungarian Secessionist (Jugendstil, Art Nouveau) Catholic church located in the eastern part of the Old Town in Bratislava, present day Slovakia. It is referred to as "The Little Blue Church" because of the colour of its façade, mosaics, majolicas and blue-glazed roof. It was initially part of the neighboring gymnázium (high school) and served as the school chapel. I saw the school along the way and was fascinated by the architecture (see pics on the blog) without realising it was designed by the same architect: Ödön Lechner and was built from 1909—1913.
Námestie Slobody or Freedom Square may on the surface appear ugly and derelict; graffiti covers many of the stairs and surfaces, there is no water in the fountain and weeds grow through the many steps leading you in or out of the Square from numerous angles - it's not really a square but a multifaceted octagon with a large steel flower sculpture (which weighs 12 tons) as the central focal point. Even its name -Freedom Square – sounds very socialist. And the fountain is entitled the Fountain of Union (Slovak: Fontána Družby); it was built from 1979 to 1980 by sculptors Juraj Hovorka, Tibor Bártfay, Karol Lacko and architects Virgil Droppa and Juraj Hlavica. It is the biggest fountain in Bratislava and in the whole Slovak Republic. But there's more than meets the eye:
The fountain features an underground tunnel and a relatively large machine room, located underneath the fountain. Due to water continually entering the underground control spaces because of lack of maintenance after the fall of Communism in 1989, the technological and electrical parts of the fountain are severely damaged. The hydroisolation of the basin is damaged as well. So no water has run since 2007 and it is deemed too expensive to fix.
Slovensky rozhlas (Building of Slovak Broadcasting)
Just a street apart from the Freedom Square, is another unique architectural design, the building of the Slovak Radio, also called the Pyramid. It was referred as “the building of the century” because its construction took a very long time. The project was established in 1967 already and the building was finished only in 1983! Its second nickname is the “iron fist of the regime.” Its architecture is very original as it is built in the shape of a reversed pyramid. The material of the construction is mainly steel.
The first experimental broadcasting was started in 1984 and a year later the broadcasting became regular. It also contains an excellent concert hall with one of the biggest organs in Slovakia. Many classical or alternative music performances still take place here.
Sad Janka Kráľa Park
Sad Janka Kráľa is a park that was founded in 1774-76 with the idea of creating the first park for the general public. The park was built on the right bank of the Danube on the floodplain forest. The influence of the Baroque classicism created an eight-pointed star of the slopes along which the trees were later planted. Sternallee (Hviezdicova alja) named Sternallee according to the arrangement of the sidewalks. Like many of Bratislava's spaces, I found the park strangely empty; it was the antithesis to Central Park in New York City!
Panelaky in Petržalka (concrete apartment buildings in Petrzalka) (viewed from the SNP Bridge observatory tower)
The Petržalka borough, is sometimes nicknamed the Bronx of Bratislava, but as a fan of Brutalism, their repetitive geometric coloured shapes are now seen as having architectural significance; having just experienced Le Corbusier's Cité radieuse, Marseille, I can appreciate the beauty. This is considered the largest concentration of rough concrete high-rise housing units across the landscape of a Central Europe formerly under communist control. The Slovak name of this functionalistic apartment building is “panelak”, having its roots in a technical compound term for “panel house”. Panelaky were rapidly assembled and cheaply built to solve a post-World War II housing crisis. At the same time, they also expressed a basic aspect of Soviet ideology, providing egalitarian habitat for humanity. The idea was to build as many apartments as possible taking up the smallest possible area. Construction activities started in 1973 and the first panelak was ready for moving in in 1977.