We had a night and a day to check out Bratislava, a cute little city full of beauty and juxtaposition.Old town, new town, historic grandeur, utilitarian communism, grand castles and futuristic UFO bridge.
Bratislava has it all.
These were a few of our favourite and curious aspects of Bratislava that we enjoyed:
The view from the castle.
There is no better place in Bratislava to view the historical divide and juxtaposition of Bratislava than that from the castle. The castle is a 10-15min walk up the gentle rise from town into the castle’s free grounds to explore. Here you are granted a view of Bratislava’s quaint historic district, with it’s overlooking castle, terracotta red roofs, the shining gold bell tower of St. Martins before you shift your gaze across river to view its intriguing War of the Worlds-esque UFO bridge, the fluming smoke of factories, the jigsaw of utilitarian communist accomodation and its vast network of windmills. Its like a visual timeline of the city from left to right. Quite a sight to see!
Reading about St. John the Merciful and seeing the Crypt in St. Martin’s church
St. Martins church, whose bell tower is topped with a golden crown resting upon a golden pillow, is a site of great historical importance having been the coronation spot of 11 different monarchs over its history. While the church is mainly plain inside there were a couple of interesting things to see in here. In particular reading the story of St. John the Merciful who took the eradication of poverty seriously (no further spoiler alerts here – go see if for yourself) & a piece of glass flooring which reveals the buried bone remains of 3 people 3 metres below. A quirky experience worth the donation entry.
Hearing of peculiar (and eyebrow raising) Easter and Christmas traditions.
Slovakia has the craziest and most eyebrow raising easter and christmas traditions that I’ve heard of to-date.
During the Easter celebrations it is traditional for the friends and families of women to chase them down to 1) ‘lightly hit them’ with willow branches and to 2) throw a bucket of water over them. It was explained that folk legend had it that by hitting them with the branches you were transferring the beauty of the willow tree (considered beautiful – nothing sarcastic) into that person and by throwing water over them you were watering that beauty like you would a flower. The women are thereby flattered by this that it is customary for them to reward the friend/family member with chocolate or alcohol. This seemed pretty controversial/unacceptable to us but the locals seem to enjoy it? Its it however interesting to note that just a couple of days ago before arriving here we’d read an article saying many believe Slovak women to be the amongst the most beautiful in the world? Either way, weird to us.
At christmas time it is not Santa who delivers the presents (although they do have Santa day on the 6th of December where Santa fills children shoes with either treats if they’ve been nice, or vegetables if they’ve been naughty) but the baby Jesus? I can understand Jesus as a gift to the world, but Jesus delivering gifts seems like something potentially lost in translation! Furthermore, the traditional Christmas meal is river caught carp, which is kept alive in the family bathtub until Christmas. I promise I’m not making this up.
Trying out the local cheese laden specialities
Local dishes include garlic soup in bread bowls (delicious), fried cheese on fries, and fried sheep cheese topped with bacon crackling upon potato gnocchi. Separately, and in moderation with veggies, these dishes are very tasty but I would not reccomend eating them all in one sitting as its all rather rich!
Venturing into a grungy Atomic Bunker Bar.
On our first night we ventured out into a grungy electro bar called SubClub that is located below the castle in what we’re told is an old atomic bunker (don’t quote me on that). Its a little off the beaten track and requires a little section of walking alongside a motorway on ramp but is quite an experience. It feels like a place villains in a bond movie would meet in secret, lowly lit, full of smoke, conversation kept secret by the throbbing beat surrounded by ravers. Definitely an experience, but overall not really our cup of tea.