Enigmatical Bratislava

The Old Town leading up to Micheal`s Gate

Spring in The Old Town

Bratislava Castle
The main Bratislava castle is a mix of 13th, 16th and 17th century elements with a mixture between Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque components. Furthermore because of the important location at the center of Europe between the Carpathian Mountains and the alps and its proximity to the Danube as well as trade routes from the Balkans,  the castle location has been an important site for 3500 BC where there have been settlements from the Boleraz culture and which was part of the Baden culture.
Later in 450 BC to 5th Century AD the Celts and Romans, realised the importance of this location as a perfect intersection.  Leading to the predecessors of present day Slovaks, Great Moravia became a powerful tribal area at the center of Europe where Slovak king reigned.
In front of the castle, the bronze statue of Svatopluk I of Moravia 867–870 stands proud, whose empire encompassed the whole or parts of the territory of modern Slovakia.  It´s clear that he has become a symbol of the Slovak king, reinforced by literary works of the 18th century.
 Wandering back to the Old Town from the castle I found myself right outside the Museum of Jewish Culture in Slovakia.  Stepping inside I was greeting by a dark entrance that immediately told the history of the rise of Nazisim in Slovakia, the concentration camps with poignant photographs of victims and names of the resistance and Nazisim`s final defeat. 
 Inside there was an array of portraits of Rabbis that died as well as thriving Jewish life in the 20´s after the second world war, the rise of Jewish press and publishers and political and strong community life.  There was an opportunity to see the vast array of synagogues that stood strong and proud before their destruction.  There was a contemporary exhibition as well.  This one painting caught my eye and reminded me of the memorial in Vienna.  Entering a room full of books, but those books are inaccessible.  Being denied access to knowledge and subsequently the agency to make one`s own choice and meaning in life is inhumane. Never again.
 Having tried the Yiddish Latkes (from the Russian/Ukrainian word латка) in Austria for Hannukah, I was delighted to find a sweet version in a banquet hall near Bratislava Old town, where the Velvet Revolution took place in 1986.  A slide show of soldiers and citizens meeting in the square outside looped as I devoured the poppy seed Latkes.

 For our Meet'n'learn team meeting we found a young and vibrant cafe within a bookshop and quenched our thirst with homemade lemonade aid with ginger.  On the walls of the rest room, there are hundreds of books with empty spines.  I took a pen out of my bag and like many others, made my contribution by inscribing "The Dubliners", by James Joyce citing the current novel I am reading, adding to the ever growing collection.  What a great way to encourage reading, I pondered as I left the rest room.

 Back in The Old Town at night outside the Alter Rathaus or Town Hall, quirky modern sculptures pepper the square as workers stroll back to their homes and tourists amble aimlessly in between the Gothic and Austro-Hungarian Majestic ambience.
 Luckily my colleagues at Meet'n'Learn were able to give me the historical insights into Bratislava, so that I didn`t miss a thing.  Here at the top of the city lay the soldiers that freed Slovakia from Nazisim, a peaceful site with views of the old and new town and its teeming lights.

 Walking through the Town Hall`s Gothic archway you reach The Primatial Palace is built in the Classicist style in 1778.  Another one of Bratislava`s important historical sites where most notably there was the signing of the Peace of Bratislava following Napoleon's victory over Austria-Hungary at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.  Its grand stature dominates the square, seemingly calling for you to stand in awe of its historical importance, nestling closely to its more subdued and secretive Altes Rathaus neighbour, that houses whispers of political meanderings within. 

Bratislava is a hidden gem, full of Gothic majesty and delight...secrets hide behind ornate wrought iron gates and remnants of glorified communism, mix with Austro-Hungarian elegance.  Bookstore cafes full of Millennials are dappled in between diverse intersecting historical sites, sipping on homemade ginger mix drinks and organic wellness food, greeting each other like one big family in this tight knit community.  The importance of Bratislava can be felt just by meandering through the city, and yet it still stands as such an unknown gem nestled between its bigger brothers of Austria,  Hungary, Czech republic, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.  Having just scratched the surface of Slovakia, it´s awakened my curiosity to explore its inner depths and fairy tales hidden and still beyond my reach.