Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bratislava (Pozsony in Hungarian and Pressburg in German), is the capital and largest city in the Slovak Republic.  It has a population of almost 415,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country. Bratislava has a medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets.

Outside the old town are communist-era buildings; a prime example is the Petrzalka housing estate, the biggest Communist-era concrete block housing complex in Central Europe. The complex stretches on endlessly just across the river. This complex is quite noticeable from the autobahn, as it is extremely large and painted many different pastel colors. I was not able to get a picture, but I will the next time I am in Bratislava. Petzalka is connected to Bratislava by bridge. We walked across the bridge seen in the picture below, as there is a shopping mall called Autopark there.( I hate being the typical American who needs a mall, but I needed to get a Slovakian Sim card for my phone, and my son ended up eating at McDonalds, of all places). This was, of course, our very first day.  In fact, we had just arrived off the plan 2 hours before.

Apparently, this housing district is the most densely populated residential in Europe. According to the all knowing wikipedia, most people live in blocks of flats (called panelaks), that are concrete panels joined together.  At one time. the area was called the Bronx of Bratislava because of the high crime rate.

Panoramic View from the Castle (Hrad)
The old town was really neat. What I found interesting was that the old town used to be accessed by going over a moat!.  Below is a picture of the famous gate and the plaque on the ground in front of it (which was quite nicely translated into English!).

My 10-year old at Michalska Gate
Here is some history of Bratislava. After the fall of the Great Moravian Empire, Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10th century until the end of the First World War.

Between 1939 and 1944, Slovakia was a Nazi-controlled state.  The country was pro-nazi, therefor escaped much destruction.  (Apparently there was an upraising towards the end of the war, but I need to investigate that. This fact was told to me by a Slovak walking his dog across the bridge in the picture above, and it was the first I had heard about any anti-Nazi sentiment.)  Regardless, after WWII the country was taken over by the Soviets to recreate Czechoslovakia, albiet a pro-Soviet and Communist country. This lasted until the fall of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, (Velvet Revolution) of 1989. Then, in 1993 the dissolution of Czechoslovakia created two separate and independent nations: the Czech Republic, and Slovak Republic.

I shall write on the Bratislava Castle in a future blog entry. It has been inhibited since the stone ages! The day we were there, we could not get close to the main building due to construction.


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