Charmed by Bratislava (3)

Hope that the first and second parts sparked your interest in Bratislava. So here’s the rest of the story from my journey.

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The “Train”

While on the walking tour, we reached this very interesting bronze sculpture. The guide revealed that it was the statue of Hans Christian Anderson, the famous Danish author of the unforgettable stories which you might have also read as kids (remember Thumbelina, Little Mermaid, Ugly Duckling, Emperor’s New Clothes?)  who loved being in Bratislava and spent a lot of time there. You can see the sculpture with the characters from his stories. There used to also be a goose near the foot but sadly, someone stole it away!

 

There were some souvenir shops shaped like huts, like at so many other tourist places. The interesting thing here was that these huts had lovely sketches of how the city looked in the past, on their tops!

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Sketches on top of Souvenir Huts

Now, those who know the history of the erstwhile Czekoslovakia, would know about the Prague Spring. It was when Alexander Dubcek (pronounced Dubcheck) tried to introduce some economic and political reforms for the people of Czekoslovakia. The country came under the domination of Soviet Union in the aftermath of  the second world war and hence had a Communist regime. This “Spring” lasted from Jan to August 1968 and then the Soviets invaded the country and took over the control from Dubcek. There are a few iconic photos that became the channel for spreading the news of that invasion beyond the iron curtain.  It sounds quite improbable in this day and age that the western world wouldn’t have known about this for a long time, had it not been for those photos being smuggled out of the country! One such photographer was Ladislav Bielik who actually was a sports photographer, but who captured the picture below (and may be several others) and immediately went to the magazine’s office where he worked, developed the photos and came back and started handing them over to the people who had western passports so that they could take these photos with them and let the rest of the world know about it! Due to this action of his, the news was known in the countries on the other side of the iron curtain within two-three days of this event happening instead of weeks/months that would have been the case otherwise! There was another iconic photographer Josef Koudelka whose photos also show the scale of the invasion. You can read what I had learnt about this invasion from the guide in Prague. It was very interesting for me to know what was happening in two different parts of the country – Prague and Bratislava – when the Soviets invaded!

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Emil Gallo baring his chest and facing the Soviet tank

Thankfully, all this ended by the end of the 80’s decade and Czekoslovakia got a democratic government. In 1993, the Czechs and Slovaks separated amicably (velvet divorce) and thus the two countries – Czech Republic and Slovak Republic were formed.

Another interesting thing that I learnt from the tour guide, that I want to write about is about the Bratislava Castle. So the site of the castle has been inhabited since the stone age! But the first written records are from early 10th century. It became the seat of Hungarian monarchs from the 16th century. In the 18th century, under the reign of Maria Teresa, it was transformed into a luxurious Baroque residence. Now the interesting part. The castle had some Italian soldiers in it sometime in 1811. The story goes that they got engrossed in eating and drinking that they forgot to put out the cooking fires. By morning, the whole castle was burnt down! A favorite joke that runs among the locals is that a castle that survived several centuries of invasions, could not survive an Italian Dinner :-). The form that we see today is a work of around 60 years (renovation started in 1953 and completed in 2010)!

I went to the castle the next morning by myself. It’s lovely up there and gives a lovely view of the city. There was a nice looking restaurant also up there but I rather enjoyed sitting on a bench, watching the river and having some lovely strawberries that I had brought along from the downtown.

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While coming down from the castle, I came across this statue which reminded me of Medusa! It is called “The Witch”. And at this point, I am thinking that probably I should make one additional post about the statues of Bratislava! Other touristic cities also have statues but they are like one at every corner and hence, not interesting anymore! I found the ones from Bratislava much more intriguing.

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The Witch

Then I also came across an abandoned church. I have no idea what happened there.

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Abandoned Church

And as luck would have it, I got to capture this picture of a family which was clearly taking a break. What is interesting you ask? Look closely. They are not praying! The dad and the sons are busy with their smartphones while the mom is taking a power nap :-).

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Tired Family

And with this I conclude this post.  There are some more stories and may be I will make a fourth post. All this reminiscing has stirred in me the longing to visit Bratislava again. I don’t know what is it that attracts me to Prague and now that same attraction is developed for Bratislava. Until next..

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