|Oh yeah, two countries at once|
The first stop of the day saw us driving out to the city limits. Once there we walked across a bridge, below us a children's play park & the river Danube. On the other side of the bridge, Austria. There's no border control, and the border is around half way across the bridge- there's a line in the middle, and unsurprisingly love locks can be found here. Strange to think that not so long ago this was a border that could not simply be crossed by walking across a bridge.
|The iron curtain, with the bunker under the bridge, and park to the left|
We went from here to the Devín Castle, the castle is in the perfect position strategically on the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers. Whoever owned the castle could control trade routes. The site has been occupied since Neolithic times and fortified somewhere around the Bronze and Iron Ages. The Romans built their fortresses here, also. Devín Castle is just inside Slovakian territory, the other side of the Danube is Austria & during the Iron Curtain, the area surrounding it was a restricted military zone, though after the Velvet Revolution the area was demilitarised, only a memorial stands there now.
|Maiden Tower shrouded in sunlight|
Our next stop was the Kamzík TV Tower, the view from the tower covers not just Bratislava, but as far across as Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic. We had our lunch here, at the Altitude restaurant. To be perfectly honest, the view is great, on a clear day, but the food is not so. I wouldn't recommend it when you can see similar views from other parts of the city.
|Altitude Restaurant, Kamzik TV tower (photo credit Aubrey Fite/ Pete Benne)|
We visited the Slavín monument, which is a memorial and military cemetery where thousands of Soviet soldiers are laid to rest. The soldiers fell during WWII whilst liberating the city from the Nazi rule. Unlike other places I've been commemorating WWII, this place isn't devastating so much as it is peaceful, with a hint of sadness. The memorial is huge, and was built in a rich area of Slovakia, it opened on the 15th anniversary of the city's liberation.
Heading back to visit yet another castle, Devín isn't Bratislava's only castle. There is another one right in the city, up high on the Little Carpathian's. Like the Devín, the site has been occupied for thousands of years. It's strategical location is central in Europe for crossings of trade routes including the Balkans, Adriatic Sea to the Rhine or Baltic Sea, though the most important is the Amber Route. The first settler's here arrived in 3500 BC (!!) & the area has been fortified ever since. The castle has been occupied right through history, including the Ottomans and Hungarian's- it even housed the Hungarian Crown Jewels for a time. After the Austria- Hungary empire was dissolved the castle was assigned use as a military barracks, but due to carelessness the site ended up on fire (a huge fire which even spread to parts of the town) & left in a state of disrepair. After WWII the castle was reconstructed, and renovated and these days houses the Slovak National Museum.
Our next stop was a military bunker built on the Slovakia/ Austria border. The bunkers were built when Hitler started to rise to power, but as Czechoslovakia was sacrified in the Munich agreement, the very bunker's they'd hoped would protect them from Hitler ended up being used by him to control the area. There are several hundred of these bunkers along what was then the country's border, and one of them the BS 8 Bunker has been reconstructed as it would have been back in the War. They have guns, and periscopes inside, they have updated the place so it has dorms, they even have the uniform the soldiers would have been wearing. It is seriously surreal to walk up to, and into this place.
Our very last stop of the day was in the Capathian wine region where we went to a restaurant and ate the most delicious meal, and had a wine and cheese tasting! A bunch of hot, slightly sunburnt and probably a bit smelly backpackers in a fancy restaurant tasting wine. Delicious wine, in fact, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the wine & really regret not buying some to bring home!
|All of the wine|
It was such an incredible, and busy day, I learnt so much about Bratislava & it's history through time. It's sad to think that a city so old has had such a tough time through history. I really think over the next few years more people will be heading to Bratislava, and there is a lot to see. It's still pretty budget friendly there, and I think more tourism can only do their economy good. My only real gripe with Bratislava is, I didn't feel like I saw a great deal of the city centre, maybe there's not a great deal to see, exactly? I'm not sure, it's probably the first time on a tour I've felt a "baby-ed", we were driven around everywhere on our only full day, and because of the rain we had a shorter orientation than we would have otherwise had. I almost felt like it was encouraged not go to into the city centre, and that almost made me question whether it was safe or not. The thing is, I'm pretty sure it is safe, I know someone who has visited the city & enjoyed it. Maybe it was just a lack of time to wander that made me feel like this, rather than anything else. I'm not dying to return to the city, but if it's on my path in the future then I'll definitely explore more.
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