Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Velvet Divorce & Bratislava

I've been wracking my brains trying to work our what I can tell you about Bratislava..

I went there a bit blind, to be honest. It wasn't the place I was most looking forward to visiting this summer, but figured there must be something to see because we were spending two nights there. And don't get me wrong, there is stuff to see. Just... more around Bratislava than in the city itself, it's a good base, shall we say.

Bratislava Castle

Maybe my view on the place was tainted by our arrival. We seemed to have left the sunshine back in Slovenia, and the grey skies had already taken over by our lunch stop in Austria. I woke on the bus to trace the rain streaming down the window for a while before Nick started telling us about Slovakia, and Czechoslovakia (to be honest the Slovak's got the rough end of the deal, in my opinion).

Czechoslovakia was created in 1918 after the break up of Austria- Hungary, when two countries were pushed together to make one common state consisting of two nations. Soon after this Edvard Beneš's philosophy pushed for unity and a single nation. Some Slovak's opposed this, and in 1939 under pressure from Hitler's Nazi Germany, the first Slovak state was born- and they had no help from anyone thanks to the Munich Agreement. After WWII, the state reverted back into the unity of Czechoslovakia. Feeling bitterly disappointed and let down the country veered towards Communism & were occupied by the Soviet Union.

By the early 90's, it was clear that Czech Republic was the richer half of this union, and as the countries were running as one, part of their budget was being paid to the Slovaks, the last of these payments was in June 1991. Some Czechs and Slovak's had advocated the idea of the a looser form of co-existance, but other's wanted a federal Czechoslovakia. Over the next few years, political parties began to emerge but some Czech parties had no presence in Slovakia and vice- versa. In order to have a functional state, it was demanded the government control from Prague, but Slovak's wanted decentralisation. Václav Klaus, the elected official from Czech Republic, and Vladimir Mečiar, a leading Slovak politician, opened up talks in June 1992 and it was declared on July 17th 1992 that Slovakia would be independent from Czech Republic.

The division did lead to some economic losses within the first year or so. The Czech's thought that without the need to "sponsor" the poorer Slovak's they would have an era of high economic growth. Whilst Slovakia's GDP is lower than the Czech Republic, it's rate of growth has been higher, and this (plus other factors like introducing economic reforms) meant that Slovakia could join the Euro, whilst Czech Republic still use the Koruna.

Arriving on a grey day, you can see these things, that Bratislava looks like a poorer city. The grey Soviet style buildings surrounding our journey in. The city doesn't look like a tourist place being kept clean for people to wander around, it's real, it's a bit gritty and dirty around the edges. There is a sort of edge to the place, looking around, even some of the graffiti shows Soviet signs. The thing is, the place kind of grows on you & as ugly as it first seemed, I actually quite liked it.

Cumil, hard at work
We walked to the Old Town, and it had more than just the dull grey Soviet buildings. There were pastel coloured buildings in the town square, and orange rooftops instantly associated with other areas of Eastern Europe. Under foot, the street's are wobbly, uneven cobblestones. There are statues scattered all around the city, the most famous being Cumil. He's only been there since 1997 & even has his own road sign after being damaged by cars rounding the corner he's on. Apparently he was a sewer cleaner who spent more time with his head above ground trying to look up women's skirts! Bratislava even has a castle up high, overlooking the city and the Danube.

My favourite part of Bratislava, though, was at night time. We were taken to Bar Rock, the music suited our tastes more than anywhere else we'd been so far & there was a foosball table where we all laughed at how bad we were (except Victoria, who was actually bloody awesome). It was a nice way to kick back in the evening after weeks of partying, definitely a welcome change to Europop and clubbing!

The decor in Bar Rock says it all

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  1. I think you described Bratislava beautifully! I visited there on a day trip, and I felt the same way you described. In fact, when we were back at the train station, there was a girl who was doing a survey on how Bratislava can be improved, and I said that it may need to be cleaned up more if they want it to become a major tourist destination. I didn't fall in love with it, but I thought it had its own kind of charm. It did feel more real. And I didn't know the story behind the famous manhole statue... now I know!! :D

    1. Yeah, it's one of those sorts of places, isn't it? I mean, I'm glad I've been and I wouldn't be upset if I crossed its path again, buuut... I don't feel the need to go out of my way to go back.

  2. Had never been to Bratislava, but this post made me think it's quite an interesting place to add to my bucket list...

    1. it's definitely an interesting city. It's one of the oldest cities in Europe! Incredible.



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