Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Streets of Bratislava

I changed my plans about what I was going to do today because an opportunity opened up for tomorrow. So I cancelled my plans to rent a car and drive to Sopron, Hungary, and, instead, spent the day walking the streets of Bratislava. And I must say, in total heart-attack level seriousness, I am glad that I did. Bratislava is a perfectly lovely town. Not to sound like the Chamber of Commerce or anything, but it has a great Old Town that is enjoyed both by a small contingent of tourists and the local population. The walking tour began at the landmark Michael's Gate.

Michael's Gate, Michalská Brána for you Slovak speakers, is last survivor among the four towers that once guarded the town walls. The Hotel Michalska Brana, where I am staying in my way-too-short visit to Bratislava, is just beside the gate.

Well, not just beside, it's down this little alley that's considered an actual street:

As I said, I don't think I would've found it very easily last night, in the dark, but for the help of the British ladies.

It's a short walk from Michalská Brána (and the hotel bearing its name) to my first destination: Main Square:

Actually, It wasn't the first stop. The first stop was to the "I (heart) Bratislava" gift shop for refridgerator magnets. Given that you can't take snow globes in your carry-on anymore -- thank you War on Terror and TSA -- refridgerator magnets are now my souvenir of choice. So after loading up on refridgerator magnets, the journey began in earnest.

Old Town Bratislava is known for its collection of whimsical statues. The first one I happened upon was this Napoleonic officer. Also on the main square was this proper looking soldier:

A block toward the river I came upon another of Bratislava's statues, Paparazzo:

I wonder who he's caught in his camera?

Of course, I don't know if there's any local Bratislava celebs dining at that cafe. Next:

That's Cumil! The Peeper! One of the more famous statues of a worker popping up from a manhole. Here's a closer look:

He has been run over by trucks on a few occasions over the years. I had heard that there was also a life-sized-ish statue somewhere in the Old Town of Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol, whose ethnic roots are in Eastern Slovakia. I thought he was Polish, and maybe he is, boundaries used to be somewhat fluid. And there's supposedly a decent Warhol museum in the tiny village from which his family came. I searched and searched and searched for the Warhol statue, which was supposed to be in this ara at the intersection of Venturska and Panska, but he was not there.

Maybe he got stolen. Maybe he out too late last night at 54. Maybe his 15 minutes were up. For whatever reason, he wasn't there. But while looking for Andy, I did get to see this, something I have never before seen in my life:

People vacuuming the sidewalk! Back to walking. This is the Slovak National Theater at Hviezdoslav Square:

I knew what this building was when I snapped the picture, but I had two large beers with dinner (I was thirsty):

Thankfully I have a guide book to help me with my spelling. I made it down to the Danube River at the southern end of Old Town. That's the infamous Nový Most, or New Bridge, otherwise known at the "UFO" bridge, due to that flying saucer-shaped observation deck and restaurant on the Petrzalka side of the bridge.

I did not go up in that communist-era monstrosity. I then started walking back into Old Town and came upon the last of the whimsical statues I would find today:

That's Schöner Náci. He was a Bratislava resident who passed in 1967 and was known for wandering the streets dressed in top hat and tails, kissing women's hands. In the Communist Era, that was OK. The good news is that he has had his arm reattached after it was broken off a few years ago by some drunken British louts, probably here on "stag." I then wandered over to St. Martin's Cathedral:

The Cathedral is undergoing much-needed renovation:

The Cathedral is quite historic. When Budapest was occupied by the Ottoman Turks a half of a century ago, this is where the coronation for new Hungarian kings and queens would be held. The Cathedral is being damaged from heavy traffic on the highway that the Communists built right next to the church. The UFO bridge is part of that highway. Did I say "right next to the church"?

Talk about your zero lot lines. I then walked back close to the river and found the U.S. embassy:

I then started the walk back toward Michael's Gate, back to my hotel to rest my dogs before the afternoon adventure.

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