This was the question friends asked when I mentioned I was going there. And now since visiting, I can answer this question more definitively for them. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Any the wiser? I thought not, because until recent times it made up one of the two states of Czechoslovakia, and only in 1993 did Bratislava become the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic, with the Czech Republic being the other part of that change. So? Where is it?
Apologies. The easiest answer I have, for those not living in Europe (like myself), is that it is an hour’s train ride from Vienna, the way I came. The Danube River flows alongside the city, which is small, picturesque and for the most part walkable. A pleasant place to while away a few days. On our first day we (husband, friend and I) went on the Danube by ferry, to visit the ruins of Devin Castle. We strolled alongside the river and up to the castle, with me throwing my raincoat off and on as the rain and thunder threatened. The views were superb from there, looking down to the Moravia River where it enters the Danube and forms the border between Austria and Slovakia
Devin castle was destroyed by Napoleon and his troops back in 1809. Renovations began in recent times, with several parts being reconstructed. It is truly an interesting site with a small museum documenting the history in good detail.
But wait, there is another castle, which stands majestically on the rocky hill of the Little Caparthians, in the middle of Bratislava. It overlooks the Danube, with views to Austria, and even Hungary on fine, clear days. Bratislavia Castle, or ‘Bratislavsky hrad, in Slovac, has undergone many restorations and parts are still under repair but much of the vast site is open to visitors.
Apart from taking the panoramic tour in one of the quaint red tourist trains (see top image), I spent most of my time strolling the streets of the old town, visiting art museums, walking through parks, admiring statues, and stopping off for coffee. I came across one particular fountain with cherubs holding fish, which I would have loved to sketch in situ, but with no seating available, took photos. Tomorrow seated in the comfort of my studio, I shall sketch the one I love best.
I would encourage anyone looking for a relaxed atmosphere, friendly people and enough views to satisfy any erstwhile photographer, to visit Bratislava. And you’ll never have to ask where the country is again.