Today was a fantastic respite from the insane heat we have been experiencing here in Bratislava. I took the photo above while I waited for my guide to come. This photo is in stark contrast to one of the first photos I took upon my arrival here in my favorite little big city. Bratislava isn’t a mega-metropolis. It doesn’t sprawl for miles on end like some of the other European capitals , or even our own cities in the US. When I got off the bus at the far end in this picture , there was a cold rain blowing sideways and the temperature was somewhere in the 10c( 50f ) range. After a day in the low-30’s ( 93 ) yesterday , today’s breeze out of the North has it in the mid-20c ( 75/77f ) and it is nice to be outside again. Many of you know that I’m not a big fan of Summer and heat in general , it made this a nice day to be out and about.
The fountain in the photo is in front of the Slovak National Opera house. This beauty was built in the 1880’s and was known as Narodny Slovensko Divadlo . The Neo-Renaissance architecture is a joy to scour with the eye. I never tire of looking at it. It is here that I was to meet my guide through Airbnb. I wanted to see how much I didn’t know and was eager ro see things that I hadn’t , either on my trip in 2017 with my cousins , or just walking around as I have and looking at things. Alexander was a great guide and filled in some of the things that I didn’t realize about this wonderful city. He is extremely bright ( an Economics major-graduated ) and very congenial. We walked through the square West and ventured into the Old Jewish Section. From what I understand from my study of Slovensko , the Jews were treated better in Bratislava than most cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I haven’t found any evidence ( yet ) that the Slovaks mistreated the Jewish population , which stretched back to the mid-13th century. During the sad time of WWII , the Bratislava Working Group ( I’ve seen a movie on this very subject and people involved in it ) worked to save the Jewry of Bratislava , to no avail.
Alexander and I stopped and talked at many intervals and I shared with him my reluctant anger with the Magyars in general , and my disposition towards Hungary as less than a mess of overly-nationalistic and un-apologetic culture. I am becoming more at ease with the past , some of my Slovak friends wonder why I could harbor such feelings , when I didn’t live through it. I don’t have a tendency toward any thinking that posits I , my country , or my culture is superior to any other. I have never felt that the US has any business promoting ” freedom or democracy ” in the world , when we don’t have any idea what it means. I wantmore than anything to be here as this country grows and to somehow get involved enough to keep the leadership from using the US as a template.
Alexander and I meandered through the hills to the West and up to Bratislavsky Hrad. He discussed how it came to be and the importance of the reign of Maria Theresa in the growth of Bratislava. We ended up going through St. Michael’s Gate , the only city gate still standing , as the Old Town was at one time truly a fortress. He led me through a long back alley that I had never traveled before and we came upon the Town Hall. Another turn and we were behind it and looking at the additions and the change in architecture.
To the East of the Town Hall was the Primate’s Palace. For the uninitiated , the Primate’s Palace did not house monkeys. Not in the real sense. A Primate was , often a Bishop that held rule over a particular region , and /or a nation. This has to be one of my favorite namesties ! We continued east as Alexander limned out what part the buildings played in history and I was completely awed to know that the treaty of Pressburg was signed here between Austria and France in 1805 after Napoleon ( and France ) defeated Austria in battle.
We wound our way through the Laurinc Gate on the Vychodna Strana ( East Side ) and Alexander pointed out the symbol hanging that served as a reminder of the Laurinc Brana , or St. Laurence Gate. We began by walking through an area on the Zapadna Strana ( West Side ) in which there was a city gate , through St. Michael’s Gate on the North ( Sever ) , and now around through the east. Alexander was very clever in the way we covered this old fortress-city. This was one of the highlights of my visit to Bratislava. I found it to be a breath of fresh air to have someone to talk to , not only about the history , but culture and life in general. It was a very good day and I will finish by sitting out in my garden to finish reading a paper on ” Social Stratification & Inequalities in Eastern & Central Europe . I’m still trying to get a grip on a very complex and mystifying past. I thank Alexander for his input and a great day , also for giving me more insight and the skinny on how Bratislava was….