This is the third post from our Melodies of the Danube series. We started the trip in Munich and then spent time in Budapest.
This morning we are in Bratislava and took the city walking tour. Bratislava is capital of Slovakia, formerly part of Czechoslovakia. Lots of 19th century buildings in the old city, dotted with communist era buildings. The castle, high above the city was outside the old city walls. We walked past several 15th century churches and buildings. Enjoy the tour visually below:
The tour features the opera house which ends at the Hviezdoslavovo námestie, which is an open air courtyard along the old city wall. Christmas market stalls as well as usual vendors lined the courtyard; this was New Year's Day so the city was quiet . We walked past a Han Christian Andersen statue as well as a memorial to those killed by the bubonic plague. Past St. Martin's Cathedral which is 13th century. Outside the courtyard, there was an Holocaust memorial showing where the old synagogue was. The Jewish population was devastated during WW2 from 100,000 to less than 3,000 today. Our guide lamented that the communists did not respect history at all. One example was that they built a major road and bridge literally right next to the 13th century church. And although they did not destroy the old city, they didn’t put any money into keeping it up. So by 1990, when the communists were gone, all the buildings were grey with grit and deteriorating.
We walked past a 15th century university building as well as the main streets of the old city. On the square is a popular fountain; on June 1st, Childrens day, they flow Coca Cola instead of water and all the kids drink from it for free. Other stops include the main square with old town hall (1558), Maximillian’s fountain as well as the square behind old city hall with new city hall and the Primatial palace behind it (archbishop, 18th century).
Bratislava is a nicely restored, proud city. It’s filled with university students, government officials, culture and business of all sorts. Tourism is just starting to be big business and the usual signs of this abound (McDonald's, souvenir shops, hop on / off buses, etc). In the surrounding areas, there’s industry including steel and automobile manufacturing, drawn by the low cost of labor. Average wages are about 800$/month.
2019 becomes 2020
Afternoon was spent sailing the Danube to Vienna. Tonight, New Year’s eve on the boat in Vienna! We decided against a bus ride to a hill for a better view of the fireworks. Instead we stayed on the ship and were very glad we did - we were surrounded by fireworks. It was impossible to know which way to stand, starting at about 11:50, crescendoing at midnight and winding down about 12:30. It was spectacular display.
We will always remember where we were when 2019 became 2020. It was so memorable to be in Vienna, on the Danube with fireworks all over the place.