Wherever we travel, one of the things that we always try to do is go to a location that provides wonderful views from above the city. Whether climbing to the top of a bell tower, going to the observation deck of a skyscraper, or climbing to the top of a hill that overlooks the city, the views are always amazing. There is something that is truly special about looking over the historic rooftops of the city’s buildings and getting a sense for the narrow streets. Obviously we enjoy getting up close and personal with the architecture of a city, but taking it all in at once has its own reward. Do you look for locations that overlook a city when you travel?
The historic old town district in Bratislava, Slovakia is a fascinating area with wonderful medieval architecture. It is a very popular area for tourists as well as different artists selling their crafts or playing music. Like many other medieval cities where the city center was originally surrounded by walls, most of the walls have been removed to allow the city to grow, but some of the original walls remain as well as one of the original gates. St Martin’s Cathedral is also a dominant feature of the old town with its bell tower making it the tallest building.
The wealthy citizens of the area all built their homes within the walls of Bratislava, each trying to show their prestige, which makes walking the streets of old town architecturally interesting. Michael’s Gate, or St. Michael’s Tower, is the only remaining entrance to the fortified city of the four original gates that previously existed. It is certainly one of the most recognizable features of Bratislava with its clock tower and it was the gate that future Hungarian kings would enter through while on their way to be coronated in St. Martin’s Cathedral.
Like all cities in the region, the history of Bratislava is one of occupation from a variety of different conquering armies. Much of its history was under the rule of Hungary and for several centuries it served as the location where the kings of Hungary were crowned. There are crown emblems in the cobblestone streets that denote the path that the king would follow from his coronation to the celebration of the citizens. During this period, from 1563 to 1830, the kings were coronated in St. Martin’s Cathedral making this church an important location for both Slovak citizens as well as Hungarian.
In addition to the different buildings in Bratislava’s old town, there are also several statues and monuments that are worth seeing as well. Some of the most well known are the Watcher, which is a worker coming out of a sewer to look up women’s skirts, and the Schone Naci Statue, which is a statue of a former citizen who was extremely friendly and had a childlike demeanor. Crowds gather around these statues to take photos of themselves with them, which isn’t particularly our style.
We spent about three hours wandering around the streets of Bratislava’s old town and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The buildings are quite colorful and architecturally interesting making every street unique. Although there were quite a lot of people on the streets, we found our time in Bratislava to be quite relaxing and even bought a piece of art from an artist near the main square.
Located in the heart of the Buda Castle District in Budapest is the historic Matthias Church. The current church was built in the 1400’s in the Gothic architectural style, but it was extensively remodeled in the 19th century. The original church was built around 1015, but nothing remains of the original Romanesque architectural style. The Matthias Church sits in front of the Fisherman’s Bastian, which is the wall with towers that surrounds the Danube River side of Castle Hill. The church is clearly visible from the Pest side of the river, especially with its colorful roof.
The church is named after King Matthias, who ruled Hungary in the 19th century. The church has been the site of several coronations as well as royal weddings, including both of King Matthias’ weddings. Unfortunately, there was actually a wedding at the church when we toured the Buda Castle District, so we weren’t able to go inside. The church itself has had as tumultuous of a history as Hungary itself. The church has had several names before becoming the Matthias Church, including The Church of Mary and The Church of Our Lady. After Hungary was conquered by the Turks, most of the church’s treasures were transferred to Bratislava and the Turks converted it to a mosque. It was later then restored and many of the Gothic features restored.
During World War II, the church was badly damaged by both the Germans and the Soviet Union, so work was done in the 1950’s and 1970’s to again restore it to it original grandeur. In addition to the church, there is also the Holy Trinity Statue that is near the main entrance of the church with wonderful details. Regardless of its history, Matthias Church is certainly one of the most important features in the Buda Castle District. The diamond patterned roof, gargoyles, and the raven with a ring in its mouth make it very interesting to see. Apparently the raven with the ring symbolizes a story of when King Matthias took off his ring and a raven grabbed it and flew off with it. King Matthias then chased down the raven and slew it in order to get his ring back.