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.
Heroes’ Square, or Hosok tere in Hungarian, is one of the main squares in Budapest and is located next to the city park. It was created in 1896 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Hungary. Sitting in the middle of the square is the Millennium Monument and the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art sit on opposite sides of the square. At the time that Heroes’ Square was created, Hungary was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and some of the statues in the square today replaced those that paid tribute to the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty.
We took the underground to the station that is across the street from Heroes’ Square, which is the easiest way to get to the square and city park from downtown. On the day that we visited the square, there was a demonstration going on advocating for peace. The colorful flags surrounding the tomb-like Memorial Stone, which is not an actual tomb, but meant as a tribute to all of those who died protecting Hungary over its 1,000 year history.
There are a series of statues on either side of the Millennium Monument. On top of the columns on the left is a male statue that represents a symbol of war and on the of the columns on the right is a female statue representing peace. In between each of the columns are statues of historic figures in Hungarians history along with a mural below their statue meant to represent their major accomplishment. In addition to the columns with their statues, the base of the monument also has statues depicting the seven chieftains of the tribes who originally founded Hungary.
Visiting Heroes’ Square is definitely fascinating on its own, but we would highly recommend that you combine it with a tour of the city park. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough on the day that we were there, but there are paddle boats that can be rented to go out onto the lake. There is also the Vajdahunyad Castle and the Budapest Zoo are also located in the park. It is also just a nice place to spend a couple of hours walking the paths and enjoying the scenery. Depending upon how much you decide to see while there, you can easily spend an entire day at the park.
As we’ve been going through our photographs from Budapest and Bratislava (over 1,700), we have found a few unusual photographs. Regardless of where you travel, you will often find statues that focus on the hands of the subject as the can be very expressive. Whether it is welcoming, comforting, an offering of peace, or fists of aggression, the hands can be as emotional as the eyes. One of the photographs that we’ve included here was taken at the hotel bar where we were staying in Budapest. After a long day of walking around the city, we stopped for a glass of wine and there was a weird green light that glowed underneath the bar top. It actually made for a strange effect and we couldn’t help but take a photograph of our hands. Do you ever find yourself taking photographs of odd subjects during your travels?