These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Bratislava landmarks

Námestie Ľudovíta Štúra (Ľudovít Štúr Square). By the Danube River, the square marks the site of the former Coronation Hill when Bratislava, or Pressburg as it was known then, was the coronation capital of the Hungarian Kingdom.

Hviezdoslavovo námestie (Hviezdoslav Square). A newly reconstructed square with landmarks likes the National Opera House, the Hotel Carlton and the Reduta complex. The square is named after the Slovak poet Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav.

Hlavné námestie (Main Square). The true centre of city life with several landmarks. The centrepiece is the Roland Fountain. Roland was a knight known as the protector of the city, but the man atop the statue is actually Maximillian II, the first Hungarian King to be crowned in Bratislava. Stará Radnica (Old Town Hall) is the yellow tower that has a cannonball still lodged in its side. It was fired by Napoleonic forces in 1809. A bronze statue of a Napoleonic soldier is found on the square leaning over a bench.

Two other statues of note are found nearby on Rybárska brána. The first is Schöne Nazi (Handsome Ignatius), who was a Bratislava resident known for strolling the Old Town. Perpetually smiling, he in fact went crazy after his fiancee was killed in a concentration camp during World War II. The second statue is Čumil, the man sticking his head out of a gutter on the corner of Panská and Rybárska. Čumil is, according to city leaders, "just a normal guy who likes to look up the skirts of young ladies".

Zelená Ulica (Green Street).One of the narrowest streets in the city, which leads to Michalská ulica. On Michalská is Academia Istropolitana, which in 1465 was the first university in the Hungarian Kingdom. In warm months, Michalská is known for its several outdoor cafés.

Michalská brána (Michael's Gate). One of four original town gates. In the arched walkway is a bronze zero on the sidewalk that points out directions and distances to various international metropoli. It is in the shape of a zero to signify that Bratislava is zero kilometres away.

Baštová ulica (Bastion Street). To the left of Michael's Gate, this cobbled street is the narrowest in Bratislava.

Kapitulská ulica. This street, leading through the oldest surviving sections of the Old Town, leads to St. Martin's Cathedral (Katedrála Svätého Martina), where eleven kings and eight queens were crowned while Buda and Pest were occupied by the Turks.

Nový Most (New Bridge). The suspension bridge connecting Petržalka and the Old Town, it was finished in 1972. To clear space for the bridge, the Communist regime demolished two-thirds of the city's Old Town buildings, including the Jewish synagogue, which had formerly stood next door to St. Martin's Cathedral.

Petržalka. The housing-estate on the opposite side of the Danube from the Old Town. Although its seal of arms is a green tree, Petržalka is one of the most notorious concrete jungles in Europe. Some 150,000 people, one-third of the Bratislava population, live here crammed into the endless sea of paneláky blocks of flats (paneláky comes from the word 'panel' and signifies the buildings' construction: large slabs of concrete stacked together in a manner similar to that of a house of dominoes).

Formerly a vast green meadow with farms, Petržalka was built up after World War II by the Communist regime which shipped in thousands of villagers from around the country to work in the newly industrialised capital city. Before Communism fell in 1989, Petržalka was surrounded by barbed wire and lookout towers where soldiers with machine-guns prevented locals from escaping to the West; according to the Slovak Justice Ministry, 300 Slovaks were shot dead from 1945 till 1989 trying to escape to Austria. At the time, it also had Slovakia's highest rates of suicide and drug abuse.

Perhaps because it is so unbelievably ugly, Petržalka has become one of the city's tourist attractions. One international travel magazine even advises readers: "If you only have three hours in Slovakia, see the Bratislava Old Town and Petržalka".

Bratislavský hrad (Bratislava Castle). Originally a Slavic fort built in 907. Empress Maria Theresa lived here from 1740 to 1780. Fire destroyed it in 1811. The castle remained in ruins till the Communist regime had it reconstructed in time for the signing of the Law of the Czechoslovak Federation in 1968. The law established Bratislava as the capital of Slovakia within federal Czechoslovakia.

Primaciálny Palác (Primates Palace). The palace where Napoleon signed the Peace of Pressburg in 1805; where a pact abolishing serfdom was signed in 1848; and where Soviet leaders signed a pact agreeing not to interfere in the 1968 Prague Spring movement. (Less than a month later, however, the Soviets invaded.) All of the above were signed in the palace's most famous room, Zrkadlová sieň (Mirror Hall).

SNP námestie (Slovak National Uprising Square). The main gathering point for important rallies. Tens of thousands of people met here to celebrate the 1989 Velvet Revolution toppling Communism; 25,000 protested the authoritarian ruling of the former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar in 1998; some 30,000 celebrated here after the Slovak national hockey team won the silver medal in the 2000 Ice Hockey World Championships (Slovakia lost the title match to the Czechs 5-3); and 40,000 to 50,000 fans greeted the national hockey team here after it won the 2002 Ice Hockey World Championships.

Poštová ulica (Post Street). Newly resurfaced street featuring a bronze statue of two women with a skateboard. The statue is also a post box.

Obchodná ulica (Commercial Street). Bratislava's busiest shopping street, lined with dozens of stores, pubs and restaurants.

Hodžovo námestie (Hodža Square). A major traffic junction in Bratislava where Grassalkovichov palác (the Presidential Palace) is found. Behind the symbolic residency of the nation's head of state is a public garden with several statues.

Starý Most (Old Bridge). The first elevated bridge connecting the city to Petržalka, it was completed in 1945 by the Soviet Red Army and German prisoners-of-war. On 27 March 2002, an Austrian cargo tanker crashed into it during high-water alerts a few days after the Danube had flooded its banks in Bratislava. The crash resulted in the bridge's temporary closure.

Šafárikovo námestie (Šafárik Square). A city square with a green park in the centre and a fountain called Kačacia fontána (Duck Fountain). Sculpted by the Austrian Kuhmayer in 1914, it depicts naked boys playing with ducks. They were, according to legend, frozen by a local water sprite, Zeleniak, who had agreed to allow the boys to play in his waters on the condition they never look under the surface at his kingdom. When the boys broke the agreement, Zeleniak cast them into stone.

Modrý kostolík (Blue Church). On Bezručova ulica, this is a popular wedding venue for locals because of its unique baby-blue hue. In the 19th century, it was known as St. Elizabeth's Cathedral. Later destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt in a new secessionist style, and renamed by locals.

Slavín. A large monument on a hill above the Main Railway Station built in honour of 7,000 Russian soldiers killed while liberating Bratislava in World War II. - CT


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2002.

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