Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Incantato Welcomes You to Bratislava


It might be Europe's most relaxed capital, because what this city does have is old-town charm, sophisticated restaurants, traditional pubs, good music ranging from jazz to opera, stylish people, and a human scale which means that as a visitor, you will not spend half your day trekking in and out of underground stations. Known as Pressburg to German-speakers or Pozsony to Hungarian-speakers, Bratislava got its present name only 90 years ago. Nevertheless, the city has a long and proud history that dates back to pre-Roman times. In the city itself there is plenty to see and do. Bratislava's long history - as home to Celts, Romans, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and of course Slovaks - means there is an impressive range of architecture, languages and cuisine. The handsome homes of the Austro-Hungarian noble families who built palaces here dot the city, and many of them are now open to the public as museums and galleries. The castle, with its long and checkered history (it was destroyed more than once), is now undergoing a major restoration. There are great views over the mediaeval old town and the Danube valley from its fortifications. Bratislava was once one of the most important centres of Jewish learning in Europe.  A unique memorial to its most renowned rabbi, the Chatam Sofer, and the city's Museum of Jewish Culture celebrate this heritage. Communism too left its mark: across the river, the unmistakable ranks of concrete housing blocks - paneláky in Slovak - line the horizon, with the unique UFO-style New Bridge in the foreground. The Danube River itself is, of course, one of the city's main assets. There are several cafes along its banks, within walking distance of the center. The pedestrian decks of the New and Old Bridges are good places to watch the river traffic, including huge Danube barges, glide past.  
Fun Fact: It’s not technically Bratislava but it’s worth mentioning anyway because it’s something not very people know. The famous American pop artist Andy Warhol made Slovakia famous for more than 15 minutes because his parents were originally from Miková, which is on the very opposite side of the country to the capital.

But now, what about this Cumil and his friends? As Bratislava looked to shed the greyness of the Communist era, many buildings were repainted. In an attempt to liven-up the city center, a few quirky statues were installed. Their popularity with tourists led to new statues, filling the center of Bratislava with funny and quirky installations.
Cumil - This guy, residing in the Old Town, dates back only to 1997, but Bratislavians and tourists love him. Children like to abuse him by sitting on his head. More than once has he been damaged car drivers. Heated discussions have taken place as to what the man is actually up to - you have to decide whether he is simply resting or just cleaned the sewer...
Schone Naci - The stuff of Bratislava legends, Schone Naci was a well known figure in the early 20th century. A poor and mentally ill man, he paraded the streets of Bratislava in old, but elegant attire - a velvet frock, greeting passers-by with his top-hat and bowing courteously to ladies passing by.
Paparazzi - An even more recent addition adorning the eponymous restaurant in the Old Town, just round the corner from the Main Square.
Hans Christian Andersen - On the Hviezdoslav square there is a statue of famous fairy tale author. About Bratislava he said: If you want a fairy tale, your city is a fairy tale itself. After his visit he produced some of his masterpieces such as The Little Match Girl. Now, have fun looking for Cumil and his friends while strolling through beautiful Bratislava!

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