November 2, 2019
Bratislava is Slovakia’s largest city and its capital. It is only a 1 hour drive to Vienna which makes these two cities the world’s closest capitals. It is the only national capital that borders on two independent countries – Austria and Hungary.
We arrived about 1 PM today after our trip on the Danube from Budapest. We passed through one of the 66 locks that we will encounter on our trip to Cologne, Germany.
Our guide here was Maria and she was excellent. We first took a small train to the Bratislava Castle which was a fortress in the 9th century and became a Renaissance castle in 1562. It was rebuilt in the 17th century in the baroque style, was destroyed by fire in 1811 and was in ruins until the 1950’s when it was rebuilt. It is on a hill and the wind was very strong so everyone was shivering! But we enjoyed the castle and the gardens. The statues of soldiers on the two archways have no arms or heads since the ruler at that time was making a statement against wars.
The town is a delight, with a town hall that dates back to the 14th century. St. Michael’s Gate is impressive as are the churches, opera house and Presidential Palace. We had free time and went to the oldest shop to purchase local wine and Slovak pastries. Yum!
Maria shared a lot of history including what it was like in Communist times – they seized power in 1948 – and took over many buildings, changing them to the stark Soviet architecture. Some still exist today. After the fall of Communism in 1989, Czechoslovakia became a democratic society. The “Velvet Divorce” occurred in 1993 and the country split peacefully into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Maria said that the decision was political and that if there was a referendum, probably 75% of the population would have voted against it.
We are on a riverboat that has almost all British passengers, so they chuckled at the mention of “referendum” given what they are going through with Brexit! We have heard there might be one other American couple but we haven’t met up with them yet.
There is a bridge with an observation area on the top that they call the UFO. We could see people above it outside, it must have been really cold up there.
We are enjoying life on board the Emily Bronte which is part of the Riviera Cruise line. We enjoyed the hot tub yesterday with the sights of Budapest at dusk in the background. The food has been excellent and Jessie and Gabor, our cruise director and concierge, are very good. The only disappointment is the wifi, as I have mentioned in a previous post. So I have posted some pictures on Facebook when we are on shore and I can get fast wifi. Too cold and too packed of a schedule to add photos here though, my apologies for that. I will try to fill in when I can.
Tonight we leave for Vienna and since we spent a couple of days there last week, we are looking forward to our return. We joined in an optional walking tour package in 5 ports and the first one is tomorrow after our regular sightseeing tour. Apparently this will be hiking in the forest near Vienna. This is the first time they have offered this option and will be wanting our feedback. 28 of us have signed up. Should be fun.
Every evening after dinner Jessie gives us highlights of the next port. There is also a pianist in the lounge. No casino of course, so my evenings end earlier than on the world cruises!