Bratislava flourished during the 18th-century reign of Maria Theresa of Austria and for a short time became one of the most important cities in Central Europe, the population tripled and many new palaces, monasteries, mansions, and new streets and neighbourhoods were constructed.
This didn’t last for very long however and Bratislava started to lose its importance under the reign of Maria Theresa’s son Joseph II who didn’t share his mother’s passion for the place and gradually it slipped behind Vienna and Budapest in importance.
In the afternoon we decided to walk out of town to locate the train station so that we would be fully prepared for our journey to Vienna on the next day. It wasn’t very far out of the city but a walk always seems longer when you are unsure of the distance or the final destination but eventually we found it and satisfied ourselves about timetables and travel arrangements and returned back the way that we had come past the Presidential Palace with some untidy looking guards in ill fitting Napoleonic uniforms that had clearly been made for someone else of more ample proportions and inappropriate sun glasses. You don’t see Queen’s Guards at Buckingham Palace in sun glasses!
Come evening we went back into the city and being more confident tonight of the geography and the environment we walked back through the main square and compared the menus and the prices before we decided upon a back street hotel restaurant that served good food at reasonable prices and we enjoyed a second hearty meal of the day.
Later we returned to the city streets and then to the castle gardens and its good views over the Danube, which actually looked rather nice tonight, the water was an inky black and nicely illuminated by street lights on both banks and by the gay coloured lights from the cruise ships passing by below.
There was no bar at the hotel, which was disappointing so it was an early night in preparation for an early start and the trip to Vienna tomorrow.
It was a pleasant morning with a bluish sort of sky with those high white clouds that give a mottled marbling effect to the heavens and after ham and eggs we left the hotel and walked once again to the castle at the top of the hill overlooking the Danube.
The castle is one of the most prominent structures in the city and stands on a plateau high above the river. There has been a castle on this site for hundreds of years, the Romans had a fort here and after them there was a large Slavic fortified settlement. A stone castle was constructed in the tenth century, when the area was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and subsequently it was converted into a Gothic fortress under Sigismund of Luxemburg (Luxemburg?) in 1430, became a Renaissance castle in 1562, and was rebuilt in 1649 in the baroque style.
Under Queen Maria Theresa, the castle became a prestigious royal seat. After her the castle was neglected and became a barracks and in 1811 was inadvertently destroyed by fire and lay in ruins until the 1950s, when it was rebuilt mostly in its former Theresan style but with a bit of communist interpretation.
I have to say that the rebuilding was not the best job I have ever seen and in truth the place was slightly austere and disappointing, but undeterred by this we went in to look around nevertheless. We paid the very reasonable entrance fee and followed the signs taking us to the exhibits.
There weren’t many visitors and in the first room a museum attendant seemed pleased to see us and despite his limited grasp of the English language he made an excellent job of proudly explaining the exhibits to us in a staccato form of English that kept lapsing into impenetrable Slovak. This was hard work for all of us and when he finished we thanked him with some relief for the attention that he gave to us and we moved on.
If the castle was disappointing then it has to be said that the museum wasn’t very thrilling either. There just weren’t a lot of exhibits and I suppose that anything that might have been interesting had probably been carted off elsewhere to cities like Vienna, Budapest and Prague over the last two hundred years or so. And they were very big rooms and impossible to fill with the meagre number of artefacts that were available to put on show.
As we walked through the rooms we kept climbing towards the top of the castle until eventually we were in one of the towers and there was steep staircase ahead that would take us to the very top. About half way up Micky had a premonition that this might not be very exciting either, so he stayed and waited for the rest of us to complete the climb and report back to him later. How accurately prophetic he was and we were forced to agree that he had made the right decision as we descended back down from the disappointing tower lookout platform and walked through the castle grounds and back into the city.