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Monday, August 13, 2007

Bratislava Stopover 

I have been describing major towns along the river Danube. So far we have tracked the blue Danube to Vienna and the next stop is Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. It lies on both banks of the Danube, and fitting for a city on this great river, where the Danube forms a common bond between people lining its shores, is the only capital city in the world that borders two other countries, Austria and Hungary. Before writing about Bratislava, let me recap the earlier posts, describing the course of the river through Germany and Austria, and the major towns along its banks.
Bratislava Castle viewed across the Danube River, photograph courtesy the official website of the City of BratislavaThe source of the Danube is to be found at Donaueschingen, in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald), from where it flows to Ulm. Next, I went on to write about Donauwörth, Ingolstadt and the earthly pleasures enjoyed by monks at the famous Weltenburg monastery, before posting a seperate article about the historic city of Regensburg. The next post in the series was about East Bavaria and covered Regensburg to Passau where the Danube converges with the Inn and Ilz rivers. At this point, the Danube leaves Germany and I then posted about Linz and Vienna.

Bratislava has good road, rail and of course, ferry links to Vienna, which is only about 60km away; rail and the new high speed ferry both have a journey time of about 1hour 15minutes. Being the political, cultural and economic heart of Slovakia, the city has seen tremendous growth in the last seven years but retains a relaxed Mediterranean-type atmosphere. It is described as a seaside city, with the Danube fulfilling the roll of the sea.
Bratislava main square in the summer time, photograph courtesy the official website of the City of BratislavaThe city has an active cultural life and a long association with music, attracting many great musicians. Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Rubinstein, and Hummel have all performed there. Each year, Bratislava plays host to a classical music festival in September and a Jazz festival in October. There are festivals throughout the year and it is hoping to be named European Capital of Culture in 2013.

Numerous museums and art galleries populate Bratislava , and with a restaurant, cafe, bar or pub on every street corner, there is plenty of opportunity to sample the local cuisine. Bratislava was originally called Pressburg or Pozsony, so the local food is referred to as Pressburg cuisine, and is a mixture of Slovakian, Hungarian, German and Jewish influences, reflecting the cities position at the crossroads of ancient trading routes, right at the heart of Europe.

Cycling and roller blading in Bratislava along dedicated tracks, photograph courtesy the official website of the City of BratislavaIce hockey is by far the most popular spectator sport in Slovakia, which in 2011 will host the World Ice Hockey Championship in Bratislava and Kosice. However, walking, cycling and roller blading are all activities that many Slovakians enjoy and there are many good facilities to be found around Bratislava. The Danube Cycle Way which begins in Germany's Donaueschingen, passes through Bratislava on its way to Budapest, capital of Hungary. The Bratislava to Budapest leg is 348 km (218 miles) and can be covered in a leisurely eight days, passing Gyõr, Esztergom and Szentendre. Gyõr, is approximately half way between Vienna and Budapest and forms the subject of my next post describing the course of the Danube, Dunaj in Slovak or Duna in Hungarian.

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