Bratislava is often a day trip from Vienna or a few hours of shore leave from a Danube River cruise. During the day, tourists herd from the river to Michael’s gate before herding out-of-town. I love the old town, but for those willing to stretch their legs up the steep back part of the city, a more peaceful Bratislava awaits.
One of my favorite suburban destinations is the Slavin Monument. Before starting out, grab a good map from the tourist information center in the square behind the Old Town Hall or from your hotel. The Palisady neighborhood hugs the lower part of the Small Carpathian hillside above town. It’s an enclave of embassies and the requisite embassy homes and tree lined streets. Once you begin your meanderings, it is hard to spot Slavin above you as the roads snake up the hillside. This is when the map will come in handy.
Slavin Monument was built to commemorate the over 6000 Russian soldiers who died freeing Bratislava from Nazi domination as World War 2 drew to a close. It’s a quiet and reflective place, appropriately solemn. The center piece of Slavin, visible from the town below, is the Russian soldier 40 meters atop an obelisk column. The column base is a memorial room with the neighboring Slovak towns inscribed around the perimeter along with their liberation dates. Fresh flowers are stacked at the base of the pair of the memorial room doors. Moving away from the monument are lines of grave stones marked in Cyrillic characters, some with pictures of the fallen solder, and further still mass graves house the majority of the remains buried at Slavin. A handful of statues surround the park; soldiers supporting their wounded colleagues, a pair of girls offering flowers to the soldiers, another pair of girls holding up an engraved sash. The faces on the girls are of honor and thanks – a heartfelt appreciation of the payment rendered by another nation for the local Slovak freedom.
Slavin blankets the hilltop overlooking the orange tiled roofs of old town, the castle, and the Danube. Unlike Bratislava, the park is tidy – church lady neat as a pin – no free speech graffiti peppering the monument walls. Free speech plays second fiddle to the memory of soldiers who gave their lives freeing the city. The trees and bushes are a cacophony of shades of green, simultaneously random yet perfectly placed. I love this little Bratislava oasis. I always find peace up here – perched above the swarming and sweltering city center. We are solitary visitors this Saturday morning. As I sit on a bench in the shade and reflect, listen, the surrounding town is silent save the chirping of nearby birds; a distant barking dog; a sole lawn mower announcing the call to summer chore season; way off church bells softly peeling; my own breathing.
As we leave Slavin down the stairs, we turn left onto the road. Following the road past the Palestinian embassy, we come to a smaller road. A path to the right goes down the hill towards the city. We follow the road left and keep to the left of the Funus bar. A short way to a T intersection and one more left turn brings us to Horsky Park. A cafe sits at the park opening, a nice place to enjoy a home-brewed herbal tea and watch the children and dogs romping in the play area. The park is an extensive network of trails, but we’ve walked most of the morning so complete just a quick loop before heading home.
We return to Funus. Though it’s 11 in the morning, I insist Pat try the beer. He is no doubt parched, dehydrated… I’m worried and more importantly, I have blog research to complete. The dark Czech beer is new to us: Thavi Chotebar. As my personal sacrifice to our blog research, I order a biscuit with bacon flecks. The beer and biscuit are alarmingly good. Could this be indication we are becoming locals? A year ago, we would have never entered this bar, never consumed bacon flecked biscuits, and never drank a beer before the socially acceptable hour of noon. Now, it’s just plain tasty and refreshing. It goes down with no backwash of guilt. Dads and their sons enter the pub on bikes, men share a morning beer and soup. All gather in this slightly seedy, but oh so local, beer garden. The use of “garden” implies a bit more greenery and flowers,. But for lack of a better word, that’s how I’ll describe it.
In spite of our beer and biscuit brunch, we stop in to sample a newly discovered pastry cafe just inside Michael’s gate (Michalska, 12) named Simo Pastry. A Dom Cigar sign is the most obvious landmark announcing this courtyard off the busy street. The pastry shop is at the end of the interior lane, so close and yet so far from the bustling mobs. The pastries are made by the owner of the shop in a village near Bratislava. Our white chocolate frosted dark chocolate cake was bliss. It’s a welcome end to another busy day in Bratislava.
Try it and enjoy!! Or shoot me an email, we’ll meet you there…
Categories: Insiders Bratislava