Fully automated ticket purchasing system at Hauptbahnhof train station of Austria astounded me as I was not accustomed to it. But I found the system was easy and user-friendly. This station is the main railway station in Vienna, Austria with a plenty of amenities like restaurant and shops. I was accompanied by one of my colleagues and our destination was Bratislava, the Slovak Capital.
Trains leaves on every hour from here to Bratislava. By 2023 a fast, upgrade and safe train service will operate between these two cities. The train smoothly rolled its wheels for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes to take us to destination which is around 34 miles away. There were few passengers in our coach and large windows allowed me to have a good view of the beautiful landscape. After a while the train crossed River Danube and continued its journey eastwards. The Danube was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and flows through 10 countries.
The river runs through the largest number of countries in the world. The river is an important source of connectivity, fishes, hydropower and drinking water in this region. River Morava which is a branch of River Danube marked boundary between Austria and Slovakia. Our train entered Slovakia crossing the rail bridge over River Morava. This bridge was destroyed in 1866 during Austrian-German war and Second World War. Our journey ended when the train reached Bratislava's main station Hlavna. The station has just 6 platforms. The modern foyer at the front is known locally as the greenhouse.
Bratislava is situated in the centre of Europe in the southwestern part of Slovakia. A major part of the Slovak territory is located in the Carpathian Mountains.
This city occupies both banks of the River Danube and River Morava ran along its western edge. It is the only national capital that borders two sovereign states namely Austria and Hungary. Bratislava is at the cross roads of many empire and kingdoms, and has a settlement history dating back to 5000 BC. It was the crowning city of many of the kings and queens of the Kingdom of Hungary. Prior to 1919 the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was known as "Pressburg". Most of the local people speak the Slovak language. Bratislava lies in the North Temperate Zone with short autumn and spring periods.
We were on a day long brief trip. Coming out of the station we started walking southwards. Museum of Transport is located adjacent to this station. It was part of first steam railway station.
We crossed nearby pedestrian overpass and followed Stefanikova Street to reach city center. Many hotels, luxurious apartments and restaurants can be seen all along this road. Various structures along the road bear mark of the Communist era vibe. Following side street Kuzmányho Street we visited Dr. Michaelis' villa. This Neo-Renaissance building is considered to be one of the most valuable residential buildings at the end of the 19th century. Presently it is a national cultural monument. Slavín is a memorial monument and military cemetery located further west. It is the burial ground of thousands of Soviet Army soldiers who died during World War II in this city.
Strolling towards south east we came across public space Hodzovo namestí square. The Presidential Palace and Crowne Plaza Hotel are prominent buildings in this area. This palace is known as Slovakia's White House and presently it is the official seat of the president.Earlier this palace was venue for aristocratic society events and concerts. Right in front of the palace there is a big fountain in the shape of Earth which symbolizes freedom. It is also known as Fountain of Peace. It is a great spot for taking some nice pictures. The main gate with its shape and colors reminds Buckingham palace in London. French Garden located northwards is one of the most popular parks and worth of visiting.
The old city centre is very picturesque and the best parts of Bratislava. The historic old town is bounded by the river Danube to the south and Hodzovo nam?stí square to the north. Some of the local parts were demolished by the Communist government after World War II. It also contains many Slovak governmental offices, castles, many churches and foreign embassies. Many beautiful monuments survived in the old town to tell of its past under Austro-Hungarian rule. Still remnants of the medieval city walls can be traced here. It certainly makes great photographic memories in travel albums.
Michael's Gate is the one of the main entrances to the city. Right under it there is a golden circle, known as kilometer zero. It illustrates the distances from Bratislava to 29 other capital cities. There is a museum on the top floor of the Michael's Tower. It introduces visitors with fortifications, military equipment and firearms. A great view of the city and historic monuments can be enjoyed from the top. Nice cafes, restaurants and exclusive shops can be seen from here towards Danube. It is considered to be the thinnest and most romantic street in Bratislava.
Bratislava Castle is a massive rectangular building with four corner towers and stands on an isolated rocky hill directly above the Danube River. The castle hill site has been inhabited since the transitional period between the Stone and Bronze ages. It has been a dominant feature of the city for centuries due to its size and location. The largest and tallest tower is the Crown Tower which was constructed in the 13th century.
For approximately 200 years beginning in the mid-1500s it housed the crown jewels of Hungary. The exterior walls and inside corridors contain fragments of old Gothic and Renaissance construction elements. The entrance gate from the 16th century is still visible towards east side. The first floor in the south wing of the building houses the rooms of Slovak parliament. Slovak National Museum is at its second floor.
This museum has collection of art and artifacts, paintings, statues, glassware, hand-carved wooden furniture, clocks, weapons, helmets and armour. The west wing of this floor houses the 4 halls of the Treasure Chamber. The third floor houses the exhibition on the History of Slovakia. This site is strategically important as it guards passage between the Carpathians and river trade through Danube River from the Balkans to the Baltic Sea. The location provides excellent views of Bratislava, Austria and parts of Hungary.
The St Martin's Cathedral is situated at east of Bratislava Castle. It is the cathedral of the Roman Catholics. It is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. Starting from 12 th century this cathedral underwent number of renovation to address damages caused by battle, fire, earthquake and other mishaps. Its spire dominates old town's skyline. It has superb exterior with unique stained glass windows. This cathedral became the coronation church of the sovereigns of the Kingdom of Hungary. Coronations of many kings, queens and their consorts occurred here.
The Blue Little Church is located at south east edge of this city. It is also known as the St. Elizabeth's Church. It is decorated with brilliant blue majolica tiles. It has a cylindrical tower and its hip roof is covered with glazed decorated bricks. This cute church is also a popular wedding venue for the locals and people from the neighbouring countries.
We saw numerous whimsical statues while sauntering around. Whether they are funny or serious surely each one has a story to tell. Statue of man at work is very famous which is located on way to blue Church. Bratislava has many shopping areas, markets throughout the city. We visited few antique shops and bought few souvenirs. As Christmas was approaching we found squares are decorated by Christmas trees and the Christmas market stalls are officially opened.
The UFO Restaurant is located on the pillars of the bridge across the Danube River. Externally it looks like a flying saucer. The beautiful view of the entire city from the observation deck gives a mesmeric experience. Upside down pyramid building of Slovak Radio is also very famous.
We were feeling the pinch of winter cold breeze on our way to rail station. The sun sets at around 1600 hours at this time of the year. We were on our way to Vienna by evening train. It was a very relaxing and convenient trip.
The Old town whisks visitors back a few centuries as they wander through cobbled streets and admire the Baroque architecture. Bratislava has forests and few amazing gardens close to the city centre. Presence of numerous theatres, museums, galleries, concert halls, cinemas, film clubs, and foreign cultural institutions amplifies its attraction. Tourists can ride the sightseeing bus while listening to audio commentary about the passing monuments. Today the city oozes a unique style, culture and magical atmosphere. Moreover, the Slovaks are warm and friendly. Exclusive entreaty of this city really touched my heart.
The writer is a civil Engineer
serving in the Army