The Wandelgek arrived early in the afternoon of June 25 in Bratislava by train. First he searched for a campsite on the edge of town. The campsite was found in an industrial area.
Bratislava is a city where, especially the chemical industry is well represented. Among others there is a Technology/Chemistry University.
Bratislava (/ˌbrætɨˈslɑːvə/ or /ˌbrɑːtɨˈslɑːvə/; Slovak pronunciation: [ˈbratislava]; formerly Slovak Prešporok; German: Pressburg or Preßburg; Latin: Posonium; Hungarian: Pozsony) is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 500,000, the country’s largest city. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two independent countries.
Bratislava is the political, cultural and economic centre of Slovakia. It is the seat of the Slovak president, the parliament and the Slovak Executive. It is home to several universities, museums, theatres, galleries and other important cultural and educational institutions. Many of Slovakia’s large businesses and financial institutions also have headquarters there.
The history of the city has been strongly influenced by people of different nations and religions, namely by Austrians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, Serbs and Slovaks (in alphabetical order). The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, a part of the larger Habsburg Monarchy territories, from 1536 to 1783 and has been home to many Slovak, Hungarian and German historical figures.
The Wandelgek immediately had a nasty collision with the local authorities in the tram towards the campsite. There were inspectors in civil guise who boarded the tram and asked for tickets. However, it was apparently necessary to have luggage tickets when you’re heavily loaded with luggage. Backpacks are considered heavy loads. The Wandelgek had to leave the tram and pay for luggage tickets a fine. Eventually, after playing the role of ignorant foreign tourist (that role was not so difficult to play because luggage tickets were an unknown phenomenon), he paid half of the fine and nothing for the luggage ticket.
Once the tent was set up, The Wandelgek returned to the old town of Bratislava.
The most interesting was a small square in the middle of the city with some rather different buildings. From the banks and terraces it is nice to watch people. On the square was a beautiful yellow church, a museum and a fountain. In front of the church was a strange artwork that consisted of two rows of cinema folding chairs facing each other, separated by high blue wooden cross pieces. Between every 2 chairs hung a round circle with glass in it, on which the face of a man wearing a hat was painted.
In Bratislava the weather was much better than in Poprad. The sun was lovely and it was about 24 degrees Celsius. A little old man shuffled at a top speed of 3 tiles per minute, step by step across the square. The slowness of life can be so beautiful during a vacation.
After a walk through the city and a pivo on the square, the fatigue of the long journey caused The Wandelgek to visit his tent early for a good night’s sleep.
At 26-06, the sun was shining, so it was “short sleeves and shorts weather”. In the streets of Bratislava they were filming a movie and signs that kept bystanders from getting to close, mentioned that whenever you were filmed, that material could be used without you having any legal or financial rights. The movie was probably a detective with a shooting scene because there was a gunshot ringing through the streets.
Towering above Bratislava is a castle and that was where The Wandelgek wanted to go today. After climbing the rock and reaching the castle, the view proved to be very beautiful. Not so much the old town (which is only 0.5 square kilometers in size) of Bratislava captivated me, but the other bank of the Danube where he could see suburbs dating from the communist era with lots of concrete flats.
The modern cable bridge across the Danube, had an impressive restaurant situated on top of its main pillar.
After sitting a while on the castle ramparts The Wandelgek declined to Danube. On the riverbank he found a hot-dog stand where a Slowak woman wearing a hairnet, sold hotdogs.
In a cozy restaurant The Wandelgek drank a glass of red wine. It is said that the wines from Eastern Europe taste very good, even better than French wines. They are competitive in terms of taste. In a courtyard garden at the restaurant, a group of street performers told and acted out a fairy tale for a group of children. A dog which the children had left tied to a fence was not having as much fun as the children and started to howl intensely.
At 27-06 , The Wandelgek visited another castle: the castle ruins of Devin Head, The ruin was situated on a steep rocky outcrop that overlooked the Danube.
A beggar asked for a DM and The Wandelgek gave him a Gulden (Dutch pre-Euro valuta). But the offer was refused ! It had to be a DM. So he gave a DM after all. A soon as the beggar owned the shining DM he asked for a second DM. Somehow The Wandelgek didn’t want to wait for the beggar owning a pile of DM’s and then asking to change them for paper money 😉
The Wandelgek reached the outskirts of Bratislava taking tram line no. 9. Along a road on the edge of a hill slope, The Wandelgek saw the the longest, continuing row of desolate flats he had ever seen. After at first having taken a wrong turn, a friendly Slovakian woman pointed The Wandelgek in the right direction. In yet another U-shaped block of flats was a shopping center, which excelled in concrete drabness and desolation and which had a lot of empty retail spaces. On the gallery at the first floor was a small pastry shop where they sold yummy chocolate pastries. Everything here was very cheap.
Behind the mall was a steep hill where The Wandelgek started to climb. On top of the hill was some pine forest and heath area with many beautiful flowering plants.
Declining again to the other side of the hill, The Wandelgek reached a small contributary stream of the Danube, along which stretched a busy road with lots of freight traffic. It turned out that this traffic came from a large gravel pit.
There were lots of frogs in the water making noise…
After following this road for a while, The Wandelgek took a bus to the small village of Devin and hence climbed the rock on which Devin Head lay.
This rock not only offered an excellent vantage point for the castle, but also for a stork couple that had nested here and was nursing two youngsters.
During the climb, The Wandelgek suddenly spotted Indian temples with columns and large statues of gods. It turned out to be a film set that looked quite real until you walked around. At the back of the temples were wooden frameworks and everything appeared to be made of painted and “sculpted” polystyrene, even the stones in the temple walls.
Then The Wandelgek reached the castle ruins.
Devín Castle (Slovak: hrad Devín or Devínsky hrad, Hungarian: Dévényi vár, German: Burg Theben) is a castle in Devín, which is a borough of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia
Owing to its strategic position, the cliff (altitude of 212 meters) at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers was an ideal place for a fort. Its owner could control the important trade route along the Danube as well as one branch of the Amber Road. That is why the site has been settled since the Neolithic and fortified since the Bronze and Iron Age. Later, both the Celts and the Romans built strong fortresses there. In the Roman ruins, the first Christian church located North of the Danube has been identified.
The castle stands just inside Slovak territory on the frontier between Slovakia (previously part of Czechoslovakia) and Austria. The border runs from west to east along the Morava River and subsequently the Danube. Prior to 1989, the Iron Curtain between the Eastern Bloc and the West ran just in front of the castle. Although the castle was open to the public, the area surrounding it constituted a restricted military zone, and was heavily fortified with watchtowers and barbed wire. After the Velvet Revolution the area was demilitarised.
The most photogenic part of the castle is the tiny watchtower, known as the Maiden Tower. Separated from the main castle, it balances perilously on a lone rock and has spawned countless legends concerning imprisoned lovelorn daughters leaping to their deaths.
Inside, the castle is a sprawling landscape of walls, staircases, open courtyards and gardens in various states of repair. They are all, however, made readily accessible by a continuing restoration and archaeological project conducted since the borough of Devín was reclaimed from Nazi Germany which had annexed it shortly before World War II.
Devín castle likely is first mentioned in written sources in 864, when Louis the German besieged Prince Rastislav in one of the frequent wars between the Franks and Great Moravia respectively in the “castle of Dowina”. During the Moravian period, a Christian church had been built in the complex. Its distinct style was probably inspired by similar churches in Byzantine Macedonia, from where Saints Cyril and Methodius came to Great Moravia. On the other hand, the identification of Dowina with Devín Castle has been under debate based both on linguistic arguments and the absence of convincing archaeologic evidence.
In the 13th century, a stone castle was built to protect the western frontier of the Hungarian Kingdom whose existence was documented in 1271 and a reference to a castelanus de Devin appeared in 1326. Between 1301 and 1323, the castle (together with Bratislava/Pressburg County) was held by the Dukes of Austria who granted it to Otto von Tellesbrunn. In 1323, the dukes transferred Pozsony County back to King Charles I of Hungary and Devín Castle became the possession of the heads (ispáns) of the county. In 1385, the castle was occupied by Margrave Jobst of Moravia who held it until 1390 when King Sigismund of Hungary redeemed it and gave it to duke Stibor of Stiboricz. After that, the king mortgaged Devín Castle to an Austrian knight, Lessel Hering who transferred the castle to Nicholas II Garay (the Palatine of the Kingdom) in 1414. Around 1444, King Frederick IV of Germany occupied the castle but he granted it to Ladislaus Garai already in 1450.
A palace was added in the 15th century. Fortification was reinforced during wars against the Ottoman Empire. The Castle was never taken, but after the Hungarian Kingdom joined the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottomans were finally defeated, it ceased to be an important border fortress and was no longer used by the military. Stephen Báthory got the castle by the king as a donation. But according to Stephen Báthory was Keglević the owner of the castle. Keglević pawned the castle for 40,000 guilders to the Palocsai family and spent the money. In 1609, Matthias II confirmed that Keglević still was the owner of the castle, but Keglević did not have the money to take the castle out of pledge from the Palocsai family. Nearly 100 years later in 1635 Palatine Pál Pálffy took the castle out of pledge from the Palocsai family. The last owners of the Devín Castle were the Counts of the Pálffy family. Only in 1809, after the Siege of Pressburg, was the castle (still considered a threat) destroyed by the retreating forces of Napoleon I of France. Napoleon and Leopold Pálffy negotiated then and they both agreed that Vienna is supplied with products by Pálffy.
Since the 19th century as its history inspired several Romantic poets, followers of Ľudovít Štúr, Devín has become an important national symbol for the Slovaks. It featured both on the reverse of the former 500 Czechoslovak koruna banknote and the 50 Halierov coin of the Slovak currency.
The Hungarians regarded it as the western gateway of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Hungarian poet Endre Ady used it as a symbol of modernism and Westernization in his poem I am the Son of Gog and Magog:
By Verecke’s ancient route I came,
In my ear ancient Magyar songs still blaze,
Am I free to break through at Dévény,
With modern songs fit for modern days?—Endre Ady: I am the Son of Gog and Magog
Some parts of the castle have been reconstructed in the 20th century and the castle hosts an interesting museum. Archaeological works at the site have revealed the remains of a Roman tower dating from the 1st century AD and evidence of a prehistoric settlement.
From the walls, the view over the Danube and the confluence with the Morave was breathtaking. This view was similar to the slightly more southerly views that he had seen at the castle ruins of Visegrad at the Danube bend north of Budapest in Hungary.
A 55 meter deep well created beautiful echoes from shouts and a worker threw water in the well which clattering and splashing sound could be heard several seconds later. Stones caused a loud noise in the hollow space, as soon as they fell on the water surface.
When a man suddenly started talking Slovakian to The Wandelgek, the following strange conversation developed: “Sprechen sie auch Deutsch?” To which the man replied in Slovak. The Wandelgek tried again: “Was sagen sie?” He did not understand but he answered in German: Was wollen sie wissen? The Wandelgek capitulated.
At 17.40h there would be a train leaving from Bratislava to Liptovski Mikulas near Poprad in the Tatras. In the newspaper were for the next few days finally better forecasts, so walking in the Tatras seemed an option again. Definitely worth trying. However, the bus and tram journey back to Bratislava took so long that he missed the train. Another (night) train left at 22.30 h and The Wandelgek spent the time in between at the town square drinking pivo.Share this blog on:
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