Day 3, coincidentally, the 3rd day of the month started off with a different hectic excitement. We were leaving Budapest today and heading off to the Czech Republic, post a visit to Slovakia, technically making it another country to visit before we landed up in the Czech Republic. Slovakia, as I refreshed my geography, is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria on the western side, Hungary on the Southern side, with the capital city Bratislava being the point of first stop.
The state as many others in Europe, was part of multiple empires, being part of the Kingdom of Hungary, eventually becoming a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Romans, fighting with the Germans, merging with the Czechs becoming Czechoslovakia, going through communist rules and then finally becoming an independent state of Slovakia after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in the early 1990’s. It was quite interesting to learn that though Czechoslovakia was a term used intermittently, the Slovaks consider themselves as an independent state and having their own laws.
The star of the proposed tour was obviously the Bratislava castle, in the city of Bratislava which is the capital of Slovakia. The Castle is perched atop a hill and with a view that on a clear day could surely take one’s breath away, overlooks the Danube river that flows through it (which makes one wonder, as to how long the Danube River actually goes through). The Castle’s position is quite vintage atop the hill and it was no wonder on learning that it had a history on its occupation going back to the Roman times. Passing through various centuries of empires and legacies of rulers of different cultures, which was quite apparent in the city as one passed through it. It was quite an interesting piece of information also to learn that the Castle despite being attacked and invaded a number of times, including Napoleon’s troops, never really suffered great damage, however when it did due to a fire, it was due to the carelessness of the garrisons soldiers. They were smoking near the gunpowder area and carelessly tossed their cigarettes or smokes as one would call it in the day.
Interestingly, the castle being nearly burnt to ruins, the governments of the day decided to restore the Castle to its former glory. Amazing, as this was done in the 20th Century, as many old ruins are rarely if at all worked upon or considered worth renovating, looking at the modern day costs involved. The restoration as was seen, seemed magnificently done, as though it looked brand new (which technically it was), retained the old world charm of the past.
More of a museum now, hosting exhibitions and presentations by the President. The forefront of the Castle has an imposing statue of King Svatopluk, whose reign per the guide was considered to be the golden reign of Slovakia. As luck would have had it, the Museum was closed on the day we arrived, so a tour of the facility was not possible, however one could only sit there in the serene calmness and envisage the golden period of the past, not discounting the wars and the security that the Danube river provided.
The visit over, we headed off to see the old town down the hill, which was a combination of modern buildings, co-existing with communist built legacies and the historical town. The communist built buildings as we saw in Budapest and also later on in the Czech Republic, had a unique flavor to them. All of the same colour, same style and same structure. As the guide pointed out, it was so similar that a building with over 200 flats, were all built in the same style, ie. the positioning of the rooms was so similar, that should one walk into another person’s apartment, it would seem to be their own, the only difference possibly being the furniture.