Friday, October 10, 2014

Visit Austria, Hungary and Slovakia at the same time!

Following up on the last two posts about Slovakia, Tereza, a local, shares with us some fun things to see outside of the city center!

Bratislava is very walkable, but if you are interested in venturing beyond the city center, for example to the ancient Devin castle, which dominates a promontory at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, you will find reliable and inexpensive public transportation that make it easy to explore more widely. Austria is on the other side of the rivers here, and this place holds a special importance for Slovaks. Until the fall of Communism in this part of Europe in 1989, the border with Austria here was marked by barbed wire fences and heavily-armed border patrols. Many people tried to flee the regime at this spot, and there is a poignant monument commemorating those who died trying to escape to freedom in the west. I still remember going up to the castle as a small child and gazing into free Austria, and then years later finally cutting the barbed wire after the Velvet Revolution. We still keep that piece of the border wire at home.

Devin Castle on the Danube and Morava Rivers
(Photo from Bratislava Tourist Board)

Another part of the city that I find especially interesting is located along the border with Austria and Hungary (Bratislava is supposedly the only capital in the world that borders two independent countries). The precise spot where the three countries meet is in farm fields, and you will need to ask locals for directions. It is nice to ride there by bike, along one of the many bike paths. There is only a plaque marking the spot, but it is kind of cool to be able to stand in three countries at the same time.  This part of the city is called Rusovce, and it also boasts a beautiful renaissance mansion awaiting renovation. Nearby is an ancient Roman settlement called Gerulata. A couple of more bus stops from there you will come to Cunovo, where there is a huge white-water facility (white-water sports are the only sports category in which Slovakia dominates, and watching professionals compete in international championships there is very exciting). For the art fans, there is a huge, beautiful, modern art gallery in the same area, called Danubiana.

View of Bratislava from the SNP Bridge
(Photo from Bratislava Tourist Board)
If you have more time and want to venture out further from the capital, Slovakia hosts an unusually large number of beautiful medieval castles (the huge Spis castle in eastern Slovakia shouldn’t be missed), several UNESCO World Heritage Sites (such as the towns Banska Stiavnica and Bardejov), and beautiful national parks (two of the most notable being the High Tatra mountains in the north, at the border with Poland, and my personal favorite, the Slovak Paradise, with a variety of gorgeous hiking trails meandering through deep gorges and alongside waterfalls, some routes necessitating the use of ladders and chains).

If you decide to come over (which I hope you do!), you’ll still be able to find an old street devoid of any tourists, which can be hard to find in more popular destinations.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Very interesting article.