March 9, 2008


We didn't know what to expect of Bratislava. You can only tell so much from a map. Arriving at the train station I had a few minutes of panic that maybe this was a bad choice. Unlike the architectural gems in Budapest the Bratislava train station is more like a down-market greyhound station if you catch my drift. But by the time we arrived at our accommodations our opinions had changed.
I found an awesome apartment/hotel called Ma Maison, on and it lives up to the description. Totally modern, beautiful, clean and in a fantastic residential neighborhood. Plus, we're just a few minutes from the old town and castle.

The contrast between Budapest and Bratislava is dramatic. I've been trying to articulate what makes the difference and it seems to be many features. Bratislava has a fantastic vibe, it is ancient and modern, at times you feel that you are in an American city but then you are next to Roman ruins. Because it is built on a hill it feels more dynamic. Plus, the sky is so blue and air clean.

Another cool feature is that this city has not yet been hit by high tourist trade. This is sure to change in the next few years. The old town is just that, very old. The Bratislava Castle was rebuilt by the Soviets in the mid-1900s after being hit by bombs in WWII. It will be undergoing renovation over the next few years.

Continuing our Jewish theme we visited the Museum of Jewish Culture and found an orthodox synagogue. We tried to get into the old Jewish cemetery which was barried under rubble during WWII and was dug out in recent years. Unfortunately it is only open by appointment, but it may be possible for us to visit tomorrow. There is a haunting holocaust memorial on the edge of old town which is a ghost image of a destroyed synagogue. The Jewish area of the city was further demolished when a bridge was built across the Danube in the 1970s.

For my birthday dinner we went to Ches David which is a Jewish-themed restaurant. Old world cooking which was interesting although I'm not into chicken livers. However dessert rocked which made my birthday feel like a birthday.

Other good news is that almost everyone speaks some English.
This final image is the highway which runs through the old town and over the Danube. You can see the old Roman wall on the left, St. Martin's Church in the middle distance, a modern office building across the river and the top of the bridge (observation town in the space ship portion) that crosses the Danube.