BEAUTIFUL BRATISLAVA MAKES FOR THE PERFECT WEEKEND GETAWAY

Oubliez Prague, Bratislava est la nouvelle destination pour un week-end parfait en Europe. Forget Prague, Bratislava is the new destination for a perfect weekend in Europe.

Castle

Sandwiched between Budapest and Vienna, and just a stone’s throw from Prague, it is very easy to overlook Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.

Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 which saw the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it seems like the former has received the lion’s share of world attention and tourism. But the Slovakian capital of Bratislava definitely possesses both an old-fashioned charm and an interesting history that makes it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Spanning both banks of the Danube, the city which was once known as Pressburg, boasts a long and complex past, marked by the likes of the Hapsburgs, Napoléon, the Nazis, and the Communists.

One of the best examples of this is probably Bratislava Castle, a massive monument sitting atop a hill, overlooking the entire city (see lead image). Built in the 9th century, it became the formal seat of the kings of Royal Hungary in the mid 16th century. Restored many times over its 1,000+ years of existence, it has four corner towers that make it look like an upturned table. And according to legend, the internal stairs are very wide and shallow as Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa was too heavy to climb them herself, and insisted instead on riding her horse up and down. The castle is now home to the Slovak National museum and its beautiful grounds provide for some great photo opportunities.

A walk through the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town is like stepping back in time. The buildings date from various architectural periods, and the main square, Hlavné Námestie, full of cafés and kiosks selling handcrafts, bustles with life.

From the terraces of both Michael’s Gate, the only preserved gate of Bratislava’s fortifications, and the Old Town Hall’s Yellow Tower, one can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the surroundings. The three-nave Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral with its gilded replica of the coronation crown atop is a reminder of the city’s glorious past, while the many whimsical statutes that are dotted around the Old Town are a nod to a quirkier side, like Schöne Náci, the jovial chap in tails with cane, who doffs his top hat to the curious Čumil popping out of a manhole (pictured below).

cumil

Just outside the walls of the Old Town, St. Elizabeth’s church, built in the Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century, is a not-to-be-missed attraction with it blue-coloured façade and dome. A little further outside the city, the ruins of Devin Castle, a fortress built on a high rock towering above the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers, offer enchanting natural scenery.

Blue church

There is no direct flight from Nice to Bratislava, but the city is easily accessible by train or bus from both Vienna and Budapest.

LET THE BEAUTIFUL CZECH CAPITAL OF PRAGUE CAST A SPELL ON YOU

Cet article a été publié dans Riviera Buzz en 2013 (this article was published in Riviera Buzz in 2013)

Prague

Shortly after the fall of the Iron curtain, word had it that Prague was the new Paris, and it was not long before the city once again flourished.

It is definitely true that few touristic destinations around the world can boast such a rich history and so manybeautiful monuments. With its amazing Old Town, which was listed in 1992 as a UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage site, its interesting New Town, its many churches, and its renowned Jewish District, Prague is without doubt giving the French capital a run for its money as Europe’s most romantic city.

Because Prague is a walkable city, divided into five main districts, the best way to explore it is on foot. You will find remnants of the city’s history at nearly every corner.

Probably one of the most famous monuments of the Czech capital is the Astronomical Clock, which has adorned the Old Town Hall since 1410. Every hour, from 9 am to 9 pm, the figure of death rings a bell and the twelve apostles appear, while a stingy person shows his purse, a vain man admires himself in the mirror and a Turk holding a mandolin shakes his head in disbelief.

The show ends a few seconds later when the rooster crows to announce death. Located right in the Old Town Square, Prague’s former marketplace, it is just one of the many medieval houses and magnificent churches ofRomanesqueBaroque and Gothic styles which were erected in the old town (Stare Město).

Just a few meters away, lays the other famous symbol of the city, Charles Bridge, a 14th century stone gothic structure that connects the old town to Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and offers fairy-tale views of the Prague skyline. Now a pedestrian zone, it is flanked by 75 Baroque statutes and is almost constantly filled with people, artists, musicians and souvenir vendors.

Once on the other side, the City’s castle is the largest ancient palace in the world. Constructed in the 9th century byPrince Bořivoj on top of a hill, it transformed itself over the centuries from a wooden fortress to an imposing Gothic landmark with no less than three courtyards and several streets and squares inside. Now the official residence of the Czech president, it also houses on its grounds the Cathedral of St. Vitus, the most important church in the country.

The remains of the city’s former Jewish ghetto in the Jewish quarter (Josefov) are another destination popular with tourists. Named after the Emperor Josef II, whose reforms helped to ease the living conditions of the Jews, it was the birthplace of Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924) and contains an interesting museum that includes four synagogues and Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, where people had to be buried on top of each other because of lack of space.

Finally, the New Town (Nové Město) will show you a more modern side of Prague. Built in the Gothic style byCharles IV in 1348 to serve as the city’s main commercial district, it is now composed of buildings of great architectural styles, which, for the most, part date from the end of the 19th century. At its heart, the bustlingWenceslas Square is the most famous squares of the country. This is where a university student, Jan Palach, burnt himself to death in 1969 to protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion and where the demonstrations against police brutality that led to the Velvet Revolution took place in 1989.

Czech Airlines is the only company to offer direct flights between Nice and Prague.

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