Wednesday 11am Eastern Standard Time
Pittsburgh to Charlotte
Wednesday 5pm Eastern Standard Time
Charlotte to Munich
Thursday 8am Central European Time
Munich to Bratislava
Thursday 12pm Central European Time
Twenty hours either on a plane or in an airport. I was glad to be on the ground. Rastislav picked me up at the modest airport took me to lunch in the same mall where his consumer photography lab is located. It was good to catch up with him in person. It had been 8 years since I met Rasto while he was a photography exchange student at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Rasto has wanted me to visit Slovakia since the day he left the USA for home. Eight years later I finally made it and I needed a nap.
During my first afternoon in Bratislava I spent time with my host family the Misik’s, Rastislav, Martinka and Svetlanka. The Misik’s own an apartment on the high ridge on the west side of Bratislava. They bought the apartment after the fall of communism when property values were cheaper. They have realized great appreciation to the home which provides a fantastic view of the burgeoning industrial and commercial center. The old town and the center of government is a short five minutes walk down the hill.
Thursday 5pm CET
A daily tradition for many Slovaks is to spend time at swimming at the man made lakes that dot the outskirts of the city. We chose to swim in a lake on the western side of Bratislava near the suburb of Rusovce. The man made lake is situated on the flood plain of the Danube River. The reservoir acts as a rainwater catch to supply drinking water to the city. Each group of lake visitors pick a different spot along the shoreline and sequester themselves from one and other by trees and brush.
Afterwards we stopped in the suburban village of Rusovce for sherbet. Ruscove is comparable to an American suburb, a small service based old town center with a mixture of new and old homes expanding from the center. Property values are on the rise here as evidenced by the expanding rows of new homes waiting to be purchased.
As a contrast to Ruscove, on the drive back to Bratislava we detoured through Petrzalka, a huge expanse of apartment dwellings, symbolic evidence of communism. The Soviet style buildings have taken on new life however; shops and service businesses have begun to open where state owned stores once were located. Pubs and bars with outdoor seating and colorful surroundings break the drab. Many of the formed concrete buildings, left unpainted or white during communism, are being colorfully painted to reflect the capitalist mood of the city.
Thursday 9PM CET
After dark Rastislav took me to the center of Bratislava’s Old Town and had a few beers under fantastic medieval architecture. Churches and buildings with ornate stonework and archways lined the cobblestone streets. Most of the old town and its character in Bratislava’s center was leveled by communists to make way for an expressway and ‘modern’ communist buildings. It was suggested to me that the old town was destroyed as a method to break the spirit of the people in Bratislava.
Friday 6am CET
I headed out into the city a dawn broke over Bratislava just before the city woke, about 6 am. Only a few local people were out heading to work or taking a morning walk and a few hotel guests coming and going to inns hotels tucked away on narrow side streets off of the main town square. I wandered the streets for about an hour photographing what remains of the old town. St Michaels Gate once a fortress gate to the city now is the entryway to the maze of narrow streets designed for foot traffic. Originally built in the 1300’s the gate is the only entry that has been preserved from the medieval fortifications and is one of the oldest town buildings. The narrow cavernous streets diffused the early light evoking a real sense of history and time. I contemplated just how many people had wandered here before me.
See more photos at Flickr