Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
Bratislava Castle (Slovak: Bratislavský hrad; German: Pressburger Burg; Hungarian: Pozsonyi vár) is the main castle of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. Because of its size and location, it has been a dominant feature of the city for centuries.
The location provides excellent views of Bratislava, Austria and, in clear weather, parts of Hungary. But we were there on a rainy Monday.
Bratislava Castle features in the first written reference to the city, which appears in the Annals of Salzburg of 907, in association with a battle between Bavarians and Hungarians. The castle hill was populated as early as the late Stone Age; its first known inhabitants were the Celts, who founded a fortified settlement here called Oppidum.
For four centuries, the border of the Roman Empire ran through the area. During the Great Moravian Empire, Slavs built a fortress that became a significant centre for the time.
In the 10th century, Bratislava became an integral part of the growing Hungary; a stone palace and the church of St. Saviour and its chapter were built on the castle hill in the 11th century. In the 15th century, in the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg, a castle was built in Gothic style as an anti-Hussite fortress. During this period, a new entrance to the castle was built on the eastern side – Sigismund’s Gate – while 7-metre-thick fortifications were constructed on the western side, and a castle well dug in 1437.
In the 16th century, King Ferdinand ordered the rebuilding of the castle in the Renaissance style, while in the 17th century, when the castle became the seat of hereditary provincial chief, Pálffy, it was rebuilt in the baroque style.
In the reign of Maria Theresa, the castle was arranged according to the needs of her son-in-law Albert, governor of Saxony and Tessen, who was a fervent art collector and who installed his works in the castle. This collection was later moved to Vienna to become the present-day Albertina Gallery. Since independence, the castle has served as a representative venue for the Slovak Parliament and houses collections of the Slovak National Museum.
Closed on Monday
The main palace building houses the Museum of History, not to be confused with the National Museum. The National Museum, was closed, an attendant made us enthusiastically clear, after we opened the unlocked door as there were people inside and the lights where on. Can you sense the irony?
Museum of History
The Museum of History forms an important part of the complex of specialised museums of the Slovak National Museum. “Its basic mission is to purposefully acquire, preserve, scientifically and professionally process, use and make available the museum collections, documenting the development of society in Slovakia from the Middle Ages until the present. In this context of the museum’s specialisation, it has a nationwide scope”, the website says, saying nothing.
“It also builds up, administers and processes a numismatic collection from the oldest times until the presence, collections documenting history and the ethno-cultural development of Slovaks living abroad.”
Visiting the castle
The main castle building was destroyed by fire in 1811. The castle was restored later and nowadays it’s mostly a museum and a location for official functions.
The ground floor and the first flour show some history of the building. One section treated the first creation of Czechoslovakia, after World War I.
It’s only on the second floor the museum becomes interesting. A section treats archeology, another communism, the end of communism and the Gentle Revolution (Slovak perspective) or Velvet Revolution (Czech perspective).
By far, it was the most interesting section of the museum.
But intriguingly, no word on the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992-1993. Why not? Is it taboo?
The third floor showed more historic artifacts. The basement has an exhibition on Celts.
Although not spectacular, Bratislava Castle is a must-visit site. Shame for the weather.
- Bratislava Castle, Wikipedia.
- Gentle Revolution, Wikipedia.
- Dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Wikipedia.
- Bratislava Castle, Visit Bratislava.
- Museum of History.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.
- A walk through Gdańsk.
- Gdańsk 2021.
- POLAND | PKP Intercity Gdansk to Wroclaw via Warsaw.
- Wrocław Museum of Architecture.
- The Dwarfs of Wrocław.
- Poland 2021.
- By train from Wroclaw to Karlovy Vary.
- Karlovy Vary.
- REVIEW | Hotel Imperial Karlovy Vary.
- Czechia’s Great Spa Town of Europe Františkovy Lázně.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen Historical Underground Tunnels.
- CZECHIA | Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen.
- CZECHIA 2021 | Cheb and its castle.
- Hotel room for one.
- By train from Karlovy Vary to Prague via Pilsen.
- Czechia 2021.
- RegioJet from Prague to Bratislava.