After Slovakia adopted a series of economic reforms during the first decade of this century, Bratislava has become one of the fastest growing regions in Europe and a construction boom has started all over the city. Developments have brought new life and spirit to many locations and created new living, business, shopping and leisure zones, popular among locals and tourists alike.
Two shopping centres close to the city centre - Eurovea and Aupark - are typical of these new developments. They both combine shops, bars and restaurants with entertainment facilities in a pleasant indoor and outdoor environment.
Eurovea, completed in 2010, is a shiny, modern shopping facility, situated on the bank of the Danube between the Old and Apollo bridges. It represents a perfect combination of shopping and relaxation close to the city centre and features a number of modern, medium-height buildings that mark a clear contrast to older houses in the area.
Although Eurovea is a single landmark itself, it comprises a series of smaller landmarks, including a low tower at the entrance to the complex which is reminiscent of London’s “Gherkin”. Eurovea’s central square is an ideal setting for cultural events, ranging from concerts, Christmas markets and the mass projection of sporting matches. (The square lies in front of the new building of the Slovak National Theatre (SND) which it is not officially part of Eurovea.)
On the opposite side of the square, close to the embankment, stand two glorious statues. One depicts Milan Rastislav Štefánik, a scientist, astronomer, diplomat, brigadier general and one of the founders of the first independent Czechoslovak Republic. He is consequently one of the greatest and most famous Slovaks. The other statue is of a mighty lion holding the coat of arms of the former Czechoslovakia, remembering the common history of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Both statues face the river Danube and Petržalka district, in order to greet potential incomers by boat.
The embankment also offers a public park with three piers protruding over the lower paths with spectacular views over Eurovea, the Danube, bridges, and Petržalka opposite.
Over on the Petržalka side of the river, between park Sad Janka Kráľa and the intersection of the SNP Bridge and highway D1, is Bratislava’s other major shopping complex: Aupark.
“I like Aupark more, it’s our old and good friend,” said Cristina Botan, a student from Moldova. “It’s so great, when you can get almost everything in the same building.”
Aupark is similar to Eurovea, but slightly older. A new part of the complex was finished in 2007, the controversial Aupark Tower, which was said by some to interfere with the favourite panorama from Bratislava castle, over the SNP Bridge and Petržalka. The tower went ahead and is already a prestigious business address, occupied by the headquarters of various companies.
There was a similar discussion concerning the planning and building of River Park, designed by the Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat in 2005. Although some locals complained about the development, which comprises the five-star Kempinski hotel as well as offices, luxury flats and commercial premises about 10-15 minutes walk from the SNP Bridge, it is already a popular spot in the city and crowds often balloon onto the river path. The J&T Banka café here includes a “vertical garden” (literally, a selection of mosses, vines, trees and flowers that extends upwards in the bar), while children are excellently catered for by the Woow toy shop, milk bar, interactive game console and playgrounds both inside and out.
As Bratislava becomes increasingly more modern, including a radically rebuilding of the airport, its bus and train stations are lagging well behind.
“I spend a lot of time at Bratislava’s main station, and it can’t be compared with any other European station,” said Marek Soták, a student who frequently commutes to Bratislava. “It’s too small, filthy and is a repulsive gate to the city. For foreigners, it must be a shocking experience.”
Advocates hope that the neglected place will soon be totally rebuilt into a modern transport hub combining the existing Museum of Transport with an underground shopping centre and maybe even a park with greenery that will become more welcoming entrance to Bratislava.
There are similar feelings about the unsightly central bus station at Mlynské Nivy. “I think that this place is really dirty and neglected,” said Tomáš Vallo, who commutes to bus station daily. Local politicians and investors plan to rebuild it into a modern commercial centre with a new bus terminal.
4. Oct 2013 at 0:00 | Ivan Belko