STONE knights guard the capital's Main Square.
photo: Ján Svrček
If you are stuck for a place to meet your date in Bratislava, then there is no place more apt than Hodžovo Square. However, the locals have their own name for it: Mierové námestie (Peace Square) or simply "Mierko". The name refers to the fountain there with a huge steel globe surrounded by pigeons anddoves. The Slovak president has an office in the Presidential Palace overlooking this fine example of socialist megalomaniac architecture.
Another easily found meeting place is the six-metre tall and almost 600-kilo iron clock in front of the Hotel Carlton. The clock commemorates the famous Bratislava Promenade (korzo), which until the late 1970s served as a forum for most social activities. Locals used to say that people who avoided the "korzo" on Saturdays and Sundays were either very poor, sick or dead.
Only a couple of metres from the Carlton, you can hear the Ganymede fountain that welcomes visitors to the Slovak National Theatre. Its creator, Victor Tilgner (1888), pictured Zeus metamorphosed into an eagle carrying off Ganymede, the most handsome boy on earth, to Mount Olympus.
Bratislava has 38 fountains whose maintenance costs the city more than Sk2.5 million(€60,000) annually. You should try to see them all, but especially the Woman with a Pitcher on Františkánske Square or Maximillian's fountain on Main Square. An intriguing fountain that locals call the "duck fountain" is hiding behind the bushes on Šafárikovo Square. By the way, while Brussels is so proud of having a peeing boy figure (Manneken Pis), Bratislava has four of them, discreetely hidden away on Uršuľínska Street.
Even if you are not such a fervent wine drinker as the Czech or Hungarian counts were, you will still certainly appreciate the Winegrower's Museum on Radničná Street. While learning about the history of wine, you can savour some really mouth-watering examples at Bratislava's numerous, excellent wine cellars.
VIKTOR Tilgner's Ganymede fountain on Hviedzoslavovo Square is just one of 38 around the capital.
photo: Ján Svrček
Today, 178 brass plates picturing crowns mark the coronation path that leads through Kapitulská, Prepoštovská, Ventúrska and Sedlárska streets through Hlavné námestie (Main Square) reaching Michalská Street.
Well, it is time to stop exploring the paving stones and lift our eyes up to the roofs. We often walk the streets observing things only up to our own height. If we do, we can easily miss all the surprises that Bratislava's old roofs have in store for us. Not everybody knows that the Primate's Palace is wearing a huge 180-centimeter wide and 150-kilo heavy iron hat. In the 18th century the palace belonged to Count Battyanyi whose son was elected Esztergom's archbishop, but traditionally lived in Bratislava. The hat symbolized his status.
We should then try to get back to the Main Square and carefully watch the time. We can enjoy a one-and-half-minute laser show marking each full hour. The big bang theory inspired the authors of the show, Viktor Hulík and Miloš Betko, who made the laser beams to simulate the birth of stars, galaxies, the Milky Way and also the Earth. The main laser show, lasting over seven minutes starts at 22:00 (20:00 during wintertime) while shorter parts are repeated every hour from 21:00 to midnight (from 18:00 during wintertime).
Although we have promised not to stick to the regular tourist routes during our walk, we still could stop at the Archeological Museum, which is located not far from the grave of famous Rabbi Chatam Sofer (1762-1839). The Renaissance Kamperova Mansion is a little bit off the beaten track, reason enough for some tourists to avoid visiting it. They do not know what they are missing. Last time we were there, along with an exhibition of medieval cuisine we also found an exhibition called Eroticism in Slovak Art. The oldest exhibited item is the Moravianska Venus, an almost 25,000-year old ideal of the female form. The exhibition pictured how the perception of eroticism has been changing in this part of Europe.
During the summertime you can ride the historical tram through the city. And if you feel like sending an e-mail message to your friends to say that you have enjoyed the city that many tourist trade for Budapest or Prague, you can do it from the city's numerous internet cafes. This in itself is a sign that the Slovak capital is as wired as any other European city.
21. Jul 2003 at 0:00 | Danica Janiaková