‘BLAVA’ is certainly a dynamic city! Everything moves, everything changes here from day to day; one’s never sure that what is being viewed will still be there tomorrow. It began with Bratislava’s name, which turned unceasingly from Brezalauspruch to Preslava, Posonium, Istropolis, Prešpork, Prešporek, Pressburg, Požoň and so forth many times, before settling (supposedly) onto the present one – while Rome, Paris and London, for instance, have stuck to their monikers for a much longer time. Thus, motion must be its fate. Buildings are popping up like mushrooms ever taller, gobbling up flower-bed greens, walkways and the lot, to be replaced with ‘biznis’ (a fetish word since the 1989 change) of a colossal scale: if this goes on too far the name might need another change, to ‘Hiúston’ maybe, or ‘Fínix’.
The main department store downtown wandered its sign-board up and down the alphabet from P to K to a final T, not to say of retail shops, banking houses and other such concerns bartering spots overnight. A city landmark, the ancient Hussites’ home of former Pugačeva, is now a five-star hotel – in spite of history. Elegant structures like the Apollo Bridge and VÚB bank’s glass tower at Nivy are modifying Bratislava’s outline: unfortunately property and rents also rose like skyscrapers, but that’s another chapter in itself. Meanwhile, several post offices and telephone facilities disappeared from the centre and have not been restored, alas, ‘thanks’ to the mobile encroachment. Even glorious memorabilia – namely Franz Joseph Haydn’s autograph, in bronze, upon the side of Presidential Palace – have not yet found their way back: and why ever?
What’s indeed most surprising about the place is the actual fact that public monuments and fountains also move freely about as in a game of chess, possibly at darkness. This hectic motion – unknown elsewhere to such extent – seems to be a local phenomenon, which does not fail to turn aside the aliens. It is truly rather disorienting. The Old Town Hall traded a pair of sculptures with neighbouring Franciscan Square, including the tub’s central feminine figure; Hummel’s lively pillar leapt from Grassalkovic Park to Riegele’s corner nearing the playful cherubs of the frieze; whereas the giant resemblance of Andrej Bagar was evidently chased elsewhere by that of fabulist Hans Christian Andersen. Some artworks (inexplicably) vanished, such as the charming group of a Mother and Child from the PKO garden and a votive baroque St. Andrew in stone alongside Záhradnícka at Miletičova. Where to?
Štefánik’s statue in aviator’s outfit flew off the ‘Reduta’, landing on SND grounds under the armorial lion which fled from his stage at the Slovak National Museum to watch the Danube from a loftier one. The little pool at Hviezdoslavovo’s end towards Rybné Námestie replaced the nude young nymph in it with a ‘decorous’ maid suitably clothed; the ‘watering putti’ round basin once openly seen on the Main Square was pushed away into a silent court of the Primate's Palace on Uršulínska Street on account plausibly of their occupation, which Brussels cherishes instead ... and that’s not certainly all, in just a few years! So do not be too upset when you don’t see the old Castle sitting on its hill any longer – it may have been displaced by one more shopping mall. (The coat of arms might need a change thereafter).
9. Aug 2010 at 0:00 | John S. Grioni