Bratislava was nothing like Prague when I first came here

Former Fulbright scholar reminisces about his first introduction to the Slovak capital and shows how much it has changed in one decade.

Bratislava's Old Town on a snowy night in January 2021. Bratislava's Old Town on a snowy night in January 2021. (Source: Ján Pallo)

Ten years ago this month I arrived in Bratislava for a Fulbright semester, not guessing it would launch my new central European life. First, though, I spent a week in Vienna, like a convicted man partying before a looming prison sentence.

Vienna had been so unseasonably warm that my new L.L. Bean commuter coat, good to - 40°C, had looked ridiculous there. That changed the day I arrived at Hotel Kyjev, where I lived my first Slovak week. Swirling snow and steel grey clouds framed Kammené Námestie six floors below. It sure did not resemble any picturesque Wiener Platz I had seen the previous week. Light snow fell again that evening, bestowing an ominous Muscovite air. I had to remember this was East Europe lite, just right for an old coot like me to wet his feet without drowning in Slavism.

Still, I already knew it would not be like Prague, an international city.

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