Saturday, January 14, 2012


When people say everything in Europe looks the same, they have obviously not looked close enough. 34.7 miles that is. Today I went the short trip from Vienna to Bratislava, supposedly the two closest capital cities in the world. This is my sixth time to Vienna and so I think I have a pretty good feel for the place, hence the trip outside the city. Crossing a border is always exciting, even if there is not much too it these days, especially in the EU. As a child I was jumping up and down waiting to hear the punch of the stamp against my clean passport letting me go discover a new land, even if it was just Ireland. Nowadays though there are just derelict buildings that represent an ambiguous border and only once you have changed mobile phone network have you really entered a new country. If you look closely you can see differences, even in the closest countries. The roads are different, the upkeep of public areas, fashion sense, language, history; the list is endless. The people and they way they live creates a totally different environment and central Europe is a great place to see it first hand.
Vienna is a very cosmopolitan city, beautiful buildings all kept to look like they were built yesterday. The roads are a place where potholes don't exsist. Public parks are maintained as if they were a private garden for royals(to be fair, most of Vienna's public parks used to be exactly that...). Architechture ranges from the grand Upper Belvedere in the 4th district by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and the quirky Hunderwasserhaus by Freidensreich Hunderwasser and Joseph Karwina both breathtaking in their own way. There is a very clean way to the city; the air is fresh due to limitations on emissions and looking around everything is very neat. Sometimes it is nice to let loose and find somewhere to relax without worrying about doing the wrong thing.Bratislava does just that. Driving from Vienna you are faced with a plague or communist-style blocks of flats encircling a gorgeous old town centre. You could say Bratislava was literally a little rough round the edges. I do still appreciate that the "ugly" buildings are part of the city's history, it helps make it what it is and adds to it's charm and culture. The Bratislava Castle is somewhat of an exception, it appears to be in immaculate condition, this is because in 1811 it was burnt down and has since been restored several times and now stands as the Slovak National Museum. It sits high about the Danube, the original linking chain of all of Central Europe's most beautiful cities, and on a clear day you can see three countries;Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. The centre of Bratislava is similar to Vienna, but even more so it it's red-roofed comrades in other more eastern countries. The buildings still have a beautiful baroque touch to them but there upkeep isn't as extensive as their next-door neighbour's. And that's why I love Bratislava, not everything is trying to be perfect; it is authentic and this is the same for it's people, food, beer and all-round atmosphere.

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