Bratislava has always been a flourishing and prosperous town, which has made the most of its strategic position on the Danube and at the intersections of important European trade routes. In the Mediaeval period and later in the 18th century, it was a significant economic centre and later, a cultural and political centre of Central Europe. It was thanks to its location that in the 16th Century, Bratislava i became the capital and coronation town of the Hungarian Kingdom and the place, where its crown jewels were kept. For one thing, it was remote from the invading Turks, yet close to imperial Vienna, from where the whole of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was governed for almost the following 500 years.
For a long time, Vienna and Bratislava were very closely connected economically, culturally and politically. In the 18th century, the Castle was rebuilt and served as a summer residence for Queen Maria Theresa who visited the town frequently. The main reason for her regular visits was the fact, that her favourite daughter, Maria Christine, lived here for almost 20 years.
The strategic location of the town had been considered a long-term advantage but suddenly in the middle of the 20th century it became a major disadvantage, when Bratislava had to pay heavily for its unique position. After the communists came to power in 1948, an Iron Curtain, visible from the city centre, was drawn. It brutally divided what had once been a single economic and cultural region.
Imagine being the organizer for really major event – the King of Hungary’s coronation. For years it had been held in Esztergom, Hungary.
But in 1563 when it was time to crown Maximilian as the new Hungarian king, Etzergom was under the control of Hungary’s bitter enemy, the Ottoman Turks. The solution? To move the ‘Red Carpet Event’ to Bratislava, known then as Pozsony, considered to be a safe heaven thanks to its double fortification wall. Maximilian was so pleased that as a thank you, he gave the people of Bratislava a beautiful fountain in Hlavné námestie (The Main Square). The fountain is still functional today.
The decision to relocate the coronation ceremony to Bratislava proved to be a very good one, as the next ten Hungarian kings and eight royal consorts were all crowned here.
Among the most famous was Maria Theresa. Crowned on June 25, 1741, she made Bratislava the centre of her eastern kingdom during her 40-year reign.
The coronation ceremony is reenacted annually in late June. Just like in 1563, it is a time of great celebration. From St. Martin´s Cathedral, the newly crowned monarch parades through the city.
Historically, the monarch stopped at the Franciscan Church to dole out knighthoods in the “Order of the Spur” and behind the Michael´s Gate to reassure the people of Bratislava that their “royal privileges” will be maintained. Finally the procession arrived at Coronation Hill where the new Monarch waved his sword in all four directions of the compass, promising to defend his kingdom.
MODERN CITY ON THE DANUBE
“Old man river, he just keep rollin’ along” at least according to the American musical classic Showboat. These lyrics describe the Mississippi River, but they certainly apply to the mighty Danube.
Bratislava lies on the beautiful blue Danube, arguably the most important river in central Europe. And no, the river was not named after Johann Strauss waltz. It was the other way round. It is said that Strauss composed the first melodies of his famous waltz in Bratislava in 1852.
The river has long been of the utmost importance to Bratislava. In the first century, it served as a border of the Limer Romanus, protecting the Roman Empire from barbaric Germanic tribes. Later it helped protect the city from Tartars and Turks. Nowadays the Danube serves as a national boundary between Slovakia and Hungary and Austria.
Bratislava, a great place to chill during the day, takes on a new face when the sun goes down.
Bratislava, charming and chill during the day, at night becomes a totally different place. Perhaps little less adrenaline-packed but equally exciting is Bratislava’s lively night life and clubbing scene. Pick your poison – a few hours quietly sipping a dry martini, or a whole night rocking wildly into tomorrow. Rumours are that even some tourists who are staying in Vienna get lured to cross the border to party at the Slovak hotspots. Said hotspots can be found mostly in the area around Michalská, Obchodná and Ventúrska streerts as well as Hviezdoslavovo and Župné squares where opportunities abound for clubbing at a number of music bars and clubs with music provided by live musicians or DJs.