Bratislava #2: Slavin Monument and the National History Museum

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January 14th 2020
Published: January 22nd 2020
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The grey skies and rain that I encountered when I woke up didn't not really motivate me to move much. It took me longer than I wanted to get myself sorted and out the door. I had decided to visit the Slavin Monument as it was only about a twenty minute walk from where I was staying. What I didn't realise until I started that walk was that it was pretty much all uphill and involved quite a lot of stairs. Also in the mix was quite a lot of ice on the paths, making the walk pretty slippery in places. However, I survived and made it to the Slavin Memorial Monument in one piece. There were few other people about and most looked like locals just out for a morning run or walk. the monument was built between 1957 and 1960 to commemorate the liberation of the city by the Soviet Army in April 1945 and is also a cemetery for those who fell while taking over the city from the German Wehrmacht. The cold, cloudy and rainy day made the visiting the monument quite atmospheric. I also had to be careful as there were patches of ice everywhere. After studying the map, I went up to the main memorial building, which had some candles and wreaths lying in front of it. It's nice to see that people don't forget the sacrifices made by others. There were some pictures/sculptings that depicted scenes of war and the aftermath, which were rather beautiful. The central obelisk is 42 metres high and on top there is a statue of a soldier holding a flag in one hand and crushing the Hakenkreuz (Nazi symbol) with his left boot. I really wish that it hadn't been such an overcast day, as I would have liked to have seen the statue at the top better. I walked around the central monument and it is decorated with names of Slovakian cities and the dates that they were liberated from the Nazis. I then walked around the rest of the site, taking in the graves, Russian wooden cross and an old bunker. It was an interesting and sombre place to visit.

I made my way back down the hill, passing a few embassies on the way. This is one of the well to do areas of the city. I did manage to get lost, I can't remember all the turns I took on these winding streets, but got back on track eventually. I made my way to Bratislava Castle via some streets I hadn't walked the day before in the Old Town. At the castle, I headed to the ticket office. The ticket to enter the Museum of History was 10 euros, and I seemed to interrupt the cashier's nap when I went to buy it. No sooner had he given me my ticket and change, he lay back in his chair and closed his eyes. Wish I could sleep on the job like that. I walked through the courtyard to the entrance to the museum. I deposited my coat and started to look at the exhibitions. There are eight different exhibits to explore, but I doubted that I would have time to see them all as I got there quite late in the afternoon. This first exhibit I saw about the reconstruction of the castle. It was quite interesting and I liked seeing the old pieces of the castle on display. There was some kind of stone lion/dragon that reminded me of those I had seen in China. I headed through a very grand looking hall and up the stairs of the castle. This led me to the Music Hall, which had been used as a chapel in the 18th century. There was a lot of beautiful artwork adorning the walls depicting the life and death of Jesus. I took a rest on one of the benches before looking at the artwork. I took a look around the other couple of rooms on this floor, but there wasn't too much to see, only a couple of paintings on the walls of each room.

I headed up the stairs and came to the fourth floor. There were quite a few exhibits on this floor. I headed into the one about the Slovakian artist, Martin Benka, first. I knew nothing about his artist, so it was interesting to learn about him and see his paintings. He was the founder of Modernist 20th Century Slovak painting. Some of his paintings weren't too my taste, but I did like seeing the scenes of Slovakian life that he had painted as it gave me an insight into how life here was lived in the past. I loved seeing people in traditional dress. I also really liked seeing the Slovakian countryside, I wonder how much it has changed since Benka did his paintings. He had travelled extensively through Slovakia and also to other countries throughout the world. I liked those paintings from outside of Slovakia, too. The next exhibit I headed to was 'N89. The Road to Freedom'. This was my favourite exhibition that I saw in the museum and worth the entry fee alone. This exhibition was really extensive, it just kept going and going. It was made to commemorate the Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution as it is known in Slovakian that took place in mid to late December 1989. This revolution in Czechoslovakia was a non-violent transition of power against the one-party Communist Party government. The Gentle Revolution was mainly peaceful demonstration protests by students and older dissidents and strikes. There was also a lot about people escaping Communism and heading to the West to start a new life. It was really interesting to read people's accounts and see the artefacts that they had taken with them and asylum papers. There were loads of videos to watch, information to read and pictures to look at. I really liked the 'Jingling Keys' art installation as I learnt something totally new. Protesters used the jingling of keys to signify support during demonstrations, but it also had another meaning that of unlocking doors and telling the Communists that they were no longer welcome in Czechoslovakia and it was time for them to go home. I really liked that they had some of the demonstrators outfits on display and the iconic photos of them wearing them while protesting. My brain was pretty full after this exhibit, but there was still more to go. I headed through to the exhibit which chronicled the history of Slovakia throughout the ages. This was interesting and had lots of different artefacts on display. Then I headed up the tower. That was a bit weird as there was no one else up there and there were quite a few sets of steps to reach the top. Since it was rather dark, inside and out, the views weren't that great. Still the steps were a good workout. Since the museum was shutting soon, I quickly headed down to the basement to have a quick look through the exhibition about the Celts in Slovakia. I liked looking at the old style houses, but my brain was full so I couldn't retain really any of the information that I read. After exiting the museum, I headed outside to take in the night views of the city below.

I had spotted a restaurant close to the castle on the walking tour the day before that I liked the look of, so I headed there. The restaurant was a German style 'Weinstube' called Modra Hviezda and reminded me of when I lived in Germany. The restaurant was completely dead when I entered and I was shown to a table in the basement part. There were many delicious looking dishes on the menu but I really wanted to try the local potato dumplings so I opted for those along with some grilled vegetables as I knew the dumplings wouldn't be the healthiest things in the world. My beer soon arrived and I was happy to try to a local Slovakian beer as the place I went to yesterday sold Czech beer. It was fine, all these lagers are pretty generic and similar tasting, but I was happy to have tried something local. It didn't take long for my food to turn up, while the individual portions didn't look too big, together they looked like a rather substantial meal. You can't really mess up grilled vegetables and these ones were good. The potato dumpling, Bryndzové Halušky, were not what I had imagined. When people say dumplings I think of the ones that I eat in Asia or Polish style Pierogi, which are dough skins filled with fillings. However, these dumplings were more like gnocchi I think, but a lot smaller. They were coated in sheep's cheese (feta) and tasted really good. It was a rich dish and I like rich food so it was perfect for me, but it was still a struggle to finish it. I really liked the crispy bacon fat that topped the dish. They added a nice bit of crunch and a different flavour to the dish. If I return to Slovakia, I would definitely order Bryndzové Halušky again. After a quick espresso to help digest my meal, I headed off down the hill home. With my full belly, I was glad there were no uphill sections.

Additional photos below
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Bryndzové HaluškyBryndzové Halušky
Bryndzové Halušky

Potato dumplings with sheep's cheese and bacon

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