Not satisfied with one faux-castle in Budapest and an archbishop’s palace in Bratislava, we continued to explore fortresses and regal estates throughout the rest of our trip.
Bratislava’s most famous landmark is simply known as Bratislava Castle. It is, of course, on top of a hill. Unfortunately, the castle that stands today was mostly re-constructed during the Soviet era. The original structure was destroyed by the combination of a nineteenth century fire and WWII bombs.
On the street to the castle, we saw this beautiful, narrow building–“The House of the Good Shepherd.” Outside of communist apartment complexes, it feels like amazing architecture is everywhere I turn in Europe.
Although the skies were gray, the golden leaves added some color and cheer to the day.
Jesse wasn’t too sick to pose in front of the castle.
Most of it was under renovation, but we could go in a small museum that housed artifacts excavated from the courtyard.
A snoozing guard woke up just in time to ask us for our tickets, which we did not know where to purchase. Several other groups of people wandered in without tickets as well. The guard patiently directed the tourists back outside. You’d think if someone wants your money, they’d at least make it well-known where to pay!
Once inside I enjoyed looking at the ancient coins, glassware, and other objects that spanned nearly two-thousand years of history.
From the castle, we had a good view of the bizarre “New Bridge.” It looks like a U.F.O. has landed on top. The U.F.O. is in fact a restaurant and viewing deck. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to go up.
On Monday, nearly all the museums in the city were closed so we decided to take the twenty-minute bus ride to Devín Castle. I am so glad we did.
Because of my experiences with public transportation over the past two months, I was able to locate the bus stop hiding under the New Bridge and decipher the schedule displayed on a small computer print-out on a cluttered bulletin board. I didn’t know that I’d made progress until I was able to handle a situation like that with relative ease.
After a weekend of clouds, the sun was shining as we hopped on the bus, which passed through a little village and deposited us in a parking lot right beneath the castle.
We got off and stared in awe for a few minutes. It was like something out of a fairy tale.
Jesse started snapping photos, but I was eager to see the castle up close.
The view of the surrounding hills burning with the flames of autumn was breathtaking. Even without the castle, climbing the hill would have been worth it.
The site of Devín was inhabited for thousands of years and once served as a Roman outpost. The castle that remains today is at least seven hundred years old. It was blown up by none other than. . . NAPOLEON in 1811. He was a very destructive man. Of course, the Hapsburgs would probably have destroyed it if Napoleon hadn’t beaten them to it.
From the castle, we could see both the Morava and Danube rivers. The deep blue water shimmering in the sunlight evoked the sounds of that familiar Strauss waltz that I listened to in elementary school music class and on Saturday morning cartoons.
During the Cold War, Soviet sharpshooters were positioned in the Castle because the Iron Curtain fell in the middle of the river. The soldiers guarded the border with Austria–probably to keep people from fleeing rather than to keep Westerners out.
I envy this cheerful lizard for getting to dwell at such a neat location.
After a short hour, we had to catch the bus back in order to take a walking tour. The castle is perhaps my favorite thing that I’ve seen so far in Europe. As a person who is generally calm and introverted, bustling cities and museums crammed with tourists cannot really compete with a beautiful setting on a hilltop and a little smiling lizard.
In coming weeks, when I feel stressed and anxious, I think I will close my eyes and recall the serenity of standing in the tower of a castle and soaking up the fall sunshine.