My time in Slovakia/Austria is officially up. After my trek to the border and back I thought I should continue the trend the following day, so I set off on foot in search of the two remaining things I wanted to check out – the first being a monument and the second, much like the cubby house I constructed thirty-five years ago out of removalist’s boxes, an architectural marvel before it’s time.
Given its size and beauty the Slavin monument and I had seen each other from a distance, but like the cutest girl at a party it had taken me some time to muster up the confidence to make today’s formal approach. Commemorating over 6,800 Soviet soldiers who lost their lives fighting against the Germans whilst liberating Bratislava in 1945 it is a poignant and fitting memorial of that battle. The site also includes a cemetery including multiple mass graves.
I was going to study the map, plan out a route but if you are going to get to something that dwarfs everything in the city don’t you revert to walking in that general direction until something gets in your path and reassess accordingly? My approach works better in Australia where the town planners don’t have the wrinkle caused by historical sites dotted everywhere in our major cities, resulting in the uninspiring familiar grid pattern. The grid is an unfamiliar concept in Europe, a place where every road winds left and right at least once. Whenever I thought I was near the monument, I would look around and the statue would now be behind me, taunting both me and the hamstrings. For a statue that can be seen everywhere it was somehow able to escape my gaze regularly, proving harder to catch than Christopher Skase. To add to my frustration many of the streets were dead ends resulting in me having to cover the same ground multiple times.
The statue atop the monument is some 50 metres above the ground. For an outsider it is unusual that it is located smack bang in the middle of an affluent part of the city. Double storey dwelling, double storey dwelling, site of great national importance, triple storey dwelling… but I suppose this is the way of the modern city. I did see a couple of vacant blocks with great views of the city for anybody that wanted to retire here and become bloated on cheesecake, local beers and hearty soups.
Actually you should do it, I would be able to visit and we could walk to the Austrian border together.
In the end I reached the top of hill, visited the monument and paid my respects. Afterwards I remember thinking I was glad the walk back will be downhill. On the way back I deviated to spend some time a lookout with views of the Danube and into Austria. Stare hard enough and you may be able to see my footprints from the day before?
Time to refuel with the staple caffeine and cake combo. Apple pie, for the apple farmers.
Conveniently down the street is the Radio & Television building. The inverted design of this one makes you ponder. The idea was apparently first conceived in 1967 and building was completed in 1983. Back when it was open this was a truly remarkable feat which continues to pose questions on how it defies physics some thirty-five years later. The building’s website boasts of a large organ inside but we all know if you have to boast about the size of your organ it’s probably not that impressive.
From there I did a lap of the Presidental Palace. Guards with guns out the front and a public park out the back. Across the road from the President’s lodgings was a sign confirming it was 5 degrees, this was enough of an excuse to convince me to hunt down some soup somewhere out of the elements.
Soup was sourced at a Slovak pub which coincidentally was called The Slovak Pub -Bratislava’s most prominent drinking venue, with a reputation for its heavy drinks and its heavier meals. The garlic soup was served in a hollowed out cob loaf. Cheese and garlic together in a thick soup which had me trying to calculate how I was going to attack this. Do you go at it with all guns blazing to prevent soup seeping through a soggy bread base? If you do that you run the risk of having nothing left to show for it than a dry bread bowl gazing back at you. These are computations I was trying to process to solve my wholemeal conundrum.
Woke to a pleasant surprise on my last day in Slovakia, a phone call from Australia. It had been nearly a fortnight since an interaction with somebody was more than a smile and a couple of mispronounced words. Bags packed, apartment tidy, I braved the morning chill for one last breakfast.
Eggs benedict, a dish I rarely have in Australia (for some unknown reason). The waitress at Urban House persuaded me into having a dessert. I had a handful of change that was going to burn a hole in my pocket and before she could recite them all I stopped her at coconut cheesecake.