More Grand European Capital Cities…
After our fabulous stay in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, it was time to explore more of Europe’s grand capital cities. Our next stop was Bratislava the capital of Slovakia. Rich in history, Slovakia in the 10th century was known as Pozony and replaced Budapest as the capital of Hungary. For over 300 years, it was where Hungarian kings were crowned. Later, as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city was known as Pressburg. It was not until 1918 when Slovakia became part of Czechoslovakia that the name of Bratislava was readopted. The Slovak republic did not become an independent country until 1993 when it formally broke away from the Czech Republic. Even more remarkable for such a new country, in 2004, Slovakia formally joined the European Union and NATO.
We were genuinely impressed with the beauty, cleanliness and prosperousness of Bratislava. The neglect and decay that resulted from years spent under communist regimes can only be seen in few areas. Much of the old city is now filled with bustling cafes and modern shops. Its old architecture has been restored and its expansive pedestrian squares with historic fountains and whimsical statues are in superb condition. Much of the reason for Bratislava’s thriving economy is that it has become the magnet for high-tech businesses like IBM, Dell and AT&T which have built their service and outsourcing centers there. The auto industry thrives here as well as Volkswagon Touaregs, Porsche Cayennes and Audi Q7s are built in Bratislava.
We strolled through the streets of old town Bratislava and visited the Primatial Palace (aka the Pink Palace). The Palace is today the office of the Mayor and also houses the famous Hall of Mirrors where many peace treaties have been signed. We sipped coffee and pastries in wonderful café’s and had a wonderful evening of specialty cocktails at Paparazzi restaurant and bar.
After Bratislava, we continued along the Danube River to the next capital city of Vienna, Austria. Vienna, a city of 1.6 million people, is a true cultural, political and economic center of Europe. It is full of grand palaces where former monarchs once resided when Vienna was the capital ofthe Austro-Hungarian Empire. Most notable of these rulers was Empress Maria Theresa (mother to Marie Antoinette who married the King of France) and Emperor Franz Josef who reigned over the empire from 1848-1916. It was the assassination of Franz Josef’s nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand which triggered the beginning of the First World War.
Vienna is also known for its music, especially its native son Johann Strauss and other well-known composers who lived there including Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Everywhere you go, you hear musicians playing the famous Blue Danube Waltz. Also, Vienna is known for its coffee houses. There are so many wonderful coffee shops with elaborate specialties and decadent desserts lining the windows. We had a wonderful time at both the famous Mozart Café and the Hotel Sacher (creator of the famed Sacher-torte). We also loved exploring the Hofburg (home to the Hapsburgs) where we viewed their elaborate china and silver collections and saw their famed
One of the highlights of our time in Vienna was a private dinner at the Palais Palavicini in the Josefsplatz. We had a lovely evening of wonderful music, fantastic wines and delicious food. It was a great way to wrap up our over-the-top stay in Vienna. It was such an amazing place to visit, weleft feeling we had barely scratched the surface of what the city had to offer and discover.