Ever heard that unkind joke that the best thing to do in Bratislava is head straight off to Vienna? Not true any more. The Slovak capital has enough to offer for a very brut-brut weekend.
Crematorium | Architecture, Chill
Confession: I’ve seen a lot of funeral architecture. Much of it pretty good. This one is battling for the top rank (with Brioni tomb by Carlo Scarpa in Northern Italy, but that’s another story). Modernist icon in Scandinavian style (1962 - 68, Ferdinand Milucky) soothingly floats on a soft slope of Male Karpaty in the city outskirts and shows best how architecture can work with human emotions. Purity, calm, respect to grief, interplays of light and dark; its distinct concrete volumes appear almost ethereal.
Borik Hotel | Architecture
Strict brutalist structure (1974, Stefan Svetko) you won’t miss from afar, as it rectangularly overlooks the motorway Bratislava - Prague from atop a (very windy) hill. The hotel is mainly used for official governmental purposes and guarded (not a surprise given the proximity of castle and classy embassy / residential Slavin neigbourhood). Albeit by a guard who encouraged us to stay longer and take more pictures. Not as fun as the Radio building built by the same architect, but great view and lovely weirdness.
Most SNP | Architecture, View
#concreteutopia role model: flying saucer on a high-tech suspension bridge over the Danube (1967-72, Arpad Tesar, Jozef Lacko, Ivan Slamen). One of its pylons nests an elevator to the upstairs UFO restaurant and observation deck, but the best view of Petrzalka is served from the bathroom; this fact alone is well worth the entrance fee.
PetrZalka Housing Estate | Architecture, Chill
Oh yes, Petrzalka, my childhood holiday realm. Huge panel buildings, lake in between, dead branch of the Danube river with leeches in it. Chillin' with other panelstory kids on the dustbin shed, climbing up the trees, feeding mainly on watermelons (huge, ubiquitous and cheap) for most of the 2 hot summer months. Probably won’t get the same kick out of it without this particular family anamnesis, but this enormous housing estate built since 1970’s on a former agricultural land south of the center is still well worth the stroll. Get this cool guide of hidden gems (Slovak only) for an extra immersion. Picture by Andre Mihardja
Slovak Radio Building | Architecture
Probably already seen it somewhere, since it was voted among the ugliest buildings in the world. Only thing I find ugly about it is its current desolate state - this wonderfully brutalist inverted pyramid (1985, Stefan Svetko) deserves way better.
A4 Contemporary Culture Space | Art, Clubbing, Drinks
Movies, art, concerts, parties, theatre, cool café - a place you want to have next door for hanging out in all urban culture ways possible. I saw my beloved Aisha Devi play there which makes it kinda shrine, too. Only danger: a shot of borovicka (gin’s evil Slovak twin) costs next to nothing.
Old Market Hall | Shopping, Food, Drinks, Chill
Flea market, rural produce, hip food and drinks stalls, cultural events: this cast iron structure of a true old school market is great way to start your Saturday. Must have: trdelník, huge roll of sweet briochey dough covered with sugar, walnuts, remorse and hyperglycemia - all this for just coupla euros! Another childhood hero of mine.
Central Railway Station | Art, Life and its imitations
A very.. peculiar place. Get your hopes up if you indulge in trashy Balkan-style venues. (Don’t get them up if your idea of decent rail station equals Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Grand Central.) Bizarre pubs and beautiful concrete wall art outside, a true brut experience. Bonus: this wonderful 3,5 hour Boiler Room set by Gerd Jansson and Atta for the trip. We had a great time.
Slovak National Gallery | Architecture, Art
Another brutalist gem (1963 - 77, Vladimir Dedecek) with long birth and public image as enviable as OJ Simpson's. The massive modern part floats above courtyard right next to baroque palace and 1870’s army building in an otherworldly absurd mixture of volumes and styles. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a good contemporary art show (such as the one on history of actionism that made my catholic grandma roll her eyes in utter terror, back then). Picture by Peter Kuzmin
Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum | Art, Chill
What makes a Dutch guy decide to open a contemporary art museum in the middle of nowhere next to Slovak capital? I have no clue but am very happy that Mr Meulensteen got the idea. You’ll be too - the combination of mighty yet soothing Danube flow, post-modern light-flooded building and fine art everywhere, including the roof terrace and extensive outdoor area, is one of a kind. Genius loci you won’t forget. (Especially if finished with crispy creamy kremes cake in the gallery’s café.)
Bistro Baroza | Food
Improbable fusion of Slovak tradition, Asian influences and neo-bistro setting that actually works well together. Have the langos (pictured; image courtesy of Michala Gregorova). Or hluzovka (because it’s great and also the cutest name for truffle in any language known to mankind). Have anything, it will probably be great. Ex-centric location but neatly placed - hence a no-brainer - on the way to Danubiana.
Whisky Bar 44 | Whisky
Dim-lit, dark wood, leather sofas and bottles everywhere: this is a very classical space. With a very broad whisky selection. No problem to stay long hours. We did, so sorry for this almost conceptually ugly picture but I don’t have anything publishable from the interior.