Before I’d start my trip someone said “This will be your first visit to Europe, albeit the small part of it”. Slovaks call their country “Heart of Europe” on the banks of the river Danube. Although Slovak Republic was established in 1993 after the Czechoslovak Federative republic split up and it joint the European Republic in May 2004.
What can I say? On the way from the airport to the hotel I was looking through the window of the car and asking myself “Where is Europe?”. No, I was not expecting a lady come out and say that she was the one who I was looking for. My anxiety was in the environment surrounding me which rather resembled something Russian. Yet, that was the beginning, when I hadn’t managed to see anything (I hope I won’t sound retarded).
The point of my visit was to participate in the NEEDS Domestic Observers Forum. The theme of the three day Forum was “The Use of IT in the Electoral process and the Implications for Election Observation Methodology”. The whole thing was really interesting and useful as me as a representative of “It’s Your Choice” NGO got very important information about the use of IT in electoral process and e-voting in general. But that’s not what I want to talk about now.
Most of the daytime we spent at the hotel’s conference hall, consequently I didn’t have much opportunity to see Bratislava by day. The first two days it was only at night when we’d go for dinner somewhere in the Old Town, some 15minutes walk from the hotel. And it was only on the third and forth days that I decided to wander alone in the city, without anyone rushing me to do this or go there.
Bratislava appeared to be really very small, especially the center, probably it’d take you about an hour walk to get from the center to one end of the city. The main center was very contrasting as one would see some old building neatly colored in different colors and with red tiled roof and a stunning glassy building right next to it. That reminded me of the central Yerevan in a way with it’s new stunning buildings not fitting into the image of Tamanian’s Yerevan. But things were not that bad in Bratislava, though I didn’t like the same Terranova and New-Yorker shops again in one of the central streets dissolving the image of the old town. Probably this is already becoming habitual for Terranova and such like shop’s, regardless of the countries themselves. The thing was that Bratislava had two centers, as I got it – the whole center which also included the Old Town in it. I saw those huge glassy buildings in the center in many places, and guess now they are customary for every country, and construction of new buildings were going in Bratislava center as well, but what really grasped my attention and deep respect was the Old Town preserved with all it’s details.
Well, the Old Town was really, really fantastic. It was so beautiful, so fairy, so historical, so colorful despite the fog and cold of those days. I was feeling like the heroine of some fairy tale, especially when I got lost and couldn’t find way back as it got dark, but I didn’t meet the wolf, strange ;)(well, yeah, that’s from another story). People were so kind and friendly, one lady nearly accompanied me to my hotel when I asked her to show me the right direction. Another girl came up to me and started helping in choosing a souvenir when she noticed that the seller didn’t know English.
Funny thing, after my bitter experience with trying to communicate with Georgians either in Russian or in English, I didn’t actually know what language to use here. Some couldn’t answer to my English, the others didn’t know Russian, so I was trying both unless the same Slovakian girl who was helping me with choosing souvenirs told that old people know only Russian, middle aged people may know a bit of both languages, and young people know mainly English. Phew..!! They were talking to me..!!
The tily streets in the Old Town are narrow and meant for pedestrians only, although in the morning you’d see cars bringing goods and food as mainly all the restaurants, pubs and shops are situated in that fairy buildings and interestingly none of them are destroying the beautiful canvas of the Old Town. The only transport of those streets are trams, trolleybuses carrying thousands of passengers everyday and making the necessary component of the town. Wherever you go you get the same pleasant impressions and emotions, everything is so tiny, comforting and calm. And I never got that “blue shock” which once one of my Croatian guests uttered while passing the blue entertaining building in front of the Moscow cinema on Abovyan street.
The most vivid recollection is the Square of the Old Town at Primate’s Palace. Lot’s of kiosks were situated in a quadrate form along the square. Out of the quadrate there was kind of a ‘vernisage’, a fair, where they were selling different souvenirs. From the inside of the quadrate kiosks one could get sandwiches or hamburgers with hot wine and enjoy their time drinking and eating, chatting and having great fun at one of some several dozens of pavilions placed inside the quadrate. I was lucky to be there when the New Year is at the door, because I was told that this is an annual fair lasting only a month or so connected with New Year celebrations . Not that I’m a hamburger or wine fan, just that the whole picture itself was so cheerful. The merry atmosphere would chase anyone out of their places and gather at this winsome square. Wish we had it in Yerevan. Here wine was rather a sprightly drink in the cold and not an alcoholic beverage and people were so bright and sunny. I liked it a lot!
Well, my impressions are very bright indeed, though didn’t manage to see more, but anyways, I’m happy with whatever I saw. Just it’s such a pity that days were very foggy and I couldn’t take good pictures, but in any case I risk to post some.