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Recently I traveled on a Danube river cruise and visited Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, for the first time. I didn't know much about this fascinating.

Our tour guide was an interesting woman of about my age who had and had lived through Soviet occupation and seen a glorious emergence of her city and country in the years since communism fell. How wonderful it must be to see the buildings being carefully restored as Bratislava is becoming a thriving city once again - with museums, theaters, galleries, and financial institutions making their home here. Her early memories were of crumbling gray buildings that were taken over by the Soviet state.

Bratislava was once one of Central Europe’s economic, cultural and political centers. From the Middle Ages through the 18th century, its history was intertwined with that of its neighbors -- Austria and Hungary. In the 10th century, it was a part of Hungary and in 1536, it became Hungary’s then-capital. Kings and queens were crowned at St. Martin’s Cathedral – and Hungary’s crown jewels were held in the city as well. The city (then known as Pressburg) thrived, becoming the largest and most important town in Hungary, while the city was a glittering center of social and cultural life. Mozart and Beethoven performed. The castle became a summer residence for Austria’s Queen Maria Theresa – and its renovation a passion project for her.

The city pays homage to its glorious history – and melting pot of cultures – in many ways. Find a range of architectural styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classic and Empire. Hammered into the cobblestone streets, find plaques with gilded crowns commemorating the coronation of Hungarian kings.


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