As far as city nicknames go, “Little Big City” is about perfect for Bratislava–it’s striking how the city’s Old Town shows a beauty both grand and manageable.
And, just outside the Old Town, it took me 15-20 minutes to get my bearings after arriving. The very first road I happened to walk down was a quick reminder that Slovakia very much had been occupied by the Soviet Union for several decades. Dilapidated buildings, graffiti… As much as you might read about the city’s makeover process, on this first stroll I didn’t linger to take snapshots.
But after a mile or two, this sign for Dvojbodka coworking center popped up. And then I took another look: Coworking centers are about as safe (and gentrified) as you can get.
So, Bratislava is a work in progress, and that’s probably what I loved most about it. Across from the picturesque Blue Church (Church of St. Elisabeth)…
…You might see an abandoned hospital, with “MegaDeath” spraypainted underneath an angular Soviet frieze.
And then, just a few blocks away, you buy freshly blended juice at the state-of-the-art Eurovea riverfront mall.
By the time I left two days later, I’d actually grown a little fond of Bratislava’s gritty side. The recent past’s abandoned hospitals are ugly, and yet you could say they make the courtyards more restful and spires still taller.