Thursday, January 31, 2013

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Bratislava

Just outside Bratislava's attractive and recently scrubbed/restored pedestrianized historical center, there are several smaller pockets of beautiful and slightly grittier neighborhoods lined with 19th (and very late 18th) century facades, which are largely off the well-worn tourist path. There is one such neighborhood in particular that I'm really drawn to, which is located where Štefánikova meets Palisády - across Štefánikova from Hodžovo Square and the Presidential Palace - (scroll down past my rambling text to see photos of it). The name of the latter should give you an indication as to the kinds of people these buildings were originally built for, as they are rather palatial. In fact, Štefánikova, a major artery that runs the length between the pedestrianized historical center and the main train station, has a slew of large, beautifully ornate buildings from around the same period, which is where the city's 1% flaunted their wealth during the Habsburg era with goopy, colorful, and ornately detailed facades. 

More Štefánikova

As the area developed, a lot of the streets branching off from Štefánikova began filling up with similarly ornate buildings, forming neighborhoods like the one I'm discussing here. Most of these buildings have long since been sectioned into apartments, while several actually house office spaces. It's often the case that rent in these types of buildings is more affordable for small businesses than for the average Bratislava resident. 

The majority of these buildings' facades look to me like they're from the 19th century, designed in a style that is a mix of historicist (an eclectic and ornate mishmash of past styles, from gothic through renaissance to baroque) and victorian. Facades can be deceptive though, as it was common for people to update the facades of their buildings in whatever style was fashionable at the time, so the buildings themselves could be older. 

This particular neighborhood is unique in that it's probably the most consistently attractive and the most consistently historical, as it is uninterrupted by bleak, commie-era monstrosities and modern, contemporary development. What's depressing, however, is that so much more of the city around the pedestrianized historical center used to look like this. But large chunks of it were razed in the 20th century, especially during communism, when beautiful buildings like these were seen as totally decadent and therefore in ideological conflict with communism's stark, utilitarian vision. Thus, where there could have been a cohesive layer of late 18th and 19th structures surrounding the medieval and baroque historical center, there is instead a motley mishmash of styles. Some of these pockets may only consist of a street or a single block, while others, like this one, are a little bigger (albeit still compact). Cities like Krakow, Prague, and Vienna have done a better job of keeping the 19th century layers that surround their medieval centers intact. 

There's not much going on in this neighborhood other than a couple of low key restaurants; there are no museums or tourist sites. Just beautifully ornate 19th-century architectural detail that people like me can drool over. The average tourist would probably stumble into it by accident, if at all. 

Most of the buildings in this little corner of the city are a bit worn down and rough around the edges, to varying degrees, with cracks and chunks of missing plaster here and there, which to me makes them more appealing because they actually look their age (unlike some of the buildings in the center with their shiny, new coats of paint). 

The sign on this building is telling people to watch out for falling chunks of plaster. You can spot signs like this all over town if you keep an eye out for them.

At any rate, I'll stop blathering now and move on to the photos. 


  1. Those "Beware of falling plaster" signs are scary. Man, I'd be looking all over for those all the time. I even feel freaked out about this possibility when I'm walking around in San Francisco or Oakland!

    1. It's fun to try and spot them when walking around. I do occasionally see sort of flaky bits of plaster trickling down from older facades. There are a couple of abandoned buildings where they just covered the whole facade in chicken wire, or erected a wooden covering over the sidewalk.