It was a pleasant morning with a bluish sort of sky with those high white clouds that give a mottled marbling effect to the heavens and after ham and eggs we left the hotel and walked once again to the castle at the top of the hill overlooking the Danube.
The castle is one of the most prominent structures in the city and stands on a plateau eighty-five metres above the river. There has been a castle on this site for hundreds of years, the Romans had a fort here and after them there was a large Slavic fortified settlement. A stone castle was constructed in the tenth century, when the area was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and subsequently it was converted into a Gothic fortress under Sigismund of Luxemburg (Luxemburg?) in 1430, became a Renaissance castle in 1562, and was rebuilt in 1649 in the baroque style. Under Queen Maria Theresa, the castle became a prestigious royal seat. After her the castle was neglected and became a barracks and in 1811 was inadvertently destroyed by fire and lay in ruins until the 1950s, when it was rebuilt mostly in its former Theresan style but with a bit of communist interpretation.
I have to say that the rebuilding was not the best job I have ever seen and in truth the place was slightly austere and disappointing, but undeterred by this we went in to look around nevertheless. We paid the very reasonable entrance fee and followed the signs taking us to the exhibits. There weren’t many visitors and in the first room a museum attendant seemed pleased to see us and despite his limited grasp of the English language he made an excellent job of proudly explaining the exhibits to us in a staccato form of English that kept lapsing into impenetrable Slovak. This was hard work for all of us and when he finished we thanked him with some relief for the attention that he gave to us and we moved on.
If the castle was disappointing then it has to be said that the museum wasn’t very thrilling either. There just weren’t a lot of exhibits and I suppose that anything that might have been interesting had probably been carted off elsewhere to cities like Vienna, Budapest and Prague over the last two hundred years or so. And they were very big rooms and impossible to fill with the meagre number of artefacts that were available to put on show.
It was uncomfortably hot inside the museum and during the restoration they had clearly fitted an efficient heating system with big iron radiators that were belching out far more heat than the building required and I am certain was doing irreparable harm to the tapestries and the furniture that was on show. In one room the attendant could sense our discomfort and opened the windows for us to get some fresh air, this was welcome relief and it also gave us some good views over the city below. As we walked through the rooms we kept climbing towards the top of the castle until eventually we were in one of the towers and there was steep staircase ahead that would take us to the very top. About half way up Micky had a premonition that this might not be very exciting either, so he stayed and waited for the rest of us to complete the climb and report back to him later. How accurately prophetic he was and we were forced to agree that he had made the right decision as we descended back down from the disappointing tower lookout platform and walked through the castle grounds and back into the city.
After a quick refreshment break at a pavement café we walked around ponderously so that we didn’t run out of things to do and looked in the shops and restaurant windows. We had enjoyed the cakes in Vienna yesterday and decided that we might reprise the experience in Bratislava today so we looked next for somewhere suitable to stop. We passed a number of cake shops that were inexplicably dismissed one by one by the girls and then came across an excellent coffee shop with an exceptional choice of cakes. We surveyed the display counters and pondered our individual choice and just at the point of ordering the girls had gone and Micky and I were left wondering just what could possibly be wrong with this place? Well nothing as it turned out and after we had explained our surprise at the rejection of the establishment we returned to enjoy a cake and a drink.
Along with navigation and shoe shopping, restaurant selection is one of the mysteries of the female mind and for Micky this brought to mind the story of the man who found an old lamp at the back of his shed and when he polished it he released a very grateful Genie.
“Thank you” said the Genie “I have been in that lamp for a thousand years, I will grant you one wish for anything that you might want”
The man thought for a moment and said that he would like to visit his brother in Australia but he was frightened of flying and sailing made him ill so could he have a bridge to Sydney so that he could drive across.
The Genie said, “Your request is almost impossible. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the oceans, the concrete and steel it would take, the dangers to shipping that it would represent. Please think of something else!”
The man thought about it for a long time and finally he said, “OK, I wish that I could understand women. I want to know how they feel inside, what they are thinking, why they cry, what they mean when they go quiet, and how I can make a woman truly happy”
The Genie thought for a moment and said, “Have you given any thought to what sort of lights you would like on the bridge?”