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I attribute my fascination with my ancestry to having been born and raised in the United States. Considering that almost the entire population traces its roots to another country, people are generally very interested in family history. This past summer, I started tracing my family history. I plan on eventually doing a longer post on my family history (including the results of my Mom and Dad’s DNA testing), but I found out that I’m related to a soldier that fought in the American Revolutionary War and that side of my family established themselves in present-day New England during the 1650’s! Furthermore, I’m living in the same state in Germany that my ancestors resided in over 500 years ago. Funny how everything ends up going full circle, right?
Well, my maternal grandmother (shout-out to my Grandma…a loyal blog follower) was convinced she was Czech. Unfortunately, I had to break the news to her that although her father was from Czechoslovakia, her ethnic origin was not Czech but rather Slovak. Actually, he was born in a small town in the far east of Slovakia near the present-day Slovakia-Ukraine border.
It was this family history that sparked my interest in Slovakia. When I was traveling from Prague to Budapest, I realized that the train stopped in Bratislava, Slovakia. I jumped at the opportunity to spend a day in the city and only wished that I had had a few more days there.
The Presidential Palace in Bratislava. Once a year, the palace is opened to the general public to come meet the President. Now just imagine the White House being opened once a year to meet the U.S. President. haha! The garden behind the Presidential Palace is absolutely amazing and always open to the general public. I highly recommend taking a walk through the garden and looking at all the unique sculptures.
After hiking up a massive hill (seriously, took me almost an hour to reach the top!), I finally made it to the Slavin War Memorial. This memorial was built to commemorate the liberation of Bratislava by the Red Army during World War II. This is only one section of the memorial. Besides the huge commemorative building (above), a wooden Russian cross (below) , and World War II bunkers (not pictured), this memorial is the final resting place for almost 7,000 Soviet soldiers. The memorial provides one of the best views of all of Bratislava and was just a very peaceful place. I ended up sitting on the stairs and reading for almost 2 hours!
The Bratislava Castle originally dates from 2800 BC although it has undergone many rebuildings, renovations, and restorations. Bratislava initially played an important role in the European trade routes due to its strategic location in Europe (in the middle of major countries) as well as its location on the Danube River (thus connecting it easily to many trade routes to both the east and west). This castle continues to be one of the most prominent symbols of Bratislava.
So I went to Bratislava and didn’t find any family history (I guess next time I need to travel further to the east). However, I did discover an amazing city that no one ever talks about in guidebooks! This quaint capital city of barely 400,000 people was definitely a breath of fresh air after coming from touristy Prague. If you’re ever taking a train from Prague to Budapest, I highly recommend stopping in Bratislava along the way. Not going to either of those cities? Don’t worry, Bratislava is less than a hour train ride away from Vienna, Austria! On a nice day, I recommend taking a boat down the Danube from Vienna to Bratislava! As always, enjoy!