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August 4, 2002

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Bratislava served as the capital of Hungary from the 1500-1800's during the Turkish occupation of Budapest. In those days people called this city Pressburg or Pozsony and Slovakia was controlled by Hungarian nobles. Most people remember Slovakia as a part of Czechoslovakia. The union between these two Slavic groups (Czechs and Slovaks) formed as a strategy to stay independent from powerful neighbors (Austria and Hungary) after WWI, the first period of independence for Czechoslovakia. Slovakia held a subordinate position to Czech as a junior partner of the alliance; the real power lay in Prague. Independence didn't last, the Soviets/Communists took over after WWII. In 1989, as Soviet control fell apart across Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia regained its independence, but the marriage between Czech and Slovak ended with the 'Velvet Divorce' of 1993. This makes Slovakia Europe's youngest country. There is a slight difference between Slovak and Czech language, but a speaker of one can understand the other. Most people we've asked don't seem to be happy about the divorce; they say governments disagree, not the people, and politicians simply want to retain power for themselves. From our travels we can see that Slovakia is less developed than Czech, one indication is the fact that you can find imported Czech beer in Slovakian grocery stores.
Bratislava's castle looks like an upturned table.
Novy Most (New Bridge) leads from picturesque old town, across the Danube, to the concrete forest of housing developments where most local Bratislavans live.
Bratislava is almost a provincial town, built on a much smaller scale than Prague.
In the Primate's Palace a treaty was signed between Napoleon and Austrian emperor Franz I after Austerlitz. Years later, the city purchased the palace from a rich clergyman for an exorbitant price. However, the city had the last laugh. Hidden beneath old wallpaper, renovators found six priceless English tapestries made in 1642 (shown on the right). The clergyman tried to reclaim the tapestries (he never knew they were in the house) but a state court overruled his claims.