Forty students from Dublin University Geographical Society (GeogSoc) travelled to Bratislava (with a quick day trip to Vienna) last semester (figure 1).
We stated our geographical observations straight away, noticing the pollution and urban sprawl around the River Rhine as we flew over the Netherlands (figure 2). The group navigated Slovakian public transport (tricky at times) to reach ‘Hostel Blues’, a short walk from Bratislava old town and historical city center. We sampled delicious local foods in ‘Slovak Pub’, trying goulash, dumplings, and traditional ‘Cosnaková polícvka krémóvá’ (creamy garlic soup in a bowl made of home-made bread and cheese) (figure 3).
On Friday morning the group had free time during which most people visited the Christmas markets for mulled wine, Slovakian breakfast pastries and desserts to warm up for the day ahead before travelling to Columbius University to meet Dr. Aleana Rochovska and her colleague Marcus (figure 1) who kindly agreed to give us a lecture on the post-socialist development of Slovakia. After the lecture they brought us on a tour of the city, walking along the River Danube, through wealthy housing developments and gentrified areas of the city, and then through homeless encampments to illustrate the contrast in urban development and social policy since the fall of communism. The tour finished in Bratislava castle, a city landmark. Alana and Marcus informed us of the castle’s history and the damage it experienced during World War 2, and they pointed out the ‘UFO bridge’, another iconic city landmark (figure 4) and Austrian boarder visible in the distance.
We parted with Alena and Marcus in the evening to explore the old town and visit landmarks such as the Slavín Monument, St. Michael’s Gate, the Town Hall, City Museum, and finally St. Michael’s Cathedral. That night we visited the UFO bridge viewing station to see the city at night from a height (a must-do while in Bratislava- figure 5 a&b).
On the second day the group travelled to Vienna to investigate the differing geographical development of both cities as influenced by communism (Bratislava), or ancient imperial power (Vienna). We visited the St. Stephen’s Cathedral (figure 6), the Hofburg Palace (figure 7), and the Christmas markets (figure 8), then sampled some famous Viennese hot chocolate (figure 9) before heading back to Bratislava for our last night.
Blog Authored by: Sadhbh Nic Giolla Chomhaill, 4th year TSM Geography/Sociology student and the Geogsoc Fieldtrip Co-ordinator.