Christmas Postcard from Bratislava – A Place of Solitude

Christmas Postcard

December 30, 2011

Allan Stevo

Branislav Chovan is an avid postcard collector who writes about his collection at the Slovak Spectator each week.  The photo above is a Christmas Postcard from 1912, featuring Michalska brana or “Michael’s Gate” in Bratislava – a medieval entrance to the city.  The original article about the postcard can be found here.

That bustling corner of Bratislava evokes an imagine akin to the song “Silent Night” – the painting looks so peaceful that you can probably hear the snow falling.  At the same time, it looks as if there is a late vigil taking place in the windows of Michael’s Gate.

It also hearkens to a time Michael’s Gate may have looked better.  Everything in painting looks so pristine and well-kept as compared to the present state of Michael’s Gate that I wonder if the artist may have embellished a bit with his paint brush.  Or, maybe Michael’s Gate was well maintained in the early 1900s.  While the structures in the photo remain, they today find themselves in a state of disrepair – maybe brought about during communist times or maybe post communist times, or perhaps a combination of the two.  Understandably “How to maintain the appearance of a centuries old solid structure meant to withstand onslaught by Turks” is not likely to be the first order of business for a society during times of change.

While Bratislava today is very much alive during the day and in the early evening, I like the image created by this painting.  It’s an image of the quiet side of Bratislava – a place in which one can escape louder cities and find refuge in its slower pace and quieter surroundings.

As much as Bratislava wants to be a metropolis, it is a quiet place.  It’s a place where people stay home.  It’s a place where people turn in early.  That does not describe everyone in the city by any means, but it describes part of why I come to Bratislava to write.  I think it’s a dominant part of the culture of the city and the country.

Its visitors may find her boring for her often quiet nightlife.  I find her industrious for her often quiet nightlife.  Her visitors may find her boring for her lack of late night noise.  I find her industrious for her lack of late night noise.  Where some look and see a culture that is too quiet, I see a culture that is perfectly quiet.  It’s so quiet sometimes you can even hear yourself think.

How many times I’ve walked across the bridge in the photo, over the moat, wound my way through the medieval gate and been reminded of the local tradition that tells of an appreciation for solitude.  Students will gab walking that same way until they reach the place where a portculus once hung.  Walking noisily under the gate will cause bad luck to befall you on your next exam.

Slovakia can be so quiet, and I must say I really like it that way.

Merry Christmas Slovakia.  Merry Christmas Bratislava. And a Happy New Year.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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  • A very Happy New Year to you. I enjoy reading 52 Weeks in Slovakia especially about the cities and culture.
    Look forward to another year of excellent news! Thanks.

  • Hi Allan, Happy New Year to you. Right now I’m arranging the details of our visit to Slovakia in mid April. I will be re-reading your reports carefully and also practicing my basic Slovak language. I’m really looking forward to this.

  • That’s an interesting new historical fact about Michael’s Gate !! Thanks, Allan !! It’s nice to hear that there is a ‘quiet side’ to Bratislava !! I would also be interested in learning more of what you know about the history of Turks attacking Slovakia. Many more “silent nights” to come, though.

    From an ‘uncultured computer’ because it lacks Slovakian language fonts: Tiez prajem vam vsetci, “Stasny Novy Rok” !!!

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