“ Most SNP Bridge - Most famous landmark in Bratislava, Slovakia. „
The Slovakian capital Bratislava has handsome Baroque buildings, a beautiful Franciscan church and a rather striking old town hall as well as an imposing castle perched on a craggy hill, but it is a much more recent and, some might say, much less attractive, landmark that is the most recognisable symbol of the city.
The space age structure at the southern end of the 'Novy most', or Most SNP as it will revert to its original name at the end of August 2012, reminds me of the Tripods of the science fiction novel (minus one leg, of course). It looks like a sinister sentry to the high-rise jungle that is Petrzalka; there the tower blocks have been re-facaded in a rainbow of colours, giving the once fore-boding cluster a more humane appearance and the figure atop the pylon like structure looks as if it is protecting the inhabitants.
When I first visited the city in 2003 the bridge, but not the observation tower nor the restaurant, both of which are housed in the flying saucer like structure supported by the two upright prongs, was open. We walked onto the bridge from the opposite end; it was dusk on what had been a rather grey day and the bridge was looking its most dreary and grim. When we revisited in May 2012, however, the sun was shining and the bridge looked really quite majestic. The observation tower and the restaurant, now unoriginally named "UFO", re-opened in 2005 and we made a morning visit to get a bird's eye view of the city.
THE MAGIC NUMBERS
The bridge was built between 1967 and 1972 and finally opened in August 1972. It's official name was abbreviated to 'Most SNP' with the full name translating into English as "The Bridge of the Slovakian Uprising". In 1993 the name was officially changed to 'Novy most' (new bridge). For years locals had referred to the bridge as the new bridge because there were only two crossings of the Danube at Bratislava and this was the newer; the municipality decided that it would make sense to just use the name 'Novy most' to avoid confusion. However, the Mayor of Bratislava launched a campaign to have the original name reinstated forty years after it first opened.
The Most SNP was the world's first assymetric suspension bridge. The span is 431 metres long and 21 metres wide. The steel platform, shaped like a flying saucer, sits on two sloping columns, a bit like a pylon, at 84.6 metres but the pylons extend to a height of 95 metres. One of the columns houses a high speed tilting lift, the other is an emergency escape staircase with 430 steps.
The Most SNP is the 32nd tallest member of the "World Federation of Great Towers (interestingly there are only 32 members so it is also the shortest of this venerable group) and is the only bridge to be included in the list.
The bridge links the Old Town with Petrzalka. Much controversy was created by the demolition of the city's Jewish area on the Old Town side, necessary to allow the bridge to be built. This issue, but also the very unusual design caused many people to be against the bridge at first but gradually hostility waned and nowadays people look at their rather unique landmark with more fondness.
LIFT TO EXPERIENCE
Our hotel was quite close to the road that uses the bridge so we were able to catch some great views from the approach to it. The bridge carries a busy four lane highway but pedestrians can walk across on the covered walkways just below the road; there's one on either side and if you are going to cross the bridge on foot I would recommend making your return journey on the opposite walkway which will allow you to enjoy the views from both footpaths.
The observation deck opens at 10a.m. and we were the only people waiting for it to open. Although it didn't look very open we pushed the heavy glass doors and found out that there was actually somebody sitting behind the tinted windows. The tiny lift deposits you at the restaurant level where another staff was there to greet us with a very pretty smile but a couldn't care less "Welcome to the Novy most observation deck".
From here there's a little way further to go on foot; young children or elderly people with restricted mobility may find this tricky because although there are handrails some of the steps are quite high. Once on deck you can get your breath and see the whole of the city laid out before you. Be warned, though, if you suffer from vertigo you will likely not enjoy this experience; the combination of strong winds (it is always windier up here than it is on the ground), the height and the effect of the river moving below will probably make vertiginous visitors feel rather nauseous.
Fortunately it was a clear, but very windy, day and we could see for some way. Bratislava is, in my opinion, a city whose geography is not easy to get to grips with so it would be a good idea to see something of what is on the ground before you go up to the bridge because you'll then get a better idea of orientation. On each side of the platform there are photographs of the city with key buildings marked on them.
The handsome fifteenth century 'old town hall' with its instantly recognisable eighteenth century tower is easy to spot at the other end of the bridge, and St. Martins Cathedral, the National Theatre building and the distinctive tower of St. Stephen's Gate, the only remaining one of Bratislava's medieval fortifications, are also recognisable. Up on the hill over-looking the old town Bratislava Castle is another well known landmark but looking a little further down the river away from the old town we could see the parliament building. It is nothing like the gothic masterpiece that is the parliament building down river in Budapest, but it wouldn't be as its construction commenced in 1986 when the country was still under the Communists; we made a mental note to take a tour of the building the next time we're in town.
We could also see the Slavin Monument, an austere but striking monument which was dedicated to the Russian troops that liberated Slovakia towards the end of World War Two; at that point we hadn't decided what we might do in the afternoon but seeing the monument over the city we decided we would go after lunch. Beyond that is the Bratislava Television Tower at Kamzik. It's 200 metres tall and also has a restaurant with a viewing platform; on a clear day you can see four countries from the observation deck. It's also on our list for next time.
On the other side the views were just a good but quite different; the colourful blocks of Petrzalka might be something of a culture shock for people unfamiliar with this part of Europe but I love them. The distinctive industrial buildings of the refinery beyond them (in previous days most of the workers there would live in Petrzalka) can be seen in one direction, and the slightly alien looking wind turbines in the other direction lead to the countryside and the border with Austria.
EARTH, WIND & TIRED
As fabulous as the views are you can't spend too long on the deck, it's simply too windy and we had to descend to the restaurant level. There are toilets on this level.
We didn't actually use the bar or restaurant but we did have a look and the staff were happy for us to have a quick peek. If you have a restaurant reservation, you can visit the observation deck free of charge.
Souvenirs are on display on this level in glass display cabinets but we couldn't see where one might actually buy them from.
At Euro6.50 visiting the observation deck of the Most SNP is about the most expensive thing you can do in Bratislava in terms of sightseeing. The views are brilliant but you can get good views (but not quite as good) from the Slavin Monument or from Kamzik (which i understand is free though it is some way from the centre).
The price aside, this is probably Bratislava's best known landmark and I couldn't have imagined having visited the city a second time and still not having been to the top of the bridge. It's a tourist trap but a pretty good one all the same.