Since the break-up of Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s, the Czech Republic has done wonders in turning its beautiful capital Prague into one of the most desirable cities to visit in Europe. In contrast, Slovakia has not been quite as successful in achieving the same for its capital Bratislava, and has recently turned to street art in an attempt to address the matter. Since 2011, the Slovakian capital has held an annual street art festival inviting local artists to permanently transform designated façades in and around the city with the use of a spray-can.
This fabulous and huge work of street art by Fat Heat – the signature piece from the latest (2016) Bratislava Street Art Festival – is found along Dunajská and is the latest piece to help transform the image of Bratislava
However, the Bratislava Street Art Festival is not the only annual ‘street art’ event to take place in the city. For decades, graduates at the city’s technical university have been prolifically tagging the pavements around the university campus. Not only is it tolerated, it is actively encouraged and is now recognised as a true Bratislavian tradition.
Every summer graduates at the Slovenská Technická Univerzita celebrate their graduation by writing their name and newly awarded qualifications along the pavement in front of the university
The class of 2016
Bratislava has also turned to street sculpture to try and woo the tourists in. Unlike traditional statues of statesmen and figureheads standing on plinths far from the reach of the public, Bratislava’s statues are of everyday folk and stand around the Old Town streets encouraging interaction with passers by. These statues have proved very popular, and one in particular has overshadowed the city’s classic and post-war Soviet architecture, promoted by various Bratislavian tourist sites as the most photographed tourist attraction in the capital.
The Čumil or ‘Rubberneck’: a sculpture of a workman popping out of a sewer hole is regarded as the most photographed attraction in Bratislava… and looking at Instagram and Twitter, I can believe it
Even though Čumil ’emerges’ on the corner of the mainly pedestrianised Panská and Laurinská, he has been run over a number of times by the odd passing vehicle. Apparently, to prevent further collisions, a tailor made road sign has been put up nearby warning drivers to look out for him
The history and meaning behind this piece is vague. ‘Čumil’ loosely translates as ‘Seeker’ and some believe he represents a local recruited as a Soviet spy during Bratislava’s Socialist era, surreptitiously taking note of goings on under the guise of a workman and under the cover of the… sewer cover
I have to say, he does look a lot like TV comedian and presenter Dara O’ Briain
Rivaling Čumil in popularity is the equally photogenic statue of Napoleon’s soldier leaning against a bench in Hlavné-námestie.
Legend has it that the statue represents a soldier called Hubert who was stationed in Bratislava in 1805. He later fell in love with a local girl, left the army and spent the rest of his life making local sparkling wine
Across the square stands another military figure in bronze.
The legend on the side reads: “From the 17th to the 18th century when it burnt down (sic), the wooden building of the town guardhouse stood in the southern part of the square. A new brick guardhouse was built by builder M Walch in 1767. This baroque guardhouse was removed from the square in the 1860s”
Just around the corner from the square is the Schone Naci statue, uniquely sculpted in silver.
The Schone Naci statue is believed to be of a local character called Ignác Lamar who had an eye for the ladies. The gentlemanly Lamar would often walk around the Old Town doffing his hat and handing out flowers to those who caught his attention
The silver statue of the silver fox
Not quite as well attired is the little sculpture of Taunter, easily missed by passers by along Panská.
The Taunter sculpture above this shop front along Panská
There he is
Again, no one is entirely sure what or whom this statue represents. The most popular story is that the old man who once lived here spent most of his time peeping out of his window to spy on his neighbours. Annoyed by this constant invasion of privacy, the neighbours placed the little naked statue onto the front of his house to mock his antics and to warn passers by that they may be spied upon
Getting a eye-full: that window really could do with a net curtain
There are many statues around Bratislava, but the ones along and close to Panská within the Old Town are the most popular and the easiest ones to find. However, there is one missing from this list: the statue of a paparazzo that once clung to the corner wall of the Paparazzi Cocktail bar on Laurinská. With the recent closure of this establishment, the sculpture now resides by the bar in the UFO restaurant on the viewing platform of the Most SNP/UFO bridge.
Propping up the bar: the popular Paparazzi statue has been recently relocated to the UFO restaurant
Here is a short video I made of Bratislava featuring the statues mentioned above. Just press play on the screen.
Bratislava … romantic pre-war façades and minimalist communist architecture in post-Soviet Slovakia
Bratislava … the only city in the world believed to have a tripoint
Prague … the Czech Republic’s answer to Harry Potter?