Bratislava: A young city with old-world charm

Aviano Air Base, Italy -- Bratislava is one of the youngest capitals in Europe. It is the capital of Slovakia and the country's largest city.

The end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989 was followed by the country's dissolution into two successor states. Slovakia and the Czech Republic went their separate ways after Jan. 1, 1993, an event sometimes called the Velvet Divorce, but Slovakia has remained close partners with the Czech Republic, as well as with other Central European countries.

Slovakia became a member of the European Union in May 2004, and is an easy travel destination from Aviano. About a 6-hour drive, Bratislava is only 50 km from the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Bratislava is picturesquely situated on both banks of the Danube, at the base of the outlying spurs of the Lesser Carpathians mountain range. Its Eastern European architecture and old-world flair provide a charming backdrop to its modernizing culture and ever-growing economic buildup.

Bratislava's Old Town Centre is a unique portion of town, home to dozens of shops and restaurants easily accessible to tourists.

Local museums include the Bratislava Castle, Old Town Hall, St. Michael's Tower, and Devin Castle located about 12 km outside the city center. The Opera in Bratislava is popular among international visitors. Opera performances are subtitled in Slovak or Germans, so it is advisable for English-language speakers to familiarize themselves with the plot in advance.

The Bratislava night life is eclectic with typical clubs and bars but also includes places specializing in jazz and Latin music as well.

Although Slovakia doesn't plan to adopt the Euro until 2009, it is still accepted in common tourist areas.