When I first traveled to the Slovakian capital city of Bratislava, I tried to do my homework ahead of time. But, like most people, there were things that I missed in my travel guide book. One was tall stone pillar with the stalwart soldier keeping an eye over the city. After a little research and a lot of exploring, I found myself at the historic Slavin.
At first glance, it appears to be a memorial and though it does serve as a monument to the fallen soldiers of World War II, it is actually the final resting place for these heroes of the city and country.
They died in 1945 in a battle that liberated the city from Nazi Germany. There are 6 mass graves and 278 individual ones, for a total of 6,850 soldiers. Construction of the monument began in 1957 and was dedicated in 1960 on the 15th anniversary of the freeing of the city.
The most prevalent feature is the towering obelisk that reaches 130 feet (39.5 m) into the sky. It sits atop a structure which has various inscriptions that document the liberation dates of other cities in Slovakia.
There are several statues in and around the monument that depict other heroes, artists and important figures in Slovakian history.
Walking along the paths around the mass and individual graves is a reflective experience. Although most of the graves are unmarked, there are many small plaques with the names of the people resting there.
The site is a frequent stop for visitors to the city, mostly because of the panoramic views of the city available. Just to remind people why the place exists, there is a handy map and description in five languages. It also requests that visitors pay respect to the soldiers who rest there.
Getting there is a bit of a challenge. There is no direct bus service to the site and the road is winding with several turns. You can take a bus to the SAV stop and head south on Stefanikova street. Take Puskinova to the right and follow it to Misikova and go left. This will take you to the base of the stairs leading up to the memorial. You can also start the trek from the Presidential Palace. Just go north on Stefanikova street to Puskinova.
The walk will also take you through an area filled with nice houses, some of which are the residents of many of the foreign embassies.