When someone says Bratislava, the first association for people who once visited this city is the massive and very impressive Bratislava fortress, but my first associations are music, the Danube river and the St. Martin's Cathedral.
When I heard about the Erasmus + exchange programme between the Faculty of Visual Arts (FVU) where I work, and the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts and Design (AFAD), I immediately wished to visit the city again (as I was there last summer). A few days after a completing a simple application process, I received information that my 'training' mobility scholarship for a seven-day stay in Bratislava was approved. I was delighted to be able to visit Bratislava – a 'musical gate' to Vienna, announcing all things „imperial“ its Austrian twin on the Danube is offering. I was filled with excitement regarding the future „training“ mobility, especially because I was invited to attend workshops concerning audio – in the city that I remember because of its music – and I thought to myself: „what a perfect combination“.
A few months later, during the spring, I went to Vienna by plane and then I took a bus to Bratislava, which operates on the principle of a ''city line'', as the ride takes only an hour.
When you get off the bus in Bratislava by the Novy Most bridge (a.k.a. the SNP Bridge) – once a rather inappropriate, but very modern structure, with a UFO-like on its top, connecting the old and the new part of the city – you feel like you're not in the right place. You look around and you think you got lost. In that cramped concrete space, several tobacco shops, bus stop and a single flight of stairs are situated. The stairs will take you to a small square with a very interesting monument, which already indicates you haven't strayed, but rather you are in a city that nurtures art and contrast.
However, when you turn around on the same place, you can see the most notable buildings in Bratislava: the Bratislava Castle, the SNP bridge tower, St. Martin's Cathedral and a large promenade – Hviezdoslavovo square that links the bridge and the Slovak National Theatre. It contains a variety of sculptures, among which I first noticed an interesting statue of Hans Christian Andersen with a monkey on his shoulder and hat in his hands. It is no coincidence that the Academy (AFAD) building that houses the Department of Painting is located in this square, while its other departments are situated on the hill, in Drotárska street, where there is a larger building of the Academy.
During the workshop (or rather a three-day intensive programme), I was located in the AFAD building on Drotárska str., where I got a very nice room with a panoramic view of the Danube and a part of Bratislava. In the distance, I could see thousands of wind-turbines, which for me was a sign that there is Austria, bearing in mind that in Austria win-turbines dominate the empty fields, and supply electricity for lighting in Vienna and other Austrian cities. During the night, they were just twinkling in the distance and made a great reddish light play under a starry sky, just like a swarm of fireflies.
In the building of the Academy up on the hill, I was supplied with everything I needed, including the student canteen, so actually I didn't have much time or need to go down to the city during weekdays. In my free time, I was visiting other departments in the building, including those of Textile, Intermedia (the study programme on which I enrolled during my stay), Glass, Ceramics, Transport atelier, Sculpture, Photography, Visual Communications, Restoration, and other. I met some of the students who have taken great care in presenting their departments and their works, especially from the Transport atelier. Workshops that I attended were at the 'Intermedia' Department, and they were led by Jiří Suchánek, the professor at the Academy of Brno, Czech Republic, and my mobility mentor was Anton Čierny, the professor at the Intermedia Department in Bratislava.
During the workshops that were conducted in Czech language, I couldn't understand much (Slovak language is understandable for Montenegrins), but I successfully managed to do the practical parts just by watching. And this was how it looked: on the first day, we had a general presentation about sound and microphones, with emphasis on Piezo microphones. The same day, each participant was asked to make his own Piezo microphone using materials that we got at the workshop. When the microphones were done, we made a small amplifier which helped us increase the input signal to the microphone mixer, and then to the speaker. On the second day, we took a closer look at the powerful Max 7 software, which is used for processing of digital sound, and on the third day of the workshop, we made our own instruments out of material that we found across the Academy building. We bugged these instruments with our handmade microphones and amplifiers, and finally, at the very end of the workshop, we held a joint presentation, or rather a very interesting concert, which professor Jiří recorded on an audio tape, in the Ableton Live software. At first glance, the performance was quite uncommon: it seems as a jumble of various inarticulate sounds, but it's actually much more than that – a meaningful whole (if we take into account that most of the participants had no practical experience with composing music).
After this very interesting musical experiment in the city where almost everywhere you go you can find an old, unused piano (which once again confirms the city's nickname of the „music gates to Vienna“), I had two days off. On Friday, I moved into an apartment in the centre of Bratislava, on the beautiful Hviezdoslavovo square, and decided to spend those two days getting to know Bratislava better. I visited the following: Michael's Gate from the 14th century in the old town, which currently houses a museum of arms; the Slavín Memorial – a monument to the Russian soldiers fallen during World War II, which is located on the hill overlooking the city (near the Academy building on Drotárska); the Sad Janka Krala park, situated in the new part of the town; the beautiful Blue Church - an art-nouveau church from the 20th century; the remains of the Devin Castle located at the confluence of the Morava and Danube rivers; the SNP bridge tower, which is also a restaurant that offers a beautiful view on the entire Bratislava; the wonderful St. Martin's Cathedral, where I attended the ceremony of the Catholic liturgy; The classicist Primate's Palace, dating from the 18th century, now a gallery of English tapestries; the Old Town Hall, a former seat of the municipal government, now Bratislava’s city museum; and finally (I guess also expectedly) I visited the Bratislava Castle, which was renovated during 1950s and 1960s.
I hope that through this small, personal essay, I managed to convey at least one portion of the atmosphere that marked my stay in this beautiful city. Even though it is not so ''imperial'' as Vienna, Bratislava is hiding something else, something more spontaneous, and even more spiritual than her giant neighbour. And although Bratislava is not the centre of music, but definitely its gateway, without which there is no better way into the world of music. She announces and presents it, but in a way that establishes and incorporates a playful composition, and upstream she brings to Vienna a lot of wonderful, touching and wild, harmonious tones.