Major cities have their symbols: Paris the Eiffel Tower, New York the Statue of Liberty, Moscow the Kremlin. Sometimes symbols compete for the prime slot: just think of Sacre Coeur, the now-gone World Trade Center, or St. Basil’s Cathedral. As much as city officials attempt to push the Castle as the city’s symbol, for me the Bratislava UFO Bridge (officially Most SNP, Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) will always stand for Slovakia’s capital.
Why? Like the Castle, the Bridge is a monument of an era and it is unique and distinctive to the city. But it’s also practical, used by thousands of people every day, and, dare I say, cool. It has also defined the city’s character: Its construction led to the demolition of a great portion of the city’s Old Town, particularly the Jewish quarter which led the philosopher Egon Bondy to once write that the bridge and the road it carries had stabbed the city’s heart. I lived in Bratislava from 1995 to 2000 while attending University of Economics, so the bridge stands not only for the city but also for five years’ worth of memories.
The bridge’s fact sheet is short and sweet:
- The bridge was built from 1967 to 1972.
- From the opening to 1993 it was called Most SNP, short for Most Slovenského národného povstania. For the following 19 years it was called Nový most (New Bridge) until in 2012 it was renamed to its original name.
- At 430 meters it is the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge to have one pylon and one cable-stayed plane and the only bridge to be the member of the World Federation of Great Towers.
- The flying saucer-like structure at the top of the pylon houses a restaurant, since 2005 aptly called UFO.
Whether you see it from far away…
…or from down below…
…the bridge leads the eye across the horizon, across the Danube River, which the city’s residents disavowed for so long, in and out of Old Town, always there.
It also inspires cool art.
The Bridge also features in the 1987 video by the Slovak band Tublatanka, “Dnes” (Today), a classic I’ve heard an Irishman describe as Bratislava’s anthem. Sounds just about right.