Slovakia: Bratislava

Bratislava (/ˌbrætɪˈslɑːvə, ˌbrɑː-/; Slovak pronunciation: [ˈbracislaʋa] (About this sound listen), German: Preßburg or Pressburg IPA: [ˈpʁɛsˌbʊɐ̯k], Hungarian: Pozsony) is the capital of Slovakia. With a population of about 450,000, it is one of the smaller capitals of Europe but still the country's largest city. The greater metropolitan area is home to more than 650,000 people. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two sovereign states.

The city's history has been strongly influenced by people of different nations and religions, namely (in alphabetical order) Austrians, Bulgarians, Croats, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, Serbs and Slovaks. It was the coronation site and legislative center of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1536 to 1783, and has been home to many Slovak, Hungarian and German historical figures.

Bratislava is the political, cultural and economic centre of Slovakia. It is the seat of the Slovak president, the parliament and the Slovak Executive. It has several universities, and many museums, theatres, galleries and other cultural and educational institutions. Many of Slovakia's large businesses and financial institutions have headquarters there.

In 2017, Bratislava was ranked as the third richest region of the European Union by GDP (PPP) per capita (after Hamburg and Luxembourg City). GDP at purchasing power parity is about three times higher than in other Slovak regions.

he city started to lose its importance under the reign of Maria Theresa's son Joseph II, especially after the crown jewels were taken to Vienna in 1783 in an attempt to strengthen the union between Austria and Hungary. Many central offices subsequently moved to Buda, followed by a large segment of the nobility. The first newspapers in Hungarian and Slovak were published here: Magyar hírmondó in 1780, and Presspurske Nowiny in 1783. In the course of the 18th century, the city became a centre for the Slovak national movement.

The city's 19th-century history was closely tied to the major events in Europe. The Peace of Pressburg between Austria and France was signed here in 1805. Theben Castle was ruined by Napoleon's French troops during an invasion of 1809. In 1825 the Hungarian National Learned Society (the present Hungarian Academy of Sciences) was founded in Pressburg using a donation from István Széchenyi. In 1843 Hungarian was proclaimed the official language in legislation, public administration and education by the Diet in the city.

Bratislava is situated in southwestern Slovakia, within the Bratislava Region. Its location on the borders with Austria and Hungary makes it the only national capital that borders between two countries. It is only 18 kilometres (11.2 mi) from the border with Hungary and only 60 kilometres (37.3 mi) from the Austrian capital Vienna.

The city has a total area of 367.58 square kilometres (141.9 sq mi), making it the second-largest city in Slovakia by area (after the township of Vysoké Tatry). Bratislava straddles the Danube River, which it had developed around and for centuries was the chief transportation route to other areas. The river passes through the city from the west to the southeast. The Middle Danube basin begins at Devín Gate in western Bratislava. Other rivers are the Morava River, which forms the northwestern border of the city and enters the Danube at Devín, the Little Danube, and the Vydrica, which enters the Danube in the borough of Karlova Ves.

One of the most prominent structures in the city is Bratislava Castle, situated on a plateau 85 metres (279 ft) above the Danube. The castle hill site has been inhabited since the transitional period between the Stone and Bronze ages and has been the acropolis of a Celtic town, part of the Roman Limes Romanus, a huge Slavic fortified settlement, and a political, military and religious centre for Great Moravia. A stone castle was not constructed until the 10th century, when the area was part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

The castle was converted into a Gothic anti-Hussite fortress under Sigismund of Luxemburg in 1430, became a Renaissance castle in 1562, and was rebuilt in 1649 in the baroque style. Under Queen Maria Theresa, the castle became a prestigious royal seat. In 1811, the castle was inadvertently destroyed by fire and lay in ruins until the 1950s, when it was rebuilt mostly in its former Theresian style.

Bratislava is the seat of the Slovak parliament, presidency, ministries, supreme court (Slovak: Najvyšší súd), and central bank. It is the seat of the Bratislava Region and, since 2002, also of the Bratislava Self-Governing Region. The city also has many foreign embassies and consulates.

The current local government (Mestská samospráva)[9] structure has been in place since 1990. It is composed of a mayor (primátor), a city board (Mestská rada), a city council (Mestské zastupiteľstvo), city commissions (Komisie mestského zastupiteľstva), and a city magistrate's office (Magistrát).

The mayor, based at the Primate's Palace, is the city's top executive officer and is elected to a four-year term of office. The current mayor of Bratislava is Ivo Nesrovnal, who won the election held on November 15, 2014 as an independent candidate. The city council is the city's legislative body, responsible for issues such as budget, local ordinances, city planning, road maintenance, education, and culture. The Council usually convenes once a month and consists of 45 members elected to four-year terms concurrent with the mayor's. Many of the council's executive functions are carried out by the city commission at the council's direction. The city board is a 28-member body composed of the mayor and his deputies, the borough mayors, and up to ten city council members. The board is an executive and supervisory arm of the city council and also serves in an advisory role to the mayor.

In 2006, Bratislava had 77 commercial accommodation facilities (of which 45 were hotels) with a total capacity of 9,940 beds. A total of 986,201 visitors, 754,870 of whom were foreigners, stayed overnight. Altogether, visitors made 1,338,497 overnight stays. However, a considerable share of visits is made by those who visit Bratislava for a single day, and their exact number is not known. The largest numbers of foreign visitors come from the Czech Republic, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and Austria.

Among other factors, the growth of low-cost airline flights to Bratislava, led by Ryanair, has led to conspicuous stag parties, primarily from the UK. While these are a boom to the city's tourism industry, cultural differences and vandalism have led to concern by local officials. Reflecting the popularity of rowdy parties in Bratislava in the early to mid-2000s, the city was a setting in the 2004 comedy film Eurotrip, which was actually filmed in the city and suburbs of Prague, the Czech Republic.

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