East Europe has always bring fascination to the people who are interested in how the former communist states looked like especially after the transition from Communism to free market economy. Well that’s the usual non-photographer reason for visiting the old Eastern Bloc states and as a photographer, the reasons are even more. Old world charm, European sense and sensibilities, old buildings, statues (tons of them) & art installations that add a lot to the whole environment of the place giving a sort of vibrancy that is sorely lack in modern architecture. In short, there’s a lot to take both in terms of experiences and photos. It is not that tough that Poland, Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia are prime tourist attraction after one has visited Western Europe.
Thanks to my good friend Shawn Lourdusamy of DMR (who is the main organiser behind Causeway Exchange), I got myself a ticket to East Europe via the Entrepreneur networking initiative called Spotlight Singapore (http://www.spotlightsg.com/ , the official webpage for the trip: http://bratislava-prague.spotlightsg.com/). Spotlight, which is managed by The Old Parliament House, the manager of some of Singapore’s art space including the premiere venue, The Arts House over at Empress Place; (http://www.toph.com.sg), has the mission to help local businesses find new opportunities in markets around the globe using the arts and culture .
Spotlight has also introduced an initiative called the Young Entrepreneur Series to help young entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and students from Temasek Polytechnic has benefited from this trip.
Under Spotlight Singapore, delegates has visited Hong Kong, Japan, Russia & South Africa since mid 2000. The trip to the former Czechoslovakia is their fifth and my first (and hopefully more to come including Hungary).
Photo Video Montage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYm2zkMXLMk&feature=plcp
Bratislava, Slovakia Republic
The capital city of the Slovakia Republic, it was founded in AD907 and has its present name, Brastislava, only in the early part of the 20th Century which came as a surprise. After my experiences in Western Europe for the past decade, the quiet surroundings and less hurried atmosphere is almost a huge relief especially for those into photography. I wonder how long this will last as Slovakia is building its economy and its tourism sector would surely grow as time goes by more so when Piestany gains its reputation amongst the nou rich Asians. In the meantime, I enjoyed the place thoroughly with old cobblestones lining the streets streets and they are pretty flat for most of the old town, thus allowing a very easy stroll through the town. Its size is also manageable, almost small as compared to the other European city centre and one can slowly explore the place without much trouble. The narrow alleyways afford a very unique and distinct scene that I think would be great for portraiture and wedding photos. I would be happy to shoot a wedding couple in this charming city.
Bratislava Photo Gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilzworkz/sets/72157631675869658/
Shawn. Before the super long journey. The ‘after’ shot is way too horrible to witness..LOL!
Interior Shot of Dubai International Airport. I appreciate that Dubai has grown tremendously from the infuse of oil money into its economy. But staying put in the airport for 4-5 hour for transit is really a challenge in itself as people from around the world congregates and is seriously jamming up the place. Going to the toilet is a long waiting affair for a guy, believe it or not. I decided to plant myself in a lounge on the return trip and it was way more comfortable. And the thing about shopping in Dubai? Not that much cheaper unfortunately.
We reached Vienna, Austria in the afternoon. It is a pity that we don’t get to see this beautiful city as well where Mozart leave his mark too, apart from Prague and Pressburg(the old name for Bratislava). Bratislava is just a short bus ride from Vienna and we reached in about an hour’s time. If one is visiting Vienna, Bratislava is a well worth a day trip too. We put up at Crowne Plaza which is just opposite the City’s Grassalkovich Palace, on the fringe of the old town.
The Old Slovak National Theatre
St Michael’s Gate, one of the most prominent landmark in the old town’s skyline. I have used it to orientate myself throughout my walk in the old town if you can have a good view. The other would be St Martin’s Cathedral. After the gate, it opens up to the streets within the old town.
Looked a tad like HDR but it isn’t.
Throughout the town are these odd statues and installations that add some character to already fascinating town. The thing is to find them and then be creative to capture their essence of their oddity. It is really a street photographer heaven.
Playing ye olde instrument
Beautiful Street. Horrible Graffiti. Now you understand why we agree on the need to cane Michael Fay and those Swiss ‘ Foreign Talents’ who did stupid things on public places and assets. Nice orange sandals Addy!
Just when you thought that the streets are so narrow that no vehicle can pass through. Good thing the frequency is not that high.
Here’s Looking At You!
Dinner & Good Beer with Liang Fu, Kay, Addy and Dawn. The place is way darker than how it looks here.
Shirley & CJ my roommate
Best Meat Platters Ever!
Sunrise Shot No. 1 of the Danube River
Sunrise Shot No.2 of the Danube River
Sunrise No. 3 with the Danube
Better start to appreciate how one should marry modern architecture with the old architecture in the area. This is an observation deck on top of their main vehicular bridge. Heard that the Communist Regime tore down a old Jewish Synagogue just to build the road. Pity.
Bratislava Rush. We were finishing up the 2nd sunrise shoot while crossing the bridge when the sun presents a very nice view of pedestrian shadows and silhouette. I was about to make my click when a lone woman starts to run diagonally across the junction, apparently late for work. I quickly metered again to the reflection on the road (it was raining in the early morning) and wait for the main crowd to clear and then put her in the middle of the road. Taking the shot while both feet are off the ground is just pure coincidence/timing. Praise the Lord for this divinely appointed time.
Colin, CEO of The Old Parliament House, making sure everything is running fine.
Inside the City Town Hall, the former Archbishop Palace. This is the place where Napolean signed a peace treaty with the Austrian Emperor Frantisek but Napolean violate the treaty nevertheless in his quest to conquer Europe.
Presenting of the collaborative art piece by Mr Sun Yu-Li
Just outside the Capital’s NEW Art Theatre. Brastislava Castle right on the horizon. The presence of Sheraton Hotel just next to the Danube River just speaks of how fast the country has developed. Marks and Spencer is just on the left side of the picture.
The Performance: The Little Red Dot. Musical piece by Cultural Medallion holder Mr Iskandar Ismail.
Amongst Rousing Applause. Our artistes with their local performers.
We are at Elesko Vineyard. The main building also houses a contemporary art gallery of Andy Warhol (http://www.elesko.sk/article/50/Andy-Warhol-in-Modra/)
Su Pei with Andy Warhol over a cuppa.
More interaction with the Slovak Entrepreneurs. Over gobblets of wine!
Kala Strikes a Pose
Interacting with the Gallery ‘ space’ with(in) a glass of wine.
To Piestany. The Spa with the medicinal sulphur infused MUD. Great for rhuematism as the sulphur relieves the pain between the joints.
Getting ready for some spa treatments. Eugene definitely needed it.
Our guide Tom. Bringing us around to get a feel of the place.
Soviet era charm in the hotel. You just feel that the Red Army guards would just come marching in.
But they have nice modern facilities. This is the massage room.
Just before the long walk.
The main arterial road through the whole spa complex which is literally an island by itself. Spa Piestany prides itself to get people healthier. Yup. The walk would be just so beneficial. LOL.
Thermia Palace. A better alternative to the Soviet Era Hotel :). Now if they have some Asian charm in the form of Banyan Tree resort with the hot mud.
Their dining room. I really felt under dressed in jeans and t-shirt in this setting…
…as well as the bar room.
If you have heard of the French doing their goose liver treat, then we are certainly going to enjoy this Slovak delicacy. Trust me. It was really expensive!
A little bit of networking before dinner.
Check out my dinner!
Here’s the big deal! Texture is the same as the pig liver we used to eat but it is more tasteful (to me at least!). Some just couldn’t understand why I like it. Perhaps it is the same as why some like Durians. Nope there’s no smell. Just acquired taste! LOL!
If the liver is too much, then the roast (or fried) goose would be more palatable. The Beijing Duck would be a close description to the Slovak version. Crisy and tasteful and the meat just drops away from the bones and juicy to the mouth. Pardon me while I go wipe my saliva off my table (again!)
Ms Jennie Chua (an alumnus of Monash University), Non-Resident Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, COO of Capitaland giving us a speech after the dinner.
The trip to Slovakia is certainly enlightening. We are seeing a new nation trying to do its best to provide for its people by modernizing its economy quickly. They are following Singapore’s footsteps and are trying to build their economy by supporting their local entrepreneurs too. There is something both countries can learn and help each other definitely. I certainly miss the slower pace of life in Bratislava but underneath the cool exterior, one can feel the strong undercurrent of economic power rising. This is a country to watch.
Next stop, Czech Republic!
Video Montage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYm2zkMXLMk&feature=plcp
Music of the montage is taken from Andrea Buckova & Maria Kmetkova’s “In The Middle Of…” Album. The songs are Dream, More, Kanaka and Why.
Andrea Buckova, the Norah Jones of Slovakia.
Maria Kmet’kova on harp.