Many European cities are fêted for their extraordinary central squares or grand boulevards. The gentle curve of Oxford's High Street, the assertive sweep of Paris' Avenue des ChampsÉlysées and the vitality of the Ramblas in Barcelona all capture something of their respective cities. As do the fine piazzas in Venice, Kraków and Tallinn. But what of life outside the city centre, beyond the usual tourist trails?
How many visitors to Vilnius bother to cross the Vilnia river to discover the suburb of UÅ¾upis, the zany self styled republic (Uzupio respublika) full of Bohemian artists committed to perpetuating the memory of Frank Zappa? Or who bothers to escape Athenian heat and takes the bus out to Kifissía to wander the villa lined avenues that drape the slopes of Mount Pendéli?
A foray into the suburbs of some of eastern Europe's great cities can turn out to be remarkably rewarding. Whether it be Minsk or Sofia, Bucharest or Bratislava the suburbs tell their own tale of capital life. Not always as polished a story as that of the grand boulevards!
hidden europe guest contributor, Amanda Kendle, has revisited the Slovak capital Bratislava, her onetime home city, and reports from the suburb of Dlhé Diely.
Ivetka was bemused to hear so little Slovak being spoken by those walking past our pavement café table in Michalská ulica. Her curiosity turned to anxiety when the waitress arrived to take our order in English even before we had uttered a word in any language. Although raised in eastern Slovakia, my good friend Ivetka had spent some years living in Bratislava. "Never before", she said, "have there been so many tourists traipsing through our city." As with so many cities and towns in eastern Europe, all anxious to get their share of the tourist market, Bratislava boasts a fine old town that is constantly under renovation. The trick is to ensure that there are, at any one time, a sufficient quantity of cobblestones and quaint shop fronts to keep the tourists amused. It is of course over these same cobblestones that the locals stroll to buy their scoops of creamy zmrzlina in summer, and oftentimes the tourists must wonder about the homes to which the locals will return at night.