It is not the winter-grey Danube flowing –
hundreds of feet below – fast to Budapest,
nor the suspension bridge – with its high rise
circular restaurant – commemorating
the failed uprising against the Nazis,
nor the outline of the Vienna Alps
fifty miles away, nor the wind turbines
covering the plain between, but the concrete
Soviet era apartment blocks
now painted white and some in pastel shades
that first catch the eye from this stronghold
on a rocky hill far above the town
on the second day of 2018.
This must be Europe’s centre: liberated,
Catholic, polyglot; in Magyar,
German, Slovak; Pozsonyi Vár,
Pressburger Schloss, Bratislavsky Hrad.
As we descend the narrow, cobbled street
that turns with the hill’s contours, gusts of wind
whirl into the air small strips of gold paper,
detritus of New Year’s Eve celebrations,
and a party of Australian tourists
comes round the corner their resolute guide’s
tartan umbrella flapping unsafely.
The runway faces east so the plane
must bank westwards to fly by Vienna,
Prague, London to land at Manchester.
On the right are the Little Carpathians
with vineyards on the slopes and at their heart
wildernesses of beasts and plants still intact –
left, below, river, castle, tower blocks
reduced to perfection.