Is Bratislava the most graffitied city in Europe? Probably not given its petite stature but during our recent visit to the city we noticed that there was an extraordinary amount of graffiti. The capital of Slovakia, this small city of just over 400,000 residents appeared to be covered in the stuff. As our train pulled into the station the railway sidings and even the trains were covered in it. Walking into town, every available space seemed to have been scrawled upon. Or tagged. Whichever is the correct term.
But amongst the spay-painted walls, which just come across as mindless vandalism to me, there are some more creative and skilful pieces which I would classify as street art rather than graffiti.
Sometimes when I spot and want to photograph some street art, Mark will say, “that’s not street art; it’s graffiti”. He mainly says it to be controversial but it does raise an interesting point …
What’s the difference between graffiti and street art?
Although the dictionary definition of graffiti doesn’t deem it an especially negative word, these days graffiti tends to be recognised as vandalism whereas street art is considered a creative outlet for local artists and something that enhances urban space rather than degenerates it. The website Graffiti Action Hero offers some good comparisons and some of my favourites are “Street Art is constructive; Graffiti Tagging is destructive”, “Street Art is about the audience; Graffiti Tagging is about the tagger” and “Street Art takes skill; Graffiti Tagging takes balls”.
Like many of the European cities we’ve visited, Bratislava has adopted its own Street Art Festival which has been taking place annually since 2011. This has, undoubtedly, channelled the city’s mural painting into a creative outlet. And maybe converted some Graffiti Artists to Street Artists.
Perhaps I’m not being quite fair by saying Bratislava is entirely daubed in unsightly spray-can paint – the heart of its very pretty Old Town has been spared and for those not so interested in seeking out street art, it’s a great city to visit for a couple of days. More to come on Slovakia soon, but here is some of the street art in Bratislava (not graffiti) we photographed while there.
Photographing the street art in Bratislava:
Do you enjoy unusual sightseeing? You might also be interested in our post about exploring the Socialist era architecture in Bratislava.