In the 1980s my wife and I used to climb the Sandberg Hill near Bratislava. The hill was formed by hardened sand from the bottom of a sea that used to be here 160 million years ago, and even today the slightest prod at the steep slope will reveal a sea shell from the Tertiary. But Sandberg’s charm consisted in something else: on the other side of the River Danube flowing at the foot of the hill was Austria, separated from us by barbed wire and an extensive array of soldiers with submachine guns. The view of Austria from the Sandberg Hill was most beautiful on summer evenings when the sun went down exactly behind the Austrian horizon - in the West, in Europe.
At first sight you couldn’t detect many differences between the realm of freedom in Austria and our communist-ruled domain. Both sides of the river were lined by the same alluvial forest, only the walls of the castle visible in the distance were unusually clean compared to the dirty walls and peeling plaster we were used to in our country.