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Folklore and Customs
Maly Lipnik (Religious Orders)
Udol - Ujak
St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Cathedral
Photos Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik & Elaine Latzman Moon
Photos Courtesy of Peter Nagy, Julia Ondrejcekova, & Ferdinand Tisovic
Photos Courtesy of Steven M. Osifchin
Photos Courtesy of Pavol Knurovsky
Photos Courtesy of Julia Ondrejcekova
Postcard Courtesy of Maryjane Firmender Proctor
Photos Courtesy of Julia Ondrejcekova
Gateway to the East
Town Photos - Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik
Szanzen Photos - Courtesy of Elaine Latzman Moon
The town of Bardejov is an appealing and historical town. It is a definite must for any tourist’s itinerary. Bardejov was founded in 1219 and had numerous fortifications with some that date back to the 15th century. These fortifications are still standing and can be seen today. Bardejov is near the Polish boarder and always had various people residing within her walls. An order of Polish Cistercian monks set up a residence in the late 12th century, Germans came as part of the weaving trades and a synagogue was built in the 18th century near the Jewish quarter. Arriving at the town square, you are immediately taken with the Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The square area (Radnicne namestie) is arranged in a way which seems larger than it is. Walking at a leisurely pace, one can feel the centuries old atmosphere and yet, still realize you are part of modern times. The square can be entered through gate towers, three being named Dolna brana, Prasna and Horna. There are many stores and shops that line the old town square and they are a delight to explore. Bardejov offers a number of outdoor cafes and they are excellent places to watch the pulse of the town. The town runs along the Topla River at the foothills of the Lower Beskydy Mountains. This area made it a very important trading route and it benefited greatly from its royal free town status.
Being an administrative center of the former upper Saris region, Bardejov grew at a rapid industrial pace. The town boasted many forms of industry but foremost was the weaving industry and various forms of trade. There are many visual delights in Bardejov and it is difficult to name them all. The town hall was constructed in 1509 and still functions as a municipal archive and has a museum. The Saris museum, begun in 1903, offers a host of interesting items from Bardejov’s past including many religious icons. The entrance fee to the museum is nominal and it is a good starting point before exploring the town. There is also another museum in the town that is intriguing. This museum offers a history of regional coins, old military weapons and furniture from the towns past. Not far from town hall is the magnificent St. Egidia Roman Catholic Cathedral. Upon seeing this cathedral, your attention is immediately taken by the tall brown spire that graces the exterior. This gothic wonder, completed in 1464, has eleven detailed altars with the main altar being the most striking. A visit to this church is exciting as the statues and paintings within the cathedral are truly magnificent. Not to be missed at the rear of the cathedral is a large painting of the crucified Christ. At the entrance to the church postcards and various photos of the cathedral are sold along with books relating the history of the cathedral and its construction. There are other houses of worship to be seen such as the Evangelical Church (constructed between 1798 to 1808) and a Greek Catholic Church (constructed between 1901 to 1902).
The various shops and stores which grace the main square offer numerous items. In keeping with its historical past, there are a few shops offering many beautiful hand-made lace items. Walking along the cobblestone streets and viewing the rolling hills in the distance is very relaxing. The square itself slopes downwards and around but, everything is within walking distance. Bardejov has received world attention and in reward for its outstanding efforts at preservation and restoration, UNESCO added Bardejov to its listing of important towns. This attention is well deserved as Bardejov has gone to great lengths to preserve its architecture and also takes great pride in maintaining its historical buildings. As in many parts of Slovakia, castles are abundant and there is one in the Bardejov region, the Zborovsky hrad or, Zborov castle.
Sites worth mentioning to visit within the area are numerous. Some of these are the wooden churches. These churches are found in many areas of Slovakia and are enchanting. The churches, being Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Orthodox, show the builders great skills and imagination. The only construction material utilized was wood and it is amazing they have stood for centuries. Places in the Bardejov region where they can be found are Fricka (Orthodox), Hervartov (Roman Catholic) Jedlinka (Orthodox), Kozany (Greek Catholic) Krive (Greek Catholic) Lukov-Venecia (Orthodox) and Trocany (Greek Catholic). A stop at one or all of these fascinating wooden structures is time well spent.
There are other wonders to explore that are close in proximity to the town. Bardejov is surrounded by beautiful scenery and the view is spectacular as you drive along the main highway. There is an outdoor museum (Szanzen) located by the Bardejov kupele (spa resort). Neither of these should be missed as they are close to the main town and are very interesting. The Szanzen offers a view of life as it was in previous centuries. The exhibitions of folk architecture and costumes are charming. There are approximately 30 buildings made of wood within the Szanzen and each interior is decorated with a different theme. The wooden homes, some with thatched roofs, are unique to view. The Szanzen is arranged in the pattern of what a village would have looked like during past generations. These Szanzens are excellent reference points for learning the history of the region. During the summer months, many folk groups come to perform and offer concerts of various folk music. Also for viewing are different folk costumes, blacksmith wares and pottery making. There are many craftsmen who come to the Szanzen at various times to show their skills and offer items for sale to the general public.
A very fascinating place to visit while in the Bardejov area is the Bardejov kupele. This spa has been in operation for centuries. It was a favorite with kings, tsars and prices with their mark being seen within the building architecture. Today, the spa continues to operate as it always has. Many individuals swear by the curative powers of the various springs and visit on a regular basis to aid their general health. The grounds are glorious and there are many statues that recall this was a resort utilized by the crowned heads of Europe. The springs, some with names like Nagyova, Ceresna, Husitska and Janoskiova are favored for various aliments. Some of the aliments treated at this spa are stomach and blood disorders, respiratory ailments, gland disorders (diabetes and thyroid) and stress related problems. For a tourist who wishes to take a few days to rest, this is the perfect place. The atmosphere is peaceful and relaxing. To keep this atmosphere, there are signs which remind visitors that quiet is necessary within certain parts of the spa.
There are many places to sit while sipping the various waters but if walking is required, there are many marked trails all around the spa. Also not to be missed if you are in a shopping mood is the gift shop inside the building where the spring waters are located. The shop is not that large but offers many interesting items. One item is a special cup that has a built in straw. This straw makes it easy to sipping your water while walking. This spa is open all year round and offers lodging for those wishing to take a rest from their busy schedules. There are restaurants along the main road in this area and they offer excellent food at very reasonable prices. Also within this area are many private cottages for rental and ski areas. For those who travel here in the winter months, the ski slopes are well worth trying. Hotels within Bardejov are limited but one is the Hotel Bellevue. There are also many pensions and private rentals that cater to various needs during a visit.
Bardejov and the surrounding area is attractive and a window into the past. Its buildings, history and people are something that should not be neglected. Blending the old and new, its architecture, atmosphere and grace offer visitors many exciting places to explore. Access to this beautiful town is simple via car (from the Presov areas, go northeast on the E371 highway). There are many bus and train routes that have Bardejov as a destination. Some routes are direct from major cities such as Bratislava and Kosice. Visiting this gateway to the east is a pleasure and valuable historical education regarding this region of the Slovak Republic.
Capital of the Slovak Republic
Bratislava Postcards Courtesy of Peter Nagy
no.1: Historical view of Danube & Bratislava Castle (1909)
no.2: the same view as photo1, 90 years later
no.3: panorama of Saint Martin's Cathedral
no.4: Bratislava Castle
The Following Photos Courtesy of Julia Ondrejcekova
photo 1 - The Blue Church, photo 2 - The American Embassy
photo 3 - View of Old Town Bratislava, photo 4 - View of Bratislava
The capital city of the Slovak Republic is Bratislava or "Blava" as residents affectionately call it. Located on the Danube River, it is a place where three cultures and languages merge and have mixed over the centuries. The influence of these cultures, Slovak, Austrian and Hungarian, has left their imprint on Bratislava. This city is a wonderful combination of timeless beauty and regal history. Each century is represented and can found along the streets and in shops, architecture and on monuments. The city was originally settled by the Romans and Celts. Under Prince Bretislav the city was incorporated into the Great Moravian Empire around the year 900. After a short period Bratislava was brought into the Hungarian Kingdom during the 10th century by Stephan I and given many royal privileges in 1217. Many names have been used which referred to Bratislava during the centuries. The Hungarians called it Pozsony, the Germans, Pressburg and Slovaks referred to it as Bratislava in honor of Prince Bretislav. The city has seen many great figures of history pass its streets and in 1698 the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, came to visit. During the occupation of the Turks within Hungarian regions, the Hungarian kings moved their government to the city. Bratislava would remain the Hungarian Empire’s capital until 1784 and was still used for the coronations of their royal family until1835. During this period it was the largest Hungarian city with a population reaching 27,000. Due to its proximity to Vienna and Budapest, Bratislava secured a high degree of wealth from trade along the Danube on the so-called "Amber Road." Just north of the city are the Small Carpathian mountains which stretch in length for100 km. This region is not well known for its wines but wine has been cultivated in this area since Roman times. The wines of the Little Carpathian region are excellent and superior to many French grown popular wines. When the first Czechoslovak republic was born in 1919, Bratislava was given the opportunity to flourish as a city with full Slovak identity. The area grew and during 1945, became the provincial capital of the Slovak portion of Czechoslovakia. Upon the success of the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989, Bratislava was the capital of the Slovak Republic within the Czech and Slovak federal state. During the peaceful agreement to separate on January 1, 1993, Bratislava became a capital in its own right upon the birth of the Slovak Republic.
Reaching Bratislava is relatively easy via air travel. Major airlines offer direct service to Bratislava’s M. R. Stefanik airport, which is located 9 km northeast from the center of the city. Reaching the city is simple via the numerous trains, taxi and bus lines. Various folk festivals, art shows and concerts are held in Bratislava, which bring thousands of people to visit the city each year. Bratislava is a treasure but must be discovered on foot. There are many winding roads, hidden shops and buildings that would be missed via bus or tram. Reconstruction and repairs are constantly being executed to restore the city to her former grace and beauty. Taking one of the many pleasure boat tours from the Danube the first thing that can be seen is Bratislava Castle. This magnificent structure captures the attention immediately. Imposing in structure, yet regal visually, this castle has seen history from birth to full life. The hill upon which the castle rests was first mentioned in documents from 907. During this period a system of fortified points were constructed upon the spurs of the Little Carpathians, which made up parts of the castles of Bratislava and Devin. In 1427, King Sigismund of Luxemburg built a fort here. Further construction was added under the Hapsburgs. Maria Theresa of Austria gave her son-in-law permission to reside in the castle when she appointed him Hungarian Viceroy. Maria Theresa frequently held court in Bratislava Castle and constant construction and upgrades were made. The castle was turned into a seminary after her death and then was used as an army barracks for Austrian soldiers. Napoleons’ troops camped on the other side of the Danube in 1811 and took some shots at the castle but no major damage was made. After this period the castle was unfortunately neglected. In the last 30 years the castle has been painstakingly restored. You can now look out the majestic windows of the castle and see the wide Hungarian plains below along with hills that grace Austrian towns. The view is magnificent and one sight that should not be missed.
Walking though the "Old Town" an individual is suddenly taken by the fact there is so much to experience in a small area. Walking down the medieval cobblestones of Kapitulska ul. St. Martin’s Cathedral spirals upward. Many times during the end of the day monks are observed strolling in meditation. This reminds the visitor of another period in time due to this atmosphere. The surroundings are peaceful, reflective and a window upon the past. The works of art to be found are numerous in this area. The bronze statue of "St. Martin Giving Away his Cape" which was designed between 1733 and 1735 by George Raphael Donner is glorious. In other areas, heading away from the Danube is the Jewish Museum (Zidovske muzeum), which was founded in 1991. The history of the Jewish people who resided within Slovakia is documented here. Not to be missed are the historical documents which are on display. Information on Jewish life such as folk art and architecture are fascinating. The oldest synagogues in Slovakia were made of wood and there were many. This building practice parallels with Christians of various heritages, especially in Eastern Slovakia, who constructed churches of wood or wood products. Some of these wooden edifices are extraordinary. Not to be overlooked is the mausoleum of Rabbi Chatam Sofer who is considered on of the greatest Jewish scholars of the past century. The mausoleum is a part of the former Jewish cemetery, which operated from 1670 to 1847 and is still visited by many individuals each year. Many highly respected rabbis’ and scholars are also buried within this cemetery and the gravestones are interesting in their design.
Walking down Kapitulska from the cathedral to Farska ul. offers the Church of the Poor Clare’s. The 15th century steeple is a masterpiece and this church was once a convent. The church is open at various times for musical concerts, which offer exceptional talent and are professional in every sense of the word. Upon leaving the church and proceeding though the University Library, the main street is found, Michalska ul. The most recognizable symbol of the Old Town can be found here, Saint Michael’s Gate (Michalska brana). It is an old superstition held by students that if you talk between the inner and outer gates you will have bad luck on your examinations. This assuredly is believed, as the area is always, even in a crowd, uncommonly quiet. Walking though the old winding streets and hearing footsteps on the old cobblestones gives an almost surreal feeling. Life in former times can be imagined and the tempo of life during former times can be imagined. To gain knowledge of expired practices regarding science and medicine, a visit to Michalska 26, Pharmacy of the Red Crayfish (U Cerveneho Raka) is intriguing. This pharmacy offers a unique view of centuries old pharmaceutical practices. Bratislava’s herbalist past can be seen here and some of the remedies still used are gaining notoriety in the west. The earliest prescription filled was in 1644 and the records for this shop are a historian’s dream come true. The sights coupled with the smell of various herbs in this shop are overwhelming in the historical sense. Upon reaching the Hviezdoslavovo nam, which is a very long, elegant square, other items of interest abound. The National Theater is here and just south of this, the Reduta which is home to the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra. The building was constructed between 1913-1918. There is an elegant restaurant located inside this building, which should not be omitted, as the food is a culinary delight. Down the road from the Reduta is the Slovak National Museum on Vajanskeho nabrezie, 2. This museum is in a league with other world-class museums and some of the items on display are from Slovakia’s prehistoric past. Many students visit this museum as guests, to or compile information for educational purposes. Many times, the students will engage an individual in conversation and for an exceptional lesson on many topics. Discussion with the students is a superior learning experience as the author has experienced. All the students are found to be very intelligent and fully skilled in their respective areas of knowledge. There are also exhibits regarding anthropology, which are extraordinary in this museum among other areas of interest. After walking on Sturova Street, go to Grosslingova Street to find a true masterpiece. The famous "Blue Church" (Modry kostol). This church is a work of art and truly breathtaking. The actual name of this church is the Church of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. The church was built during the years 1910 to 1913 and is a marvel. The blue and cream-colored bell tower is graced with a clock, painted ornamentation, scroll work and resting at the top is a blue cupola upon which sits a large carved cross. Its grace and lightness of architecture make it a very popular site for photography.
Bratislava is a bustling modern city, which has taken its place among the most important capitals of the world. One item to mention is the weather, which, can be very close and hot in the summer months. It is best to start your visit early if this is the case, take a break, and then come back in the later part of the afternoon. The pedestrian shopping district street is located on Obchodna ulica. This area glides up to the old castle and winds its way across the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. Along the old streets are many food and beverage vendors, which sell a number of products. The restaurants and outdoor dining establishments found in Bratislava are incomparable. There are also no shortages of places to sit and rest. Benches, chairs, gardens and cafes all offer areas for rest and refreshment. Traversing the city is relatively easy. Trams, buses and taxi transport can be found in full supply. Walking is still the best way to enjoy all the sites and sounds of this magnificent city. An excellent resting period to take is during nightfall. While resting on a bench, the sounds of church bells and birds grace the slowly dimming skyline. A beautiful scene is St. Michael’s tower at nightfall. The tower is fully lit at night. Combined with the contrast of a night sky, colors of blue, light blue and silver are reflected from the building. The Slovak people have done well by Bratislava and are expending enormous sums while working diligently to reinstate this city’s ancient beauty. Many tourists from all over the world come annually to visit. Hotels are being constructed and older ones remodeled to meet the ever-increasing demand. From the Old Town’s Gothic and Baroque architecture to the new skyscrapers of the 21st century, Bratislava is intriguingly elegant and one of the most interesting country capitals in all of Europe. The city is filled with good restaurants, shops, striking architecture, churches, wine bars, opera and the finest art. History continues to be made in this capital. The Slovak people must be given full credit for the miracle of revitalizing this important city on the Danube and preserving it for all to visit and enjoy.
The tower of the Michael's gate (the last historical town gate)
The following Photos Courtesy of Ferdinand Tisovic
photo 1 - Bratislava Castle (Bratislavsky hrad)
photo 2 - The Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising
photo 3 & 4 - Presidential Palace, Bratislava
A German Settlement in Slovakia
The first settlement by Germans in Chmel’nica took place in the years 1270-1284. They came to the region seeking a better way of life. In 1248 under the name of Petersburg the village was established. The village name later changed to Obgart/Hobgart meaning "courtyard” in German. This name was first mentioned in the year 1352. During the 17th and 18th Century with the increase in processing of hops by the locals the name was reinterpreted as "hop garden”. During Austro-Hungarian rule it was known in Hungarian as Komlóskert. In Slovak it is called Chmel’nica. Today however, it is still referred to as Hopgarten by the local Germans. The village remained a majority Germanic village for hundreds of years. Slovaks, Rusyns, and Hungarians did settle there but tended to acquire the Germanic language and customs of the locals. In the present day the majority of the villagers speak among themselves a seemingly Silesian German dialect.
The Germans lived up until the Second World War, quite peacefully with the other ethnic groups of the village. After World War II it was decided by the newly re-formed Czechoslovak Government that all Germans should be deported and that the German language be banned and its use frowned upon. An attempt was made by the militia to remove all Germans from Chmel’nica. Since the Germans of Chmel’nica had a very good relationship with the surrounding Slovaks and Rusyns, they were warned of approaching soldiers. The local German villagers took to hiding in the woods or in other villages, which were inhabited mainly by Rusyns. However, this momentary freedom did not last. On the evening of 26 June 1946 Czechoslovak soldiers surrounded the village and the German population was rounded up and brought to an assembly camp in Stara Ľubovňa to be prepared for their deportation. The Slovak leader of Chmel’nica , Slovak and Rusyn locals, as well as, the mayors of the neighboring communities protested this treatment. Their solidarity with the Germans brought about their release. A second deportation attempt on 5 July 1946 was thwarted after again a warning by Slovak and Rusyn neighbors. During the following weeks the majority stayed hidden. Over 100 people were tracked and reported. However, the majority almost 600 Germans succeeded to remain safe. Finally in September of 1946 the remaining Germans were permitted to stay in Chmel’nica but had to declare themselves Czechoslovaks.
In the early 1950s, the Germans were granted Czechoslovak citizenship. After this the Germans of Chmel’nica spoke Slovak in public but German in the privacy of their homes. In the confessional at the local Roman Catholic Parish the German and Slovak priests took their confessions in the German language. Today the majority of the villagers list the German dialect or High German as their mother tongue. However, only a minority list German as their nationality.
Additional photos are available in the Gallery section located by clicking the link below.
A Distinguished Slovak City
Photos Courtesy of Pavol Knurovsky - Kosice - Slovakia
The City of Kosice is the second largest city in the Slovak Republic. During many centuries it has seen many rulers and heritages reside here. Kosice, or Cassa as the Hungarians called it, was also the second most important city during Hungarian rule. Records which first mention Kosice are from approximately 1230. By the year 1290, Kosice had become a fortified royal town within the Hungarian empire. The city was the first to be offered royal privileges by the Hungarian crown. In 1342 and 1348 these privileges made Kosice very important. The trade routes from Hungary to Poland helped it to expand and prosper. This city was second only in importance at this time to Buda, the capital of Hungary. During the year 1369 the king of Hungary gave a royal document providing a coat-of-arms for Kosice. The city became an important administrative and trade center. Various countries came to Kosice to conduct business and some were Austria, Bohemia, Poland, Russia, Romanian principalities, Serbia, Italy, Germany and Holland. During this period Kosice ranked with the largest European towns and had a growing population.
During the Turkish occupation of Hungarian territory in the 16th and 17th centuries, Kosice was a secure town for the Hungarian population. Trade with Hungary ceased because of the occupation and the city suffered somewhat for a brief period. In 1861 the railroad was built and it was at this time that Kosice again expanded and grew. The city has been under many different countries in past centuries. Kosice was part of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and now, the Slovak Republic. At the end of World War II, the city served for a brief period as the seat of the Czechoslovak Government. The city still retains part of its Hungarian past (the Hungarian frontier is only 12 miles away) and this can be seen in its architecture. Many of the older generations can still speak Hungarian and a small Hungarian population still reside here. There is also a population of Roma (Gypsies) and the only Romany theater in the world can only be found in this city. Today, Kosice is being revitalized by various construction and rebuilding projects. Many upgrades have been made and the addition of antique street lights gives the city a charming glow. There are also many excavations in and around Kosice. One has uncovered an old monastery which was thought to have been permanently destroyed. This city is a merging of the old and new with graceful continuity. A serious effort is being made on the part of the Slovak government to restore this city to its former grace and magnificence.
Strolling along the massive medieval square, attention is immediately drawn to the imposing stone cathedral. This Gothic cathedral, Saint Elizabeth’s is a masterpiece. Construction in the town center began in 1380 and was to take another 100 years before it was completed. Unfortunately, in 1556 a fire ravaged the interior of the cathedral and 18 of the original 22 altars were destroyed. Viewing the exterior of the cathedral is the dramatic tapering crossing tower and steep roofs which are covered in green and yellow tiles. Entering the cathedral, soft light which filters from the 19th century stained-glass windows offer a very welcoming atmosphere. Not to be missed are the stone carvings, some of which are artistic masterpieces. The carvings over the north and west portals are masterpieces and the intricately carved stone staircase at the north-end of the cathedral is breath taking. History is always present in this cathedral and here is located the crypt of Ferenc Rakoczi II, a challenger to the Habsburg monarchy in the early 18th century. Outside of the cathedral is an exhibition about Rakoczi and the anti-Habsburg uprisings which he led. This cathedral is the center focus of interest in Kosice and never should be missed by any visitor.
Not only was Kosice an administrative and trade center but also a learning center as well. Bishop Benedikt Kishdi signed a bishop’s bull which provided funding for a university in Kosice and on August 7, 1660, Leopold I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary offered his approval for a university to be constructed. The University of Kosice was given all rights, honors and privilege that other universities in the Austro-Hungarian kingdom held at this time. The Jesuits were given the task of administering to this university and in 1772 it became a state-administered institution. In time the university was to add more areas of learning to its curriculum. By decree of the Empress Maria Theresa on October 25, 1773, the University of Kosice was required to offer lectures in law and medicine. Strolling the squares and avenues, it is easy to imagine what life was like during these times. The main square, the Hlavna ulica is where most people walk, shop, sightsee or just to pass the time of day in a pleasing environment. Dominating the center town square is the Statne divadlo (State Theater). The exterior and interior are lavishly decorated as was the custom during the Austro-Hungarian empire days. The paintings on the ceilings of the interior were executed by Vienna’s master artist, P. Gastgeb. The quality of performances held in this theater are magnificent. The talent to be found in the high quality of ballet, opera and theater productions is on the same level as any major world theater. To the right of this building is the Rococo Palace at Hlavna ulica 59, which, in former times, housed some of the most wealthy nobles who resided within Kosice. One item of interest is a relief that commemorates the visit by Commander Mikhail Kutuzov. It was this same Commander Kutuzov who led the combined Russian-Austrian forces in 1805 against Napoleon at Austerlitz.
Kosice offers a wide variety of entertainment, sightseeing and places to visit. The shops, cafes, restaurants and numerous businesses offer many things to do within a short distance of each other. The restaurants are wonderful and they are not to be missed. For those who wish to dine on good Slovak cuisine, a stop to Sedliacky dvor on Biela 3 is never a disappointment. This fine restaurant offers folk style Slovak dishes within a very elegant atmosphere. A glass of Tokaj wine is the perfect compliment to the many wonderful Slovak dishes this restaurant has to offer. Kosice offers many cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries and other forms of entertainment. Getting lost in Kosice is rare but if it does occur, the friendly staff at the Mestske informacne centrum at Hlavna 8 (City Information Center) are always willing to help. Kosice has its share of many fine hotels and they all can suit the most expensive or the most frugal tastes. Many have fine restaurants attached to these hotels and some are not to be missed. Other interesting sights are the musical fountain which is a treat for the tourist and the residents. Located on the main street between the theater and the cathedral, water from this fountain is timed to flow according to music (mostly classical). At night, colored lights are lit and individuals sit for hours just watching the show. For a change in the pace, a walk to the Beggar’s House on Hlavna ul. 71 is intriguing. A story told is the owner of this home was once a beggar. The owner asked that a statue be made of him and placed on the roof. Here you can see this statue where the beggar is tipping his hat in thanks to all who gave him alms. A stop not to be missed is the East Slovak Museum on Hviezdoslavova 3. This museum houses some excellent exhibits and also due to excavations approximately 2,920 gold coins which are from the 15th to 17th centuries from 81 European mints. The museum also offers extensive cultural displays which help to show the diversity of this city and those who have resided here during the centuries.
Kosice is a city which has been resurrected in the past few years to show its former beauty and magnificence. The Slovak government has expended manpower and finances to try and bring this city back to its original grace. The constant construction and scaffolding can be an inconvenience but the end result will be worth this. Kosice is only second in the fact that it is the second largest city in the Slovak Republic. The visitor to Kosice cannot help but marvel at its history, culture and numerous offerings. This city is constantly evolving with modern times, yet retains its historical past. Those who have been to Kosice are never disappointed and there is always the feeling that a return visit must be scheduled soon.
Photos Courtesy of Julia Ondrejcekova
The City of Nitra is the Slovak Republic's fourth largest city. It is the oldest settlement in the Slovak Republic which offers history, beauty and culture. The population today for the City of Nitra is counted at 90,000. Due to its population large amounts of people walking on the sidewalks, taking public transportation and purchasing items along the Stefanikova trida is constant. The town marketplace is a bustling center where residents can purchase many items of excellent quality. Outside of this center there are numerous businesses, factories, the Agricultural University and the massive Agrokomplex. The Agrokomplex is a convention center that entertains over 1.5 million people each year. In this area are most of the bigger employers and companies where many of the residents of Nitra work. There are many types of entertainment in this lovely city. If entertainment of children is important, go to the street 7 Pesieho pluku. Here is the Babkove Divadlo which is a puppet theater and very popular with children of all ages. For those who are older, the city's buildings, churches, museums, concerts and shops are always a big attraction.
When the first castle and church were built in the 9th century, Nitra was then the principality of Count Pribina and was one of the centers of the Great Moravian Empire. History is ever present in Nitra and in the square one can see many buildings that are jewels of architecture. The past is always accessible in Nitra. The library of the Velky Seminar (Big Seminary) holds ancient manuscripts and books which have been counted and make up a library of approximately 60,000 works. These treasures are a vital glimpse to the past of the City of Nitra and the oldest book in the library is dated 1475. Turning down street corners and venturing toward alleys the visitor finds they are going further and further back in time. What is very interesting for such a large city is most of these back streets and alleys are relatively peaceful. Not much has changed the atmosphere of this masterpiece city for many centuries. Of course, modern times do have an effect and there are many modern and very superb hotels in Nitra which offer excellent accommodations. These accommodations are close to all the attractions the city offers. One of the most beautiful is Nitras mountain, Zobor. The chair lift to the top of this mountain is breath-taking and not to be missed. This mountain offers a 588 meter peak to explore castle ruins which are located at the top. Also to be found here are the historical ruins of the oldest monastery in the Slovak Republic.
There is just as much to explore outside the city of Nitra as there is to see and experience within the city. Anyone who has ventured past the city finds many sites and attractions of great interest. The village of Kostolany pod Tribecom and the castle ruins at Jelenec are intriguing. This place is home to the oldest standing church in the Slovak Republic. The church of Sv. Juraj (St. George) dates back to the 10th century and the wall paintings date back to the 11th century. The wall paintings were fully restored in 1965 and are priceless masterpieces not to be missed. This village is no different than others in Western Slovakia and shows much of the beauty and history of the Slovak Republic from many centuries ago. Also to be found in these areas are various places for exploration. The village of Brhlovce has cave dwellings which have been carved out of ash rock. Some are still inhabited. There are some stone dwellings that have been turned into a Folk Architecture Museum and the experience is well worth taking the time to explore this region. The villagers who inhabit these stone dwellings are very used to tourists and are accommodating and friendly. Many are very pleased to show visitors their homes as they are a deep sense of pride to the home owners. The City of Nitra is one of Slovakia=s priceless regions. It is an excellent place to learn of the magnificence of Slovak history and the splendor of Slovak culture.
Additional photos are available in the Gallery section located by clicking the link below.
Plaveč Photos - Courtesy of Jozef Joppa and Steven M. Osifchin
Postcard Courtesy of Maryjane Firmender Proctor
TOP (left to right):
Roman Catholic Church of Saint Margaret from the 14th century
Interior of the Church
Ruins of Plaveč Castle from the 13th century
Bottom (left to right):
A farm settlement
Part of the region around the Castle
The neighboring village exists from 12th century. It was a settlement of Polovec guards (tribe from western steppe). Plave Castle is mentioned in writting in 1287. It was a center of Plaveč Castle estate served as sentry post on the border with Poland. There are now ruins of the gothic castle, built at the end of the 13th century. First written note on the castle is dated 1294. Its owners changed frequently. In 1450-1458, it was the seat of Captain Peter Aksamit. His warriors came from West. The Castle burned down in 1856 and was abandoned. It's aspectacular view towering above the Poprad River.
Mr. Peter Ambrovic, Amb. of the Embassy of the Slovak Republic at Jakarta
The History of Plaveč
Varying names of the village over time: 1287 Palowcha, 1289 Paluch, 1322 Plaucha, 1773 Plawecz, 1786 Plawec, 1920 Plaveč, 1927 Plaveč nad Popradom (Poprad is the river so it is Plaveč above the river Poprad), 1948 Plaveč. In Hungarian it was called Palocsa.
Šariš County; district Sabinov, region Prešov until 1960; from 1968 district Stará Lubovna, Eastern Slovakia Region.
Other parts that belong to the village are Pastovník, Podzámok, and Závoda.
Population in years: 1869-1,325, 1880-1,487, 1890-1,396, 1900-1,332, 1910-1,177, 1921-1,071, 1930-1,235, 1940-1,499, 1948-1,441, 1961-1,570, 1970-1,773.
Size: 1790 HA is the size of the village. HA is short for Hektar. 1 Hektar is 2.471 acres.
The center of the village is 488 meters above the sea level. The range of the surrounding area of the village is between 482 and 694 meters above the sea level. Plaveč lies in the valley of the river Poprad at the connection of Lubovna and Levocas mountains. There is a mineral spring with a high amount of iron in it within this area. On the western side is a forest. The soils are mostly brown.
There was a settlement here in paleolite era. The village began as a settlement of watch soldiers that used to be at the crossing to Poland in 12th century. The village is first mentioned in 1287 as belonging to and being a center of the nobleman of Plaveč which also owned the following villages: Andrejovka, Bajerovka, Circ, Durková, Hajtovka, Hromoš, Malý Lipník, Matysová, Obrocné, Orlov, Plavnica, Ruská Vola, Starina and Údol. The castle Plaveč was built in 1294 as a border fortress. The owners changed often. In 1449 BRATRICI-Hussites gained control of the castle and it became the main post of the leader of BRATRICK’S Peter ASKAMIT. In 1456 and 1631 the serfs of the castle fought against the castle rulers due to the oppressive conditions that they lived under. The castle was rebuilt into a nobleman residence. In 1856 it burned and was deserted. In 1355 they had a toll station in the village. In the 14th century the village belonged to the family BEBECK. From the 15th century a serf town was developing with important markets. In 1505 it was granted the market rights. The coat of arms had a man with a sword. In the 18th century the landlords were of the family name Horvath. In the 19th century the Salamon family had large holdings there. In 1756 the town had a fire and was destroyed. In 1787 there were 64 houses and 766 inhabitants. In 1828 there were 130 houses and 958 inhabitants. At the beginning of the 20th century they incorporated a factory to produce cheese and opened a quarry. After 1918 most of the inhabitants became farmers. During WWII in 1945, 70% of the village was burned to the ground. In 1948 there was a devastating flood.
The ruins of the castle are from the 13th century and there are building ruins from the half of the 14th century. Renaissance building ruins of the manor houses from the 16th century and from the 17th century are also still seen. These ruins were destroyed by fire in 1856.
The church originally Roman Catholic, Gothic style, was enlarged by a renaissance chapel. In 1730 it was remodeled in Baroque style. Inside the church there is a monstrance from the gothic period and a late gothic statute of Madonna and three table paintings from the 16th century ( which were moved to Saris museum in Bardejov). In the settlement called Durkov there is a Greek Catholic Church from the second half of the 16th century which was rebuilt after 1726. In 1810 it became grain storage building and in 1815 it was remodeled for use as a church again.
Entryway to Slovak Paradise National Park
Spisska Nova Ves is an interesting town that is rich in history and culture. The reason for the expansion of this important Slovak town was probably due to its location. Situated near a major trade route that connected Hungary with Krakow, Poland and being close to the mining town Roznava, Spisska Nova Ves grew rapidly. Originally, the town was named Villa Nova (New Village) as was mentioned in a document "plebanus de Villa Nova dated 1268. Research has concluded that this area was originally settled during the 8th to 9th centuries. During Hungarian administration Spisska Nova Ves also had another name. The term Igló was used to identify the town and the district name was Szepes.
Due to its location, the town became a very important trade and governmental center. The Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was constructed around 1268. Outside the wall of the church trade was conducted. Butcher stalls, workshops and numerous professions all conducted business along these walls. As for the church and its surrounding property, it was not only utilized as a house of worship. The church property was also used as a tactical advantage. The cemetery was located on the south and east sides of the church. In times of conflict and during attacks upon the town these properties were utilized as a last resort battlefield.
The major economic industry in this area of the Spis region was mining. Within the Spisska Nova Ves region there were numerous mines, foundries and smelting furnaces. The most significant bell foundry in Slovakia is connected with the name of Spisska Nova Ves as its master, Kondrad Gaal, resided there. Showing the importance of the town, in 1380 King Luis I granted Spisska Nova Ves permission to hold weekly markets. Along with this Royal Order, permission was extended for trade and marketing which aided Spisska Nova Ves to become a major center of commerce and trade. There were other orders granted and in 1408, King Sigmund extended rights for weekly markets and, for holding an annual market on August 15th (Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary who was patroness of Spisska Nova Ves) each year. Unfortunately, being a royal town could be problematic. In 1412 King Sigmund pawned Spisska Nova Ves and several other Spis towns to Polish kings. For a full 360 years, Spisska Nova Ves was under this control. Not only in commerce but also in education Spisska Nova Ves excelled. During the first half of the 14th century a school was constructed that was overseen by various religious orders. The number of guilds organized in Spisska Nova Ves attested to the commerce of the town. There were blacksmiths, wheelwrights, weavers, basket-makers, bakers, furriers, millers and coppersmiths.
During the Middle Ages, a high percentage of the towns’ population was of German origin. Due to these ties with Germany, it is not surprising ideas were exchanged and, a new theology (Martin Luther) was brought to Spisska Nova Ves. The period of the reformation was difficult. In 1569, any forms of Catholic services were forbidden. It was not until 1674 that Spisska Nova Ves would see its church returned to the Catholic population. In 1694 Evangelicals (Lutherans) built a wooden church in the main square area. After time, a new Evangelical church was built in the park of the main square. This church, built in 1796, still stands today.
The present town hall building was constructed during the period of 1777-1779. As years progressed, stoneware and pottery production flourished. The well known stamp of "Iglo" was well known and produced some of the finest dinner ware, plates, cups, candlesticks and various other household items. This factory was in continuous operation until 1869. Expansion for the town was always favored and during the period of 1870-1871 construction of the Kosice-Bohumin Railway was finished. During 1862 a connecting railway line to Levoca was added and this helped businesses and industries to increase at a very fast pace. In 1894 a power station was built in Spisska Nova Ves but growth of its industrial base slowed due to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. History is well preserved in Spisska Nova Ves today. Many buildings have been remodeled and the square area is a delight. Walking at a leisurely pace, there are many shops to explore. After an afternoon of shopping, a visit to one of the numerous sweet shops should not be missed. One sweet shop the author recalls is right across from the church/town park area and offers delicious homemade cakes and the best Vienna coffee. As the day closes, resting at one of the tables with a homemade cake and Vienna coffee is the perfect conclusion to a day at the square. The town offers many items that are interesting for visitors. The Museum of the Spis Region in Spisska Nova Ves was begun in 1951. It is located in the Provincial House that is a historical building. Having served as a town hall in prior years, in 1774 it was the seat of the 16 Spis Towns province. It is one of the most prized historical buildings in the town and well worth visiting. For those who enjoy art, a stunning exhibit is offered at the Spis Artist's Gallery. The paintings and sculptures in this gallery are amazing. One painting, which is on prominent display, is of a husband and his wife. This painting is so lifelike you are drawn to it immediately. The Gallery’s main focus is for artists of the Spis region but there are works on display from artists who resided in Spisska Nova Ves. The Gallery itself is located within a renaissance-based building and is a jewel of architecture.
The wealth of architectural styles found in Spisska Nova Ves is astounding. Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque or Neo-Classical, all are visually pleasing and very interesting. There are many concerts held at the Concert hall of the Reduta building. This building, painted in light shades of crème and tan, is just as beautiful outside as the interior and music are inside. The Town Theater is also a work of art and many performances by the Spis Theater Company are held here. Built in a circular fashion, it is graced by two small towers and the middle circular dome is topped with a golden bird. Spisska Nova Ves even offers visitors a basic zoo that is a delight for children. The town population which is approximately 50,000 sounds high but the square area is mapped out in such an intelligent way crowding never seems to be a problem.
The annual Spis market held during the summer months is fabulous. Various vendors sell their merchandise and there are many items such as folk crafts, clothing, flowers and just about anything one would want to purchase. With a town filled with such history, architecture and art, it is no wonder Slovaks are so proud of their town. The surrounding areas also hold interesting sites. The Slovak Paradise National Park and Spis Castle (the biggest castle in Slovakia) are all within driving distance of the town. There are also many hotels and pensions in this region with one, the Hotel Metropol being in Spisska Nova Ves. This modern hotel is the perfect base of operations for a most enjoyable visit to a fascinating town in Slovakia.
Pride of the Northern Spis Region
By Michaela Melounová & Zuzana Habšudová
Slovak Spectator staff
Photos Courtesy of Steven M. Osifchin
Photos Courtesy of Steven M. Osifchin
1948 - 2008
Eternal Memory - Vechnaya Pamyat
Pride of the Northern Spis Region
Hidden behind the High Tatras is the Northern Spis region. This area, close to the Polish boarder, is part of the Carpathian arch. In Roman times, it was considered an important strategic position for this far limit of the Empire. The Poprad river runs gracefully through this area and the town lies in a low valley. This river became an important trade route and towns were constructed due to this. There is no exact data to pinpoint the beginning date of Stará Ľubovňa. The town existed as early as the 11th century but some historical scholars claim the town was in operation as early as the year 1000. According to some historians, it is possible that Podolinec, Hniezdne, Lubovna and Lubotin were in existence as early as the Great Moravian period. Two coins were minted by Belo III (1172-1196) and offer possible evidence about the town. In reference to certified data, Stará Ľubovňa is mentioned in an important document of Wenceslas II, King of Bohemia and Voivode of Poland from 1292. This document offers information in reference to privileges the king offered to Henrik, a knight from Podolinec. Lubovna is mentioned in this document as a village. A document from 1292 offers the dependence of Lubovna upon Podolinec, but during the 14th century this would change. In 1308 Nova Lubovna was started and from this point onwards, Lubovna was referred to as Stará Ľubovňa. Historical data shows that Stará Ľubovňa was granted privileges and rights the same which were granted to towns such as Kosice. The year 1412 was an important date in the history of Stará Ľubovňa. During this time, the pledge of 16 towns of the Spis region was offered to the King of Poland. During 1431 to 1433 the Hussites invaded the Spis region and burned down monasteries and entire towns. The town saw many periods of upheaval and social unrest. Due to the towns connections with Poland, there also were many benefits received. Famous Italian architects and scholars came to this town and it expanded rapidly. Services flourished and a large number of guilds were established such as weavers, shoemakers, bootmakers, tailors, butchers and skilled furriers. Trade flourished in the region and weekly and annual markets were founded. Within the realm of Stará Ľubovňa there were other municipalities such as Podsadek, Josephi Villa and Francisci Villa. In modern times, Podsadek has become part of the town of Stará Ľubovňa.
Stará Ľubovňa is a modern town but still excludes charm from past centuries. The combination of cultures and religions gives the town a unique character. The medieval square which is dominated by St. Nicholas Roman Catholic church is exquisite. The square is encircled by buildings which are mainly shops, government offices, restaurants, foreign exchange offices and other businesses. Saint Nicholas church is not to be missed. It is a beautiful edifice which graces the square and was originally begun in the 14th century. Its soft yellow color blends perfectly with the colors of surrounding buildings. It is said, although not confirmed, that this church was built by Nicolaus Comes, the heir of Lubovna at that time. The strongest evidence found in the records is a date of 1280 where the church is mentioned. This date is generally agreed upon by many historians as a date when the church was fully operational. In the 17th century the church was rebuilt and remodeled. It was changed from its original single nave Gothic style to a three-nave style. A tower was added at the western side of the church and is a visual delight. Some of the historical monuments in the church are striking. St. Nicholas’ altar is of the Baroque style from the second half of the 18th century. In the center is an oil painting of Saint Nicholas. Sculptures of Saint Stephen and Saint Lawrence can be found on the side. Sculptures of Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory are found above the arch doorway. The altar is decorated with rich ornamentation. This period saw the rise of the Protestant faith in the Spis regions and much conflict ensued. The church and her members expended great sums to adorn their churches to support Roman Catholic beliefs. A sculptor of Christ upon the door of the tabernacle on the altar is a masterpiece.
Entering the interior of this church, the grandeur of faith is seen. Many of the side altars are works of art being made of wood, yet covered with gold leaf which give them a living feeling. The church interior is of light yellow, white and light gold which reflect the golden hues on the side altars, statues and altar. Not to be overlooked is the hand made tapestries which grace the side altars. Upon close inspection an individual can see the thousands of threads that were needed to complete the tapestry. If an individual moves back the entire tapestry looks as if it were a beautiful oil painting. Another work of art in this church is the Madonna of Lubvovna. This statue, even though centuries old, has realistic eyes and features. Carved from wood, the statue when viewed seems to be animated. The Virgin holds an infant Christ in her left hand while in her right she holds a scepter. Two angels grace the pedestal of the statue and the scroll work is magnificent. After leaving this church and strolling the ever busy square, a visit to the market is always interesting. The market has functioned for centuries and during certain days, the market comes to life. All types of items are sold from the town and surrounding villages. Fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, clothing, farm equipment, and even livestock are sold here depending upon the season. This marketplace is truly the "soul" of Stará Ľubovňa. Many types of people come to buy, sell or just observe the process. This market is a common meeting place for residents from the outlying villages and is considered a type of social activity by many. The market generally opens very early in the morning and by mid-afternoon, it is already winding down for the day. Exploration of the various shops in the square area is never disappointing. Many items can be found along with excellent crystal products. The clothing stores are always full and offer many western imports and modern styles. Many of these stores can be located through the various "tunnels" which connect the medieval buildings in the square. You have to explore each one as few signs are posted on the buildings but this is great fun to do.
Walking back through the square, many buildings can be seen which are visually pleasing and historical treasures. An item of interest is the fountain near St. Nicholas tower. This fountain has a unique stone sculpture located in the middle of the circle and is graceful. One of the most important buildings is house number 12, the former residence of the governor of the towns of the Spis region. It was built in Renaissance style and dates from the year 1639. Recent modifications and remodeling have been executed to restore this building to its original beauty. Other houses to be seen are house number 1, built in the later half of the 18th century and not to be missed is the small statue of the Virgin in a small indentation between the second and third windows. House number 21 offers a painting of the Holy Trinity and was built in the 18th century. House number 23 is fascinating due to its architecture and wood work. Built in 1813, this date is carved into the building along with an emblem, two lions and a pelican. There are many fine restaurants in Stará Ľubovna which can be found on foot, or via car. An excellent one is the wooden "Salas Polana." Located on the outer regions of the town, this fine restaurant offers outstanding Slovak cuisine. The wines offered at this restaurant are of the finest quality and their menu is so diverse a choice becomes difficult. There are private rooms for dining and the author has enjoyed the pleasure of experiencing this. The interior is that of a rustic lodge and very appealing. The service is excellent and always courteous. Another good restaurant is located in the "Druzba" This restaurant, while not modernized as the Salas Polana, offers excellent Slovak food in a very low key atmosphere. The food is excellent and the staff very willing to accommodate any request. Again, there is a public section to dine and also a room for private dinners which is very cozy. These restaurants do tend to close early if customers are limited so it is best to get there during the late afternoon. Hotels are being renovated and expanded due to the increasing numbers of tourists. Two at present are Hotel Vrchovina Tatry and the Hotel Lubovna. To see history, a visit to the Lubovna Castle is necessary. This castle today is a museum and has overlooked the town for centuries. Below the castle is a stunning open air museum of folk architecture which includes wooden homes from various villages. Also included is an original wooden church which was offered to the museum by the village of Matysova. The wooden homes and churches are open for review and are decorated according to their respective time periods. The church interior is small, yet captivating. The icons which grace the iconstanis are original paintings. A climb to the choir loft offers an excellent view of the wooden architecture of this church.
Castle tours are given during the summer but the author was honored to experience a special tour when the castle was closed for the season. The interior is magnificent and walking along the winding walkways and tunnels are intriguing. When leaving the interior parts of this castle, make sure to sign the guest book. Names in this book represent many countries in Europe and America. The view from the castle is stunning and not to be overlooked. Walking though a former courtyard to the east wall is the chapel of St. Michael. This small, yet eloquent chapel served the ruling family of the castle for centuries and was constructed in 1647. The black, gold and white colors used in the construction of the main altar, and two side altars are works of art. The oil painting on the main altar of Saint Michael is beautiful. This chapel has been restored to its original setting and the history of the castle can be felt in this small room. After leaving the castle and near Stará Ľubovňa on the way to the Mnisek nad Popradom boundary is the small village of Hranicne. A small wooden church dedicated to the Holy Virgin is seen and was constructed in 1785. The interesting fact about this church is that it originated as a common church for both Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics. The church was restored in the 19th century and the tower is the original construction. Paintings and ornamentation in this church date from the 14th to the 18th century. Many paintings were brought to this church from Stará Ľubovňa to adorn it. The different styles (Eastern and Western) offer an interesting mix of cultures and religious beliefs.
Stará Ľubovňa offers much for those who enjoy the outdoors. The Tatra National Park and the Pieniny National Park are not far. Many health spas can be found on the outside boundaries of Stará Ľubovňa and many have been operating for centuries. It is still common for people from Stará Ľubovňa and the surrounding villages to visit these spas. Some have mineral springs and pools outdoors. A few are being remodeled to attract tourists when they visit Slovakia in the summer months. The most famous of these are the Lubovnianske and Vysne Ruzbachy Spas. Many new apartment complexes are being built on the outskirts of the town and this area is expanding. In one of the complexes a new Greek Catholic church was built to minister to those who live in this area. The church is unique as it is completely round and capped with a gold three bar cross. The simple interior is very welcoming but as of the author’s visit the inconstanis was not installed. Stará Ľubovňa is a town of countless beauty, and rich history. The town is surrounded by lush green vegetation in summer and bountiful fields. The town can be viewed in its entirety by taking the main highway up the mountain. From this vantage point, one can see not only Stará Ľubovňa but all the villages in this area. On a clear day, the view is magnificent. Many younger people from the village areas are moving here and the population is expanding very rapidly. There is so much to experience in Stará Ľubovňa that this town truly is the pride of the Northern Spis region.
By Michaela Melounová & Zuzana Habšudová
Slovak Spectator staff
"I WANT to build a castle up on that hill, and live there until my very last breath," the
To climb up to Ľubovňa Castle, take the half-hour-long red trail, leading from the Stará Ľubovňa town centre. The castle is open daily from 9:00 to 18:00. Tel: 052/4322-422. For more information visit hrad.lubovna.sk.
photo: Anton Frič
old lord, named Ľubovenský, told his sons, when he saw the hill rising above the town now known as Stará Ľubovňa.
His sons immediately started building the castle. By the evening, the basement was laid. However, when they woke up next morning, their work was destroyed. So, they started the work all over again. Next morning was the same. The old lord found out that a sorceress who lived in a nearby cave was causing the trouble. He went to ask her to let him finish the castle, so that he could live there. She agreed under the condition that he sold his soul to her. He did it on the spot.
The following morning, the castle stood on the hill. Ľubovenský and his sons moved in. However, after a while the old lord started to feel remorse for promising to sell his soul. He decided to go to a nearby monastery to ask for forgiveness. It was granted, and he stayed there. When the sorceress found out, she wanted to take revenge by destroying the castle. But as soon as she was about to throw a massive rock on it, the monastery's bells chimed and she lost her power.
According to historians this castle dominating the north of the Spiš region was built in the 13th century. The fortress was built as a part of the defensive system protecting the northern border of the Austro-Hungarian empire with Poland. Most probably, the castle was built by Earl Boleslav, son-in-law of the Hungarian King Béla IV.
At the beginning of the 14th century, the castle became the property of Matúš Čák Trenčiansky (Maté Csák), the most influential aristocrat of the Habsburg empire, also called the Lord of the Váh river and the Tatras mountains. He ruled over the majority of what is modern Slovakia's territory, but died without a heir.
In the spring of 1412, the King Sigismond of Luxembourg pledged the castle together with 16 Spiš towns to the Polish King Vladislav Jagiell II for 37,000 Prague groschen, which he needed to finance his campaigns. For the next 360 years, the castle remained the property of Polish custodians. The Polish nobility even housed its crown jewels there for some years.
During those times, Ľubovňa Castle was rebuilt into a large Renaissance fortress. In 1772, the castle returned to the ownership of Habsburg rulers. But its significance began to decline. Its last owner was the Zámoyski family, which kept it until 1945, when it was nationalised by the communists.
Since 1960, reconstruction and archeological research have been taking place at the castle. In 1966, it became part of the Ľubovňa Museum. It has expositions featuring the castle's history, customs and period furniture.
One day around the castle
MUSEUM under the castle.
photo: Anton Frič
Climb the path up to Ľubovňa Castle (see the instructions under the top picture). On August 3, a group of fencers will perform their show as part of the regular guided tours at the castle. The shows will be performed between 10:00 and 18:00, each time a group of visitors comes to the castle. Admission for this day will be higher than for the regular guided tour at the castle - Sk100.
From the castle descend to the open-air museum situated right under the fortress. The open-air museum grounds feature the traditional dwellings and typical architecture of the region, such as the wooden Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church of St Michael, a characteristic house of the village magistrate, and a school furnished in the style of the beginning of the 20th century.
Within the museum's area, visit the newly open restaurant U Grófky Isabelly (At the Countess Isabelle), named after the wife of the castle's last owner Ján Zamoyski. The restaurant, furnished in the romantic style, is located in a reconstructed forester's lodge. Open daily 10:00-22:00. Tel: 0905/580-599.
Finish the day at a thermal swimming pool in the Tatra spa town of Vyšné Ružbachy (12 kilometres west of Stará Ľubovňa).
Open Tue-Sun 9:00-18:00. Admission: Sk20-40. Vyšné Ružbachy 48, Vyšné Ružbachy. Tel: 052/4266-111.
Other activities in the region
Cultural events and attractions
Folklórne slávnosti pod Kráľovou Hoľou (Folk Celebration under Kráľova Hoľa )
Folk groups from three regions - Liptov, Spiš and Horehronie - gather under the hill of Kráľova Hoľa to perform music and dances typical for the individual locations. On Saturday, August 2, groups will perform in the streets of the village of Liptovská Teplička. On Sunday, the groups will meet at the village's main square at 13:00 and form a lively parade that will move to the local amphitheatre, where the festival programme starts at 14:00.
Running August 2 and 3. Liptovská Teplička (around 20 kilometres southwest of Poprad). Tel: 052/7798-110.
Herbáreň mnícha Cypriána (The Brother Cyprián Herbarium)
ČERVENÝ Kláštor monastery.
photo: Anton Frič
A herbarium with more than 270 kinds of plants put together by Brother Cyprián, a monk who was a faith healer and botanist living in the 18th century, can be found in the house of another monk of the same name, Father Cyprián. The house, which served as a pharmacy and today is a museum, is located within the grounds of the Červený Kláštor monastery.
Open daily 9:00-17:00. Admission: Sk20 and Sk40. Múzeum Červený Kláštor (Červený Kláštor Museum), Červený Kláštor (northwest of Stará Ľubovňa). Tel: 052/4822-955.
Ľubovňa Castle looks out over a region that is rich with national parks. West of the fortress spread the Belianske Tatry mountains, part of the High Tatras National Park, and Pieniny, which is the smallest national park in Slovakia. These are the most frequented paths leading through the parks' publicly accessible areas:
Pieniny - Prielom Dunajca
RAFTSMEN on the Dunajec river regale guests with folk tales.
photo: Anton Frič
From the town of Červený Kláštor float down the river on a typical wooden raft (plť), originally made of several tree trunks tied together. The 11-kilometre long cruise on the Dunajec river ends in Lesnica. To return back to Červený Kláštor, take the blue route, an approximately 90-minute hike through the woods.
If floating down the river does not appeal, you can follow the red trail from the Červený Kláštor camping area down to Lesnica. The easy trail, with interesting rock formations along some parts, follows the route of the Dunajec river.
The bus from Stará Ľubovňa to Červený Kláštor leaves daily at 10:05. The return bus leaves at 18:14 during the weekend and 20:45 during the week.
Belianske Tatry - Monkova dolina, Kopské sedlo
THE TATRAS, from Kežmarok.
photo: Anton Frič
Take the green trail from the Tatra Hotel in the village of Ždiar (20 kilometres from Kežmarok) leading through the Monkova dolina valley up to the Kopské sedlo (saddleback), which is 1,750 metres above sea level. Change for the blue trail there, and continue through the valley of Kežmarská Biela Voda, descending to the village of Tatranské Matliare. The hike is of moderate difficultly, around seven and a half hours.
The bus from Kežmarok to Ždiar leaves daily at 8:05. The bus from Tatranské Matliare to Tatransk Lomnica leaves daily at 18:07 and 19:58, and the bus from Tatranská Lomnica to Kežmarok leaves at 18:35 and 20:40.
Note: For the exact trails of the hikes see maps Spišská Magura - Pieniny No 103, and Vysoké Tatry No 113 published by Vojenský kartografický ústav, Harmanec. The maps are available in bookstores and information centres across Slovakia. Stará Ľubovňa information centre, Námestie sv. Mikuláša 12. Tel: 052/4321-713. Kežmarok information centre, Starý trh 46. Tel: 052/4522-165.
Penzion Max, Starý trh 9, Kežmarok. Tel: 052/4526-324.
Penzión Gurmen, Námestie sv. Mikuláša, Stará Ľubovňa. Tel: 052/ 4281-811.
Hotel Satel, Mnoheľova 825, Poprad. Tel: 052/7161-111.
Re-printed here with the permission of
The Slovak Spectator - Slovakia's English Language Newspaper
Photos Courtesy of Steven M. Osifchin
Chapel of St. Michael
Armaments Room & Correspondence Room
Photos Courtesy of Steven M. Osifchin
St. Michael the Archangel Greek Catholic Church
Built in 1833
Each home interior represents the cycle of village life.
Birth is represented in the sixth photo and death is represented in the seventh.
Eternal Memory - Vechnaya Pamyat
Photos Courtesy of Julia Ondrejcekova
A lovely city close to the River Vah and nestled at the beginning of the Strazovske vrchy hills, Trencin is a must for any visitors itinerary. Approximately 70 miles from Bratislava in Western Slovakia, arriving in Trencin is very simple by bus or train service. If a visitor is utilizing a car, taking the E75 highway will bring you to Trencin where parking is rarely a problem in the town. Having a long and very interesting history, there are a number of places to visit.
The city, which dates back to the Roman Empire period grew quickly and during 1412 became a royal free city. Construction began on Trencin Castle (which cannot be missed) in the 11th century. Unfortunately, the castle burned down during 1790 but thankfully has been reconstructed during time. An excellent vantage point to view this imposing edifice is from the town itself which is situated below the castle heights.
The main square in Trencin is Peace Square (Mierove namestie) and the houses and shops that line this square are architectural delights. Many of the houses were built in Renaissance style and they are exquisite to view. One very interesting site in the middle of Mierove namestie is a Baroque column. This column has a statue situated at the top and is called Holy Trinity Column. The history of this very impressive monument offers that it was commissioned by Duke Mikulas Ileshazy during 1712 to honor the memory of those who died during a plague epidemic in 1710. It is best to start a visit with the town square as many areas can be covered in a relatively short period of time. One of the more interesting places to visit near the square is the Trencin museum (Trencianske muzeum.) There are a number of exhibits offered here and the natural history section is interesting but has limited displays. Its always best to check what exhibits or displays will be presented as some can be very historical and educational.
To the west of this square lies a gate tower. As you walk closer to the tower (it’s a creme based light color) there is a legend which explains if you talk while passing through it, you will never marry. After going though the tower there are restaurants and shops on each side of the narrow streets and these should be explored. For those who enjoy various architecture, the Baroque Piarist Church (Piaristicky kostol) is a visual delight. Also in the area near the Piarist church is a 19th century synagogue. This synagogue, built in 1913, still utilizes one part as a place of worship but the other is an exhibition hall. Upon entering this beautiful house of worship the interior main dome makes a lasting impression. Walking further on, there is a very unique gallery offering the works of M.A. Bazovsky. The gallery is housed at a former Piarist monastery and the architecture combined with the gallery offer a very warm atmosphere for those who enjoy modern painting and sculpture. Some of Bazovsky’s paintings are very captivating including those of peasant life. Also on display are other works of talented Slovak painters, sculptors and artists from the Trencin region.
Being a city of over sixty-thousand, a visitor will find that even with this large number of residents there is a lack of congestion in places. There are many narrow lanes that wind their way through many streets and each has something to offer. There are a number of small sized parks and along many side streets a bench can always be found to sit and relax. Exploring the city from any point is always pleasant and can be very enriching. The best way to view Trencin and enjoy all it has to offer is definitely by walking. The pace here can be moderate but, only if you wish to join in. There are many side cafes and small areas where a visitor can sit and just enjoy the view. The atmosphere is very relaxing and on a warm day, sitting on a bench or at a cafe can be a very pleasurable experience. There are a number of outdoor cafes and in mild and warm weather these are excellent places to watch the rhythm of the town. One excellent benefit of Trencin is that it is a very quiet city and at times, not very busy. Depending upon the time of year visiting Trencin can not only be an excellent vacation destination but, also a very relaxing one as well.
There are many shops, stores and all forms of places to explore. There are also various items to occupy any visitor including a ride on hot-air balloons and plane rides. The view during these rides of the area is breath-taking and also makes Trencin castle seem all the more magnificent. A visit to the castle itself is an excellent way to spend time. The walk up to the castle can be taxing but, the view from the castle of the town which lies below it is a photographers dream. Upon arrival at the castle area there is a fantastic view of the surrounding town and other areas in this region. Even on a very overcast day taking time to look at the area which surrounds the castle is time well spent. There is a moderate sized museum within the castle palace and in other areas exhibits are offered. There are sections of the castle that can be explored and these help to gain a better understanding of this fortress. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and you gain much more than the nominal entrance fee which includes a small booklet of history in Slovak and German. Its well worth taking these tours as they can offer a very historical and well grounded understanding of the castle.
For a visitor, there are a number of good restaurants and hotels. The Hotel Tatra is a very excellent hotel and, for those who enjoy history, has an inscription in the rear of the hotel telling of a Roman victory over various German tribes in the years 179 AD. Hotel Tatra offers an excellent restaurant, café and lovely wine cellar which offers light meals. This hotel is located in the center town and this makes it very popular. Two other hotels in the area are Sporthotel Zamarovce (this hotel offers hot-air balloon rides) and the Penzion Svorad which, while a more basic hotel, offers good accommodations at a very reasonable price. An interesting restaurant in Trencin is Restaurancia Inn 33 Club. The interior is smartly decorated with modern paintings and the atmosphere of this restaurant is inviting. Offering very good food, this restaurant is popular with tourists and local residents. The restaurant outdoor patio is always busy during warm weather and the Steps Pub is a very delightful gathering place which is located within an old cellar.
Also found all over town are numerous restaurants and "fast food" establishments. All forms of international foods along with local cuisine can be found within a short walking distance. Trencin enjoys a very mild climate and this is a major advantage for those who wish to do a great deal of sight seeing or outdoor activities such as hiking. There are many hiking and walking trails located in the lovely Povarsky Inovec region and these are not to be missed by those who cherish the outdoors. Since the Vah river is so close, other pleasures such as canoe rides and rafting are offered in this region. Many campsites, some with cabins, are available also near the Vah River and the accommodations are simple but for those who enjoy camping, its an excellent way to spend a few days.
Checking with the local tourist bureau can help determine what is available. A very good office to visit if you need information on the town is the Trencin Culture and Information office (Kulturno-informacne centrum mesta Trencin). This building is located at Sturovo namesti 10 and a wealth of information can be found including available hotels, restaurants, transportation, tickets for events and even artistic folk art souvenirs. Its best to check with this office as they will be able to inform a visitor of the dates of the many folk festivals, concerts and other information on entertainment. With this information known, it will help the visitor to make a visit to this lovely city in Western Slovakia a very exciting experience.