Wooden Churches in Eastern Slovakia

This is from a letter written in October 1998: Eastern Slovakia is an area crossed in trade and fought over by Tartars, Lithuanians, Poles, Hungarians, Germans, Russians and Slovaks.  It’s where cultures meet.  Kosice boasts the eastern-most gothic cathedral in Europe, and while it is VERY gothic, the clock tower has a very un-gothic gilded dome.  This region is a borderland, a krajina in Slavic languages.  We drove “along the borderland,” U krajina, the origin of the name Ukraine, which sits just a few kilometers to the east. More than a dozen wooden churches, built between the fifteen and seventeen … Continue reading Wooden Churches in Eastern Slovakia

Andy Warhol’s Nowhere, Medzilaborce, Slovakia

This is from a letter in the early 2000s Friday afternoon we drove to Medzilaborce on the border with Poland and the Ukraine.  Medzilaborce is the ancestral home of the Warhol family (as in pop artist Andy.)  It’s easy to identify the town when driving through because of two huge Campbell’s Soup Cans that sit in front of the “Dom Kultura.”  The Andy Warhol Foundation donated 14 works to the town, including “Red Lenin” and the town has set up the Warhol Museum of Modern Art.  Warhol is probably one of the two best-known Slovak Americans.  The other is Jesse … Continue reading Andy Warhol’s Nowhere, Medzilaborce, Slovakia

Vlkolinec, Slovakia

Vlkolinec, is a Carpathian mountain village.  It is a UN world heritage site. It has remained authentic, I think, because it is accessible only by a one lane serpentine road up a mountain with turnouts for cars to pass.  The only stone buildings are the church, its “parish hall” which is now an art gallery, and the public restrooms.  It is a working village, and while tourists have to park outside the town and walk a very little way up the mountain, residents can bring their cars in.  The buildings are squared logs painted in pastel colors or white and … Continue reading Vlkolinec, Slovakia

The High Tatras, Slovakia

The High Tatras pop out of the plains, flat land and then alpine peaks that catch weather and delight travelers, if you look north.  If you look south you may see rolling hills leading to the low Tatras.  We found the Tatra’s a good place to spend the New Year holiday.  There are narrow gauge rail lines, skiing, and little inns.  These pictures are from the road around Poprad. Continue reading The High Tatras, Slovakia

Spisska Sobota, Slovakia

This is from a letter in the early 2000s We drove from Bratislava to Kosice and made some stops on the way.  I wanted to visit a little town named Spisska Subota, or “Spis Saturday.”  (Slovakia also has a town named “Upper Wednesday.”  I have not been able to find “Lower Wednesday” or even “Wednesday.”  Ever practical, Suzi says the towns were probably named because those were the days they had their markets.)   Subota, is best known for its Whirlpool white goods factory.  We stayed there with the boys several years ago while visiting a station in nearby Poprad.  Subota … Continue reading Spisska Sobota, Slovakia

Slovak Whimsey

One of the most delightful things about living or visiting Slovakia are the surprises you find.  Whimsical statues celebrate men in manholes, a paparazzi may poke a lens from around a corner.  There are street performers who delight.  Two Hot Chocolate shops, one in Bratislava and one in Poprad,  were decorated by Children’s Theater set designers.  OK, so the plaque commemorating the first witch burning is not some whimsical, but it was a surprise. Continue reading Slovak Whimsey

Presov, Slovakia (Slovakia’s Candy Land.)

On Saturday we went to Presov and discovered the old town square hosting the city’s folk festival.  There was lots of traditional singing and dancing and all sorts of craftspeople, weavers, musical instrument makers, metal workers and carvers demonstrating along with falconers in the long town square.  It was a mixed crowd, with blonde Slavs and dark Roma enjoying the music and dancing of both groups.  Preshov has the reputation of a gray industrial town in the far east of Slovakia.  But the Slovak Spectator has described the town center as “candyland” because of its bright colors and intricate decoration.  … Continue reading Presov, Slovakia (Slovakia’s Candy Land.)

The Valley of Death (Dukla Pass), Slovakia

This is from a June 2003 letter: There’s a valley on the Slovak-Polish border that’s been a constant battle-ground, so much so that its official name is Dolina smrti, the Valley of Death.  The Dukla pass is where the Poles and the Habsburgs and then the Russians and Habsburgs fought during the 18th and 19th centuries.  In the twentieth century, during the First World War, more than 1.8 million people died in Eastern Slovakia, mostly in battles in this area.  In the Second World War there was a two-month battle between the Germans and the Red Army in which, on … Continue reading The Valley of Death (Dukla Pass), Slovakia

Levoca, Slovakia

In Eastern Slovakia there are many fine old towns, often settled by German craftsman and guildsman brought in by various emperors to jump start the economy.  They are still working towns.  One of the most beautiful, Levoča, which is noted for its fine wood carvings, has gothic and baroque buildings still lived in.  It has a museum dedicated to the alter carvings of Master Pavol.  The main street has grocers and hardware stores vying with ice cream stands, coffee shops and “souveniry” stands.  It is kind of the way Bratislava was when we lived here.  But I wonder for how … Continue reading Levoca, Slovakia

The Kosice Bride Industry

This is from a June 2008 letter. On Saturday afternoon at one most of the stores in downtown Kosice close and the town gets down to the real business of a June Saturday afternoon, manufacturing brides.  St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral is running an assembly line.  Earlier in the week I wondered why there were so many catholic churches in old town Kosice.  On Saturday afternoon I didn’t need to ask.  Wedding bells and organ music sang from each of them.  Following the ceremonies the newly minted brides (and grooms) strolled the streets of the old town almost always followed by some … Continue reading The Kosice Bride Industry

Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia

This is from a letter written in June 1999.  I was musing on the Celtic revival in Central Europe.  Devin Castle was an old Celtic fortification that became Roman, then Slavic, than Austrian.  The Hungarians may also have been involved.  It is just outside Bratislava where the Morava River joins the Danube at the Austrian border. According to some histories the Celts formed as a culture at the spot where the Danube cuts through the Small Carpathian Mountains, exposing veins of copper.  That would be at Bratislava.  The site of Devin Castle was occupied by Proto-Celts in the 5th millennium … Continue reading Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia

Čičmany, Slovakia

Čičmany is not a UN heritage site but it should be.  There are wooden houses painted with different geometric designs and animal figures.  They were originally designed to ward off evil spirits.  The fact that the town mostly survived fire and the Second World War is a testament that the designs (as well as the many images of the Blessed Virgin) just may work.  I like the interplay of Pagan and Catholic.  The town is off the main road but tries to be accommodating to those of us who find it.  There is a charming plaque in several languages, in … Continue reading Čičmany, Slovakia

Bratislava, River Town.

Bratislava is a river town.  In season we watched the cruise boats going between the Black Sea and the North Sea along the Danube and Rhine.  Sometimes they stopped in Bratislava, sometimes they sailed by heading to Vienna or Budapest, their loss.  We also watched freight boats and noted flags from the Ukraine to the Netherlands and all the countries in between.  During the NATO bombing of Serbia much of the traffic stopped.  That hurt the port of Bratislava and, down river, in Budapest, the boats rafted up waiting for the river to clear. One of the pictures is a … Continue reading Bratislava, River Town.

Bratislava, Our Neighborhood.

We lived in an old German neighborhood with houses and mansions owned by German Merchants.  Our apartment building was in the garden of an old mansion.  It was built to house doctors.  We rented from a couple, both of whom were doctors.  We got good medical care along with the rent.  Each month when the landlord came to collect the rent and have coffee she inquired about our health and, several times, arranged visits to their clinic.  There is a picture of the balcony off the children’s room in the flat. (It is the lead pic on this page.) We … Continue reading Bratislava, Our Neighborhood.