Posts tagged with 'Slovakia'

Spis Castle

By Ross in Travel on Mon 14 July 2014. Tags: Slovakia

Levoča is another small Slovakian town with a well-preserved, historic town center. I arrived in early evening and took this picture of the old town hall and the church of St. James.

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Here is the old town hall in daylight. 

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St. James Church is famous for its Gothic painted wooden altarpiece, which is the largest of its kind in Europe. The alterpiece is undergoing extensive restoration at present, so I was not able to see much through the plastic rwap

From Levoca, I set out to visit the ruins of Spis Castle, one of the largest catles in Europe. It still looks impressive, perched high upon a hill.

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This is the main gate to the upper bailey of the castle.

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The upper bailey affords great views of the surrounding countryside.

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Here is the lower bailey of the castle, viewed from on high.

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The square Romanesque tower is reasonably well preserved.

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Much of the rest of the castle is in a greater state of disrepair.

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Finally, here are some of the fortifications in the lower bailey.

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In the early afternoon, the sky started to darken, and there was a brief period of rain, during which I took shelter in one of the castle buildings. After that subsided, I headed back downhill. When I was partway down, the skies opened up, together with thunder and lightning, and I got completely soaked. It took over an hour for the bus back to Levoca to show up, but thankfully the bus stop provided shelter from the rain. 

My plan for the next few days was to do some hiking, both in the lowlands and in the mountains of the High Tartas. Looking at the weather forecast, however, I saw rain and thunderstorms every day for the forseeable future. I grudgingly decided to change my plans and bought a train ticket for Prague.

Although I only spent three nights in Slovakia, and much of what I saw was out the window of a train or a bus, I absolutely fell in love with the country. It is a really beautiful place, and I cannot wait to go back. Hopefully the weather will be better next time.


Bardejov

By Ross in Travel on Sun 13 July 2014. Tags: Slovakia

Slovakia is full of skanzens, or open-air museums. I really liked the one I visted in Wales last summer, so I decided to visit one in Slovakia. I chose the one near Bardejov because it contains two wooden churches, which are characteristic of the northeast of Slovakia. (There are many other wooden churches in the area, but they are difficult to visit by public transportation.)

From Presov, I took a two-car, ultra-local train to Bardejov, the last stop on the line. 

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There was only a single set of tracks for much of the way. From Bardejov, I walked about 4 km to museum, which is located in the nearby resort town of Bardejov Kupele. Part of the walk was along the railroad tracks.

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The museum contains twenty or so buildings. Most are from the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, and they are displayed with period furnishings.

This is a barn (viewed from the side). This horse-drawn sled (minus the horse) was inside.

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Here are a few of the interiors on view.

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These vessels were made by hollowing out tree trunks, and were used to store grain.

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This house belonged to a fuller. 

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The waterwheel operated an apparatus which beat wool by raising and dropping these two large wooden hammers in alternation.

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Here, a waterwheel turns a bit which is used to hollow out wooden pipes.

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These were used for beekeeping.

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This wooden church is from the village of Zboj, and was built in 1706.

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This more elaborate church is from the nearby town of Niklova-Mikulasova, and was built in 1730.

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Nearby is a wooden belfry.

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After spending several hours in the museum, I took the bus back to Bardejov, where spent a little time amongst the colorful houses of the old town square, which has survived intact since medieval times.

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This is the church of St. Giles, located in the square.

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I really like this dentate drainpipe.

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After leaving Bardejov, I took the train back to Presov, where I caught a bus to Levoca, another historic town which I planned on using as a base to further explore Slovakia.


Kezmarok

By Ross in Travel on Sat 12 July 2014. Tags: Slovakia

After Budapest I had made no plans. So as I sat down with my iPad on my last night in Hungary, I was intimidated by the number of options before me. I thought about getting lost in Romania for a few weeks. I considered heading straight to Prague. Ultimately, I decided to explore Slovakia. I was not sure where to start, but then I saw something online about the European Folk Craft Festival, Slovakia's largest festival of handicrafts, coming soon to a small Slovakian town near me. The festival was to start the day I was leaving Budapest, so the timing could not be better. 

With a goal in mind, I woke up way too early to catch an 0630 train from Budapest to Kosice in eastern Slovakia. (This was the only direct train there, so I had no choice.) I then took a fancy Euro City train from Kosice to Poprad, whereupon I hopped on a small, two-car train to Kezmarok, the site of the festival.

I arrived at the festival right as it started to rain, and it continued to drizzle for pretty much the rest of the day. The festival consisted of about one hundred craftspeople hawking their wares. Many of them were also making things on site, which is why I was interested in visiting. There were also folk music and dance performances, as well as traditional Slovakian food. The crowd steadily grew throughout the afternoon in spite of the rain.

Here we have a weaver.

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One person carved out the inside of these wooden bowls, and another person carved the outside. All the carving was done with an adz, giving the bowls a rough-hewn look, and giving you 13 points in Scrabble.

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I liked this foot powered scroll saw, but I never saw him use it.

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Here we have a giant chicken and many large wooden spoons.

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There was a woodcarver selling these amazing wooden houses.

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There were several blacksmiths working at portable forges.

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They made all the sharp pointy things.

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What the festival really needed was more cowbell. This set was played later for a musical performance.

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I decided not to stay the night in Kezmarok, as all the available lodging was too expensive. My plan was to visit the open air museum in Bardejov the next day, so I found somewhere to stay in Presov, which is the nearest reasonably sized town to Bardejov (and also, conveniently, where you have to change trains).

On my way out of Kezmarok, there was an operational steam engine sitting on the tracks.

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They let me visit the engine room. The dial indicates that there is steam pressure inside the boiler.

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