Five things to see in Slovakia – no 1 Banska Stiavnica
Five things to see in Slovakia! Slovakia is a great little country with a fascinating history. Banská Štiavnica is a jewel in the Slovakian crown. A perfectly preserved medieval town with charming architecture, Banska has a few gift and coffee shops, a botanical gardens and some nice restaurants too. The town is set in the middle of the huge caldera created by the collapse of an ancient volcano. The town and its surroundings were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. In the middle ages the town was actually in Hungary and it was the main producer of gold and silver ore in the country. Because of these natural resources, its ownership was hotly contested during the Ottoman Wars when the Turks tried to take over.
Things to see in Slovakia – Calvary
Slovakia is largely a Catholic country. The most important Calvary in Slovakia and still an important pilgrimage site today is Calvary Banska Stiavnica. It is an impressive religious monument and rather beautiful. Recently restored to its former glory, the Calvary draws many tourists. With three churches, 22 chapels, and statue of the Virgin Mary, it was at the centre of religious life here for 200 years. Some people claim that they have been physically healed after visiting the site. Take the time to climb up the hill and you will be rewarded by a great view from the top!
Things to see in Slovakia – Museum of Puppet culture and Toys
This was one of my favourite things to see in Slovakia. The Modrý kamen castle is otherwise known as the ‘Bluestone Castle,’ so called because of the colour of the stone used for its foundations. It covers a huge area covering both the ruins of a 12th century Gothic cast;e and a Baroque manor house.
The museum is in the castle and focuses on puppet cultures and toys. Inside this substantial building is you will find a fascinating collection of elaborate marionettes and puppet theatre scenery. You will find a treasure trove of perfectly preserved examples of puppet theatres and wooden carved characters from Slovakian stories through the decades. These puppets are part of the domestic and folk cultures of the country and encapsulate the atmosphere of an era. They are the story tellers of Slovakia. Other exhibits include samples of foreign puppet makers from nine countries, and samples which show the evolution of children’s toys up to the present day.
Things to see in Slovakia – castles galore!
Fact. Slovakia has more castles per head than any other country in the world! Many castles were destroyed and are just ruins, but there are plenty which are very well preserved. A mountainous country rich in gold and silver ore, was always going to be fought over. War means fortifications are required – hence so many castles!
We were in the Hont region which has its own compliment of castles. If I ever go back to Slovakia then Bojnice castle is top of my hit list for a visit. Built in the 12th century and reconstructed in the 17th Bonjnice is a proper fairytale castle which has featured in many films.
Things to see in Slovakia – cave houses and a giant wall
There are thousands of cave houses in Slovakia. Carved from the soft tufa rock (pumice) which was the lava from the now extinct volcano, these were dwellings for local people for many years.
The soft porous rock allows the houses to breathe unlike traditional caves. The caves are not damp at all because of the porous quality of this rock. Even today some of the caves are still used as wine cellars. The houses can be quite large complexes, complete with separate rooms and underground escape tunnels!
The giant wall is a total mystery! This huge earth mound is often called the Slovak Chinese Wall. It is also known as the Giants´ Rampart or Fossa Giganteum. This mysterious wall was 2-3 meters tall and 2-15 meters wide. It marks a 60 kilometers long line from Central Slovakia to the river Danube on the border between Slovakia and Hungary. Stones found on the wall are mysteriously fused by fire but no one really knows who built it or why.
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