Untitled Slovakia Blog Entry

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Slovakia  , Presov,
Saturday, August 14, 2010

At this point in my trip, I had completely stopped planning and just said "stay at hotel X for 6 days and do everything else on my list". I decided today I would go to the town of Bardejov. The main square found it's way onto the UNESCO World Heritage list, and my favorite part was the church of St. Egidius. It had a large number of Gothic altars. If nothing else, this trip has taught me to differentiate a Gothic altar from a Baroque one.

There was one altar dedicated to Hungary's own St. Elizabeth. I'm not Catholic, and I don't expect to be venerating saints anytime soon, but it's been kind of neat to see St. Elizabeth everywhere. Last summer I saw her "home" church and castle in Marburg Germany and learned the story of her life and sainthood. Seeing her again so many places was a nice connection back to that trip.

There were a few museums in Bardejov, but I didn't get to see any of them. The one I wanted to go to was in the town hall, and a wedding ceremony had started just minutes before I got there. The woman at the door said to wait half an hour. In the meantime I decided to try to go to the Icon Museum to fill the time, even though the most boring museum I've ever been in was an icon museum, but Bardejov's was closed for lunch. When I got back to the museum in the town hall, the wedding was still going on, so I gave up.

This weekend seemed to be a very popular weekend for weddings in Slovakia. In addition to the wedding in Bardejov, I saw at least one while I was driving around, I saw a bride and groom getting pictures made in the middle of the road (artistic I'm sure, but not a great idea), and there was a reception today and one yesterday at my hotel. Cars in Slavic wedding processions seemed to do a lot of driving around honking. I think I may have passed one on the highway, that or else I was horribly violating some Slovakian driving rule of which I was unaware.

Visiting the town of Bardejov itself was only part of my goal. I was also interested in seeing the wooden churches in the area. There were three types of wooden church in Slovakia: Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and something called "articular" Protestant Churches. At one point there were also apparently a few wooden synagogues, but my book on wooden churches doesn't say where any of those were. Instead, it implies there were none remaining after WWII.

The wooden church I saw in Kežmarok was one of the few "articular" Protestant churches. Those churches were constructed according to an article governing the building of Protestant churches from 1681, enacted as part of an attempt to appease a Protestant uprising. The articular churches were built from wood because they were barred from using stone. The Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, on the other hand, were usually built from wood for either aesthetic reasons or lack of funds. There were fewer Catholic wooden churches than Greek Orthodox, possibly because the Greek Orthodox lacked state-sponsorship within the area of Austro-Hungary and therefore didn't have the resources for stone churches. There was a relatively large population of Greek and other Eastern Orthodox worshipers in the east of Slovakia, where the country bordered Ukraine.

Seeing the inside of the churches generally required rousing some poor villager to bring a key. I went to see four village churches today. At the first Hervartov, the woman was in the middle of her gardening. At the second Jedlinka, I thought the woman with the key might have a heart-attack before we made it the 50 meters to the church from her house. I got lucky at the third Krive and arrived at the same time as the cleaning crew, so they let me in. The fourth church, Lukov-Venecia, I was completely unable to find, although usually that wasn't a problem. I was in the correct village, I think, and looked down every road save one, which didn't look fit to hold an automobile. It may have been down there. Maybe next time.

A few more of the churches had been relocated to open-air museums. I wasn't thrilled about going to one, but just north of Bardejov a open-air museum in the spa town of Bardejovske Kupele had two wooden churches. The town of Bardejovske Kupele itself was fairly a tacky spa resort. Some of the buildings were run-down structures I'd guess from the early 1900's, some of them were concrete-block eyesores from probably from the 1960's, only a few were obviously new and had a pleasant appearance.

To get to all of the churches, I did a fair amount of driving. In Slovakia, you were required to have your headlights on during the day. I discovered that if my lights were off, other drivers would flash their headlights at me and point to the front of my car. If there was flashing without pointing, it was the (apparently) universal sign for "speed trap ahead".

While I was out driving around, I had a Poland sighting. I didn't actually drive into the country, but I was in the far north of Slovakia, and I happened to drive on a road that ran along the border. If I run out of things to see in Slovakia, I may see if there's anywhere in Poland that I could do in a day trip from where my hotel is (my rental car agreement doesn't let me go to Ukraine). I hope Poland uses euros... Darn it. They use zlotys. Is that even a word? Hmm. I don't know if I want to deal with another currency. We'll see...

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