Podbiel, Mary Kravski's Home Town

Trip Start Nov 24, 2010
Trip End Jul 14, 2011

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Where I stayed
Lipa Pension

Flag of Slovakia  , Žilinský,
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here we are sitting in a very old, tiny railway station (Ladislav calls Victoria Station) with a red and yellow diamond tile floor and stark white walls, oh, and very hard wooden benches in Podbiel, Slovakia, three train rides and eight hours east of Prague. We travelled to Vilina (pronounced Gilina), changed trains to Kralovny and finally a third slow romantic train to Podbiel. I was a bit concerned after purchasing the third train ticket that the agent may have misunderstood me and only sold me a ticket for one person as the cost for the one and a half hour journey was less than $5 CDN for the two of us and I only received one ticket. But it turned out that we were fine and John wasn't thrown off at the first of the many stops along the route. Looking out the windows we imagine how John’s grandparents would have felt at home in the west Kootenays of British Columbia. Podbiel is a mountain village of about 1,200 people where John’s mom, Mary Kravski, was born and lived until she emigrated to Canada at the age of 15. John came to Czechoslovakia in the early 70s but didn’t make it to his parents’ villages then being young, and travel and communication were definitely more difficult then. So now we are here and about to be picked up by Ladislav, John’s second cousin. After a couple of days of bright, clear sunny skies in Prague the weather here is more similar to London with grey skies and threatening to turn to rain from the light mist presently in the air.

A couple of whirlwind days of visiting many relations in the extented Benusik family filling in the family tree, sightseeing, thermal hot pool, mud wrap (another first), and a ride on a tank! Yes, definitely another first. See Adrenalin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkyEi9cD_DU and it is even crazier than it looks on youtube. We laughed and shrieked for 15 minutes! This is one of many of the family businesses of the Krupa brothers in Podbiel: tank ride, rafting, power generating station, rock quarry…

John was excited to have some of the traditional foods his mom used to make such as Kesla soup (sour cabbage and ham, tastes better than it sounds), haloushky with bacon rind and a cheese sauce (like pasta or gnocchi), kledneek (sliced dumpling) with cabbage and ham.

We discovered an interesting connection between hockey, Thunder Bay, and Podbiel: people from Podbiel or Orava province settled in Fort William and their sons became well-known hockey players. Names like Alex Delvecchio, Benny Woit, Rudy Migay are on the wall in the pub in Podbiel tying the players to their roots there. Another connection to Thunder Bay, if memory serves us correctly, is the family that purchased John’s mom’s house from John’s grandparents were from Fort William. They had elected to come back to Podbiel to care for their aging mother in about 1945. John is in the photo with the 70 year old son in front of the house. Mary’s family home had been one of the original wood houses famous in the area and now protected by UNESCO, but John’s grandfather had a stone and concrete house built to replace it fearing a fire while he was in British Columbia. He worked in Canada for several years and we assume he had planned to return to Podbiel but later changed his mind and brought his wife and daughter to British Columbia in 1935 instead.

Ďakujem to Joseph, Ladislav, Milan, Stephan and Theresia, both Georges and Sona and Elena for the kindness and generosity during our visit to Podbiel!
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Lindsey on

Sounds like you guys have had a fabulous trip!
Looking forward to seeing you both soon!

Barb on

Loved your travel write up of Podbiel. My grandfather Pal Suryna was born in Podbiel in 1879. Enjoyed seeing your photo's. His parents were Jan Suryna and Teresa Dalusak.

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