These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Košice

Pop.: 241,400, area code: 055, police: 622-4289, info center: Hlavná 59, tel.: 625-8888, www.kosice.sk/icmk, icmk@ke.sanet.sk

Košice is the second largest city in Slovakia and the most ethnically mixed of the country's big cities. Slovakia's only Roma theater is here. You hear both Slovak and Hungarian spoken in shops. You find dozens of shades of skin, every imaginable hair color and all kinds of temperaments. Waiters joke with customers, and strangers make eye contact. It's a good city in which to people-watch .

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Košice also has the most beautiful main square in Slovakia, the country's biggest cathedral and a musical fountain that lights up at night. Outside the center lie concrete high rises typical of all Slovak cities, and the US Steel Košice plant, one of the nation's largest employers (16,000 workers). Still further out - within short train or bus rides - are two national parks, Slovakia's only geyser and dozens of caves.

History

Slavs settled first in Košice-in the 13th century - but Germans arrived soon after the settlement received a royal charter (1241). From then until the 20th century, Košice was more German and Hungarian than Slovak. Košice was the second most important city in the Hungarian Kingdom in the Middle Ages, when it was a crossroads on a North-South trade route. Trade ground to a halt when Turks invaded Central Europe in the 16th century.

In 1682, Hungarian Count Imre Thököly - siding with the Turks against the Hapsburgs - seized Košice for a short time. Twenty years later, Transylvannian Prince Ferenc Rakoczi II waged a war of independence against the Hapsburgs from Košice. He was defeated in 1717, and buried in Turkey. In 1906, his remains were exhumed and moved to the crypt of St. Elizabeth's Cathedral (Dóm Svätej Alžbety) in the city center.

Košice-Kassa in Hungarian - became part of Czechoslovakia in 1918, but Hungary took it back (along with most of southern Slovakia) during WWII. For a few months in 1945, as the German-Russian front moved west, Košice was the capital of liberated Czechoslovakia. Košice remained part of Czechoslovakia after the war, but some 20,000 ethnic Hungarians still live here today.

The VSŽ steel mill was built after the war, and sold to US Steel in 2000. It makes about 3.8 million tons of steel a year.

Mayor Rudolf Schuster (Slovak president from 1999-2004) remade Košice's center in the mid 1990s. Old buildings were restored and asphalt streets were dug up, replaced with cobblestone and closed to traffic. The restorations, the new pedestrian zone and other changes (e.g. adding music to an old fountain) cost 2.5 billion crowns ($70 million), most of which was borrowed. Košice was on the verge of financial collapse when bankers agreed to reschedule its debt payments in 2002.

Coming and going

All major Slovak cities are connected to Košice by bus and train. Bratislava is 5-6 hours by train. Regular flights connect Košice to Bratislava (Slovak Air, Sky Europe) and Prague (Czech Air). Trains leave daily for Kiev, Prague, Brno, Budapest, and Krakow.

Layout

Košice is an easy place to visit. The city center - an eight-block pedestrian zone -is a 10-minute walk from the bus and train stations (keep going straight when you leave the train station; take a left out of the bus station). Most sights are in the center. Košice has many more beautiful buildings, smaller churches and pretty side streets than are listed below. Don't be afraid to wander. The Hornád river lies on the east side of the city.

Places to visit

From the train or bus station, head west, through the Municipal Park (Mestský park) over a footbridge, and past Jakabov Palace, where Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš stayed in 1945. Keep going west, aiming for the helmet-shaped dome of St. Elizabeth's Cathedral (Dóm svätej Alžbety), built in 1345 and probably the nicest church you'll see in Slovakia without paying a cover charge. (Sk30 to see the tower and crypt, though. For more information see Cathedral on pg 120) Next-door is the Urban Tower (Urbanova veža), built in the 14th century, and next to that is Košice's musical fountain and the four-story State Theater (Štátne divadlo)-the building with the charcoal cupola.

South of the cathedral lies the 14th century Chapel of St. Michael (Kaplnka svätého Michala), a park, and the entrance to the Dolná Brána, a maze of stone ramparts built in the 13th century and discovered in 1996. Admission underground is Sk25, but there isn't much to see. You can basically see it all through giant grates on the main square.

The Loffler Muzeum (múzeum V. Lofflera), on Alžbetina 20, has sculptures by its namesake, Slovakia's largest collection of self-portraits (mostly 20th century Košice artists), and rotating exhibitions by living artists. It's open Tues-Sat, 10:00 to 18:00, and Sun, 13:00 to 17:00. Next door is the Julius Jacob Gallery (galéria Júliusa Jakobyho), with paintings by Jakoby (1903-1985), a local artist. It's a branch of the East Slovak Gallery (východoslovenská galéria) on Hlavná 27. Both are open Tues-Sat, 10:00 to 18:00, and Sun 11:00 to 17:00.

At Hlavná 74, is the Košice Gold Treasure (Košický zlatý poklad), a collection of 2,920 Middle-Aged coins found in a wall in 1935 by a construction worker. The Weapons Museum and the Ferenc Rakoczi II Museum are at the Executioner's Bastion (Katova bašta) on Hrnčiarska Street. Rakoczi led a 17th century rebellion against the Hapsburgs. The museum has some of his belongings. All three museums are open Tues-Sat, 9-17:00, and Sun, 9:00-13:00.

Places to eat

Pivovar Golem, Dominikánske nám. 15, good Slovak food at reasonable prices, nice atmosphere, and homemade beer.

Reštaurácia Aj Vega, Orlia 10, friendly vegetarian restaurant, big menu has many quasi-Mexican dishes. Maybe the only place in Slovakia that serves vegan tartar sauce.

Claudius, Hlavná 82, underground pub with good Slovak food.

Pizzeria Roberta, Hlavná 45, good pizza for Sk55-99, outdoor seating in summer by musical fountain.

Bageteria, Hlavná 74, good subs.

Entertainment and Places after dark

Romathan, Štefánikova 4, Slovakia's only Romany theater, puts on concerts and plays. State Theater on Hlavné námestie also holds regular shows. Puppet Theater (Bábkové divadlo), Rooseweltova 1, puts on afternoon performances for kids.

Concerts are occasionally performed at the Konzervatorium, Hlavná 89, and at the State Philharmonic (štátna filharmónia) in Dom Umenia, in the south part of town. Bomba Club, Hlavná 5, has live music Friday and Saturday nights. Bomba Club, Hlavná 5, has DJ's. Jazz Club, Kováčska 39, has jazz concerts a couple of times a week.

Internet

Internet Klub 104,Hlavná 104.

Other useful places

English-language bookshop: SFA Book Shop, Hlavná 97.

British Council, Jakabov Palace, Mlynská 30, has a library and English-language newspapers and magazines.

Places to stay

Hotel Slovan, Hlavná 1. Tel: 055 622-7378. Fax: 055 622-8413. rezervacia@hotelslovan.sk. www.hotelslovan.sk. Single: Sk2,690, Double: Sk3,390, Apartment: Sk5,500-19,500. Breakfast: Sk150. The biggest hotel in the main square, housed Pavarotti when he performed in Košice in 1998.

Hotel Rane, Šebatovská 4. Tel/Fax: 055 678-3003. Double: Sk1,200-1,600, Apartment: Sk2,200-2,500. Breakfast: included. Air-conditioning. Pleasant garden restaurant.

Penzión Atlantic, Rázusova 1. Tel/Fax: 055 622-6501. Double: Sk900, Apartment: Sk2,600. Great location, but often full so call ahead.

Golden Royal penzión, Štefánikova 36. Tel: 055 720-1011. Fax: 055 720-1010. pension@goldenroyal.sk. www.goldenroyal.sk. Single: Sk1,950, Double: Sk2,550, Apartment: Sk2,800-3,200. Breakfast: included.

Hotel Dália, Löfflerova 1. Tel: 055 799-4321-2. Fax: 055 633-1717. rezervacia@hoteldalia.sk. www.hoteldalia.sk. Single: Sk1,950, Double: Sk2,550, Apartment: Sk2,800-3,000. Breakfast: included.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2004.

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