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.



Dubnica's silenced guns

By Zuzana Habšudová


Dubnica nad Váhom

Population: 26,000
Nearest urban centre:Trenčín (16km)
Economy:heavy industry
Mayor: Juraj Červinka, Tel: (042) 445-5738, primator@dubnica.sk

Important contacts

www.dubnica.sk (only in Slovak)

Municipal Office:
Bratislavská 9
Tel: (042) 445-5700
open daily 07:00 to 15:00

Information Center:
Contact the culture department of the Municipal Office at (042) 445-5785


    The town´s manor house.
 The town´s manor house.
 Photo Zuzana Habšudová

If it were not for its large ammunition factory, whose golden age is over, Dubnica nad Váhom would go completely unnoticed. It is such a tourist-unfriendly, "ordinarily dull" town that unless you have business to do or relatives to see there, it would probably never cross your mind to visit.

The town lies on fertile land enclosed by the Strážovské vrchy (hills) to the southeast and the Váh River on the opposite side. The hills that rise around it make it a place worth visiting (see the story on the Strážovské vrchy, facing page).

Dubnica's history goes back much further than 1936, the year the ammunition factory was founded. It was settled in the Paleolithic times, and the first Slavs arrived at the end of the fifth century.

Today its inhabitants live in large housing tenements along the main road, bookmarked by a Tesco store on the Trenčín side and the factory on the Ilava side. To see any of the town's history you have to get off the main road and head down towards the train station.

The pink church on the right as you head down is the St Jacob's Church. It was originally a gothic building (the oldest record of it comes from 1276), which received a Baroque facelift in 1754. Inside one can see colorful windows from the 19th century as well as newer work by the expressionist painter Vincent Hložník.

Opposite the church is the town's manor house, built in the 1670s in the early Baroque style and inhabited by the Illesházys, a noble Hungarian family. Behind it is a large park named after the priest Ján Baltazár Magin, which today is a favorite place for walks and jogging under the centuries-old linden trees and the rare yews. At its far end, behind the Renaissance building that served as a gardener's house but now is the Astoria Lux hotel, lay an orange grove, once one of the most famous parts of the park.

Built in the French style in 1733, the orange grove was believed to be among the most northern gardens that grew exotic tropical plants and trees. It perished at the start of the last century, but until the 1960s its walls were still visible. Local people had shoveled up its fertile earth and taken it home or to their gardens, many of which are situated on the hillsides of the Strážovské vrchy, which offer the best view of Dubnica's arsenal.

Today, the orange grove is a children's playground, but the theft of the soil occupies a special place in local lore.

    The ZŤS production giant awaits fresh inspiration to restart its heavy machunery, which once produced war materiel.
 The ZŤS production giant awaits fresh inspiration to restart its heavy machunery, which once produced war materiel.
 Photo Zuzana Habšudová

The interwar Czechoslovak government chose the area as the site of the Dubnica Závody Ťažkeho Strojárstva (ZŤS) factory, which produced guns, ammunition and heavy military equipment, as a backup for the military production of Škodove závody (Škoda Factories) in Plzeň, now part of the Czech Republic. The idea was that if Plzeň was bombed, Dubnica would pick up the slack. The town soon became a cradle of industry and a hive of military experts.

While the Dubnica arsenal was meant to protect the state against the Germans, it was ironically the German army that the factory supplied with ammunition during the Second World War. The number of employees climbed from 1,942 to 4,669. One of the men who worked at the factory was Alexander Dubček, who later became a politician famous for his attempt to establish "socialism with a human face" in 1968.

With the arrival of the communists and the polarization of the world, the factory continued to produce ammunition, artillery, tanks and armored fighting vehicles, but now mainly for the Soviet Union, with the rest of its production going to conflict areas around the world. Many of its fighting vehicles can be found at the bottom of the seas, having been hurled from ships in the 1960s when the US issued an embargo on Russian supplies.

During communism, the factory also helped to rebuild the war-torn countryside. The Bytča Bridge near Žilina is among the many examples of the work of ZŤS.

When the first post-1989 Czechoslovak president, Václav Havel, visited the factory, he advocated a "human" role for it, which essentially meant shutting it down. Several firms have since tried to revive the corpse, which spreads over seven square kilometres with its own railway spur, but without much success.

The production giant awaits a large investor to restart its heavy machines, and with the automotive industry on the rise in the country, this goal is not unrealistic. As a veteran of the factory's workforce said: "If we could make arms there, we can also produce dolls."

Accommodation

Kristína Hotel
Centrum II
Tel: (042) 442-0322
www.hotelkristina.eu
30 rooms, terrace, parking and restaurant

Dining and drinking

Astória
Pod kaštieľom

Housed in the renaissance mansion at the far end of Dubnica's Ján Baltazár Magin park, it exudes an historical atmosphere.

Sírius
Bratislavská

This restaurant sits next to the Municipal Office at the House of Culture and offers Slovak specialties in a traditional local atmosphere.

Things to see and do

The town holds an annual international folk festivalat the end of August, the Dubnica fašiangy (a Shrovetide festival) just before Easter, and a live Nativity Scene at Christmas. At the end of April hikers take part in a 30-kilometer march through the Stážovské vrchy (hills), while children explore the "fairy-tale woods" at the start of June.The surrounding Strážovské vrchy and Biele Karpaty hills are real natural beauties. Consider climbing Strážov and Vápečpeaks, visiting Vršatec and Beckov castles, and bathing in the thermal waters of Trenčianske Teplice and Belušské Slatiny.

On your way north from Dubnica, in the town of Ilava, you will find the infamous Ilava jail for the country's most dangerous criminals. Originally a castle and later rebuilt as a monastery complex, it is situated near the railway station.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2006, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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