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.

Krásnohorská Dlhá Lúka: Keeping traditions alive

By Howard Swains

    Traditional carpet weaving is among numerous crafts practiced in the handicraft house.
 Traditional carpet weaving is among numerous crafts practiced in the handicraft house.
 Howard Swains

The driving force behind the so-called handicraft house in the small village of Krásnohorská Dlhá Lúka is the Gemer Craftsmen Association, a society of potters, weavers, basket-makers, tinkers, carvers, etc., founded in 2002 to promote the continuance of their traditional handicrafts. The following year, the association hosted its first annual summer camp for children, attended by 50-60 youngsters from the region, who were given introductory lessons in the crafts. The success of the project, and some hard campaigning, earned the association a Sk4 million grant from U. S. Steel, enabling the craftsman to purchase a former peasants house in the grounds of the village school and turn it into a number of workshops open year-round.

Visitors these days can watch the highly-skilled craftsmen and women at work, soaking twigs harvested in the area before bending them into all manner of basket work; producing thread and then weaving it into patterned carpets and rugs; constructing wooden furniture; fashioning jewellery and even carving pictorial scenes from the antlers of the region's wildlife – often depicting the very beasts that sacrificed the antlers in the first place. A newly constructed stone oven is used for baking bread to traditional recipes, and there are also plans to conduct falconry displays.

The summer camps continue to be a roaring success, with 120 children attending the most recent five-day bonanza, dossing down in sleeping bags on any available space, including the gymnasium of the school. At the end of August, the village hosts a craft market, attracting more than 2,000 people to a approximately 40 tents and stalls selling guaranteed hand-made products, where visitors can also feast on homemade goulash (and bread, of course) and enjoy a number of traditional Slovak performers on a makeshift stage. The Hungarian ambassador was a notable presence last year, and he has reportedly vowed to return with his children.

Like all start-up projects, ideas and possibilities in the handicraft house currently far overstretch the available financial resources, and the association is always on the look out for sponsorships and increased funding. The house has space in its attic for four bedrooms and there is room in the courtyard for other construction work. For the time being, though, the house is a terrific word-of-mouth success. Organisers say they are reluctant to advertise until they can ensure a more visitor-friendly environment, but it's already worth seeking out, even as a work-in-progress.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2008, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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