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.



A day on the river

By James Thomson

    The rafting centre near Čunovo.
 The rafting centre near Čunovo.
 Photos by James Thomson

Bratislava has started to re-discover the Danube in recent years. Expensive new housing developments have gone up on riverfront sites previously devoted to industry, shipbuilding and, more controversially, public leisure areas. The paths along the south bank of the river towards Hungary have been revamped and are full of small bars and restaurants which teem with cyclists, runners and roller-bladers in the summer.

The wider Danube region beyond the capital has a variety of places worth visiting, some of them old and some of them quite new. Perhaps most notable among the newcomers is the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, near the village of Čunovo.

The right bank

    The bee-keeping museum in Kráľová pri Senci.
 The bee-keeping museum in Kráľová pri Senci.
 Photos by James Thomson

Built in a stunning position, on a slim peninsula which juts out into the river from the south bank, the museum was opened in 2000. As well as a light-filled gallery displaying contemporary art, its ample gardens are used to exhibit modern sculpture. Walking around the park, with the river - here at its widest extent - all around is as close to setting sail as you will get without boarding a boat.

But if that's what you fancy, the nearby Čunovo rafting centre is a good place to start. It's a world-class facility, with a series of white-water courses. Novice kayakers are trained on flat water before being unleashed on the channels, which can be adjusted for different levels of difficulty. The advantage for learners is that unlike rafting in the wild, there are no hidden rocks or obstacles - and changing rooms, and even a hotel, are nearby. All the gear you need can be hired at the centre.

Next to the road between the museum and the rafting centre is a grey stone memorial to the five crewmembers of a British Royal Air Force Wellington bomber shot down over the river in October 1944. It was unveiled in 2003, 59 years to the day after their deaths.

    The remains of the Roman miltary camp of Gerulata, in the modern-day village of Rusovce.
 The remains of the Roman miltary camp of Gerulata, in the modern-day village of Rusovce.
 Photos by James Thomson

Between Čunovo and Bratislava is Rusovce, the site of an ancient military camp which once formed part of the Limes Romanus, the Romans' transcontinental defensive line (see also 'Holding the line', in the section on Nitra Region). The camp, known by the Romans as Gerulata, housed 112 cavalrymen and has been partly excavated. The remains are open to the public from April to October, and the adjoining visitor centre contains some of the artefacts found during the dig, including collections of unusual painted stonework and rare coins.

The left bank

    Frescoes inside the church in Hamuliakovo.
 Frescoes inside the church in Hamuliakovo.
 Photos by James Thomson

Across the river from Čunovo (about a kilometre as the crow flies, but requiring a detour via Bratislava, unless you have a boat) is Hamuliakovo. This prosperous village is the site of one of the earliest churches in the area, dating from the second half of the thirteenth century.

The church is distinctive both from the outside and within. The exterior is notable for its massive walls - necessary to support the building, since it has no buttresses - and its leaning tower. Nothing very dramatic (the locals say it has stabilised, and since it's survived for three quarters of a millennium you'd have to be pretty unlucky for it to fall on you), just a slight, but noticeable, list which is the result of the church having settled unevenly on a site where sand and gravel beds meet.

Inside are a distinctive set of mediaeval frescoes. These were discovered at the end of the nineteenth century under 7 centimetres of plaster. They depict 12 consecration crosses, and Christ in a mandorla, on the ceiling of the apse, surrounded by animals, representing the gospels.

Around the windows of the polygonal apse are paintings of the 12 apostles.

A gallery at the back of the nave would originally have been reserved for the sponsor of the church (presumably a local landowner), who would have received mass there.

And behind the altar is a reminder of the village's precarious position: a series of holes in the wall of the apse which were used to drain the church and allow it to dry after frequent floods.

Heading inland

    Blacksmiths’ art in Dunajská Lužná.
 Blacksmiths’ art in Dunajská Lužná.
 Photos by James Thomson

Nearby Dunajská Lužná is the home of several renowned Roma blacksmiths, who also have showrooms there. The town occasionally hosts blacksmiths' conventions.

Further north, within the lowlands which form the flood plain of the Danube and which are criss-crossed by its tributaries, is Slovakia's only bee-keeping museum, near Kráľová pri Senci. The curator, Rudolf Moravčík, is clearly a devotee of what he calls the world's first domesticated animal. He doesn’t speak English, but his son and daughter do.

Dozens of hives, of varying designs and vintages, are scattered around the tree-filled grounds of the museum, which was established more than 75 years ago. Several are in use, and visitors can see the bees in action. There is also an indoor exhibition, including a particularly large and hairy bee used as prop in a well-known Slovak film, Tisícročná včela (The Millennial Bee), by Juraj Jakubisko.

And if the idyllic location makes you want to stay, there is even (basic) accommodation on site.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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