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.

Lučenec: Reaching for the sky

By James Thomson

    Southern-Slovak skyscrapers in the centre of Lučenec
 Southern-Slovak skyscrapers in the centre of Lučenec
 Photos by James Thomson

Lučenec, the main city of the historical Novohrad region, seems unsure of its architectural identity.

It boasts en enormous central square: in front of the imposing district office, it is a bleak expanse of socialist-era concrete big enough to park an entire tank regiment. Indeed, that may even have been the designer's original intention.

In the town's actual centre, along Masarykova and around the two churches at the top of Vajanského, are clustered some handsome, well-preserved Secession-style buildings, including the FEMKE café (now a bank) and a former casino. Other attractive Art Nouveau buildings are dotted around the town. A leaflet in English, available from the tourist information centre on Masarykova, provides a useful guide to them.

Not so elegant is the Zlatá Ulička (Golden Street) shopping precinct, off Masarykova, which fails to live up to its name. It is an already-fading example of 1990s kitsch populated by a curious selection of tenants (one shop appears to sell, simultaneously, trousers and real estate) and vacant lots.

Looming above the centre is what can only be described as an attempt at southern-Slovak skyscrapers. One of them is actually quite tall (perhaps twenty storeys), with an external glass lift. The rather improbable explanation given to the author for their existence is that they were built as the headquarters of a once-promising silicate-mining scheme. The project never took off but the buildings are definitely there.

Rather sadder is the city's colossal synagogue, built in the 1920s. Its capacity, for 1,100 worshippers, indicates the size and importance of Lučenec's pre-war Jewish community. The community was destroyed during the Holocaust and the contents of the synagogue looted. The building, on Adyho ulica, is now a shell.

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

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