If bells are your thing, then a treat awaits you in Šumiac, a village in the foothills of the Low Tatras (Banská Bystrica Region).
There, beneath Kráľova Hoľa mountain, is a family museum containing no fewer than 2,000 of them. Not church bells: instead, the kind that shepherds attach to their sheep and cattle. They come from all over the world: Switzerland, Japan, Egypt, Mexico and Australia are all represented. Accompanying them are a collection of musical instruments, sheepskin coats, shepherds' leather belts, and antique folk costumes.
The museum is as much about its owner, the redoubtable Mikuláš Gigac, as his bells. He is a unique individual, often decked out in full folk costume and wielding a fujara (with intent). His rare gift for self-promotion has helped to ensure that his distinctive chops can be admired in many books on Slovak tourism and folklore.
I have an accordion and I’m not afraid to use it: the redoubtable Mikuláš Gigac.
Photos by James Thomson
Not that the attention is undeserved. He has a fine singing voice, leads a renowned folklore group, and is a talented musician, able to play ten instruments including the violin, the accordion, the fujara, another instrument that bears an uncanny resemblance to a walking stick, and, of course, the bells.
Some of the bells, which Gigac started collecting 50 years ago after his grandfather gave him six as a present, are more than a hundred years old. He says that the best - i.e. the sweetest-sounding - were made in Kecskemét in Hungary, noting with pride that the forgemasters there came from Ruthenia, as did Gigac's own family.
Oddly the museum, which gets about 1,000 visitors a year, is not well-signposted, but anyone in the village should be able to point you in Mr Gigac's direction.