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.



Getting Away for the Day

Devín

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

One of the country's most picturesque castle ruins, Devín is also one of its most accessible. At the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, these storied ruins have a long and rich history.

The castle was a major military fortress of the Great Moravian Empire and was never conquered until Napoleon took it over in 1809, then blew it up before moving on to further conquests. In 1836, Ľudovít Štúr led a group of students up to the ruins and announced the Slovak struggle for self-determination. During World War II, the Nazis occupied the ruin; when Slovakia reclaimed it after the war, the state established Devín as a national cultural monument.

To get to Devín from the Old Town, take bus #29 from under Nový Most (New Bridge) to the end of the line. Devín can also be reached on foot. The yellow trail from Dúbravka leads hikers through forest for two hours, offering views of the ruin from the hills above.

Malé Karpaty

They are neither as high nor spectacular as the country's other mountain ranges, but the Malé Karpaty (Small Carpathians) have one major advantage for capital city dwellers: they are close.

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Just 10 minutes from the President's Palace, the hills offer mile after mile of hiking, running and biking trails. Železná Studienka park, past the Kramáre district, is a meandering valley popular in the summer with picnickers. In the winter, NHL dreams are lived out by young hockey enthusiasts on the park's frozen lakes. The valley also provides jungle gyms for kids, an outdoor theatre and several outdoor refreshment stands.

Then there is Kamzík, where the massive Koliba radio tower is visible for miles around. Below the tower is a bob-sled course with plastic carts. Visitors speed down the 700 metre course three times for Sk100.

Beyond these destinations are the trails, lots of them. Before heading out, pick up the Malé Karpaty-Bratislava hiking map (no. 127). The green map outlines trails throughout the region, including day trips into Austria and Hungary. Available in most book stores, they typically cost Sk120.

Depending on what you're after, the Carpathians can provide a leisurely stroll and picnic, an exciting bike ride up and down wild mountain trails, a rigorous three-hour run, or an all-day hike. The Tatras they are not. But for outdoor enthusiasts in the city, they are an immediate and satisfying fix.

To get to Železná Studienka take trolley bus 212 from the President's Palace on Hodžovo Námestie to the end of the line, then walk up into the valley or wait for bus 41 to take you higher up into the park. To get to Kamzík take trolley bus 203 from in front of the Hotel Fórum on Hodžovo Námestie till the end of the line. The tower and park is a 20-minute walk up the hill.

Further into the Small Carpathians is the Wine Route. The south-west part of the Small Carpathians mountain range is famous for its wine tradition, crafts, natural beauties and historical sights. The route starts from Bratislava and passes north-east through Pezinok and Modra to the town of Smolenice. Here's a brief guide.

Svätý Jur

In this quiet town you can see wineries from the 16th and 17th centuries, the ruins of the Biely Kameň castle and the Pálffy manor house at the end of Prostredná Street, where you can taste local wines in a 400-year-old cellar. Open Mon-Fri 8:00-14:00, Tel: 02 4497-1132.

Hiking: To visit Jozefkovo Údolie (Jozefko Valley), start from the train station and look for the information board. Accommodation: Horský Hotel Eva, Jozefkovo Údolie, Tel: 02 4497-0507.

Limbach

A typical wine-town, Limbach is famous for its Limbašský Silván wine. To taste it visit the cellars of the local wine producer on SNP 18, open Mon-Fri 7:00-15:00.

Hiking: Slnečné Údolie or Limbašské Údolie. Accommodation: Hotel Limbach, SNP 18, Tel: 033 6477-281.

Pezinok

Sights to be seen include a local castle with a park (14th century), a tour of which is connected with a wine tasting (call in advance 033 641-2360).

Sports: Horseback riding and tennis courts at Areál zdravia Rozálka, Suvorovova 9. Town information: Radničné Nám. 9, Tel: 033 690-1107. Accommodation: Hotel Lipa, Kollárova 20, Tel: 033 641-2402.

Modra

Sights include town fortification ruins, the Town Hall (17th century), Church of St. Ján Krstiteľ (14th century), and a round bastion.

Hiking: Štúr trail from Kalinčiakova Street, switching to a marked trail. Accommodation: Hotel Modra, Štúrova 111. Tel: 033 647-2266.

Častá

Sights to been seen are the Gothic Church of St. Imrich, which has fresco paintings.

Hiking: Červený Kameň castle - exhibition, castle cellars, falconers' shows, remains of a Jewish cemetery nearby. Open Mon-Fri 9:00-15:00, Sat-Sun 9:00-18:00. Tel: 033 649-0216. Accommodation: Hotel Hydrostav, Píla - part of Častá. Tel: 033 649-5204.

Smolenice

Sights include Smolenice castle, which has a large English lawn, open Sat-Sun 10:00-17:00, and the Driny dripstone cave, open Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00.

For more information on the Small Carpathians route visit the Malokarpatská Tourist Information Center on Štúrova 84, Modra. Open Mon-Fri 9:30-13:30, Sat-Sun 9:30-12:30. Tel: 033 647-4302.

Pajštún

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

The Pajštún castle ruin is best-known for its gargoyles. Above the village Borinka, the castle is reached after a hike of about 90 minutes through the Malé Karpaty forests. The front wall (some 25 to 30 metres high) is crowned by several of the fabled gargoyles, their sinister faces leering down at all comers. A few have fallen from their perches and can be investigated up close at ground level.

In the summer, Pajštún is a haven for picnickers and rock climbers who scale its presumably sturdy walls. Overnight campers and mountain bikers are also common.

To get there by car, drive north out of Bratislava in the direction of Brno. Take the Lamač exit and follow the winding road through Záhorská Bystrica to Borinka. Several buses leave the main bus station daily.

Červený Kameň

Above the vilage of Častá is the well-preserved 16th-century castle Červený Kameň (Red Rock). The castle was owned and maintained by the Thurzo and Fugger families - who in the 16th century operated the largest copper-mining company in all of Europe - until the end of World War II.

A tour of the interior reveals exhibits of finely carved furniture and various weapons. In the cellars beneath the castle one sees the red stone on which the castle is built, and which gave the white castle its seemingly contradictory name.

To get to Červený Kameň follow route 502 out of Bratislava. The village Častá is five to ten minutes past Modra.

Wine Country

Two small towns located on the eastern slopes of the Small Carpathian mountains, Pezinok and Modra are known for wine. Several locals make and sell stellar vintages of Rizling, Müller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc and more. Private tastings are easily arranged and bottles are relatively cheap.

Every September the two towns are home to some of the jolliest scenes in the country during the annual Burčiak Festival. Burčiak is a golden grape cider that, although tasting like juice, is in fact a deceptively potent alcoholic beverage. Burčiak has a short life, occurring seven to 10 days into the fermentation process when the sugary white grape juice turns cloudy and begins bubbling. But it does not keep for long and within hours, further fermentation turns burčiak into a drier cider.

The festival is jointly hosted by the two towns, held in one or the other in alternate years. Along the road connecting Pezinok and Modra locals sell two-litre plastic bottles of burčiak for less than Sk100.

Pezinok and Modra are found just outside Bratislava along route 502 heading north through Rača. There are also frequent bus and train connections.

Danubiana Museum

Opened in 2000, Danubiana is Slovakia's greatest modern art museum. Much has been made of the eccentric nature of the museum's founder and director, Vincent Polakovič, who claims to have twice made contact with the ghost of Vincent van Gogh. Happily, the director's Van Gogh obsession has had little impact on the museum itself. The Danubiana boasts spare, tasteful modern architecture and a dramatic location on a spit of land jutting into the Danube. It's worth the trip just for the outdoor café alone; the cutting-edge Slovak art exhibits are also a major draw. The Danubiana is definitely a must-do day trip for lovers of art and architecture.

To get to the Danubiana Museum, take bus 91 or 191 from under Nový Most (New Bridge) to Čunovo. Then follow signs for the museum, a walk of about three kilometres.

- Compiled by Spectator staff


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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