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.



Southeast Slovakia

Košice

    Košice
 Košice
 Photo: Ján Svrček

The eastern Slovak capital and the country's second-largest city, Košice (population 240,000) has a Main Street that inspires locals to beam with pride and visitors to coo in admiration. Good thing, too, for the city has paid heavily for this street. But while its financing has invited considerable criticism, the final product suggests that the cost justified the investment.

The signature landmark is the stunning St. Elizabeth's Cathedral (see architecture section). Several refurbished historical buildings line the way, including the Eastern Slovak State Theatre. A medieval open drain runs along the middle of the street, and on through a 'singing fountain', where pulsating water dances to the rhythms of select songs. It is at night illuminated by a colourful swirl of lights.

There is more to discover below the surface. In 1996 when construction workers tore up the old street to lay new gas and electrical lines, they uncovered an expansive collection of city ruins. For the next two years archaeologists excavated the area, revealing over 500 years of Košice city history. The remains have been preserved and are now presented to the public in the Underground Museum, accessible just south of St. Elizabeth's Cathedral.

Information centre

Informačné centrum mesta Košice, Hlavná 59. Tel: 055 625-8888. Fax: 055 625-4502. www.kosice.sk. Open: Mon-Fri 9:00-18:00, Sat 9:00-13:00.

The Gemer Region

    Krásna Hôrka Castle
 Krásna Hôrka Castle
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Separated from the Spiš region by the Volovské Vrchy hills, the Gemer region stretches south to the Hungarian border. This oft-overlooked area is home to a number of intriguing sights. The regional capital of Gemer is Rožňava, a former mining town. According to local legend, the town was established after a wanderer in the area dreamt of gold while napping in the nearby hills. When he awoke, he began digging and struck gold. To mark the area, he placed three red roses on the ground, giving Rožňava (which is derived from the Slovak word for 'roses') its name. The centrepiece of town is the Miner's Square, where a 17th century watchtower stands. Other key sites include a Gothic church from the 14th century, a baroque church from the 17th century, and the Evangelical Church from the 18th century. The mining museum on Šafárikova Ulica is also worth a stop.

The appeal of the Gemer region, however, is not found in Rožňava but in three other places, all within easy reach of the town. The first is the Betliar chateau, a few kilometres north. The yellow and white mansion has 21 bedrooms, three dining-rooms, a billiard room, a massive library, a replica cave full of stuffed animals, and several other rooms in which guided visitors discover everything from elephant tusks to a 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy from the Giza pyramid.

Betliar was owned by the Andrássy family and used as the family hunting lodge. The Andrássy's were wealthy Hungarian nobility who earned their fortune in the 19th century through trading iron ore. South of Rožňava is Krásna Hôrka, a stunning castle that looms over the village below from its perch high atop a stony outcrop. Like Betliar, Krásna Hôrka was also owned by the Andrássys, from the 16th century onwards.

A tour of the castle leads visitors through dozens of rooms showing old photos and furniture, plus various exhibits on weapons, counterfeit money making, and the fortress's history. The tour ends in the chapel where the mummified remains of Žofia Seredy are found. Dressed in black and wearing a ghastly grimace on her pale white face, Seredy has her hand thrust outwards as if summoning a lover. One legend has it that she died of humiliation after discovering that her husband was having an affair. When the angry children plotted to murder the cheating father, the corpse raised its hand in protest.

The official story, though, is markedly less romantic. It seems that her hands used to be propped up by a bible placed on her chest. However, the left hand was accidentally broken and the bible removed when she was transported from the village church. The final Gemer site is found further south at Domica (see caves section).

Information centre

Turistické informačné centrum - Námestie baníkov 32, 048 01 Rožňava. Tel: 058 732-8101. tic@roznava.sk. www.roznava.sk. Open: Mon-Fri 8:00-18:00, San 8:00-16:00, Sut 12:00-16:00.


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

Make your comment to the article...