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.

Stará Ľubovňa

Northern Spiš

 photo: Chris Togneri

Ucked into the rolling green hills of the Poprad river valley, Stará Ľubovňa is a cheerless industry town. But a 40-minute walk away, up a hill to the north of town, visitors find one of the largest castle ruins in the country, plus an adjoining skanzen.

On a national level, the ruin attracts little attention as it is found in the same region as Spišský hrad, the largest castle ruin in Central Europe. But Stará Ľubovňa is hardly small. Rather, it is a sprawling castle complex, complete with stone towers, mounted cannons, several historical exhibits and dingy, bat-infested dungeons. Entrance costs 60 crowns for adults, while permission to use a camera costs an extra 70 crowns.

Neighbouring the castle is the Stará Ľubovňa skanzen, with 25 relocated structures from northern Spiš villages like Jarabina and Jakubany, Kremná and Kamienka. Local architecture, a guide told me on my visit, has been shaped by the region’s once large populations of Germans, Jews, Ruthenians and Poles, as much as by Slovaks.

Villagers took particular pride in their abode’s facades. Lines of blue were painted onto the gaps between the logs of the small dwellings. Other decorations adorned windows and beams, and Gothic gables were often added.

The focal point of the family house was the living-room, a multi-functional space that also served as a cooking and sleeping room. In the centre was a sturdy wooden table where family meals were served. Walls were hung with religious pictures, flowers stuck into the frames.

The highlight of the skanzen is the Greek Catholic wooden church, built in 1813 in the village Magorka. On weekdays, visitors file in to view the wooden Baroque iconostasis; on weekends, services and weddings are still held here.

The Stará Ľubovňa skanzen is open every day from May 1 to September 30, from 9:00 to 18:00. In the winter, however, admittance is restricted; to visit, you must call ahead first and reserve a guide (052/ 432 3982).

A final note: one hour away from Stará Ľubovňa by bus is Pieniny National Park. Log rafts manned by rafters decked out in traditional Slovak costume carry up to 20 visitors down the Dunajec river. The current is slow, allowing the visitors to casually take in the amazing views of the canyon’s steep cliffs, and the Red Monastery at Červený Kláštor. The boat trip lasts about 45 minutes.

- Chris Togneri

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2002.

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