July 01, 2004

Slovakian Disappointment

Press HERE to see a slideshow from Slovakia.

Levoča from the Church on the Hill

Yesterday, We left Kraków and headed south. Before long we were in Poland's Aspen. This area of the Carpathian Mountains has huge granite rock faces. The town was cute and a tourist Mecca. We wanted to ride the lift to the crest to put one foot in Poland and one in Slovakia, but this was not to be, as they did not allow cars to drive up to the lift. Strange, but true; we guessed that they forbid cars to allow taxis, buses and horse carriages to carry tourist to the lift. So we just drove through the mountains to Slovakia.
Like the Czech Republic, Slovakia is a beautiful and clean country. This area of Slovakian region is for hiking and climbing. There are dozens of resorts in each little village, and we saw many tourists. I suspect when it gets warmer in July and August the area will be swarming with people all over the hills and mountains. Soon we were out of the mountains and in the city of Poprad. I stopped to check out the tourist bureau, only to find the tone fairly stiff, not nearly as welcoming as the Czech Republic or Poland. Another sign of the difference was that none of the tourist literature was free. The next sign of a problem was the small number of accommodation choice in Levoča and the expensiveness of the housing. The general cost was always $56, but most of the hotels were discounting. While we could have gotten a room for $20 at one place, we decide on a hotel that cost about $42. I had figured that the cost as we move east would decrease. If true, Slovakia is the exception. Levoča is a very beautiful and an old walled city. We ate traditional Slovakian food and it was wonderful.

Midevil Humiliation Cage

City Museum,
the Old Court House


Church on the Hill


Today, Thursday, the first of July, we started with a walk around Levoča, visiting a museum and viewing all the building on the town square. Then we visited a church on hill overlooking the town. We have heard that there is a great pilgrimage to the church every July. It is a simple but pretty church from which the Pope in recent years addressed the people of Slovakia.
Then we were on the road to visit the ruins of the castle Spissky hrad, just a few miles east of Levoča. This is the largest ruins in Slovakia, if not all Europe. The castle was from the 13th century and was used until the mid 1700's, when a fire destroyed it.
From here we traveled to yet another UNESCO site, the church in Bardejov. It is famous for its three winged carved displays called a tripict. Its wood carvings were created in the 1460's through the 1480's.

Spissky Hrad
In the Castle

We arrived in Košice, the second largest city in Slovakia, about five PM. Like most of the cities we have seen in the east, it had a huge number of 12-story apartment buildings surrounding a beautiful inner core. Such an arrangement makes for very compact cities, but in a small place like Levoča it seemed out of place. The tourist housing was quite expensive, but we were able to find a reasonably price room. The hotel clerk/receptionist was a bitch, a real Brun Hilde. When we were trying to get clear about the hotel services she said to us, 'Well, you're not in the USA now!' To say that we did not feel a warm and welcoming atmosphere would be accurate. We decided to walk around the extensive central town square that evening and leave the next day for Hungary. The town square was fantastic, almost a half-mile long. We were able to meet some students, and then we ate dinner at a pub.
Our problem with the hotel clerk stemmed from again laundry problems. The problem with these eastern countries is that they have no laundries. For me who has been everywhere, this is and continues to be unbelievable. The snooty hotel staff could not accept our disbelief. Oh, yes the hotel could clean our clothes - but based on my experience in Brno, I would have nothing to do with the hotel washing our clothes.

Posted by bill at July 1, 2004 11:56 PM