A Swiss butterfly in Poland: Wrocław or Breslau

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. 

My route begins in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny KubinPodbiel and Tvrdošín. It continues in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally I am Berlin. 

To round off my days in Poland, I stay one night in Wrocław (or in German Breslau).

I have selected the Hotel IBIS Styles Centrum. I look for a functioning hotel infrastructure and easy access to parking. Furthermore the IBIS is conveniently located, not too far from the city centre and across the train station. When getting lost, you can always find the train station in a city.

I am south of the city centre, about half an hour’s walk away from it.

Source: Tomasz Torbus, “Polen”, Dumont Kunst-Reiseführer 2011

The city centre of Wrocław stretches along the river Odra (Oder) and consists of three main areas:

  • Stare Miasto with the market square (Rynek) and the Old Town Hall as well as the University quarter. Part of the moat has been preserved.
  • The roots of the city are on Ostrów Tumski or Cathedral Isle with the cluster of churches (founded before 1000 AD).
  • Sand Island lies between the city centre and Cathedral Isle.

I was all surprised to come across the river Oder here… I know it from the “Oderbruch”, the Oder wetlands in Brandenburg, at the border to Poland. But yes, the river Oder or Odra starts in the Czech Republic, flows through Silesia, makes the border between Poland and Germany for almost 200km and ends in the Baltic Sea. 

 

Walking from the hotel to the city centre

From my hotel, I walk north towards the city centre. After some ten minutes, I reach the moat, the Fosa Miejskia on Ulica Podwale.

I like the pretty Art Nouveau houses along Ulica Podwale.

Now I am zooming in Atlas carrying not the world, but the oriel. It is so heavy that he has a brother and a sister helping him. 

 

Stare Miasto with the Old Town Hall and the market square (Rynek)

I reach the Old Town Hall. The construction of the mainly Gothic building lasted from about 1300 until the middle of 16th century, adapting to changing needs over time. In 1930, the Old Town Hall was converted into a museum. Dumont rates it as one of the most beautiful profane buildings in Eastern Middle Europe (p. 246). 

This is the eastern façade. The astronomical clock is from 1850.

Now we look at the west side of the Old Town Hall. I stand on the Rynek.

Humorous gnomes (or dwarfs) are scattered all over the city centre. There are more than 150 of them, as I read in my “old” Lonely Planet. I come across “my” first one near the Old Town Hall. 

The gnomes can be considered to be an allusion to the Orange Alternative (Pomaranczowa Alternatywa), a group of communist dissidents in the 1980’s that used intelligent humour to express their political protest. Waldemar Fidrych was their leader. 

In the narrow streets north of the Old Town Hall, I have delicious Spaghetti in a tiny Italian restaurant.

Since 1240, there has been a market square, where the Rynek is today. The Rynek is a charming mixture of Gothic and Art Nouveau houses. The north and south side had been destroyed in WW II. Everything has been reconstructed or renovated. It is Poland’s second largest Rynek after Kraków.

The Rynek is full of inviting restaurants.

I plan dinner at Fredro’s. Count Aleksander Fredro (1793-1876 ) was a noble landowner and a poet venerated in Poland. Dumont calls him the “Polish Molière” (p. 249).

Here are some of the colourful houses at the Rynek. The playful façade of the pharmacy attracts my attention.

Furthermore I like this house with the frescos. Dumont tells me that it is the house of the seven electors (Haus zu den sieben Kurfürsten), painted in Baroque style by Giacomo Scianzi (1672).

The glass wall in front of the New Town Hall symbolizes the Sudetes or Giant Mountains (Riesengebirge, Karkonosze).

Hänsel and Gretel is the name of these two tiny and slim houses. In Polish they are called “Jaś i Małgosia”.

The Church of Saint Elizabeth (Bazylika św. Elżbiety) is a  Gothic brick building from the 14th century.

It was a Lutheran church from 1525 until 1946. Then it became a catholic church. It was heavily damaged by a fire in 1976 and has then been restored tastefully. 

 

University Quarter

To the north of the Rynek, I find the university. The Habsburgian emperor, Leopold I, founded the university of Breslau in 1702 as a Jesuit academy. This was a catholic institution in mainly protestant Silesia and acted as a centre of the Counter-Reformation, until Silesia was conquered by the protestant Prussians in 1741. The university was re-established in 1945 replacing the former German University of Breslau. 

This is the north view from the river bank.

This is the view from the south.

This professor-gnome-dwarf makes it very clear: This is a university!

The Baroque University Church of the Holy Name of Jesus (Kościół Uniwersytecki p.w. Najświętszego Imienia Jezus) was built by the Jesuits in the late 17th century. It reflects in the windows of the modern building across.

The market hall is an Art Nouveau building constructed in 1906-1908. It is in use as a product market until today.

 

Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek) with Church of our Lady on the Sand

To get to the Cathedral Island or Ostrów Tumski, I cross the small Sand Island or Wyspa Piasek. 

The 14th century brick Gothic Church of our Lady of the Sand (Kościół Najświętszej Marii Panny na Piasku) is the dominating building on this small island.

This is the inside view with the Gothic vaults, 24m high. 

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The church has been destroyed during WW II. The tasteful stain glassed windows are modern, from 1968.

 

Cathedral Isle (Ostrów Tumski)

I approach the Cathedral Isle walking along the Odra or Oder. The two towers of the Cathedral Saint John the Baptist dominate the skyline.

I cross the Tumski bridge that in local legends tells love stories – similar to Romeo and Juliet. To the left is the Saint Peter and Paul church and in the background we see the towers of the Cathedral.

Another gnome-dwarf here.

The Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew (Kolegiata Świętego Krzyża i św. Bartłomieja) is a late Gothic brick church with two storeys.  

The lower level is closed. I can look through a grill locking the door to get an idea of the upper level. 

Elaborately cut trees lead to the Cathedral Saint John the Baptist. In Polish it is called Archikatedra św. Jana Chrzciciela.

The current construction in Brick Gothic was started in 1244, after the Mongolian invasion of 1241. Fires damaged the church in 1540 and in 1759. Then during WW II 70% of the cathedral were destroyed. It was reconstructed after WW II.

Across the street and north of the Cathedral is the small Church of St Giles (Kościół św. Idziego; in German: Aegidius). Built in Romanesque style in the early 13th century, it is the oldest active church in Wrocław. It has survived the Mongolian attacks. 

Nearby Saint Martin Church is also of Romanesque or early Gothic style. 

 

Coffee and Legends – taking a break in the Bishop’s Gardens

Behind the cathedral, I see this friendly invitation to the coffee place in the garden.

I enter and order a coffee. With it I receive a piece of paper, carefully rolled up with a bow. It contains legends of Ostrów Tumski.

While drinking my coffee, I read the legends referring to Ostrów Tumski.

One legend tells about the dangerous power of white roses. The bishop loved Agnieszka who cultivated white roses in the Bishop’s Gardens. When Agnieszka died, the servants wanted to comfort the bishop and decorated his bedroom with white roses. The following night, the bishop died. Since that night, white roses, now considered to be dangerous, have no longer been planted in the Bishop’s Gardens.

I leave the coffee place looking back at the Bishop’s Garden with the cathedral towers in the background,…

… and cross the bridge Tumski…

… that crosses the river Odra.

 

The White Stork Synagogue southwest of the Rynek

I return to the Rynek and continue my way southwest to visit the Jewish heritage, the White Stork Synagogue (Synagoga Pod Białym Bocianem), built in elegant neoclassical style in 1829 and restored in 2010. It is presumably called “White Stork”, because it stands where there was a restaurant with the same name before.

In the adjacent courtyard, I am tempted to sit down in one of the restaurants.

However, I return to the Rynek to eat in front of the Old Town Hall at Fredo’s. I have a salad with chicken and I complete my meal with a glass of Żubrówka, the Polish vodka with the buffalo grass.

 

Good-bye Wroclaw

Evening falls. I walk back to my hotel. I take Ul. Świdnicka (former Schweidnitzerstrasse) that in the 19th century became the new centre of the city with the Opera House from 1839-41…

… and department stores like this Art Nouveau building across the moat.

In the side streets, I come across German reminiscences. 

I settle in “my” comfortable hotel IBIS. I have a glass of wine in the friendly restaurant here to say good-bye to Wrocław and also to Poland.

Tomorrow I will drive to Germany to my mother-town Berlin.

 

Background information about Wrocław and Silesia: The history in a nutshell

From the “Lonely Planet”, the “Dumont” and from various Internet sources about Silesia, Wrocław, the Piast family etc. I try to understand the major history pattern. I am not a historian, but I like to acquire a structured overview, though it may not be perfect. 

Before 990: The roots of Silesia 

  • In the 4th/5th century, the Vandal tribe Silingi (in German: Silinger) settle, where Wrocław is today. In the 6th century the Slavic tribe Slegani build a fortification on Ostrów Tumski. It is under debate, which of the two tribes is the basis for the name “Silesia” (or in German: Schlesien, in Polish Śląsk).
  • Until 985 today’s Silesia belongs to Bohemia.

985-1335: Under the rule of the Piast dynasty, first Polish and then more and more tending towards the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation

  • 985: Duke Mieszko I. from the Piast family conquers Silesia with Wrocław and integrates it in the kingdom of Poland.
  • 1000: For the first time, Wrocław is mentioned under the name of Vratislavia, in a Papal bulla. The diocese of Wrocław is one of the three newly founded Polish bishoprics. It is located, where two trade routes intersect. (In 2000, Wrocław will celebrate its 1000 years anniversary).
  • 1241: The Mongolians (or Tartars) destroy Wrocław and retreat due to successor fights in Mongolia. Wrocław is rebuilt again.
  • Late 13th century: Various branches of the Piast families reign their own duchies, one of them being Silesia. Poland is now a community of duchies with one duke being elected as the leader. The dukes of Silesia balance their politics between Poland and the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. They invite Germans to settle. Soon the German colonists are a majority in Wrocław. In 1261, Wrocław takes over the town law of Magdeburg.
  • 1335: The last member of the Silesian Piast family branch dies. The last Piast king of Poland, Cazimir III the Great, declares to abstain from Silesia; he prefers to focus on expanding the kingdom of Poland to the east.

1335-1526: Under Bohemian rule as part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation

  • 1335, after the renunciation of the Polish king, Silesia and Wrocław are part of the Bohemian kingdom and hence part of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. Wrocław flourishes as a trade and handcraft centre.
  • 1523 Silesia and Wrocław  join the reformation, the leader is Johann Hess.
  • 1526 With Ludwig II, the last member of the Bohemian-Jagellonian dynasty dies and the Habsburgians inherit Bohemia (they have married in, as usual).

1526-1741: Under Habsburgian Rule 

  • 1526: Having inherited Silesia, the Habsburgians fortify Wrocław to withstand modern weapons. Though Austria is catholic, Wrocław continues to be protestant. 
  • 1702: The Habsburgian-Austrian Emperor Leopold I founds the university of Wrocław as the Academy of the Jesuits. 
  • 1741: The last Bohemian king, Ludwig II, dies in the War against the Turks.

1741 – 1945: Under Prussian Rule and from 1871 part of newly founded Germany

  • After the wars of Silesia, Frederic II integrates Silesia in the Prussian empire with its centralistic government. The Slavic population is under pressure (even more than under the Habsburgians).
  • 1807: Napoleon conquers Silesia, tears down the Wrocław/Breslau town fortification and installs a modern town government creating the basis for its economic development towards industrialization in the 19th century; it becomes an economic and cultural centre as a well as a railway hub.
  • 1871: The state university at Wrocław/Breslau is founded. 
  • After the First World War (1914-18) Wrocław/Breslau becomes an economic and cultural centre again, satellite settlements are built around the city centre.
  • 1933: Wrocław/Breslau is part of the fascistic machinery.
  • 1945: Having been spared from the war until January 1945, the city is declared the “Fortress Breslau”. The Soviet Army sieges Breslau for almost three months. The city surrenders on May 6th 1945. It is in ruins (67% of all buildings destroyed, Dumont says on p. 245) and the death toll is high).

1945 until today: Again Polish (like about 1000 years ago)

  • 1945: Still in May, Poland takes over, based on the Potsdam agreement between US, UK and SU. The remaining Germans are expelled and Poles start to settle, above all from the part of Poland that was integrated into the Soviet Union (Poland was basicaly shifted to the west).  The city is now called Wrocław, no longer Breslau.
  • End of the 1950’s: Wrocław is an economic, scientific and cultural centre in Poland.
  • Late 1970’s: In Wrocław, the Orange Alternative (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa) organizes humorous events to make fun of the communist regime (leader: Waldemar Fydrych ) 
  • 1989: After the fall of the iron curtain, Wrocław is thriving economically and as a centre of tourism. Like other major cities in Poland such as Kraków or Warszawa.
  • 2000: Wrocław celebrates its 1000 years anniversary. The circle closes. The city was Polish then (until 1335) and now belongs to Poland again.

 

Sources:

A Swiss butterfly in Poland: Szklarska Poręba

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland.

My route begins in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny KubinPodbiel and Tvrdošín. It continues in Poland: WilkowiskoKraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally I am Berlin. 

Now I am at Szklarska Poręba to find out more about my grand-father, the artist.  

 

My motivation: Find the location of my grand-father’s painting (Hermann Radzig-Radzyk)

Currently, I am interested in the life of my grand-father Hermann Radzig-Radzyk who was an artist and painter. Many of his paintings decorate my house. While doing research about him, I have found more paintings that are traded in auctions, one of them being “Der Kirchberg in Schreiberhau mit dem Reifträger”. 

Source: https://polska-org.pl/7992365,foto.html 

This painting was exhibited at the art exhibition in Berlin in 1924 (see  
Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung <1924, Berlin> [Editor]; Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung [Editor]: Katalog: Im Landesausstellungsgebäude am Lehrter Bahnhof: [dauert vom 19. Mai bis 17. September 1923] (Berlin, 1923) (uni-heidelberg.de)

“Dr. Google” tells me that Schreiberhau is now called Szklarska Poręba, that the Reifträger is the mountain Szrenica and the church on the Kirchberg is Kościół p.w. Bożego Ciała or the Corpus Christi Church. 

I like this painting. I drive to Szklarska Poręba to find the place, where my grand-father had painted it and I come close. 

However, the landscape has changed. Much more forest here now.

I return the next morning to take a photo of the same view, but with more sun.

I assume, my grand-father stayed in a pension below the point I am standing at; I saw houses, but did not dare enter the private properties.

Close below the church, there are some buildings that did not exist, when my grand-father made his painting.

My “cousin” Dietrich (the son of my mother’s best friend) owns this painting which is a slightly different view of the Kirchberg. 

More closely to the perspective of the second painting is the following photo taken by me, when walking to Szklarska Poręba Średnia .

My “cousin” Dietrich knows of this painting of the mountain Szrenica (Reifträger) that is with a friend of his in Berlin.

 

Approaching the church Corpus Christi, the church on the Kirchberg

The Corpus Christi Church was built in Neo-Roman style in 1884-86. The dukes of Schreiberhau, the family Schaffgotsch, financed the church. 

I walk around the church.

Inside are paintings by Wlastimil Hofman, a Polish painter who settled in  Szklarska Poręba after the Second World War in 1947. 

I find a tomb slab. It commemorates Germans that have died in the First World War.

The surroundings have changed since my grand-father has made his painting. There are more trees. The shop for skiing equipment indicates sports activities in winter.

The shop for mountain biking equipment may be busy in summer. Parking is free here.

I select my own perspective to take a photo of the Church Corpus Christi; perhaps it is this pond that appears in the right hand corner of my grand-father’s painting.

One day was not enough to find out everything about the painting of my grand-father. I should return and spend several days to dig deeper. In addition, I would like to benefit from the hiking opportunities, one of them being a climb the Reifträger or Szrenica.

 

Where are we geographically?

Now we are at Szklarska Poręba (in German Schreiberhau) in Silesia (in German Schlesien), close to the border between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The mountains are called Giant Mountains, Riesengebirge or in Polish Karkonosze. The mountain above Szklarska Poręba, the Szrenica (in German Reifträger) is 1362m high.

 

Some background information about Szklarska Poręba (Schreiberhau)

This stone indicates that Szklarska Poręba existed already in 1366. At that time, it was a settlement with the German name “Schreiberhau” (also called Schribirshau).

German colonists established Schreiberhau around the newly founded glass factory. The area was part of Bohemia (since 1335) and hence part of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. The landlords here were the counts of Schaffgotsch, a family that still exists today. 

The term “hau” in “Schreiberhau”, refers to the “forest clearing” needed for the settlement and the glass factory. Why was the place not called “Glashau” to reflect the existence of the glass factory? The village chronicle (Ortschronik) of the local teacher suggests that “Schreiber” (“writer”) perhaps alludes to the man who wrote the documents required to install the factory and the settlement.

In 1617 the Preussler family took over the glass factory business and managed it until the middle of the 19th century. In 1842, Franz Pohl founded the new glass factory Josephinenhüttte; it thrived and was the largest and best-known glass factory in Silesia. 

In 1902 the railway to Schreiberhau opened. It was now easier to reach the place. It became an attractive mountain resort and a centre for artists (see below). 

In 1945, the Potsdam agreement assigned Silesia to Poland. The Poles now changed “Schreiberhau” to “Szklarska Poręba” which translates to “glass forest clearing” (the German equivalent to “Glashau”). The mountain Reifträger became the Szrenica or the “hoarfrosty” mountain (the Polish word “szron” means “hoar” or “Reif”). Most of the German inhabitants were expelled from Silesia and Poles, expelled from the east, settled instead. In 1945 Poland was literally moved to the west; it lost land to the Soviet Union in the east and gained land in the west, at the expense of Germany.

Renamed to Glashütte Julia, the Szklarska Poręba glass factory continued to operate until 2000. The family Schaffgotsch moved to Schwäbisch Gmünd. Here, the former Josephinenhütte was refounded in 1951, and it worked until 1983. 

By the way: Karkonosz in Polish translates to “Rübezahl”. He is the capricious mountain troll who lives in the Giant Mountains that the Poles now call Karkonosze. Telling stories about Rübezahl has been a tradition known since the 15/16th century. Nice, how the German past continues to live in the Polish toponyms.

 

How are artists and art related to Szklarska Poręba or Schreiberhau?

In the 18th century, the first artists discovered the beauty of the Riesengebirge. Carl Christoph Reinhardt (1738 – 1827), Christoph Friedrich Nathe (1753 – 1806) und Anton Balzer (1771 – 1807) were some of the names. Later, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840, romanticism) painted here. 

Around 1900, Szklarska Poręba became a centre for artists, among them Gerhart Hauptmann (there is a museum about him). Also around 1900, Carl Ernst Morgenstern (1847-1928), professor at the University of Breslau (1883-1913), taught pleinair painting at nearby Krummhübel (Karpacz). Some of his students later belonged to the Schreiberhau Association of Artists St. Lukas (Schreiberhauer Vereinigung bildender Künstler St. Lukas) that was founded in 1922. Their seat was the Lukasmühle at the Zackerle creek (now:  Kammiena; later, in 1930 the artists moved to the hotel “the Zackerfall”).

The Lukasmühle (Młyn Łukasza) is an inviting restaurant today. 

I had selected it for dinner without knowing about its history.

It could well be that my grand-father Hermann Radzig-Radzyk was a member of the Lukas association, but I cannot find any details about that in the Internet. 

 

Strolling around in Szklarska Poręba

For one full day, I explore Szklarska Poręba. Here are some impressions. There are nice villas…

… and apartment houses. 

The winter must be busy here. The continental climate makes for good snow,…

… but nevertheless snow canons hidden behind this house wait to be used in winter. 

This is a rather “flat” slope, however the Szrenica seems to offer a variety of attractive ski runs. 

There is also a Dinopark for chlidren, with free parking (now a bit dirty…).

Above Szklarska Poręba Średnia I find the Sudecka Chata or Sudetenhütte. 

It is closed. The friendly owners prepare coffee for me. They take a vivid interest in my research and take me up to the rooms under the roof, where I have a gorgeous view of my grand-father’s church and the Szrenica or Reifträger.

There is a crane disturbing the view: Holyday Inn builds a luxury resort. Their infinity pool is “announced” with the view from the garden of the Sudecka Chata, it seems.

This is, what is going on under the yellow crane. It seems that Holiday Inn does believes in the potential of Szklarska Poręba.

At lunch time, I stop at the restaurant Płękitny Paw and have a wonderful meal in the garden, a delicious soup and excellent stuffed omelettes.

 

Good-bye Szklarska Poręba and Giant Mountains

I would have liked to stay another day to hike around Szklarska Poręba, but my hotel is fully booked. I leave and look back to the Giant Mountains, where Rübezahl, the mountain troll, is up to mischief.

I may return one day for more research and for hiking.

Now, I say good-bye and drive to Wroclaw, the capital of Silesia. 

 

Sources:

About art and artists in Silesia and in the Giant Mountains:

A Swiss butterfly in Poland: Kraków again

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

Wow Kraków! I encountered this bus below the mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko. Yes, I agree to “wow”, Kraków is a charming city and I have good friends here.

 

To recapitulate:

This is my route in Poland, from Wilkowisko to Berlin. Now I am in Kraków, for 5 days.

 

The hotel outside of the city centre

I stay in the hotel Vistula west of Kraków in Zwierzyniec bordering the river Vistula or Wisła, in German: Weichsel. From here, it is about 3km to the city centre.

After having arrived, I have a picnic with Radosław in the garden under the tent.

The hotel offers sportive activities on the river. It seems, they also offer competitions and the winners receive a gold, silver or bronze medal. Nice.

Nearby is a camping site, safely far away from the car parking. But – a Dutchman “manages” to damage my car by driving backwards. I cannot understand that. 

Fortunately, I can complete my tour and have the car repaired, when back in Switzerland. My insurance company will deal with the Dutch insurance company. Good that the driver has given me his address and filled in all the forms required.

 

Walking to the centre of Kraków – Stare Miasto and Wawel

I walk to the city centre (Stare Miasto, Wawel and Kazimierz) twice. The first time by sunshine. I am surprised to see so many tourists.

The charming Kanonicza Ulica at the foot of the Wawel always makes me believe that I am in Florence. 

With a smile I remember that my friend from Munich and Agata once counted eleven apostles, one of them seemed to miss. But no, all twelve apostles stand in front of the Baroque Saint Peter and Paul church after having recounted them.  

To the right of Saint Peter and Paul church, I greet the beautiful Romanesque church of St Andrew.

In the solemn Franciscan Church I dream under Wyspiański’s “Creation of the World”. I have lit a candle for Ernst and he is with me in my heart.

Hello, here you are, Bronisław Chromy’s loving mama Owl with the her children in Planty. They often go unnoticed in the park just near Wawel hill. 

My second walk to the city centre occurs on a rainy day. The ducks love wet weather. Wawel hill is in the background.

The Vistula vegetable garden on the wooden boat leads to the boat dedicated to Sobieski, the Polish king who had defeated the Turks near Vienna in 1683.

Near Wawel, Bronisław Chromy’s Pies Dżok reflects in the puddle. 

In Kazimierz, I have a delicious soup at Ariel’s. Then I walk back along the Wisła or Weichsel. 

The Wawel hill looks grey in the rain and I am wet through. Very uncomfortable.

The monastery of the Norbetine Sisters reflects in the Wisła.

The mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko appears behind the trees, when I cross the bridge to get back to my hotel Vistula. 

 

The mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko

My hotel Vistula is located in Zwierzyniec at the foot of Bronisława Hill with the mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko. One sunny morning, I climb the hill. 

In 1823, the mound was completed on land granted by the Norbertine Sisters. For three years, volunteers brought earth from their villages to contribute to the 34m high tumulus for the venerated fighter for freedom. 

In the 1850’s, the Austrians built the fortress around the mound. It was destroyed in World War II, and reconstructed after it.

The view from the top of the mound is beautiful. I look towards the city centre.

And then I turn to the south.

There is a restaurant integrated in the fortification that allows to enjoy the autumn sun on the terrace.

I would almost feel like sitting down on one of the merry deck chairs, but I have to leave. I will meet Piotr’s mum in the city centre at lunch time. We spend a wonderful afternoon together.

 

Sunday walk in Las Wolski

The forest Las Wolski, located west of Kraków and belonging to the city, owes its name to Mikołaj Wolski. Around 1600, he invited the king and his court for dinner, because he wanted to build the Camaldolese Hermit Monastery. When the king donated the forest for his noble plan, Wolski gave the silver dishes from the dinner to the court. That is why, one of the hills of Lask Wolski is called “silver hill” or Srebrna Góra.  

We enter the park from the south and walk to the zoo, then to the Kopiec Piłsudskiego, another burial mound. Erected 1934-37, it is dedicated to Józef Piłsudski. He was chief of state from 1918-1922, when Poland was re-established on the world map.  

There view from the mound of Piłsudskiego,… 

… is fading a bit in the rainy weather. 

We approach Wolski’s monastery on the silver hill from behind. 

I buy a bottle of Pinot Noir in the winery Srebrna Góra that takes its name “silver mountain” from the hill.

We return to this beautiful viewpoint with birch trees. I am not sure, whether we can see the Tatra mountains in the background.

Thank you, Radosław, for this wonderful Sunday walk with the shortcut that ended up as a detour, which was precisely, what we needed to get enough exercise.

One evening, I have prepared Röschti (Swiss potato dish) for my friends. And I stayed another two days with Asha and her family. It was their son’s birthday and he started school on the same day. How exciting. 

Thank you for your hospitality. I have not seen you all for more than two years. Now I do hope to see you again sooner. 

 

Sources:

 

A Swiss butterfly in Poland – Wilkowisko and around

End of August 2021, I am on the road, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia, Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and TerchováDolny Kubin, Podbiel and Tvrdošín, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wrocław, and finally Berlin.

Just after having entered Poland from Slovakia, I come across another wooden church: This is the church of the Immaculate Conception at Spytkowice. 

 

It is one of many wooden churches in Southern Poland. It dates from the late 18th century and has been enhanced later. Inside are paintings and some 17th century artefacts, as the panel explains. I find the door closed and continue my way. 

This is my plan for travelling through Poland. My final destination is Berlin.

Today I plan to stay at Wilkowisko. 

After having travelled alone for four days, I look forward to staying with the family of Radosław. Along with his mother, his father and his brother, they give me a hearty welcome, they accommodate me with love, and they show me the area around their small village: the monastery Szczyrzyc, the wooden church at Jodłówka, the Sanctuary at Pasierbiec, Tropie with the Romanesque church and the hermit’s chapel and spring in the forest, and the winery Gródek (they grow wine in Poland, too).

 

The monastery Szczyrzyc

When trying to read “Szczyrzyc”, my tongue gets blocked. But then I think of it in Russian: Щижиць. Much easier for me. Now I can remember the name. The Polish way of combining “our” characters to form the Slavic sibilant sounds is logical, but it seems somewhat complicated to me: “szcz” is just “щ” in Cyrillic and “rz” is “ж”.

The monastery of Szczyrzyc  is a Cistercian Abbey. It was founded in 1234 and has been active since then, under the Austrians, under the Nazi, under the Soviets, always. The Abbey resisted the Nazis and, in 1945, received a medal for that.

The monastery is economically active. They run a brewery, they have a farm with animals (even some friendly alpacas) and a romantic pond for fish.

The church from the 17th century has been reconstructed in the 19th century.

Behind the abbey there is this hill with a chapel.

Here the belfry guards over the monastery. 

A wonderful setting in the hills.

 

The wooden church at Jodłówka

Our next stop is Jodłówka. There is a Parish named after Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny (Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary) with a modern, new church and with the old wooden church. We look at the small wooden church.  

In 1585, it was built by the owner of the village. After his death, it was taken over by the Dominicans. Since the 18th century, the Cistercians have taken care of it. It served as the parish church, until the new church was inaugurated.

A Cistercian opens the church for us. The paintings on the ceiling and on the wall are from the 18th century and mostly relate to the Dominican order.  

There are also older paintings from the 17th century. The original altar painting is now in the new church. 

The joyful medallion below the organ alludes to music. 

I like the representation of the Ten Commandments above the pulpit. The pulpit is from the 16th century, built in Renaissance style.

May the Holy Spirit, represented as a pigeon, guide the preacher well.

Later I learn from Wikpedia that this wooden church is on the Wooden Architecture Trail in Lesser Poland (Małopolska) which includes 253 objects on 1500km, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

The Sanctuary Matki Bożej Pocieszenia at Pasierbiec

Above Pasierbiec we stop near this beautiful modern church dedicated to Our Lady of Consolation (Matki Bożej Pocieszenia).

Behind the church, there are the Stations of the Cross. I look at the sculptures and ask, who made them, perhaps Bronisław Chromy?

Radosław ‘s mum is surprised: “You know Bronisław Chromy?” She tells me that he has designed the sculptures, but he was no longer able to accomplish his work before his death. 

Beautiful, how the mother looks at her son suffering.

This is, how Bronisław Chromy interprets the Pietá.

Inside the church, angels are flying. 

I remember Bronisław Chromy’s Christ at the church Arka Pana in Kraków (Nova Huta) that I once used as a Christmas card. Just beautiful. 

Bronisław Chromy has also made profane statues like Pies Dżok, the faithful dog; the dog waited at a road junction for his master that had died. The sculpture is near the Wawel at Kraków.

In addition, there are more of his sculptures in Kraków such as the owls in Planty, the fire spitting dragon below Wawel castle or the collection of statues integrated into Park Desjusza. 

 

Tropie with the Romanesque church, with the romantic chapels in the forest and with Zamek Tropsztyn across the lake

Above the Czchów Lake, we visit the church St. Andrew and St. Benedict (kościół parafialny p.w. Świętych Andrzeja Świerada i Benedykta) from the late 11th or early 12th century. The original Romanesque choir walls have been preserved, along with remains of Romanesque paintings inside.

Below the church, benches above the lake invite to an open air service, when it is raining less. 

Nearby, we find the Chapel “Hermitage St. Andrzej Świerad” in the rainy and swampy forest. St. Świerad was the Benedictine monk who retreated here in the 10/11th century which was the reason that the St. Andrew and St. Benedict church was built nearby. 

Also here, there are benches for an open air service. 

Above the chapel, there is a spring (źródło) with an altar showing St. Świerad. It is said that he used to pray here.

Across the lake, we see the Tropsztyn Castle (Zamek Tropsztyn).

The castle (first built from wood) dates from the early 13th century, the tower is from the 14/15th century. The castle changed owners over the centuries. Already in 1608, it was described to be a ruin. After 1993, it was restored and opened to the public. Currently, it seems to be closed (see entry on google maps).

 

Winery Gródek

To round off our day, we visit the Winnica Gródek, founded in 2014. It is beautifully located in Zbyszyce above the river Dunajec and the Rożnowskie Lake.

The vineyards comprising 7 ha face east and southwest. Some voices in the Internet attribute potential to this young winery.

Yes, there are wineries in Poland. The grapes they grow are more resistant such as Solaris or Regent. 

We sit down on the balcony, wrapped up in blankets…

… and taste some of their wines that are offered with a small snack.

I like their Solaris offered and buy a bottle. I will try it with my neighbours, when back in Switzerland, and we enjoyed it. In addition I buy half a bottle of Riesling that I will share with a friend in Berlin. This Riesling, however, has room for improvement. May be, Poland is too far north, even for a Riesling that delivers its best results in Germany and in the Alsace. 

 

Good-bye Wilkowisko

My friend’s parents live in the small village Wilkowisko – a few houses scattered along one road. The name took me a long time to remember. What helped me: “Wilk” means “wolf” in Polish.

I do thank you for these two wonderful days. This corner of Europe offers so much to discover. And, now, back at home, I enjoy the delicious miód (honey) that your neighbours have produced.

My next destination will be Kraków. I look forward to “coming home”, as I have been in Kraków so many times, in pre-Covid times hopping over from Basel by Easyjet with the cheese for Fondue in my suitcase for my friends. This time I will prepare Röschti with cheese (for the vegetarians) or with thin strips of meat in a sauce (for the non vegetarians). 

 

Sources:

A Swiss butterfly in Slovakia: Podbiel and Tvrdošín

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: BratislavaTrnavaNitra – Žilina Strečno and TerchováDolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Karków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

Today I will drive to Poland, with three stop overs in Slovakia, the first in Podbiel with its wooden houses, the second in Tvrdošín with its Gothic wooden church and a short third stop at the Orvina Lake (or Arwa Lake) near the border between Slovakia and Poland.

 

Podbiel with the traditional wooden houses, Slovakian Inheritage of local architecture

The village Podbiel, is located about half an hour north of Dolny Kubin. In the centre, an ensemble of traditional wooden houses has been preserved. The village is declared a Slovakian reservation of folk architecture.

The atmosphere is cosy along the side street,…

… with green meadows between the houses.

Tradition mixes up with modern times… cars are parked in front of the houses and construction work seems to be going on. 

In one of the houses the local electrician announces his business.

Sadly, most of the houses are bordering the busy main road, where many trucks pass by.

I return to the side street and enjoy looking at these two wooden houses, …

… where the white window frame contrasts nicely with the red colour of the rose bush.

On the main square, I greet Cyril and Methodius with their orthodox cross…

… and then, I say good-bye to Podbiel. Within another ten minutes, I am at Tvrdošín.

 

Tvrdošín and the wooden Gothic church of All Saints, a national cultural monument

The wooden Gothic church of All Saints at Tvrdošín originates presumably from the late 15th century and was reconstructed in the 17th century. 

It is a national cultural monument, registered in the UNESCO list since 2008 . 

I park my car near the gate.

This is the view of the shingle roofs, after having passed through the gate.

I walk around the church…

… with the cemetery.

Inside, the altar is of Baroque style from the 17th century. The painting shows All Saints…

The walls were painted in the late 17th century. These are the apostles – Petrus has two keys in his hands.

Saint George was also painted in the 17th century.

At the back, there is a balcony. 

The ceiling is decorated with 49 roses.

I visit the cemetery once more. A wonderful atmosphere!

Then I leave the church – the roof of the gate matches the yellowish leaves.

 

Good-bye Slovakia and hello Poland

To complete my tour across Slovakia, I make a quick loop to the Lake Orvina.

Then I leave Slovakia crossing the border to Poland. No checks at the borders.

I have enjoyed Slovakia and I may return next year. 

Now I look forward to meeting my friends that are awaiting me in Wilkowisko. I will no longer travel alone.

 

To recapitulate: The map showing my butterfly tour across Slovakia

Today I was at Tvrdošín with the Gothic wooden church, after having crossed Podbiel with the wooden houses (not on the map, just a ten minutes drive south from Tvrdošín).

Now I will have to draw a new map for my visit in Poland.

Sources:

 

A Swiss butterfly in Slovakia: Around Dolny Kubin – wooden churches and the Orvina Castle

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: BratislavaTrnavaNitraŽilina Strečno and Terchová – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Cracow – Szlarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

I stay one night at Dolny Kubin and visit two wooden articular churches and the Orvina castle known from Nosferatu.

 

Dolny Kubin – the centre of the Arwa valley – I sleep in a kitschy, very friendly and pricy hotel

Dolny Kubin is the centre of the Arwa or Orvina valley. I stay in the Koliba blockhouse pension for 33 Euros including breakfast. In the evening I have a delicious salad with hot goat cheese.

This hotel must be a kids favourite. It is convenient for families that rent whole huts (isby) here. 

The central square of Dolny Kubin has been carefully set up as a pedestrian area. It is named after Hviezdoslav, as he was born here – I have met him before in Bratislava, where a beautiful square with many shady trees also carries his name. He was a poet and a translator of foreign literature.

This is the evangelic church dominating the main square. 

There are also museums here… it is a quiet and welcoming place. 

 

Around Dolny Kubin; two protestant wooden articular churches

Let us explore the two wooden articular churches near Dolny Kubin.

Articular churches are protestant churches. In 1681, the Habsburgian emperor Leopold I needed loyal protestants to contain the danger of attacks by the Turks. Therefore he allowed the protestants to build churches. However, they had to follow restrictive rules written down as “articles”. The articles defined that the protestants had to build their churches outside the cities and villages using wood, no metal, no stone base, and completing the work within 12 months (Müller, p. 274).

By the way,  Leopold assessed the looming danger correctly… the Turks attacked Vienna two years later, in 1683. The Turks could not cope with the heavy rainfalls and were defeated by the Polish king Sobieski at the Kahlenberg mountain.

There are two articular churches near Dolny Kubin, the first at Istebné and the second at Leštiny .

 

The articular church at Istebné

The articular church of Istebné, built in 1686, is located 5km west of Dolny Kubin.

The church is above the village. There is nothing but a footpath to access it.  

This is the main entry door…

… now zoomed in.

This articular church has a belfry, which is an exception, as belfries had been forbidden by the articles defined by Leopold I.

There is a platform above the church. I look back.

From the platform, I have a good view of the village Istebné and the Mala Fatra mountains.

 

The articular church at Leštiny

South east of Dolny Kubin, there is another articular church at Leštiny. In 2008, it has been included in the list of UNESCO heritages.

It takes me some time to find the church above the village. It is located on a hill behind trees. A small footpath leads to the gate. I enter the church area surrounded by a wooden wall. 

A gallery gives access to the church crouching on the hill.

The cemetery surrounds the church.

A small balcony leads to the door. It is is open.

I enter, and there is a service going on. I sit down quietly, watch the service and look at the paintings (of course I take no photos). One lady tells me angrily that this is a service. I continue to be quiet and to listen. The lady gets more and more angry. She says “yzas” which I understand from Russian: It must mean “terrible”. I do not know, what is so terrible about me and continue to listen. She says “yzas” again, gets up angrily and approaches the priest that continues with his service. She tries several times to talk to him, I believe to chase me out of this church. I feel very unwelcome, do not understand, why I cannot attend this service (presumably it is a protestant service, and I am protestant). I leave this beautiful and solemn place sadly. Something like that has never occurred to me in any church. I do not understand why attending a service should not permitted. 

 

The Orvina Castle – the background stage of Nosferatu

It is raining, when I get to the Orvina Castle. This is the view from the Orvina river. The top of the castle is more than 100m above the river. It is an impressive castle. 

This is the entry. 

Looking upwards, I see countless storeys that crouch along the rock.

I enter the vaults. The Orvina (or Arwa) castle set the stage for the film Nosferatu in 1922.

Coaches are here, and also Nosferatu welcomes the tourists. 

Through another gate, I enter the first courtyard. I can see that Slovakians must love children.

Now, I look back at this first courtyard.

Now I am one level higher and look back at the first and at the second courtyard.

I climb various stairs and reach this balcony, wet from all the rain. I am in the middle part of the castle, where the Hungarian king Corvinus once lived. 

Still much to climb ahead of me.

Stairs – how did they construct this? 

This top building is the oldest part. The stairs lead along the rocks.

From the top, I have a wonderful view of the valley and the small village at the foot of the castle. It is called Oravsky Podzámok or “The Orava at the foot of the castle”. 

I did not really stay in the rooms, where king Corvinus lived (middle part) or where the noblemen Thurzo lived (lower part). There were just too many visitors and visitor groups inside which I prefer to avoid in these pandemic times. I ran up the stairs, from one level to the next, arriving at the top almost exhausted. An impressive fortification! I imagine, it was a wonderful stage for the horror film Nosferatu, but it must also have been frightening to create horror scenes – it is all too steep and exposed. I am not sure, whether I would have liked to be an actor in this film… 

I might have to return one day, when the pandemic will be over, to check out all the rooms and the church with the tombs in detail.

Sources:

  • André Micklitza, ” Slowakei”, Michael Müller Verlag 2019
  • Frieder Monzer, “Slowakei”, Trescher Verlag 2018

A Swiss butterfly in Slovakia: Strečno and Terchová

End of August 2021, I am on the road, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: BratislavaTrnava NitraŽilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Cracow – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

It is raining, when I leave “my” Central Hotel at Žilina after a quiet night. I am heading north-east to the Mala Fatra mountains. After a few kilometers, I notice a signboard pointing to Strečno. I turn right and follow the signs.

 

The mysterious Strečno castle in the mist

After some more kilometers another signpost points upwards and says: “panoramic view of the Strečno castle“. A narrow road takes me up into the hills. I reach a large parking area, leave my car here, walk to the panoramic view point and here it is, the Strečno castle surrounded by mist. 

The fortification is located 12km east of Žilina and was first mentioned in 1316. To beat the resistance of the locals, the Habsburgian emperor Leopold I destroyed Strečno in 1698. It was reconstructed after 1990 and opened as a museum in 1995.  

The Strečno castle sits on a steep cliff above the river Vah…

… and the village.

The viewpoint has been carefully set up…

… with a small restaurant, where I have a coffee break.

Kids must love this place with all the kitschy stuff and the playgrounds.

There is even a (plastic) cow on a rusty van. Well, I imagine crowds of families with kids spending a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon here.

After this wonderful break, I continue my way to Terchová.

 

Pozor – zebra na ceste

Pozor means “watch out” and “na ceste” means “on the road”. 

Well, there is not exactly a “zebra” here. Just a pedestrian crossing. I do like this Slovakian humour.  

Nearby is this small hotel. I admire the adventurous cabling. 

 

Terchová – a mountain resort that venerates Jánošik born here

Juraj Jánošik was the Robin Hood of Slovakia (he is also venerated in Poland). The museum tells his story. 

Born in 1688, he participated in insurrections. When his father was killed by Habsburgian tax collectors for not having paid his taxes in time, Jánošik started to rob noblemen and merchants distributing the goods to the poor. He is said never to have applied violence. He was arrested and executed in 1711, though a good lawyer defended him claiming that he had never committed a murder and was driven by the wish to help the poor in the mountains (Müller, p. 220).

Terchová is a mountain resort that invites to hike in the area, even in the rain.

A wooden lookout is located above the village.

I return to my car and continue my way to Dolny Kubin.

 

Crossing the Mala Fatra

To cross the mountain range of the Mala Fatra, my car has to climb up to a pass. I look back, where Terchová is located between green meadows and soft hills.

Then I look westwards in the direction of Dolny Kubin. 

I understand that touching… 

… this wonderful stone will bring me luck. I do wish to continue my tour safely and to enjoy wonderful days with my friends in Poland.

The nearby farm invites children to meet their animals. Nice.

The Mala Fatra seems to be a welcoming region inviting to relax and hike following the tracks of Jánošik, the local Robin Hood.

 

To recapitulate: This is my route through Slovakia

Today, I drive from Žilina to Dolny Kubin with two stop overs to see the castle Strečno and Jánošik’s village Terchová.

 

Sources:

  • André Micklitza, ” Slowakei”, Michael Müller Verlag 2019
  • Frieder Monzer, “Slowakei”, Trescher Verlag 2018

A Swiss butterfly in Slovakia: Trenčianske Teplice and Žilina

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, next in Slovakia: BratislavaTrnavaNitra – Žilina – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Cracow – Szlarska Poreba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

Now I have a lunch stop at Trenčianske Teplice and then I stay overnight in Žilina. 

 

Lunch stop at Trenčianske Teplice

My friends have told me about Trenčianske Teplice, a health resort in the Strážovské Vrchy mountains. I cross the mountains and reach the shady valley of the Teplička that later flows into the Váh river. The village Trenčianske Teplice is a health resort with larger and smaller hotels and spas, surrounded by hills that promise nice hiking. 

I park my car near the church.

I stroll through the wide pedestrian area. I am hungry, it is lunch time.

At Zuzi’s, I eat Bryndzové Halušky, the national dish of Slovakia. It is potato dumplings (a bit like gnocchi) with sheep cheese and bacon. It tastes interesting and after the meal, I am no longer hungry. However, I would not eat Bryndzové Halušky too often… my apologies, Stefan. 

Trenčianske Teplice is surely a  nice place to stay – I would love to hike in the surrounding hills (well, I am not the spa type of person). 

I enter my parking ticket – and the parking meter asks me to pay 50 Euros for about two hours. I cancel, ask in the restaurant nearby, the young waitor accompanies me and shows me the right button to press. Now I have to pay 50 cents. Much better. Thank you!

I leave Trenčianske Teplice and follow the Váh valley on the highway that connects Bratislava with Žilina. Near Žilina, the valley gets narrower. To reach the exit “Juh” (south), I have to drive through endless tunnels and have to cross one bridge after the next, until I reach the city.

 

One night at Žilina with some time to stroll through the city centre

I have booked a room in the hotel Central Park on Sad SNP. I oscillate quite a bit, until I find the entry to the dead end street and to the hotel. Now I understand – “SNP Sad” means “SNP garden”. My hotel Central Park borders the “railway garden” or “railway park”  and is located on a dead end street. All very promising for a quiet night. 

I walk through the park and reach the Andrej Hlinku square, where some political propaganda about Europe is going on.

Above the square is the Trinity Cathedral, located on the hill. It is under restoration. It is dark inside, I cannot see anything. 

The statues of Methodius and Cyril with their orthodox cross greet me on the way up to the Cathedral. The Byzantine cross has decorated the coat of arms of Žilina since 1378, as I read on Wikipedia.

The gem of the pedestrian city centre is the Maria square. 

The statue of Maria dominates it.

Restaurants invite to sit down and have a drink or dinner. People enjoy walking around and sitting on the benches. I feel like in a Mediterranean country, though it is pretty chilly now. 

The pretty old town hall is still in use. The coat of arms decorates the roof. 

The church of St. Paul the Apostle is being renovated as well. 

Small streets lead away from the Maria square and invite me to stroll around.

Some interesting Art Nouveau houses on the way. 

Nearby I find the New Synagogue, which is now a cultural centre. It was built in 1928-31.

Why all is so much renovation work going on in Žilina? Later I find the answer: Žilina has been nominated for European Capital of Culture in 2026. This may be the reason. In 2026, the Holy Trinity Cathedral and Saint Paul church have to demonstrate that the city is worth the honour. Perhaps I should return in 2026 to explore these churches and to visit more sights at Žilina; I now read about the Romanesque Church of Saint Stephen the King from the early 13th century that is decorated with frescoes.  

I have dinner on the Maria square and return to my Central Park Hotel. It is quiet and I sleep well. An excellent choice!

 

A look at the map

From Nitra to Žilina I drove about 180km, along the Nitra river,across the Strážovské Vrchy mountains (which is a pleonasm, as “vrchy” means peaks or mountains) and then along the Váh river.

SourceElevation map of Slovakia

Sources:

  • André Micklitza, ” Slowakei”, Michael Müller Verlag 2019
  • Frieder Monzer, “Slowakei”, Trescher Verlag 2018

A Swiss butterfly in Slovakia: Nitra

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: BratislavaTrnava – Nitra – Žilina – Terchová – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Cracow – Szlarska Poreba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

Nitra is my next destination. It was here that during the Great Moravian Empire, Cyril and Methodius translated the bible to the Slavic language in the late 9th century. Their successors were expelled later and introduced the Slavic bible in Macedonia and Bulgaria. Cyril and Methodius are venerated in Slovakia, though the country is a Roman catholic country today. The orthodox cross is on the coat of arms of Slovakia.

I had selected the hotel 11 because of the terrace with the view of the castle hill. Coming from Trnava, I settle and first have a coffee on the hotel terrace, enjoying the great view of the castle hill with the cathedral, the religious centre of Nitra.

 

Overview of my tour as a Swiss butterfly through Slovakia

Source: Elevation map of Slovakia

 

The historic castle hill of Nitra with St. Emmeram Cathedral

I climb up the castle hill using the Samova street and crossing the Pribina square with the Pribina statue and the beautiful baroque palaces.

Pribina is the first known ruler at Nitra that is of Slavic origin (around 860). 

Passing the monument reminding of Cyryl and Methodius, I reach the Maria column that parallels the belfry of the cathedral.

Graceful angels are surrounding Maria.

The cathedral is behind the fortification wall. 

Inside the cathedral, I climb up the stairs – and I notice this new kind of holy water. 

Yes, we go through a pandemic right now and disinfectants are important.

The cathedral consists out of three churches. At the highest point is the Baroque church.

I like the trompe-oeuil painting with the people at the window. 

In the lower church, this beautiful Gothic fresco of the death and coronation of the Virgin Mary has been uncovered during the restoration works of 2005-2014. 

On the opposite side of the fresco, I admire the representation of the deposition from the cross and the burial of Christ (Johannes Pernegger, 1622).

The third church hides behind the Gothic church. It is of Romanesque style, from the 12th century.

I look back at the cathedral from outside.

Behind the fortification walls, I find a bar with this beautiful view of the city and the mountain Zobor.

 

Strolling around in the pedestrian area in the lower city centre

Nitra has set up its pedestrian area with care. You can shop here and restaurants invite to sit down.

This Renaissance Revival building from around 1880 was the town hall and is now the regional museum. 

Nitra is proud of its singing clock. My Müller guidebook says that the melody plays at midday, but I heard it several times in the late afternoon, while having dinner.

Near the pedestrian area, I visit the Synagogue built around 1910 combining Moorish, Byzantine and Jugendstil elements. 

I enter and admire the solemn atmosphere with the cushions on the floor that invite to pray. 

On the way to my hotel, I come across the Baroque Ladislaus church that is part of the Piarist monastery. The Piarists founded their catholic order in the early 17th century to teach children and youth. 

 

The warm summer evening on the terrace with the footballer’s wine and the view of the castle hill

I return to my hotel 11 to enjoy the warm summer evening on their terrace. At the reception bar, I select a wine from Hamšík winery. Hamšík is THE football player of Slovakia. While playing football in Italy, he learnt about wine and wineries and now, he sells his wine that is famous in Slovakia. What a great plan for his future, when he will no longer be a football star.

With my glass of wine I sit on the balcony of the hotel 11 and enjoy the view of the castle at twilight…

… and then at night. 

I stay here until midnight. I know, this is the last warm summer evening… rain is announced for the night. The ugly summer 2021 that I have experienced in Basel will catch up with me again now.

 

Drazovce – the pretty church Saint Michael north of Nitra on a hill

After a good breakfast at my hotel 11, I buy some Slovakian wine in the shop nearby. Then I leave the city in search of the small Romanesque church Saint Michael from the early 12th century at Drazovce. It turns out to be difficult to find the village and the church.

First, my GPS takes me south to another place called also Drazovce. I notice that after a few kilometers and return to Nitra. My GPS now guides me north on the express way to Drazovce-Nitra. However, the exit to Drazovce is closed due to construction work. It takes me quite some time to find the detour to the village. I park my car in the village, follow a small foot path and find this chapel full of atmosphere. It was worth the effort!

From here, I have a magnificent view south, to Nitra with the Castle hill and the Cathedral.

Before I drive north towards Teplice, I stop to take another photo of this marvellous church above the rock. 

Thank you, my Müller guidebook, for having pointed me to the chapel Saint Michael.

Perhaps I will return to Nitra one day to visit the castle hill with the cathedral once more, to climb the mountain Zobor and to taste wines at the vineyards around Nitra. 

 

Sources:

  • André Micklitza, ” Slowakei”, Michael Müller Verlag 2019
  • Frieder Monzer, “Slowakei”, Trescher Verlag 2018

A Swiss butterfly in Slovakia: Trnava

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Zilina – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Cracow – Szlarska Poreba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

This blog is about Trnava.

I leave Bratislava on Sunday morning. On the motorway, it takes me about 45 minutes to Trnava.

I am interested in this small city of about 70’000 inhabitants, because for centuries it was the Christian centre of the Hungarian kingdom, from 1541 to 1820; actually the Turks had occupied most of Hungary and what was left of Hungary at that time was about the area of Slovakia.

Furthermore Trnava has a nice pedestrian area and the city wall has been well preserved. 

I park my car near St. James church (belonging to the Franciscan monastery). It is Sunday and parking is free.

The loudspeaker transmits the service to the street; some guests listen to it outside the church. 

The Trinity Square is the focal point of Trnava city centre. It is dominated by the Renaissance town hall belfry from 1574. 

The Trinity church that gives it name to the square, is in the street nearby. It is a baroque church from 1729.

In addition, the elegant theatre built in 1831 borders the Trinity Square. It is the oldest theatre in Slovakia.

Numerous restaurants invite to sit down and enjoy the warm Sunday morning. The concrete block belongs to a shopping mall, not really my taste.

Pretty two storey houses and some palaces line the pedestrian streets. Here I am looking back at the Trinity Square and St. James church.

Turning 180 degrees, I can see Saint Nicolas church, the main church of Trnava, between the carefully restored palaces. 

Also here, the service is transmitted outside.

Once the service has finished, I enter Saint Nicolas church with its gothic appearance.

Saint Nicolas church was built in 1440 and served as the cathedral of the Hungarian archbishopric of Esztergom.

Behind Saint Nicolas church, the city wall has been restored with care and the park invites to sit down in the sun.

Amidst the beautifully restored houses, some are sorely decaying.

Not far from here I find Baroque Saint John’s Basilika, the church of the university of Trnava, built in the 17th century. 

There is a Jewish centre with the Synagogue and a coffee place.

Trnava is a welcoming small city that I enjoyed to discover.

To round off my walk in Trnava, I have lunch in the restaurant right across Saint Nicolas church – salad with chicken – and then continue my way to Nitra. 

Sources:

  • André Micklitza, ” Slowakei”, Michael Müller Verlag 2019
  • Frieder Monzer, “Slowakei”, Trescher Verlag 2018