Slovak Places

Chata pod Borišovom: an unknown mountain chalet

Sunrise from the top of Borišov

Ten steps in, my legs were burning and my lungs were going double time. It was rather steep, and we were only just beginning our hike. I’ve been exercising more regularly, but there is nothing like a steep hill to bring the ego back to reality.

My husband and I had a weekend away and he had planned where to go – Chata pod Borišovom. Chata means cottage, cabin, or even chalet; basically a house that isn’t lived in full time but visited. He had read that Chata pod Borišovom was where Pavol Barabáš, a documentary film director, takes international visitors. If it is a favourite of his, we had better check it out.  Click to continue reading

Heľpa Folk Festival: beautiful beautiful textiles

Putting gulky into the water

This weekend I was so fortunate as to visit two folk festivals. As I took about a million photos at each one, I’ll divide them into two posts.

Heľpa has held a festival for the past 52 years, Horehronské dni spevu a tanca, the region Horehronie days of singing and dancing. It was a wealth of folk costumes and, this year, textile arts.

I was looking forward to the trip, to take as many pictures as I wanted without running after kids or hurrying up for bored companions. On Saturday, I woke up before the crack of dawn to get an early train, and met a friend on the way to HeľpaClick to continue reading

The “Lazy” of Central Slovakia

trees in autumn glory

Last fall our family went for a weekend to a chata, a cottage, in the middle of Slovakia. It was amazingly gorgeous: rolling hills with swaths of meadows, brilliant fall colours and bell ringing herds.

Farm in Central Slovakia

In most of Slovakia, houses are clustered together surrounded by fields. When she was a child, my mother-in-law had to walk 3 km to the family’s field. In some parts of central Slovakia however, family farms are spread out, sometimes solitary, sometimes in a group of two or three houses. These solitary farms in the hills are called lazy (la-zee), although other dialects have their own names.  Click to continue reading

Chata M.R.Štefánika: a chalet in the Low Tatra mountains

Chata M.R.Štefánika, a chalet in the Low Tatra (Nizke Tatry) mountains of Slovakia - Almost Bananas

Nestled in the side of the hill under Ďumbier, the highest mountain in the Low Tatra (Nizke Tatry) mountains, Chata Štefánika is full of charm, comfort, and convenience.

Last week we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary by going for the first overnighter since having kids (9 years). I’ve been wanting to hike in the Nizke Tatry for some time, so even though the weather forecast wasn’t promising, we went anyway.

The Low Tatras are the closest mountain range to the west high enough for a tree line, which was handy given that we only managed to drop the kids off by noon. We drove through to Bystrá, a hamlet where the road was very narrow and had no shoulder and often no sidewalk. From Bystrá we turned off the main road and drove up hill towards ski resorts. We parked at Trangoška and started to hike up the green trail (map at bottom of post).  Click to continue reading

Lendak, Slovakia: a mix of old and new


Lendak, Slovakia, a town that still carries on traditions in everyday life. - Almost Bananas

I’m so excited to share my favourite village in Slovakia with you. There are many other similar villages, I am sure, but this is the one that I know.

At the eastern end of the Vysoke Tatry (the High Tatra mountains) is a village, nestled between meadow covered hills, called Lendak. This is a place where many aspects of a traditional farming life are still lived, while also embracing modernity.

Farming in Slovakia is set up differently than I know. I am used to farms being spread out, surrounded by large tracts of land. The nearest neighbour is a good jaunt away and town is even farther.

In Slovakia, on the other hand, villagers live close together and the farming land surrounds the town. Each family has a part of the surrounding fields, but the land on which they live is narrow and can be quite small.

Lendak is the same. Many older pieces of land have, in the front, the original log house, usually consisting of two rooms, the kitchen and the living/bedroom. One woman told me she grew up in such a house and that she and her siblings were only ever inside on Sunday – the rest of the time was spent outside. Right behind, even attached, to the log house is a newer house, where one of the children lives with his/her family. And right behind that, some outbuilding, often a few animals and maybe a tractor.  Click to continue reading

Kremnica, Slovakia: a town of gold

Kremnica, Slovakia - Almost Bananas

On our recent trip to the Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra mountains), we stopped in Kremnica, where one of the oldest permanently producing mint factories in the world is located.

Gold was discovered as early as the 8th century in the area and reached the peak of activity during the 14th to end of the 18th century. Due to mining and minting, Kremnica was a town of wealth and importance.

Settled in the hills, merely driving through Kremnica only shows the abundance of socialist-era built apartment buildings.  Upon entering the centre, one can immediately see the medieval fortifacations.

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June 2015 Photos

I’m starting a new series with photos from the month that didn’t warrant a whole post but that I wanted to share anyway. I’ve shared some on Instagram but my new phone requires more work to put up a big camera photo, and therefore I get them up less.

This month I actually have photos since the end of April, so there are some spring ones in there as well.

Gaming, Austria
Sunrise on the former monastery in Gaming, Austria.

Mystery Flower
Despite looking like lilacs, these lilac coloured flowers were growing singly in my sister in law’s lawn. I have no idea what they are, but I saved them from the lawnmower.

Spring Leaves

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Hiking in Slovakia: Cierna Skala


Cierna Skala Hike, Slovakia

Before Easter I joined with a friend and the wordsmith Julie for a first hike of the season, from Smolenice to Cierna Skala (chi-air-na), a 20km hike through oak and beech forest just starting to show signs of spring.

I was, to be honest, pretty excited at the prospect of a hike at a pace faster than toddler speed. Slow is wonderful for choosing exactly the right rock and examining each little ladybug, but not conducive to walking long distances.  Click to continue reading

Jarmok, Trnava, Slovakia

Jarmok, Trnava

Jarmok, pronounced yarmok, is a festival of the grape harvest season in Slovakia (at least, I think it is). While a few weeks ago we saw a dozinky, a celebration of the grain harvest, jarmok is a fair put on by the town. In Trnava, there are a number of sections: handmade crafts, everything for sale from clothes to kitchen gadgets, fair rides, food, medieval demonstrations, music.

meant to walk to the various parts of jarmok and take pictures for you all, but after wandering for 2.5 hrs at the handmade arts section, I had to run back home. I just enjoy marveling over objects of beauty, even though I don’t usually have money to buy them.

So, following are some of the pictures from the handmade section. I tried to choose photos of crafts unique to or common in Slovakia, with explanations. There was some lovely pottery, and you can see what I bought on my Instagram account.

Jarmok, Trnava
Trdelnik is a Slovak treat that waft sweet vapours through the fair; the smell alone is enough to ensure long line ups. Long strips of sweet dough are wrapped around a wooden cylinder and rotates as it bakes. It is then rolled in your choice of sugar and cinnamon, walnuts, and other toppings. Pulling on it causes the trdenik to unfurl and pieces are ripped off to eat.

Jarmok, Trnava
Just to make sure you always have a shot glass available, you can hang it around your neck.

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Janosikove Diery and Cicmany, Slovakia

Janosikove Diery

For the last installment of our trip, where we first went to the open air museum in Martin and then hiking in Rohace, we go now to Terchova and Cicmany.

Terchova is a small town in northern Slovakia known for being the hometown of the Robin Hood like legend, Juraj Janosik (pronounced Yuraye Yanoshik). Juraj, the Slavic equivalent of George, lived from 1688 to 1713. When he was 15 he fought with the Kuruc rebels against the Hapsburg reign but, after a battle lost by the Kuruc, he was recruited to join the Hapsburg ranks. As a prison guard, he helped a fellow Slovak escape and became the leader of a highwayman band.

Janosikove Diery

The men robbed rich merchants although apparently they were chivalrous robbers, not murders. Legend has it that they gave to the poor, like Robin Hood. A few years later he was captured and hung from the side on a hook to die.

Janosik became of symbol of fighting for the oppressed, a Slovak champion of freedom. He is celebrated in Slovak folklore, literature, and movies.

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