Košice Peace Marathon
Earlier this October I was able to travel with my husband to the Košice Peace Marathon, the oldest marathon in Europe. Inspired by the marathon at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, a Košice native returned home to organize a marathon run by 8 men. Today, over 10,000 people take part in the event with runs of various lengths, as well as inline skating and wheelchair/handbike disciplines.
We arrived on late Saturday afternoon, the city center abuzz. Tents set up displayed and/or sold various wares, the streets were lined with barrier fences, and the streets were busy with athletes, their supporters, and spectators. Small packs of Roma children ran through the crowd. By evening, more people were walking the main roads and the youth of Košice weren’t about to miss out, making me feel like an old stogy parent (some of them just looked so young to be roaming the night streets).
After getting settled in and a quick run for my husband, we headed to the unmissable attraction in the centre: Dóm svätej Alžbety. The St. Elizabeth Cathedral is the largest place of worship in Slovakia and the eastrenmost Gothic cathedral in Europe. The setting sun set the upper reaches aglow, an immovable solidity towering over the rushing ants below. Inside, the bare walls and column rise in typical Gothic fashion, which I much prefer over the ostentatious Baroque. After Mass, I only managed to snap a few photos with my phone, but of note is the youngest alter made of bullets and helmets to commemorate victims of WWI.
I got up early in the morning to prowl around the city in the morning light. Just down the street from our pension I was surprised to hear loud voices and a fist thumping a table. “Open to around 6 am” proclaimed a chalkboard sign outside a small bar. It was 6:15. On the same square, another bar was still open, orange lights glowing in the still dark morning. The occupants of this bar, “Hospitality at Lenka’s”, were more refined, one shaking the hands of others as he left.
In the centre, preparations for the marathon were already underway. First aid tents popped up, cameramen prepped their equipment, somebody ziptied together barrier fences. The fences weren’t here a few years ago, my husband told me, until the bomb at the Boston marathon. Despite the marathon activity, early churchgoers still poured out of the cathedral after Mass.
All too soon it was time to head back to eat. As I made my way back, the first sellers were setting up in the market square (the same as the bars). One lady laid out fresh mushrooms, a man tied together rose hips for decorations. The church spires, of which Košice has many, were glowing as I ran back. The ‘panalaky’, communist-era apartment buildings, were glowing too.
Before the race we had to put my husbands’ gear in the city swimming centre, set up for runners to put their stuff in lockers and have showers. The streets were swarming with people – runners jogging to warm up, spectators heading to find a good watching spot. One runner spotted my camera and asked me to take a picture to send by email.
Laughter is, of course, the best way to get ready for anything.
The race started, first the disciplines with wheels, then the runners, with lively Vivaldi blaring from the speakers (which had ended by the time I got this video).
After the first wave of people, I had a map and was going to go to another spot to see if I could see my husband pass by. But I got totally confused at which way the marathon was running and which side I should go to. So I took a little wander.
In front of the museum was a stage for performers. It was an poorly planned spot, as there was no room in front of the stage for anybody to watch. Of what I saw, first a folk group performed, spurs jingling, and then a drum group.
A young lady pairs her old fashioned dress and violin with a Metallica jacket.
My husband was running the half-marathon, so I headed down the main thoroughfare hoping to see him as he passed and then meet him at the end.
My husband says the best part of the marathon is that the last kilometer or so is lined with people watching, clapping, and encouraging runners to pull through the last bit. Somehow, even though I stayed put, I missed him yet again, and so I belatedly made my way to the end of the race to find him.
Evidence of a marathon – lots of bananas, plastic coverings, and some water and beer.
Not all of the race takes place in among beautiful historic buildings. We headed back to the swimming centre, in front of which marathoners were still running. I’m sure the designer of the communist-era building wouldn’t consider it ironic that their work is plastered in advertisements.
And with that ended our time in Košice. I didn’t have time to explore much of the city, but I’m looking forward to going back to learn more about a place that was at the crossroads of so many cultures.
Oct 26, 2017 @ 21:21:08
Thanks for sharing your first Marathon experience at Košice and for lovely morning glow capture. Lovely pictures! Congrats to your husband and all that finished!
Oct 26, 2017 @ 23:14:46
Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!
Oct 26, 2017 @ 23:46:36
I’ve been enjoying your posts for a couple of years now but never told you before how much. These pictures were fantastic – they give a “man in the street” view of a gorgeous place so that I almost feel I was there. Since I wasn’t they’ve inspired me to look into planning a trip to your beautiful country. Thank you so much for sharing with us!
Loving Slovakia from Texas
Oct 27, 2017 @ 11:57:57
Thank you so much! I’ve got a goofy smile. Let me know if you make it over!
Oct 27, 2017 @ 03:30:58
Thank you, Naomi, for sharing your Slovakia–delightful photographs of beautiful churches, early morning scenes of Kosice, and people enjoying themselves at the Peace Marathon. Since our occasional travels are limited to the USA (although we did enjoy a 10-day trip to Rome, compliments of our children for our 40th wedding anniversary!) to visit our 6 children who live out-of-state (we also have the joy of seeing our 5 local children, and their children, more frequently), it’s a treat to learn about Slovakia from your site. Blessings~
Oct 27, 2017 @ 12:09:10
Traveling to see family is the best kind! How much joy you must have from your children and grandchildren. I’m happy to provide a peek into another culture for you.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 04:24:22
Enjoyed your photos and info on marathon. Thank you
Oct 27, 2017 @ 12:05:11
Glad you enjoyed it!
Oct 27, 2017 @ 04:55:48
I visited Kosice 2 years ago. The weather was cold an rainy, but what an amazing and interesting city with all that history! We did stop at a cafe with delicious pastries along with good coffee. Thanks for the lovely photos Naomi which brought back wonderful memories of our travels to Slovakia:)
Oct 27, 2017 @ 12:04:50
I feel like it was such a quick trip that I didn’t get to know much about Kosice, but it does have so much history. Glad to bring back memories!
James A Yenchus
Oct 27, 2017 @ 05:16:54
Once again your beautiful pictures and the description of your first trip to the city of Košice had me smiling. It brings back memories from long ago when my mother and I visited the country she was born in. Thank you and keep up the good work, I’m sure you are making very many people happy.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 12:02:59
Thank you, glad you enjoyed it! Slovakia has changed so much in the last decade or so.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 09:10:55
Nice post! I live close to Presov myself but work in Kosice every day.
Don’t tell my wife but I much rather prefer Kosice 🙂
Next time you should visit in the Summer. The atmosphere is completely different.
Especially in the old town center you have people having coffee and ice-cream in the street cafes and bars late into the night while people walk, cycle and inline-skate all around. This is when you get the feel of the people of Kosice.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 12:00:59
Thank you! I was in Presov about 10 years ago and enjoyed it. I keep meaning to make a longer trip out on that side of Slovakia. I’ll make sure to visit in the summer, sounds lovely!
Jo Anne T
Oct 27, 2017 @ 15:31:17
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing yet another side of Slovakia, Naomi! I was in Kosice several years ago, but only for a couple of hours. I truly want to go back and spend more time there.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 16:13:50
Glad you enjoyed it! I want to go back and spend more time there too.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 16:22:44
Thank you Naomi for posting your pictures ok Košice. My husband and I just visited Slovakia August 15 to September 5. I live in Toronto Canada but Košice is my home town from my childhood. Seeing your pictures just made me miss it again. I don’t think I will ever curb the desire to be “home”. I enjoy reading your posts and love your cook books which I use every chance I get. Garlic soup today! :-). God bless you, Naomi.
Oct 27, 2017 @ 21:44:21
I know that feeling so well. I’m glad if I can bring a little of ‘home’ to you. So glad you like the cookbooks! Which garlic soup? The cream of garlic is one of my favs. Perfect for fall!
Nov 03, 2017 @ 22:45:35
I like the garlic soup with or without the potatoes. I guess it depends on my mood
Nov 09, 2017 @ 15:13:40
Food choice is very dependent on mood!
Oct 27, 2017 @ 22:47:35
Congrats to your hubbie on the marathon… I still didn’t get the chance to visit Kosice so especially enjoyed your pictures. Looking forward to some cooking recipes
Oct 28, 2017 @ 14:22:56
Thanks! I’ll get some cooking recipes up soon 🙂
Oct 29, 2017 @ 12:36:58
Beautiful photos! I found your blog a few weeks ago while looking for Slovak recipes and I really enjoy reading it:) I have been with my Slovak boyfriend for almost ten years and convinced him to move to Denmark, my home country, seven years ago, but we go to Kosice, where he is from, once a year. This summer we went with our one year old for the first time – very different experiencing the city with children, but still very lovely:)
Oct 30, 2017 @ 16:12:19
Travelling anywhere is rather different with children 🙂 I’m glad you enjoy the blog and photos!
Oct 30, 2017 @ 05:40:03
What a great looking city! And as majestic as that cathedral is, I think I like that smaller chapel next to it more. Thanks for sharing!
Oct 30, 2017 @ 16:14:12
It is beautiful! The smaller chapel is intriguing, I don’t know if it has a particular purpose. Perhaps I’ll find out on my next visit.
Nov 07, 2017 @ 08:53:42
Loved the photos of the city, and “slices-of-life”! I’ve been playing catch-up on the last four of your posts, and so delighted to see that they’ve been near to areas that several of my great-grandparents grew up in. I do hope you get back to Kosice soon…would love to her more about the history of that city. (Did your husband win? I couldn’t read his medal.)
Nov 09, 2017 @ 14:59:09
Thank you, glad you enjoyed! He didn’t win, it was a participation medal.
Nov 18, 2017 @ 22:46:20
Wow, for a short visit you took a lot of impressive photos. I’m still hoping to come visit Slovakia some day, perhaps in conjunction with Hungary and a return trip to Poland. Just couldn’t fit it into our trip this year. I’m visiting vicariously through your blog.
Congrats to your husband on completing the half-marathon!
Nov 20, 2017 @ 17:52:23
haha, I do take a lot of pictures. I got up early just for the purpose of taking pictures 🙂
So many things to see, so little time to see it all in. Hope it works out on your next trip!
Dec 24, 2017 @ 21:23:17
I read this account when you posted it and found it so interesting. I loved all the photos. I was in the midst of writing my reply when I got interrupted. So now I’m getting back to say,” Really interesting article”
Dec 28, 2017 @ 22:19:08
Thank you, glad you enjoyed!