Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Choč Mountains

The Choč Mountains are a mountain range located in north-central Slovakia, west from the Tatra Mountains. The highest peak is Veľký Choč (1 611 metres above sea level). Small mountains but very diversified – you will find here forests, meadows, rocky summits, karst valleys, waterfalls and mineral springs. 

Prosiecka Valley
For those who would like to hike inside the ravines, climb ladders or walk through wooden footbridges we recommend Prosiecka Valley. It is a very picturesque trail, not very difficult and quite popular among tourists. The place impressed me much :)

The way back leads through Kvacanska Valley. It's main attraction is an old sawmill located in the bottom of the valley. Visitors can see how the machinery works. It is interesting both for children and adults.

Veľký Choč
Those who want to get more tired may ascend the highest peak - Veľký Choč. It's rocky summit is a great view point for surrounding mountain ranges - Tatra Mountains, Low Tatras, Fatra Mountains and others. Another option is climbing Prosečné - it is a shorter trip, almost all the time you walk in forest. 

Finally, after a very tiring trip ;) hikers can quench their thirst drinking healthy water from mineral springs in Lúčky or take a rest in a hot spring water park in Bešeňová. There is also a little lake with hot water in Kalameny - it is an non-commercial place.

Tiny beautiful mountains. Good things come in small packages ;)
Waterfall in Lúčky
Prosiecka Valley
Pulsatilla slavica
Old sawmill in Kvacanska Valley
Old sawmill in Kvacanska Valley

Monday, March 31, 2014

Museum of photography and cinematography in Slovakia

We had a great chance to visit the Jozef Maximilian Petzval Museum in Spisska Bela. Andrzej is a photographer so we were laughing that it was a must-see for him ;) I also enjoyed it realy much.

Petzval inventions
Jozef Petzval was a mathematician, physicist and inventor who became famous for his work in optics. His achievements are used today in cinematography and astronomy. Among his inventions are the portrait lens and wide-angle lens. He also invented the opera glasses. You can see everything in the museum.

Museum is located in the center of Spisska Bela in the house of Jozef Petzval – the place where he was born and lived several years. The number of exhibits gathered there made an impression on us. You will find there not only the memorabilia of the inventor - the exhibition includes more than 600 exhibits documenting the history of photographic equipment. Beside the vast range of cameras and lenses visitors have also a chance to see how camera obscura and darkroom works or what stereoscopy (3D imaging) is. A part of exhibition is devoted to the beginnings of cinematography.

Visiting the museum with a digital guide. 

We highly recommend!

Contact:Petzvalova 30, 059 01 Spišská Belá
Phone: + 421 (0)52/459 13 07, +421(0)918 965 699,
Opening hours:
Monday - Saturday - 10:00 to 16:30 hrs.
Sunday - closed
adults € 1.50
discounted € 1.00

making photos € 1.00
Providing discounts on the basis of the discount coupons EBC - European Club Benefit

Monday, March 24, 2014

Shepherding in the Tatra and other Polish mountains

Autumn morning, I'm sitting in the kitchen and sipping coffee. Suddenly I hear gentle buzzing, with time the sound becomes clearer. I look out the window and see a flock of sheep moving along the road towards the nearby meadows. Small bells tinkle hung on the neck of some sheeps. Ah, the owner is leading his herd to the pasture. Grazing season, which traditionally runs from April 23 (St. Wojciech day) to September 29 (St. Michael the Archangel day) is already completed - the sheep descended from the Tatra mountain pastures. Now they are driven only on the foothill meadows.
Pastoral customs, traditions, techniques and equipment came to the Polish mountains from the south. They were strongly influenced by Vlachs - nomadic people coming from the Balkan area, who in the early Middle Ages began centuries long pilgrimage to the north. Nomads assimilated with the inhabitants of the Carpathian range and taught them new skills. Pastoral way of life came upon a breeding ground - difficult natural conditions (harsh climate and poor soil) favoured more animal husbandry than cereal farming. Shepherding started to develop in the Tatra and other Polish mountains
What did the traditional pastoral season look like? Each owner wanted to send his sheep to the mountain pasture for summer. It would entail leaving the household for several months, what was impossible. Therefore the function of baca (the main shepherd) was established a man to whom farmers entrusted their flocks for summer time grazing. Baca was choosing some helpers – younger shepherds and set off to the mountain pastures owned by the village. Walking to the pastures called redyk could last even several days, depending on how far from the mountains the village was located. On a pasturage shepherds lived in a wooden hut called bacówka. Apart from grazing they were protecting sheep from predators or getting lost and manufacturing products ​​from sheep's milk. The best known are three types of cheese - oscypek, bundz and bryndza. Grazing was terminated with autumn redyk - sheep descent from the mountains. It was a very solemn event, accompanied by singing and music. Then the main shepherd settled up with sheep owners and returned them their flocks. Children welcoming redyk were receiving little pieces of cheese in the shapes of animals. Many traditions and superstitions associated with the pastoral season come from a borderline between religion and pagan beliefs. They are subject of a number of ethnographic research nowadays.

What about shepherding in the Polish mountains today? History of individual pastoral areas and its influence on contemporary sheep grazing caused diversification of shepherding in different regions of Poland. Idyllic view with sheep in the mountain pastures is not as common as it was in the past. Nevertheless we can still meet shepherds or even visit their huts while hiking on the mountain trails in Gorce, Beskids or Pieniny. In some areas (eg in the Bieszczady Mountains) the aim is to renew the tradition of pastoralism.

In the Tatra Mountains, where shepherding had been completely liquidated due to the nature conservation in the 70's, it was decided to restore grazing. Decisive influence had cultural issues - perennial relationship between the highlanders and the Tatras and richness of traditions and customs as its effect. In 1981, shepherding returned in a form of so-called Cultural grazing of sheep and cattle in the Tatra Mountains. What does it mean? Under agreements with the Tatra National Park highlanders can graze sheep on some of the clearings. They must, however, obey several rules including speaking in a dialect, wearing the original highlander outfit, whether be assisted by traditional herding dogs – the Polish Tatra sheepdogs. The are many more requirements, but thanks to them we can learn more about old customs and try products prepared according to original recipes.

Extremely interesting event is the Carpathian Sheep Transhumance organized for the first time in 2013. It is an international project aimed at meeting people involved in shepherding across the whole Carpathian range linked together with an exchange of experiences. This is the traditional wander of shepherds and flocks through the mountain area of the Carpathian countries - Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic. The trail is about 1,200 kilometers long (10-15 kilometers a day) and takes place between May and September. The wander is accompanied by various events.

Dusk, the day is slowly coming to the end. I hear the tinkling sound again ... The sheep are coming back to the pen for the night



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Wooden Architecture Route

The Wooden Architecture Route is a collection of the most valuable and the most interesting monuments of wooden architecture. Following it you will see picturesque Catholic and Orthodox churches, roadside chapels, beautiful villas and manor houses, rural cottages with outbuildings, interesting open-air museums and many others.

The Wooden Architecture Route is a project designed to promote and thereby save from oblivion the most valuable wooden objects in southern Poland. It was initially the project of three voivodships - Silesian, Subcarpathian and Lesser Poland. After several years also Swietokrzyskie Voivodship have joined the Route.

There are several hundred objects on the Route that are the memorial of architecture, culture and art of the ancient countryside. They are also valuable because of their small number. The most precious monuments have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These include churches in the villages Binarowa, Debno Podhalanskie, Lipnica Murowana, Sekowa, Blizne and Haczow.

Here are some of many interesting sights located on the Wooden Architecture Route:

St.Elizabeth’s Church in Trybsz (Lesser Poland) - Wooden church dating back to the sixteenth century built with the log construction use, covered with shingles. The walls and ceiling in the inside of the church are decorated with beautiful polychromy from the seventeenth century depicting biblical and Marian scenes. Some scenes are painted against the backdrop of the panoramas of the Pieniny and the Tatras (probably the first known representation of those mountains in Poland).

The Rural Architecture Museum in Sanok (Subcarpathian Voivodship) - It is the largest, picturesquely situated ethnographic museum in Poland. Area of its ​​interest concerns south-eastern Poland. Historic buildings have been divided into several sectors devoted to distinct cultures.

Zalipie village (Lesser Poland) - Known as the Painted Village thanks to floral ornaments decorating walls of numerous buildings (houses and farm buildings). In Zalipie you may also visit a museum – The Homestead of Felicja Curyłowa, the most famous painter from Zalipie.

Czernikiewicz family farmstead in Bodzentyn (Swietokrzyskie Voivodship) - Farmstead is an excellent example of the nineteenth-century architecture of small agricultural towns. It consists of residential buildings and farm buildings. Inside you can see the traditional items of everyday use.

Folk art exhibitions at the Regional Chambers in Koniakow (Silesia) - Koniakow has a reputation for the production of beautiful lace ornaments. Lace, paintings and sculpture exhibitions can be seen in local museums and regional chambers.

The Wooden Architecture Route is a road tourist trail which means that it links together objects located at a greater distance from each other. The best way is to visit it by car or other means of transport. Most of the monuments is located in rural areas where traffic is smaller therefore may be the one-day cycling tours destination. There is no problem to find them because there are road signs showing the way to particular places. All objects are labeled with information boards with descriptions in Polish, English and German. Some monuments are open for visitors it is good to check opening hours in advance. Here are the websites of the Route in particular voivodships:

Silesia - (only in Polish).

We can also help you in organizing a trip along the trail.