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Notes on a visit to Kosice, Slovakia

Spiss Castle
Spiss Castle
Courtesy Visit Kosice

Kosice is small city with about 250,000 residents. It’s an ancient city with a massive gothic cathedral in the city center. The cathedral has been being repaired, refurbished for many years. The town was a trading center for the nearby farms for centuries and home to guilds of craftsmen. Kosice, pronounced KO SICH, has a great deal of charm. As, I walked around the city I kept thinking of the world of fairy tales. I expected to see Hansel and Gretel coming around a corner up ahead of me.

The cathedral is glorious, dedicated to and named for St. Elizabeth, the daughter of a Hungarian King. There are stunning Renaissance paintings above the altar and throughout the cathedral, some of which have recently been cleaned and refreshed.

This is a new country. Slovakia has been separate from the Czech Republic for 20 years. The country was simply a subsection of Hungary for most of its long life. It was a part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs. It referred to Budapest as capital for much of its life as contrasted with Bratislava, Slovakia’s current capital. Czechoslavakia was a country created after the First World War. It was an independent country and it was one of the places where the Second World War nearly started when in 1938 Hitler claimed the Sudatenland a part of the Czechoslovakia which was mostly settled by Germans should be returned to Germany. Hitler claimed he had no further territorial ambitions and France and England gave him this piece of Czechoslovakia, thinking to placate him. It didn’t work. in 1939 he invaded Poland and World War II began.

After the war the powers of socialism took over the country and ruled it until 1989. Somewhat after that Czechoslovakia divided into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has a lot of the industry in the former country and Slovakia has much of the agriculture.

There is a Slovak cuisine, consisting of rabbit, duck, beef and pork with cabbage, dumplings, carrots and potatoes. It’s comfort food and very tasty. It is food largely from the farms of Slovakia. There is a camaraderie about eating there. I found that in restaurants that extra people would be seated at my table and nobody thought it odd.

One evening I heard music played by the Slovak Chamber Orchestra. It was a privilege to have heard how much understanding came through in the playing of that music. I was bowled over by the experience. Clearly music's taken very seriously in Slovakia. If you get a chance to hear this group don’t miss it. You will be as dazzled as I was.

I took an excursion out into the countryside to visit Spiss Castle. It is an ancient fortification built originally in the middle ages and preserved through people paying admission to get in to see it. it was a very special experience. If you get a chance to see Spiss Castle go. One piece of advice: if you go remember to wear shoes with a something other than smooth soles. The limestone walkway to the castle can be treacherous, as it was for me. I fell down. I wasn’t badly hurt, I was just shaken. Do be careful.

The countryside is gorgeous scenically. You drive through miles and miles of forests to get out to Spiss Castle and the winding roadway is full of beauty.

So, if you get a chance to visit Slovakia do go as I’m sure that you’ll enjoy yourself.

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