Posts Tagged ‘Banská Štiavnica’

Banská Štiavnica is a picturesque town somewhere in the middle of Slovakia. Our drive there was punctuated by a stop in Kremnica and by inadvertant detours caused by the confusing road layout. Once there, Bo dropped me at my accommodation, Hostel 6 (when the young woman on duty opened the front door – which was at the back – I told her I had a reservation and she said, ‘I know’; then she was confused by the fact that there were two of us, but only I was staying) and we went for pizza and a look around. I thanked Botond for everything he’d done for me in the past fortnight and we said goodbye.

In the morning, I did a bit of shopping for breakfast – including getting some individual teabags for about six cents each because I’d left all my tea at So-young’s apartment – ate and then got on with some sightseeing.

The town itself is very pretty, at least in the centre, with lots of cobble stone streets that are pretty noisy when driven over, yellow-painted buildings and various churches.

The Old Castle was an interesting stop. You got a few laminated sheets to read as you went around and could visit all of the towers (one contained cells and torture chambers) and the church in the centre – although the walk up on the inner side of the walls was off-limits.

I walked out to the Kalvária, a big procession of shrines and churches on the side of a hill outside the town, each representing a station of the cross. There were people, lots of youngsters, at work renovating it. The weather was bright and warm and it was pretty tiring. I rested for a while at the top and took pictures of butterflies. On the way back I went through the grounds of the Academy of Mining and Forestry (Banská Štiavnica was very important as a mining centre). It had lots of trees; not so many mines.

When I got to the New Castle at half past four or something, it was closed. There were quite a few people around the entrance; evidently they’d already been told it was closed, but they still hung around. I went back in the morning. It’s a square, white tower that looks a bit like a rocket and contains a modest museum with information about the wars with the Turks. Disappointingly, the only view from the top was through some small windows.

The previous evening, I’d wanted to walk to the railway station to see how far it was, but gave up part-way when a thunderstorm started. I went into a hotel for dinner – I was the only one dining (I had some not-very-spicy spicy chicken and pepper with rice and pancakes for dessert). After visiting the New Castle, I packed up an set off on the walk to the station; it was a fair distance – two kilometres – but it wasn’t too bad. The man at the station (a young guy with long hair and a beard – much like the two men who’d given me my tickets at each of the castles) wrote down all my connections to Poprad for me – of which there were three or four.

Everything went well until my final transfer, when I got on the train coming from Poprad to Bratislava along with the majority of the crowd of people who were waiting. It had arrived at about the right time, but left a couple of minutes early, so I should have known better. Even when the ticket inspector looked at my ticket, she didn’t say anything and I went after her to double-check. Of course, she didn’t speak any English, but she managed to communicate that I should get off at the next stop.

Having gone in the wrong direction for an hour and waited for the right train for another hour, I was about four hours late arriving in Poprad, which is in the north of Slovakia. On the train, I chatted briefly to an attractive, moderately pregnant (‘moderately pregnant’ being midway between ‘slightly pregnant’ and ‘heavily pregnant’) woman who was going home – to Poprad – to see her family. She told me she worked in the Gulf (UAE or Jordan or somewhere – I forget exactly) as a flight attendant for a private jet company.

Poprad Station is pretty big for what seems to moderately sized town (a ‘moderately sized town’ is midway between a ‘slightly sized’ one and a ‘heavily sized’ one). After orienting myself, I made my way to my hotel, Hotel Gerlach – which was just the other side of a park outside the station. Being in a proper hotel is always nice – for privacy if for nothing else. This one was cheap (I was in a twin room) and quite pleasant, considering.

In the morning I had a walk around the town; there’s not that much to see. After lots of toing and froing in one particular area, I located the tourist information centre and found out that getting a train the following day to Kraków would take all day; a bus to Zakopane just inside Poland would be better. I also got information on a couple of lakes in the area that Bo recommended I visit.

I headed back to the railway station and took a train up into the hills. Poprad is a popular tourist destination because it’s in a mountain range called the High Tatras (which sounds a bit like it should refer to the perky breasts of a tall woman). I didn’t many clear glimpses of them because the weather was cloudy most of the time I was there, but some of the peaks I saw were impressively jagged.

The lake at the end of the train journey was the tongue-tripping Štrbské Pleso. When I got there, the place was basically in the clouds, so there wasn’t much in the way of scenery to be seen. I walked around the lake – it was quite pleasant, but very wet – even more so when it started raining in earnest. It was quite touristy – there were lots of hotels and restaurants by the station – but, a short walk away, the small lake was surrounded by forest … I assume – it was impossible to see more than a few metres.

I had been planning on hiking up to the other lake, Popradské Pleso, but in view of the weather (and in view of the lack of a view), I just took the train back. Dinner was a nicely spicy pizza at a popular international restaurant on the main square.

In the morning, I got up early, checked out and headed over to the bus station. There weren’t too many people around, but there were a few. As I was waiting, an elderly woman came up to me and asked me something; I apologised and said I didn’t speak Slovak – but that didn’t stop her trying to tell me something for a minute. At the designated time, I got on the small bus and set off for Poland.

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