A June 2002 trip
to Brezovec by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: My friend Ivan knows the back roads of Slovakia like the back of his hand. Tematin and Dobra Voda are two of his favorite places to visit, and he decided to take me on one of our many bike adventures to these places.
Ivan and I stopped in the bar and had a glass of the vile Slovak cola called Korfula. Then I bought some postcards for my collection before Ivan and I began our long hike up to Tematin. We took the beginner's trail from Bezovec, since I am not Sir Edmund Hillary, to Tematin. It took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there, and we passed the time talking, laughing, and posing for pictures.
Upon arriving at Tematin, Ivan and I walked and climbed around the ruins of the castle. Ivan helped me up many of the treacherous parts of the castle, but it was worth the great views of the nearby villages. I do not know much about the history of Tematin, but it dates from medieval times and neglect and fires destroyed it.
After a picnic lunch on the grounds, Ivan got his metal detector out to inspect for buried treasure. He has found many pieces of broken pottery and other archeological treasures all over Slovakia, and he gave me some to take home. Luckily, I wasn't stopped by customs. After not finding the pot of gold or other treasure, we walked about for an hour and a half, down a different trail to the village of Luka, explored the castle there, and had a drink in the village bar. While Ivan was getting our drinks, I was accosted by the village drunk, whom Ivan got rid of by buying him a drink. It wasn't my first experience of seeing a drunk in Slovakia, but it was one of the most memorable encounters for me!
Ivan and I didn't stay at Bezovec's hostel, but it is a very popular place for Slovak businesses that send their workers there on vacations. It is a quirky and colorful place to explore.
Bring tons of water and food for the trip because, after Tematin, there are no bars or restaurants on the trails.
The town of Dobra Voda has a water plant that produces bottled water sold throughout Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
My friend and I saw the castle from the road, and I thought we would be taking the road to it, but my friend decided to take a shortcut. The shortcut was a nightmarish climb up a wooded hill while we walked our bikes with us. After a while, we stopped, ate some lunch, left our bikes at the spot, and climbed up the hill to the castle ruins.
The castle, in its heyday, was a huge stone compound on a hill to protect it from invasion. Due to years of communism and decadence, it has fallen into ruin. After I caught my breath, Ivan and I walked around the ruins, checking it out. Even parts of the ruins were built on hills, and it made for a difficult hike most of the time we were exploring. I pretty much slid down the hill on the way down to our bikes, and I was cursing most of the way.
If you decide to go to Hrad Dobra Voda, make sure you are in good shape and have good shoes to take the hike up and down the hill. The views from and around the castle are beautiful, but it is not too beautiful when you get hurt.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2002
The Ruins of Hrad Dobra Voda
Outside Dobra Voda
Hrad Tematin (tem-ah-teen) is located near the city of Nove Mesto nad Vahom (literally translated into English it means New City on the Vah River) in near the gypsy village of Bezovec and the town of Hradok.
Hrad Tematin was constructed in the Gothic style in the second half of the 13th Century. In 1524, the Thurzo Family took over ownership of Tematin, the castle underwent a long period of reconstruction.
The last owner of Tematin was Miklos Berczenyi, who was a member of the Hungarian nobility but against the Hapsburg Empire that controlled Slovakia and most of Central Europe and the Balkans. In fact, Berczenyi was a general of the anti-Hapsburg army who led an uprising in the early 18th Century against the dominant rulers of Central Europe. In 1710, Hrad Tematin was destroyed by the Hapsburg Army when they crushed Berczenyi's uprising, and the castle remains in its ruined state to this day.
Tematin dates from the Great Moravian Period and in recent times, arc-shaped coins from this time have been dug up by archeologists at the castle and in the Hradok area. An ancient Moravian settlement was discovered during this time, too, but a construction crew working in the area destroyed its evidence in the 20th Century, which has eliminated most of the evidence of the history and lifestyles of the ancient people of Western Slovakia.
To get to Tematin, one must drive or take the bus to Bezovec from Piestany or Nitra, the gypsy or Roma village near the ruins and hike their way in. There are various paths of different skill levels one can hike, but one must be in good physical condition and wear good boots or shoes in order to walk the hilly paths to Tematin. Bring water and sunblock and a picnic lunch because Tematin does not have any refreshment stands.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 20, 2008
My first visit to Slovakia was in September 2001, which is when wild mushrooms come into harvest. About a week into my short visit to Borovce, Ivan took me mushrooming in the woods near Lancar, a small village known for its 18th Century hilltop church.
After arriving in the woods, Ivan and I parked our bikes on the side of the road near a secret spot where Ivan knew the best mushrooms grew. Like Dad with his secret woodcutting places near McCall, Idaho and Loki and Katie with their secret swim holes in Donnelly, Idaho, Ivan had his secret mushrooming place. Armed with bags, Ivan and I made our way into the woods and began searching for mushrooms. Since Dad had taken me mushrooming near McCall a couple of times, I had a fair idea of what morels and brains looked like, but Slovakian wild mushrooms are a little different than American wild mushrooms, and I had to call Ivan over a few times to a patch I had discovered to make sure that what I wanted to pick was edible and not poisonous. It is said that the Ancient Roman Ruler Claudius died after imbibing poisoned mushrooms that his wicked sister and nephew had prepared for him, and I wasn't about to end my 2001 European vacation inadvertantely re-enacting the death scene from I, Claudius in which Derek Jacobi's stuttering Claudius dies after eating those famous mushrooms.
After about an hour mushrooming, Ivan and I had filled our bags and strapped the bounty on his bike and went into Lancar to explore the church and have a drink in another village before heading back to Borovce before it got dark. Ivan's mother Irena greeted our smiling faces at the door of her home and immediately took our bounty and went to work on them. Most of the mushrooms Irena lined on plastic sheeting and put outside by the house to dry for winter use. The remaining fresh mushrooms were sauteed in butter and made into an omelet that is one of the best omelets I have ever eaten. It put button mushrooms from WinCo to shame.
Most Slovakian villagers are poor and cannot afford proper medical care and rely on herbal remedies to cure what ails them. On several occasions, Ivan's parents would take their bikes into the woods near their Borovce home and harvets elderberry flowers from the trees on the roadsides leading into the woods. They would come home with huge bags of white sweet-smelling flowers and put them in a big pan with water and sugar and make a syrup that was jarred and used to sweeten tea and was to help stomach trouble. I grew to like sweetening my tea after lunch with the syrup and wish that we had some elderberries here in Idaho, and I doubt if we will find them in Florida.
Other trips into the forest by Ivan's parents would be to find Zhilava or nettles, the prickly leaves that are common in Middle Eastern cooking and can leave the pickers with scratched up arms and hands. Ivan, his parents, and I would go into the woods on separate occasions and with gloves, pick tons of Zhilava which would be laid out on plastic sheeting in the Anders' yard and dried out for tea which was good for stomach aches.
More on herbing and mushrooming in Slovakia in my next entry!
The dirt road from Borovce to Lancar was one prime example of wild plants and herbs. On my first visit to Slovakia in 2001, walnuts were in harvest on a tree that grew wild on the side of the road, and we would pick several nuts for us to munch on while riding or take them home for a later snack. Then Ivan picked some berries from a wild Juniper tree. I didn't release they were edible, but Ivan said they were full of vitamins. I reluctantly tried them, and they are an acquired taste. Try eating pine tar in berry form. That's what they tasted like.
Usually when one rides on a road, they ignore their surroundings. Ivan was always in search of plants and herbs to pick and take home for drying. Many times, we would stop on the Borovce/Lancar road and harvest wild Marjoram, which would be taken home and hung in the kitchen or Ivan's workshed to dry for cooking. I took some dried Marjoram home to Idaho with me after the 2001 visit to cook with, and it was very good.
Wild garlic grew like wildfire on many roads in Slovakia, and we used to get a strong whif of the stuff everytime we biked through them. Many times, we would stop and pick it fresh and eat it on bread with Brzynda cheese as a snack after a long ride around Western Slovakia.
Ivan sent me home in 2002 with a bag of wild peppermint which is another tummyache cure in Slovakia, and it was used with love here in Idaho for our teas and cooking. It has a mustier smell than what we are used to, but the taste is the same.
When Ivan taught me how to make homemade cherry/currant wine in June when cherries came into season, the tree in his yard didn't yield enough fruit for enough wine to get them through the summer and fall. There was a wild cherry tree on the Borovce/Lancar road about five minutes from Ivan's house that we spent a nice June evening harvesting a huge bucketload of the sweet fruit, and I also enjoyed helping myself to some of the fruit while picking, but Ivan wouldn't let me climb up the tree to help him get the good stuff from the higher limbs.
If you are interested in picking herbs and other wild plants and fruits in Slovkia, make sure you do thorough research through the internet or books. Ivan had an old book from a woman who was an herbal specialist in Slovakia in the early and mid-20th Century. Doing your homework can be the difference from a good harvest or a poisoned harvest!