A September 2001 trip
to Slovakia by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Owning a car is a rarity in Slovakia, where the monthly salary is about $200 for skilled workers. So taking the bike or train is a popular mode of transportation for many Slovaks. It is the best way to see many of the tiny villages that dot the landscape.
1. Ivan and I would go mushrooming in the woods near the village of Sterusy (shtair-oosee). These had to be the best mushrooms in the world, and Ivan and I would take the mushrooms home to his mother, where she would dry them for later use or cook them fresh with eggs for a quick meal for us. I am not very knowledgeable in wild mushrooms except for some mushrooming in the woods near Dad's house in McCall, but Ivan is an expert and knew which mushrooms were poisonous or non-poisonous. Sterusy was also on the road to Pusta Ves, the Devil's Oven. Ivan wanted to take me there on another visit, but when I was having problems taking the hills and was tired, Ivan thought it would be better to pass on that trip. Sterusy also has a grave located in the woods of a World War I soldier who was famous in the area for his eccentric lifestyle.
2. After mushrooming, Ivan and I would take our bikes and go up many steep hills to the village of Lancar (lan-char), a tiny village whose claim to fame is its little hilltop church and cemetery. After a wild bike ride climbing up hills, Ivan and I would stop at the church, and I would lay down on the church's stone walls to catch my breath and admire the scenery of the valley below that reminded me of Bear Basin outside of McCall.
3. Before, during, and after our many bike rides, Ivan and I would stop to drink water or at one of the many village bars that lined our road and have a Korfula cola or Topolcany beer and catch our breath or map out our destination. It is the best way to see what life is like in Slovakian villages.
Make sure you drink lots of water and limit your beer intake at the bars. Driving impaired and having an accident after drinking too much Topolcany is not the way you want to spend your trip in Slovakia. If you do go to the bars, make sure you try the native beer, Topolcany, which is produced in the city by the same name in Central Slovakia. A popular snack in the bars is a salty string cheese that is more tasty than some of the mozzarella cheeses you get in the markets.
It is best to travel by bike in rural Slovakia with a guide or a friend who knows the area well. It is easy to get lost or fall and get hurt and no one is around to help you. Also, there is a high crime rate in Slovakia with gangs of thieves and gypsies who can make your trip go from paradise to hell in a flash. Learning a few words of Slovak won't hurt you either in communicating with the locals.
If you decide to go bike riding in Slovakia, be prepared to be on the road a long time. It took Ivan and I 6 hours to bike ride from Borovce to Sterusy to mushroom and then into Lancar and back to Borovce. It was worth the numb legs and other parts, but I haven't regretted it since, and neither would you!
Ivan took me to Palmyra Beach on several bike rides in Western Slovakia during my visits to that country. Only in the last couple of weeks of my visit to Slovakia in the summer of 2002 did we actually go swimming at Palmyra Beach.
There are no changing rooms or rest rooms at Palmyra Beach. So go to the beach with your bathing suit on and make sure you go to the bathroom before leaving home. There are no volleyball or sports facilities there either. Palmyra Beach consists only of a patch of sand and plenty of shade. The water of Palmyra Beach is murky and I couldn''t see the bottom of the Vah River. There are some rocks on the bottom, but it is safe to swim barefoot.
Ivan and I used to take our bikes to Palmyra Beach via the back roads from the center of Vrbove, the old Jewish ghetto town, and across a bridge to Palmyra Beach. But the beach is also reachable by car on Highway 499, and there is parking nearby. Admission is free.
It isn''t the Caribbean or First Beach in Newport, RI, but Palmyra Beach is OK for that quick dip to cool off after a long, hot bike ride through the Slovakian countryside.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 12, 2003
Slovak cuisine is not well-known around the world. Slovak cuisine is influenced by several other national cuisines such as Austrian, Hungarian, French, and Czech due to its many centuries of invasion and occupation by these other groups. It is not what you would call health food, and I recommend that you take a long hearty walk or bike ride after experiencing a Slovakian home-cooked meal. Slovakian cuisine is heavy in pork, fat, and carbohydrates, but it is sooo good. Most restaurants do not serve salads or fresh fruit or vegetables, so the best way to get fresh produce is from the market or from your Slovkian friends' gardens. Many Slovaks have their own gardens with vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs that they live off of all summer and preserve the bounty for fall and winter use. Also in the rural villages, many Slovaks have chickens and ducks for meat and eggs. Some mornings, we would have a fresh boiled egg for breakfast, and it is a big difference from store bought eggs. One morning, my fiance and I had scrambled eggs with freshly picked wild mushrooms that we had gotten on a long bike ride the day before. It was heaven!
Other favorite dishes that I enjoyed in Slovakia were loske (potato pancakes), deep fried ham with mozzerella cheese and tartar sauce, and the Slovak national dish, siroke rezance s tvarohom a slaniou, which translates into Tagliatelle with liptov cheese and fried bacon. Liptov (or liptauer) cheese is a very salty ricotta cheese native to Slovakia. When Liptov cheese is mixed with the home made tagliatelle and bacon, it is to die for and puts our Kraft macaroni and cheese from the box to shame. Since coming home, I have not touched Kraft's, and when I get a craving for fried mozzerella cheese, I stop at Bryan's Burger Den in McCall and ask for their fried mozzerella and a side of tartar sauce.
The gardens also produce grapes for wine and many of the people who live in rural Slovakia make their own wines and brandies for personal use and to give as gifts. Ivan made black cherry wine and pear brandy. The pear brandy is quite an experience. After drinking a shot of the brandy, it burned going down my throat and after a few minutes, it felt like I was having hot flashes. It packs a wallop! Ivan gave me a 1.5 bottle each of pear brandy and black cherry wine, and I still have some of the brandy left. I only have a shot on special occasions.
I would greatly recommend you try Slovak cuisine, especially if you have a friend whose mother can cook as well as Ivan's mother can. Dobre chut (good appetite!)!
You make a sugar water with hard sugar and water. It takes time, but it has to be done right. Let it stand until desired sweetness. Then add sugar water to cherries that have been put into a 5 or 10 gallon jug. Add yeast and let ferment for 6 weeks for wine and 8 weeks for brandy. NOSDRAVNE (CHEERS!)!!
Just be careful when drinking the brandy, it burns and packs a whallop!
This was a bike ride from hell that would have reduced Lance Armstrong to tears of pain because it almost killed me, and I was shooting daggers at Ivan for most of the uphill climb and trying to figure out a way to lose his body in the woods without leaving any evidence.
Kosariska (ko-shar-eeska) is a little town outside of Piestany, Slovakia whose claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of one of the country's military and diplomatic heroes, Miroslav R. Stefanik (1880-1919). Stefanik was born in Kosariska to the town's Lutheran minister and his wife in 1880. Stefanik became a war hero fighting for the Austrian Hungarian Empire as a general during World War I. After the war, Stefanik's diplomatic prowess did a lot to create an independent Czechoslovak state in 1918. Stefanik also was a talented astronomer and mathmetician when he wasn't off promoting Czechoslovakia to the world. Unfortunately, Stefanik's life was cut short at the age of 39 when the plane he was flying in the Bratislava suburb of Ivanka crashed on May 4, 1919, killing him and a couple of other Czechoslovak politicians on board.
After Stefanik's death, his body was buried in a huge hilltop mausoleum outside of Brezova nad Bradlom, another village near Kosariska. You can see Stefanik's mausoleum from the road from Kosariska to Brezova, but patriotic Slovakians will take a car ride or bike ride up the hill just to get close to Stefanik. He was the Kennedy of his nation complete with huge gravesite!
Now, this is where our bike ride got hairy. Ivan, Bohus, and I rode our bikes up the hill to the mausoleum, but I wound up walking my bike up most of the hill because I would have collapsed at the side of the road if I rode up the hill. It took us about a half an hour to get to the mausoleum, and once there, you are dwarfed by this huge stone monstrosity scattered with wreaths. People have their pictures taken in front of Stefanik's final resting place and catch their breath, and of course, I had to pose for a picture, too.
Stefanik's birthplace of Kosariska is now a national monument in Slovakia, and there is a plaque and statue of him on the front entrance of his birthplace. His father's church is behind his house.
Now, you think the ride ended nicely after seeing Stefanik's mausoleum, you are wrong. Bohus decided to take the shortcut back to Borovce, and it was a wild downhill ride down a rocky dirt road. I think that was one of the only times I prayed for a safe journey.
Luckily this trip was fueled by three beer stops along the way. Usually I don't drink and drive or ride bikes, but if you saw this route, you would need a cold one, too!