It’s hard to believe I’ve only been in Slovakia for 11 days! It honestly feels as if it’s been months simply due to the sheer amount of things I have been doing/experiencing. This is another packed post and it will only cover a period of a few days! I will try and post on Sundays now on a more regular schedule and work week by week.
Anyways- following from where we left off, the next day I crossed something off of my bucket list- climbing a mountain! Granted- it wasn’t the highest or most strenuous hike, but it still took some energy for my poor out-of-shape self to make it all the way! We hiked 2 hours and about 400m to the top of Panský Diel, a peak about 1100m above sea level. The view was absolutely gorgeous, and with binoculars you can see my host family’s house, the main square of Banská, and so many little villages on winding roads in between mountains! Also an interesting thing to note here- Slovaks absolutely adore mushrooms, and are very passionate about collecting, cooking, and eating wild mushrooms. Pavol and I stopped to look several times on our way up because he could smell mushrooms off the path. Pretty neat.
The next day, I was absolutely exhausted- but that didn’t end up mattering, because we had another jam packed day ahead of us. It was a national holiday, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Slovak uprising against the Nazis, which took place in Banská (read my previous blog post on Banská for more info). The opening ceremonies were held in the park below the big museum, and we stood in blistering 35 degree heat for an hour watching them. Dignitaries from all over Europe came to lay wreaths at the monument by the museum. There were shops and traditional Slovak food stands set up everywhere- and it was pretty awesome to see such vivid national pride on only my 3rd day there. Next we stopped for a quick lunch at a cute little restaurant on a side street to the square- I got an absolutely delicious and massive Slovak-style pizza (aka 50% garlic- which I regretted later) for only 6€ (like 9$CA)! I’m amazed at how cheap and delicious food is here.
Later, we got set up to watch the military parade along the Hron river. By this time, we were in direct sunlight, on pavement, crowded in with thousands of other people. I’m surprised I didn’t get heat stroke, because it had to have been close to or above 40 degrees. Regardless, the military parade was really interesting, and we were standing only twenty meters from the huge area that the president of Slovakia herself- along with all the other presidents/PMs and dignitaries of other countries- were sitting in! Also a pretty amazing occurrence on just my third day.
After that we headed home because we were exhausted, but we stayed up to watch the televised concert that featured a ton of traditional Slovak dancers, musicians, and Czech and Slovak pop stars.
And then, only a few days later- I got to see my favourite thing in Slovakia so far- Bojnice castle. We got up bright and early and drove an hour there, and I was able to get a ticket for an hour and a half guided tour in English. This would have been amazing anyways, but it was made even better by the fact our tour only had like 6 people, so there was no crowding to see things, and I was able to ask the tour guide so many questions. Honestly I’m not sure words can describe exactly how beautiful this castle is! As the tour guide put it- it’s the most unique castle in all of Europe. The reason for this is, because of its many owners, repairs, and renovations over the course of hundreds of years, it has taken on a very diverse look. Every room dates to a different time period, ranging from medieval tombs and renaissance dining lounges, to baroque art halls and classical bed chambers. They are all so unique and in different styles, and are filled with artifacts from all over the world (the last owner of the castle in the early 1900’s was an obsessive collector of antiques and worldly artifacts). I have sooooo many photos of this amazing place, so I’m just going to dump a bunch here and hope they are good haha. I can’t pick any favorites
Anyways, so that was Bojnice castle. Wow. 100/10 would definitely recommend to absolutely anyone (the best part is- that specific tour only took me through half the castle! You can take a whole other tour specifically through the art and artifact collection halls and rooms).
After the tour, we walked 5 minutes to Bojnice Zoo, the oldest zoo in Slovakia- and one of the biggest as well! I thought Calgary zoo was big, but wow! My legs hurt after walking around and up for 3 hours (and the zoo is built on the side of a small mountain- classic), but it was worth it just to see red pandas up close and centre. This zoo had everything and more! It was also really interesting to see so many European animals that I wasn’t familiar with, because I feel as though in Canada a large part of the zoos are dedicated to Canadian animals that I already know. I also have a ton of pictures from here, but this time I’ll just post a couple as I’m sure you’ve all seen a zoo before.
And that’s that! It was another 35 degree day when we were walking around, so afterwards I appreciated having an entire day to just do nothing.
In conclusion from this post- I love Bojnice! I will definitely be back to see it again before I leave, and I might even take another tour throughout the castle to see the artifacts. Either way, it was an incredibly busy and informative week! I was able to see the sights and also learn a lot in the process, which is one of my main goals for my year hear!
Coming up in my next blog post- meeting other exchange students, the heat finally breaks, and school starts!
Thanks for reading!