Why go? Castle with gruesome past, distinctive folk architecture, folk art (tinkers’ museum), spas, Roman grafitti, Slovak Robin Hood plus detour for rare wooden churches
Towns and regions included:
BRATISLAVA, PIESTANY, TRENCIN, BOJNICE, ZILINA
Central European Connection: takes you from Vienna, Austria (cross the border at Hainburg) or Gyor, Hungary ( cross border at Rajka) to several destinations in Poland or the Czech Republic (Makov or Mosty u Jablunkova via Olomouc to Prague)
Day: 1, 2, 3, 4
Day 1 – BRATISLAVA – (Click Here)
Day 2 – PIESTANY & TRENCIN – Famous spa resort, castle of Blood Countess, Roman inscription
Drive 1 hour from Bratislava northeast to PIESTANY (http://www.piestany.net), Slovakia’s most famous spa resort (http://www.piestany-spa.sk). Take a quick look at the Balneology museum (http://www.balneomuzeum.sk) and the center of town. Walk through the Colonnade bridge (Kolonadny most) to the park-like Spa Island (Kupelny ostrov) and see the Art Nouveau-style Thermia Palace building.
Walk back to town.
Lunch at Hotel City located downtown (http://www.hotelcity.sk) or near downtown at the Hotel Patricia Restaurant (http://www.hotelpatricia.sk).
Drive west 15 minutes to see one of the largest synagogues in Slovakia in VRBOVE (http://www.slovak-jewish-heritage.org).
Continue driving north in the direction of TRENCIN.
Approximately 5 minutes from Vrbove is CACHTICE CASTLE (http://www.castles.sk/?castle=23 – Cachticky hrad). Enjoy the view from the ruins of this tragic place, where Hungarian noblewoman Elisabeth Bathory, called the Blood Countess, lived. Here and at other residences, she sadistically tortured to death hundreds of young Slovak peasant women. She is believed to be part of the inspiration for the Dracula/vampire story – there is evidence she bit her victims, and legend says she bathed in their blood.
In the town of Cachtice, a museum tells the history of the castle and medieval town, plus archeological finds from the area.
Drive 30 minutes more to TRENCIN. Top sights in the old town center: the Castle (Hrad) (see it illuminated in the evening) – County house (Zupny dom) close to Matusova Street – Piarist church — Secessionist-style Tatra Hotel, from which you can see a Roman inscription from 179 A.D. carved into the rock face below the castle — Upper Gate (Dolna brana), from the 15th c. city walls — restored Synagogue close to Sturovo namestie.
Have dinner and stay at the 4-star Tatra Hotel (http://www.hotel-tatra.sk) and imagine the country that the Romans saw.
Save a day shortcut:
From Trencin you can go directly to ZILINA – featured in Day 4 – heading in the direction of Poland. On the way, visit the glass factory LEDNICKE ROVNE with its manor house glass museum (http://www.muzeum.sk/default.php?obj=mesto&ix=lr). Then proceed to ZILINA and RAJECKE TEPLICE [day 4].
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Day 3 – BOJNICE & CICMANY – fairytale castle, distinctive folk architecture, spa
Drive east for about 1 hour via PRIEVIDZA to beautiful BOJNICE castle (http://www.citybreaksguide.com/Advert_Displays/Advert_472.asp), the most visited castle in Slovakia. Visit the castle and its ZOO (http://www.zoobojnice.sk), the oldest in Slovakia.
Lunch at Hotel pod Zamkom (http://www.bojnice.sk) near the castle.
Drive north about 35 minutes to Klak peak and turn towards CICMANY (http://www.muzeum.sk/defaulte.php?obj=muzeum&ix=ci_pvm_en) – one of the loveliest villages in Slovakia, where traditional peasant homes are covered with fascinating geometric painting.
Go north another 15 minutes to admire the world’s largest carved wooden nativity (http://www.muzeum.sk/defaulte.php?obj=pamiatka&ix=sbrj), “Slovak Bethlehem” — 26 ft long, 8 ft tall — in RAJECKA LESNA. Bethlehem features scenes from Slovak folk tradition. The museum housing it also features the work of contemporary woodworkers.
Stay in BOJNICE at 4-star Hotel pod Zamkom or 4-star Hotel Kaskada (http://www.kaskada.sk)
OR alternatively, proceed north another 10 minutes to reach RAJECKE TEPLICE spa.
Stay at 4-star Hotel Aphrodite (http://www.spa.sk) and enjoy a sauna, massage or other relaxing treatment.
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Day 4 – ZILINA – fantastic art made from wire, discover the Slovak Robin Hood
As you drive toward East Slovakia or Poland, stop in the historic town of ZILINA (http://www.zilina.sk). Don’t miss Povazie Museum (Povaske muzeum) (http://www.muzeum.sk/defaulte.php?obj=muzeum&ix=pvm_en) with its one-of-a-kind exhibition of tinkers’ work- beautiful objects made of metal wire. Tinkers in this area invented the modern shopping cart!
Other top sights in ZILINA’s Old Town:
* 13th c. Marianske square (Marianske namestie) which has 106 arcaded passages and more than 44 colorful merchant houses;
* Church of St. Stephen the King (built 1200-1250); and the early 20th century Synagogue (Synagoga).
LUNCH: Stop at the Gold Wing Restaurant (http://www.gold-wing.sk) in the center of town.
DETOUR FOR MORE FOLK ART/ARCHITECTURE:
From Zilina, drive southeast to MARTIN to see Slovakia’s best museum for folk art, as well as folk architecture, the Ethnographic Museum. With this detour, you’ll want to spend the night in MARTIN at the Hotel Grandis (http://www.grandis.sk) or indulge yourself with an overnight stay at the spa at TURCIANSKE TEPLICE (http://www.sunflowers.sk/kupele/turcianske/index-en.php), approximately 30 minutes south of Martin. For info on the region around Martin (http://www.turiecinfo.sk/tindex.php?op=kult&lang=en )
From Zilina, drive east 30 minutes to the beautiful small village of TERCHOVA, birthplace and home of an exhibit of Slovakia’s most famous folk hero – Janosik (the Slovak Robin Hood) who took from the rich and gave to the poor people in the 18th century. He was finally apprehended and hanged by his rib. The exhibit is in the Terchova branch of the Povazie Museum (http://www.muzeum.sk/defaulte.php?obj=muzeum&ix=jt_pvm_en). TERCHOVA hosts the annual folk festival, Janosik Days – celebrating this famous bandit — the first week of August.
Drive back via BELA and then north to NOVA BYSTRICA, an open-air museum of buildings moved from two 19th century villages flooded by the creation of a reservoir.
If you have time, take a ride on the antique forest railway in NOVA BYSTRICA (http://www.muzeum.sk/defaulte.php?obj=muzeum&ix=mkd_km)
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
From ZILINA you can easily reach the border with Czech Republic (direction MAKOV or JABLUNKOV to the charming historic city of Olomouc) or Poland or stay in Slovakia and link up to the last day of Route 2 (LOW TATRA MOUNTAINS) or the start of Route 1 (HIGH TATRAS-PRESOV-BARDEJOV).