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18 Jul 2012 By Miroslava Germanová Regional News
East of Prešov and Košice, everything suddenly seems smaller, poorer and calmer. The roads are narrower, the fields greener, the views are spectacular and the life is somehow more peaceful.
However, the remote Zemplín region, which stretches from Poland in the north and Hungary in the south, bordering Ukraine at its eastern boundary, is still worth a visit. The region is known for its beautiful nature, great wine, rich history and friendly and energetic people. There is a lot to see in a relatively compact area, especially when you travel by car.
“The life is peaceful here, it flows slowly as a river,” said Hiep Bui Quang, 49, a businessman originally from Vietnam, who has lived in Slovakia for 30 years. He first lived in western Slovakia, but eventually migrated east.
Peace and quiet certainly seem to be the most significant features of the region.
“Very few people live here,” said Son Pham Ngoc, 47, another Vietnamese immigrant who arrived to Slovakia in the 1980s. Originally a builder, Pham now owns a shop in Humenné. “There are only five million people in Slovakia, whereas in Vietnam it is 85 million. That is a great difference. I can look for half an hour at a crossroads here and nobody passes.”
For all its tranquillity, Humenné , the capital of Upper Zemplín, feels young and cheerful. There are numerous children running around clutching colourful ice creams and more than one young couple ambling through the city park.
This green area separates the town’s two main tourist attractions: a Renaissance manor house and an open air museum, both belonging to the city museum and both offering an authentic glimpse of Slovak history. The open-air museum boasts a selection of immaculate rustic cottages scattered around a wooden church from Nová Sedlica, originally built in 1764 without using a single nail. The exhibition gives you a feel of how Upper Zemplín looked 300 years ago. (A word of warning: the attractions are open only from May to October, and access can be complicated out of season.)
Outside the relative bustle of the city, there is much to explore in the countryside - not least a selection of castle ruins easily spotted from the region’s roads. Brekov Castle , dating from the 13th century, is only a few kilometres outside Humenné on the road to Stakčín, and provides the first obvious stopping point. The easiest way to get to the castle is around the church and along the Alley of Matthias Corvinus, where you can also read about the building’s history. At the top, you can examine the wonderful old walls and savour the magnificent views of tiny villages and towns below. As is typical, the castle belonged to numerous owners through its 700-year history, but legend has it that its original builder, a rich lord, named it after his love. Even though the castle is now a ruin, there remains a beautiful romantic meadow beside it, which is perfect for picnics and secret dates.
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