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Bratislava
Cyclists ask president to veto ban on cycling in forests

Cyclists converged on the Presidential Palace on July 8 to protest the proposed ban on cycling in forests.
photo: TASR

AROUND 300 cyclists -including former prime minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, whose bicycle rides were a symbol of his campaign last year - gathered in front of the Presidential Palace in Bratislava on July 8 to protest the proposed ban on cycling in forests on routes not designated as official bike paths.
Top representatives from the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and other cyclists rang their bells and appealed to the president to not sign the new legislation, which was passed by parliament on June 21.
In response, the president's spokesman Marek Trubač told the TASR newswire that the president would not bow to pressure from protesters.
Supporters of the new legislation say it will protect landowner rights and increase forest safety. Those opposed see it as an unwarranted and unnecessary restriction of personal freedoms.
A similar protest organised by the Ekofórum movement on July 5 attracted some 200 people, who rode from Bratislava to nearby Devín Castle, where President Ivan Gašparovič was taking part in the St. Cyril and St. Methodius Day celebrations.
The ban will come into effect on September 1, if the president approves it.


Bojnice
Couples rush to wed on 'magic' day

THIRTEEN couples were married at the romantic Bojnice castle in the Trenčín Region on the 'magic' day of three sevens - July 7, 2007.
So many couples wanted to have their weddings there on that day that the castle actually had to turn down applications, the historical site's marketing manager, Petra Gordíková, told the TASR newswire.
The ceremonies began at 11:00 and lasted until at least 19:00.
The castle usually hosts two to three weddings a week during the off-peak season and five to eight a week during the summer.
The 13 weddings at the romantic French-chateau style castle took place in the Golden Room, which boasts a gilded ceiling copied from the Academie di Belle Arti in Venice and is considered by many to be the most beautiful part of the castle.
Registers and churches all around Slovakia reported hundreds of weddings planned for July 7, including 50 in Bratislava's Old Town alone.


Košice
Trabants sputter into Košice

Sixty-eight Trabants rolled into Košice recently in celebration of the legendary car's 50th anniversary.
photo: TASR

FANS of the Trabant, once dubbed the "BMW of the East", drove their prized possession sinto Košice on July 7 and 8 to celebrate the model's 50th anniversary.
Though usually only the butt of jokes, the Trabant had plenty of fans at this gathering.
"It's an excellent car," Daniel Presuľ, a 22-year-old Trabant owner from Košice, told the Pravda daily. "It is simple and fast. It can go up to 110 kilometres per hour and you could give it a complete overhaul on the side of the road. I've dreamed about owning one since childhood."
Marcelko, as Presuľ calls his beige 1972 Trabant 601, was one of the 68 cars at the city's sixth national Trabant gathering.
The gathering featured traditional Bakelite Trabants as well as models made of sheet metal.
Unofficial data indicates that about 5,000 Trabants are still on Slovak roads.
In its heyday, more than 132,000 Trabants were imported into the former Czechoslovakia. It was the cheapest car on the market. In the 1970s, it cost Sk36,000, more than 14 times the average wage of that time, Pravda wrote.


Levoča
Pilgrimage draws hundreds of thousands

MORE THAN 400,000 people attended the eight-day annual Mariánska Hora (Mariánska Hill) pilgrimage in Levoča, which culminated with a mass presided over by Cardinal Jozef Tomko on July 8. In his sermon, the cardinal stressed the role of the family and the importance of keeping it in its traditional form, the TASR newswire wrote. He also called for the protection of human life before birth.
"On July 2, we recognised the 760th anniversary of the first pilgrimage to Mariánska Hora," Monsignor František Dlugoš, dean of Levoča, told the TASR newswire. "The hill probably became a pilgrimage site during the Tatar raids, when these forests provided refuge for fleeing civilians. As a symbol of their gratitude, they built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Pilgrimages have been taking place ever since."
Levoča ranks with Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), Czestochowa (Poland), and Mariazell (Austria) as one of the 20 most important pilgrimage sites in Europe.


Kežmarok
President opens folk craft festival in Kežmarok

Kežmarok's 17th annual folk craft festival on July 6 drew hundreds of artisans and admirers.
photo: SITA

THE 17TH annual European Folk Craft (EĽRO) festival in Kežmarok opened July 6 with a bang and a boom - a re-enactment of the attack on the town's fortifications.
The three-day festival featured more than 200 craftspeople from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.
The opening ceremony was attended by President Ivan Gašparovič, who expressed his admiration of the craftspeople's skills.
"Work, whether from wood, fabric or glass, presented by those who really know what they are doing, is always impressive and very pleasing," Gašparovič told the TASR news wire. "I like folk art very much. The EĽRO festival is not only a festival for the town of Kežmarok, but also for other people skilled in these crafts which have survived for hundreds of years. I'm glad to be here. I like wood carving. I've made some figures myself."
This year's EĽRO was dedicated to the guild of weavers, whose charter dates back to 1587. Weavers were producing cloth in Kežmarok as long ago as 1437. Blacksmiths, woodcarvers, ceramicists, glass blowers, embroiderers, lace makers, candle makers and papermakers also displayed their work at the festival.
Among the festival's new elements were presentations held in traditional shepherds' huts near the castle on the production of cheese, žinčica (a by-product when making cheese from sheeps' milk), and bread.
As always, the event was accompanied by a rich cultural programme. Two stages near the town hall and the castle showcased domestic and foreign folk dance and music ensembles. Theatre troupes performed in Kežmarok Castle, offering their interpretations of myths related to the town and its fortifications.


Dolný Smokovec
Bear cub reunited with mother

FORESTERS in the Tatras National Park freed a bear cub trapped in a large dust bin on July 7.
"The director of the Verejnoprospešné Služby Vysoké Tatry utility company called us in the morning and said it had found a cub trapped in a container," Peter Patera from the protection office in Dolný Smokovec told the TASR news wire.
For safety reasons, the foresters checked whether the cub's mother was nearby before beginning the rescue operation. Police monitored the surroundings from the roof of a nearby building.
The foresters used a rope to lift the cub out of the container and place it into a barrel, which they then opened in the forest. Upon being set free, the cub immediately ran away.
"It was certainly reunited with its mother because we could hear her in the forest," Patera said.
Rumors have been circulating about a bear with three cubs around Nový Smokovec and Starý Smokovec villages for a long time, but no disturbances have been reported.

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