Around Slovakia

Pilgrimage pays homage to Holy Mother
Mating wallcreepers
International Folk Festival

Pilgrimage pays homage to Holy Mother

Nearly 600,000 faithful paid tribute to the Virgin Mary of Seven Sorrows during a ceremonial holy mass on the 'Mary Hill' near Levoča, marking the end of the largest pilgrimage of Catholics in Slovakia.
The July 4 service, celebrated by Košice Archbishop Alojz Tkáč, was attended by Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, Parliamentary Vice-Chair Pavol Hrušovský and 150 participants of the third national military pilgrimage from Kežmarok to Levoča.
In the homily, Spiš Diocese Bishop Monsignor František Tondra stressed Christian believers should hold the Holy Mother, whom he called "an example of love, living faith and gentleness," in the highest esteem. At the end of the servicel, the participants were treated to the words of Pope John Paul II who sent papal blessings in the Year of Preparations for the Great Jubilee" (to be celebrated in the year 2000) via telegram.
Nearly 600,000 pilgrims flooded Levoča to honour the Virgin Mary.
foto: TASR

Staré Hory
Mating wallcreepers

Two tagged wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria) in the Low Fatra mountains have become the proud parents of three baby wallcreepers for the second consecutive year, said Miroslav Šaniga, a researcher for the Slovak Academy of Science's Forest Ecology Institute research station in Staré Hory. The tagging shows that wallcreepers remain faithful to their mating partners, Šaniga explained, which probably contributes to their rarity - there are only 30 to 50 couples nesting in Slovakia.
Wallcreepers are "home-birds" which remain in the locality of their birth sites and maintain the continuity of their original family nest. The birds further show their affection for home by refusing to migrate south for the winters, instead opting to brave Slovakia's brutal winters, Šaniga said. Instead of flying south, the birds fly to lower elevations in the region and typically inhabit castle ruins or rock quarries during the frigid months, he said.
The tagged bird couple is a mature pair consisting of a nine-year-old male and a seven-year-old female. "It's a respectable age when bearing in mind that the wallcreeper is not migratory and must survive the severe winters here," Šaniga said.
The wallcreeper is as big as a sparrow but has a larger wing span of 26 centimetres. Its wings are broad and elliptical and are usually adorned with 16 oval spots. With its characteristically jerky jumps, it is the only Slovak bird able to scale vertical walls. Its flight resembles that of a butterfly, Šaniga said, therefore it has earned the nickname of "rock butterfly".

International Folk Festival

The 45th annual International Folk Festival in Vychodná ended on July 4 with the "Return to Traditions" gala in which guest performers - some 19 groups including Czech, Polish and Hungarian ensembles - presented a variety of folk songs and dances to conclude the three-day-festival. The festival, attended by Parliamentary Chairman Jozef Migaš, also included competitions like Wooden Shingle Splitting, which was won by Vychodná's own Ján Drugaj.
The festival was originally known as the Festival of Folk Songs and Dances in its debut year of 1953. In 1967, the Festival changed to its current name and was televised internationally for the first time. In 1980, the Vychodná festival was recognised by the International Organisation of Folk Festivals.

Compiled from TASR
by Chris Togneri

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