Bardejovské Kúpele - memories of empire

Set in a narrow, wooded valley, this quaint spa resort retains much of its imperial vigour. The elegant Astoria Hotel is a classic example, with its yellow and bronze painted facade. The colonnade across from the Astoria is a much less flattering socialist-era building. Unfortunately, entrance to many of the buildings is reserved for patients. However, the beautiful grounds and the Ľudový Prameň (People's Spring) are open to the general public. You can fill your water bottle with the naturally fortified mineral water at the spring for free.


The 18th century wooden church from the village of Mikulášová presides over the open-air Museum at Bardejovské Kúpele.
photo: Matthew Evans

Set in a narrow, wooded valley, this quaint spa resort retains much of its imperial vigour. The elegant Astoria Hotel is a classic example, with its yellow and bronze painted facade. The colonnade across from the Astoria is a much less flattering socialist-era building. Unfortunately, entrance to many of the buildings is reserved for patients. However, the beautiful grounds and the Ľudový Prameň (People's Spring) are open to the general public. You can fill your water bottle with the naturally fortified mineral water at the spring for free.

Just behind the colonnade is the skanzen, or open-air museum of folk architecture, which is the highlight of any trip to Bardejovské Kúpele. Open year-round, the skanzen is a model village of 30 buildings from throughout the Šariš region. Explanations in Slovak and English are posted at the entrance to each building. The exhibit includes peasant houses, with stables and living quarters under one hay-bale roof; a wooden belfry from the Nemcovce village used to summon the inhabitants; a water driven "fuller" used to beat woolen cloth into shape; a grainery, a pig-sty; and two wooden churches. Admission is 20 Sk for adults, 10 Sk for students and seniors, 5 Sk for kids, 40 Sk for guided tours (groups of 10 of more). Photo passes cost 200 Sk, video passes are 400 Sk.

The Ethnographic Museum next door is worth a quick peek, as well, mainly because of the religious wood carvings. The most original carving shows an upside-down tree trunk depicting the Fall of Man, with Adam and Eve under the apple tree in the Garden of Eden and the serpent slithering through the tree limbs. Pottery, leather working, basket weaving and wood working exhibits are upstairs.

Summer hiking and winter skiing are other possibilities. Skiing on the hill behind the skanzen costs 150 Sk (all day), 500 Sk (all week), or 10 Sk (per run).

No matter what time of year you visit Bardejov, there's plenty to see and do in this quiet corner of eastern Slovakia.

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