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Orava: Fragrant meadows, clear water and blue mountains invite visitors

"I greet you, forests and mountains, from the bottom of my soul I greet you..." wrote the great Slovak poet, Pavol Orsagh Hviezdoslav, who worshipped the Orava region's beauty. Orava - once worshipped, once damned - has had its share of hard times throughout its history.
The land itself is cruel. Communications links forged in the previous century neglected Orava's rough terrain. Economic depression in the late 19th and early 20th centuries caused high unemployment and starvation in the region. Orava's shacks could offer little relief from the hard life. Over the years, Orava has sent forth its sons to Belgian, French and American mines, Chicago slaughterhouses, Canadian forests and South American plantations. Orava's past is now the stuff of many outdoor and indoor museums, though its present face is quite different.


Majestic Orava Castle. Situated 100 meters above the Orava river, the castle contains a mix of architectural styles.
Lubica Sokolíková

"I greet you, forests and mountains, from the bottom of my soul I greet you..." wrote the great Slovak poet, Pavol Orsagh Hviezdoslav, who worshipped the Orava region's beauty. Orava - once worshipped, once damned - has had its share of hard times throughout its history.

The land itself is cruel. Communications links forged in the previous century neglected Orava's rough terrain. Economic depression in the late 19th and early 20th centuries caused high unemployment and starvation in the region. Orava's shacks could offer little relief from the hard life. Over the years, Orava has sent forth its sons to Belgian, French and American mines, Chicago slaughterhouses, Canadian forests and South American plantations. Orava's past is now the stuff of many outdoor and indoor museums, though its present face is quite different.

Today, visitors see Orava as a land of fragrant meadows, deep forests and dark-blue mountains situated in the north part of central Slovakia. It is sometimes called the forgotten corner of the Slovak homeland, but it actually has a strong claim to national fame. Some of Slovakia's oldest traditions and most dominant personalities came from the region. School children know them well: Hviezdoslav, Kukucin, Bernolak, Hatalla, Bohun, and others.

Orava castle

The most famous tourist attraction in the region is Orava castle, built on a 112 meter high rock above the Orava river (the cleanest river in Slovakia) in the village Oravsky Podzamok. The view is fascinating from the Caste tower - a greenish ribbon of the calmly flowing river, the red roofs of small villages nestling in lonely valleys, and thick forest all around.

The castle was royal property, and served in the 13th century as a border patrol base and administrative center. It consists of three different parts - the highest 'Citadel' structure, the mid-level Korvin, Jana z Dubovej and Palffy palaces, and the lower Thurzo palace and church combination. The interior is full of Gothic, Renaissance and Romanitic-era antiquities often used as props in historical movies. Thousands of annual visitors admire the archaeological, historical and ethnic artefacts of the Orava Museum, which is situated in a part of the castle.

The other structure immediately associated with the name Orava, is the Orava dam. Behind the dam, at 603 meters above sea level, lies a 35 square kilometer water reservoir on the confluence of the White and Black Orava rivers. Lovers of every kind of water sports will enjoy this spot. Slanicka Osada, and the port with its sandy beach, are lures for tourists. Do not miss the excursion ship voyage to the Slanicky 'isle of art' in the middle of the reservoir. Should you be interested in music, in June and July the "Orava musical summer" is held on the island.

If you visit the town of Tvrdošin, look for the real architectural treasure of the Orava region, which displays the wood-working skills of the local people - the wooden articulated church of All Saints, built in 15th century. This style of architecture is very typical for Orava - the church and bell tower are separated, the lower part is stone, on top of which are wooden walls and then a wooden shingle roof. Similar churches, together with preserved folk wooden architecture, can be found in Istebne and Lestiny.

Do not neglect the hiking paths through the Orava mountains, which were the first poetic objects of Hviezdoslav's verses. Beckydy, with its famous Babia Hora summit, is undeniably beautiful. Magura and Kubinska hora, which boasts excellent skiing, are captivating, but the Rohace area is truly gorgeous. The bizarre Rohace formations were shaped by a Quaternary glacier, which covered the whole Carpathian system and created an endless variety of geological forms - jag ridges, canyon valleys, glacier moraines and water-falls, crystal-clear tarns.

When you return, tired from wandering through the Orava hills, plunge into the open-air, hot mineral water baths in Oravice, and you will feel born again.

Topic: Tourism


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