BRHLOVCE: AN UNKNOWN TREASURE NEAR LEVICE

Stone Age relics in the 20th century

The last leaves clinging hopefully to a tree had just fallen on my car when I decided to take a short detour on my long journey. I stopped the car near a village in southern Slovakia. My legs aching from hours of driving, I decided to take a brisk walk up a short hill. The grass was glazed with November's first frost, and I strolled leisurely until a chimney suddenly caught my eye. The brickwork came right out of the ground, and smoke twined lazily out of the vent - and with it, the smell of soup.
Further ahead, after a sharp drop, I was astonished to find a tiny dwelling nestled in the ground - under the very earth I was standing on. This, in a nutshell, is why the tiny village Brhlovce is unique: stone dwellings, inhabited even now, have been chiselled out of ash rock in the andesite massif. An individual settlement usually consists of houses fronted by stone masonry. Behind the facade, other living spaces and farming and agricultural premises have been chiselled out of a wall of stone that lies to the south.


Cave dwellings. This house, cut into ancient volcanic rock in the difficult to find village of Brhlovce, has housed inhabitants since the Stone Ages.
Ľubica Sokolíková

The last leaves clinging hopefully to a tree had just fallen on my car when I decided to take a short detour on my long journey. I stopped the car near a village in southern Slovakia. My legs aching from hours of driving, I decided to take a brisk walk up a short hill. The grass was glazed with November's first frost, and I strolled leisurely until a chimney suddenly caught my eye. The brickwork came right out of the ground, and smoke twined lazily out of the vent - and with it, the smell of soup.

Further ahead, after a sharp drop, I was astonished to find a tiny dwelling nestled in the ground - under the very earth I was standing on.

This, in a nutshell, is why the tiny village Brhlovce is unique: stone dwellings, inhabited even now, have been chiselled out of ash rock in the andesite massif. An individual settlement usually consists of houses fronted by stone masonry. Behind the facade, other living spaces and farming and agricultural premises have been chiselled out of a wall of stone that lies to the south. The unbroken stone forms the walls, floors and ceilings of these rooms, and even the basic interior furniture and appliances: stoves, nooks for putting things, wells for drinking water.

People in the village are well accustomed to visitors, and willingly show off their dwellings. These structures are a matter of pride and represent hope for the future of the village, offering a venue for agrotourism and related employment opportunities. A young man, watching us while we took a snapshot of his house, came forward to usher us inside, cataloguing his achievments proudly:" Look, during the winter, when I broke my leg and was in a plaster cast for three months, I dug out this winecellar. In the spring I will buy a car, so I have to work hard to chisel out a garage for it. All our people do things this way, it's our big advantage, because we don't have to pay taxes from these rooms..." Smart, isn't it?

In this picturesque valley, surrounded by oak and locust tree forests, vineyards and fertile fields, snug in a palisade of hills, lies the village Brhlovce. Until now it has managed to keep the calm atmosphere of the villages of our grandparents. However, this village and the region itself bear testimony of much older times.

The country around Brhlovce was created by a volcanic tertiary formation, and therefore is rich in easy workable soil. Favorable climatic and natural conditions enabled people to settle this part of Slovakia even during the Stone Age. Brhlovce village was mentioned for the first time in a historical document in 1275.

Brhlovce wasn't spared the devastating invasions of the Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries. The village's inhabitants believe that the tradition of stone dwellings was originally invented by their remote ancestors as a means of protection themselves against the Turks.

Since long ago, stone has not only offered material for building dwellings, but has also afforded an opportunity for making a livelihood. During the 19th century, many family bread winners earned their livings by stone-cutting, a skill they had been taught by the Italian craftsmen originally invited to build a manor in the village. Amongst the six biggest centers of folk stone-cutting in Slovakia, Brhlovce is famous for having the most varied assortment of stone-cut products.

Those stone dwellings in Brhlovce that have been turned into a Folk Architecture Museum can be seen all year round on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. - 4,30 p.m., or anytime, as long as visits are announced beforehand to the Tekovske muzeum in Levice, tel.: 0813/312 112, 312 866. Admission is a modest 8 Sk.

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