Slovakia's oldest standing architecture dates back to the 10th century.
Courtesy of Edície Publications
Just as the last trace of Nitra fades in the distance heading east on E571 toward the rest of the country and the hills start to tightly ripple, the castle ruins at Jelenec appear. At first glance, the road seems to cut alone through the fields with the castle and small town underneath it unattainable. Who would know that the little settlement underneath would be home to Slovakia's oldest standing church.
Kostoľany pod Tribečom is a village not unlike any other you would find in western Slovakia: quiet, hard working people busy about their chores, chickens and geese on the road, and a church on a hill. Sv. Juraj (St. George's) Church dates back to the 10th century. There are three naves painted a faint brown on the outside. The wooden doors are sometimes open, which means an energetic old man, the caretaker, is somewhere near. If not, a sign hanging on the door will tell the visitor to track down the church's priest at his home to ask for the key. It is definitely worth trying to look inside because the wall paintings, restored in 1965, date back to the 11th century.
Jesus Christ's birth and the Three Kings are painted on the walls, the simple style a testament to the youth of Christianity in this land at the time. A wooden ceiling tops off the simple structure. You won't be awe-struck by the sight, but you might feel the weight of 10 centuries tracing Slovakia to its very roots.
Further along E571 away from Nitra and north of Zlaté Moravce, the quaint Topoľčianky castle is backed into the forest. The castle has been reconstructed nicely - the highlight being the Renaissance courtyard - but the tour is a fairly boring look at old furniture (a 1604 cabinet the prize of the collection). Better to take a walk outside in the English park, which has a giant statue of a stag in the foreground and windy paths through forest in the back.
S&S Travel Tips
NYSIS - Nitra Information System, Štefánikova 60, 087/410-096.
How to get there
Nitra is not on a main train route, so a bus ride (1 hour and 40 minutes) is the most direct link from the capital.
Bábkové divadlo - Ul. 7 Pešieho Pluku. 087/284-33 .
Divadlo Andreja Bagara - Svätoplukovo nám. 1, 087/248-87.
The Diocesan Library is open only by appointment. Call ahead to schedule at 087/419-003.
Hotel Zlatý kľúčik - Svätourbanská 27, 087/550-289, fax 087/512-210. Elegant and up-scale, just seven rooms in the residential area of Zobor hill overlooking the town. A 10-minute car drive will bring you to the town center. Double room 2,200 Sk.
Hotel AX - Vihorlatská 10, 087/534-541, fax 087/534-545. Near the Agrokomplex. Double room 340 Sk (during fairs 600 Sk).
Penzión Tenis - Ďumbierska 2, 087/363-47, fax 087/533-681. Just the basics. Double room 500 Sk.
Penzion-reštaurácia Zlatý Klúčik - Svätourbanská 27. 087/550-289. Elegant (and expensive) dining with Western-style food and service. Salad bar. In the summer, eat on the terrace with spectacular views of town.
DAB Reštaurácia and kaviareň - Svätoplukovo nám. 1, 087/226-50. Modern Slovak restaurant and coffee shop upstairs in the Andrej Bagar theater.
Hotel Zámok- Parková 1, 0814/811-11, fax 0814/818-63. Located in the chateau of Topoľčianky surrounded by a beautiful park. Horse-riding. Double room 450-720 Sk.
9. Oct 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll