"You can travel across this area for months and still be far from seeing half of its beauties."
Ingrid Zgodavová, Hotel Satel
Ruin for the ages. Magnificent Spiš Castle is said to be the largest in central Europe.
Spišská Nová Ves, the most obvious starting point for exploring the region, prides itself on a lentil-shaped central square which is country's largest.
Spišská Nová Ves is also home to the country's tallest church spire - 87 meters atop the 13th century Roman Catholic church. The church itself is worth a visit for its unique combination of pink and gray pillars as well as the lotus-like ceiling formation above the main altar. Its yellows, blues and reds contribute to a friendly atmosphere.
Majster Pavol's altar
As if that weren't enough, in Levoča's church of St. Jacob, Slovakia's second-largest gothic church after Košice's St. Elisabeth cathedral, there is the world's tallest wooden altar made by famous Majster Pavol from Levoča. It's an impressive work of art 18.6 meters high that was made without using a single nail. Its center is dominated with sculptures of the Madonna with child, St. John on the right, and St. Jacob, the patron of the church, on the left. Below these, the Last Supper is shown. Once a year, at Easter, the wings of the altar get closed and they reveal scenes from the Passion.
This region's other spectacles are of a natural character and they include the tallest rock formation of Markušovce and a 16-kilometer-long water canyon in Slovenský Raj (Slovak Paradise). Then traveling in this area, don't miss the waterfalls and the Dobšinská ice cave. The 21-km-long Stratenská cave is also worth a visit.
As Ingrid Zgodavová, a receptionist at the Hotel Satel in Levoča, said, "You can travel across this area for months and still be far from seeing half of its beauties."
Spiš is one of the most religious regions in Slovakia. This manifests itself in countless churches small and large. Among the most interesting are the little early Gothic church at Žehra and the Pilgrim Church on St. Mary's Hill above Levoča. The church in Žehra was declared a Slovak national cultural heritage and inside it are some valuable wall paintings dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Levoča is the home of Majster Pavol's famous altar, and the site of massive pilgrimages.
Only 20 minutes from industrial Spišská Nová Ves by commuter train, Levoča, Spiš's second most important town, has a distinctively medieval feeling about it. It's comparatively small and well protected by the city walls with a picturesque central square. Even in cold weather and at late hours, the town is often full of students and young couples walking and chatting.
Levoča is particularly well-known for its punishment cage, where town misfits, especially supposedly disloyal women, were put so that people could swear and spit at them. The cage can be seen today in front of the impressive town hall on Majster Pavol's central square.
Year-round, Spiš has plenty of attractions making it worth a visit. And visitors should be sure to engage the locals in a little banter. For the people of Spiš know only one way to welcome outsiders - the same way they do their architecture, their woodcraft, and their religion - superlatively.
S&S Travel tips
TIC- turistické informacné stredisko, M.R. Štefánika 10, Spišská Nová Ves, tel:0965/282-92
Spišská Nová Ves makes a good starting point for traveling anywhere in the Spiš region.
Trains on the main Bratislava-Žilina-Košice line leave Bratislava 25 minutes past every even hour and arrive about 4 hours, 40 minutes later in Spišská Nová Ves. From Košice, the journey takes about an hour.
Hotel Metropol***- Štefánikovo nám. 2 in the center of Spišská Nová Ves. Tel: 0965/422-241 and 422-243. Modern hotel with all facilities. Double with breakfast: Slovaks 820 Sk, foreigners 1,580 Sk.
Hotel Preveza**- Za Hornádom 12, Spišská Nová Ves, turn right at the church and follow the road for about 500 meters. Tel: 0965/422-371 and 422-372. Double: Slovaks 420 Sk, foreigners 680 Sk.
Hotel Barbakan***- Košická 15, Levoča. Tel: 0966/514-310. Very comfortable with a good view of the Pilgrim church. Double: Slovaks 790 Sk, foreigners 990 Sk. Delicious breakfast included.
Hotel Satel***- Majster Pavolęs Square 55, in central Levoča. Tel:0966/512-943. Single: Slovaks 605 Sk, foreigners 1,235 Sk. Double: 985 Sk and 1,920 Sk. Luxurious hotel with superb cooking, try the roasted salmon.
Hotel Arkada***- Majster Pavol's Square 26, Levoča. Tel:0966/512-372. Friendly atmosphere in traditional setting. Single: Slovaks 500 Sk, foreigners 850 Sk. Breakfast 60 Sk, main meal 200 Sk.
Reštaurácia Spiš- Letná 45, Spišská Nová Ves, tel: 0965/225-64. Restaurant, self-serve canteen, beer cellar.
U Raka- Štefánikovo nám. 8, Spišská Nová Ves, tel: 0965/216-29. Daily 12:00-22:00. Chinese cuisine.
Pizza Rimini- Odborárov, Spišská Nová Ves, tel: 0965/216-19. Daily 10:00-21:00, Italian specialities.
Reštaurácia Vegetarián- The best vegetarian meals in Levoča on Uhoľná ulica, tel: 0966/4574. Daily 10:00-17:00.
Reštaurácia at 3 Apostostols- at the central square of Majster Pavol in Levoča, tel:0966/4352. Daily 10:00-22:00, traditional Slovak dishes.
20. Nov 1996 at 0:00 | Zuzana Jalčová