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Kremnica: A well-kept secret

WITH EACH VISIT to Kremnica, my wonder grows at how a town this lovely and intriguing could be so routinely disregarded. But it seems that when people think of former mining towns, they are rarely able get past the uniqueness of nearby Banská Štiavnica. This is understandable, but unfair.
The fact is, Kremnica has everything a traveller could ask for, in any season: plenty of hiking trails, superb skiing conditions, an achingly picturesque main square and castle, a celebrated history and the finest statue in Slovakia.
Kremnica is today a secluded mountain town of 7,000 inhabitants. But from the 14th to the 19th centuries, it was one of the richest cities in the Hungarian kingdom. Because the surrounding hills were loaded with gold, King Karol Robert Anjou declared Kremnica the royal coin-minting town in 1328. The so-called Kremnica ducats produced here were among the most valuable coins in Europe. The town's minting past can still be viewed at the Museum of Coins and Medals on the main square, Štefánikovo námestie.


PLAGUE column in Kremnica.
photo: Ján Svrček

WITH EACH VISIT to Kremnica, my wonder grows at how a town this lovely and intriguing could be so routinely disregarded. But it seems that when people think of former mining towns, they are rarely able get past the uniqueness of nearby Banská Štiavnica. This is understandable, but unfair.

The fact is, Kremnica has everything a traveller could ask for, in any season: plenty of hiking trails, superb skiing conditions, an achingly picturesque main square and castle, a celebrated history and the finest statue in Slovakia.

Kremnica is today a secluded mountain town of 7,000 inhabitants. But from the 14th to the 19th centuries, it was one of the richest cities in the Hungarian kingdom. Because the surrounding hills were loaded with gold, King Karol Robert Anjou declared Kremnica the royal coin-minting town in 1328. The so-called Kremnica ducats produced here were among the most valuable coins in Europe. The town's minting past can still be viewed at the Museum of Coins and Medals on the main square, Štefánikovo námestie.

Kremnica's wealth translated into the construction of its stunning Old Town. Starting at the 15th century Dolná brána (lower gate), the grassy square rises steeply to the north and includes landmarks such as the Town Hall, a Franciscan monastery and church, and a baroque fountain. At the centre of it all is the phenomenal, gold-capped plague column, sculpted in the 18th century by a local artist named Dionýz Stanetti.

Above the square is the castle, with fortifications erected in the 15th century. Crowning the castle complex is the gothic Church of St. Catherine. First built in the 14th century, the church underwent a massive reconstruction in the 19th century, and today contains an organ notable for its tremendous size (it has 3,500 pipes).

Surrounding the town are miles of forested mountains. The highest peak is Vyhnatová (1,282 m), about a four-hour hike north-east of town. Nearby is Skalka (1,232 m), which has ten kilometres of cross-country skiing trails, five lifts for downhill skiing, restaurants, hotels and cottages for rent (www.skalky.sk). In the summer Skalka is a three-and-a-half hour hike from Kremnica on the yellow trail starting in the town centre.

Another great day hike is up Kremnický štít (1,008 m). A steep trail above the train station leads past the castle-like rock formation, Alžbetina skala. From here, hikers are treated to a superb view of Kremnica tucked into the valley far below.

The article will be published in July in The Slovak Spectator's seventh annual travel guide, Spectacular Slovakia 2002. To pre-order copies of this year's 150-page full-colour magazine contact Lucia Hakeová at 02/5292-0451, or e-mail her at lucia.hakeova@gpp.sk

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