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Slovak folklore looms large in little Terchová

Any Slovak can tell you where Terchová is; it's one of those places that appears in every school history book and is etched into the collective folk consciousness of the nation. "Terchová has plenty to be proud of," says Ján Mího, editor of the local monthly newspaper.
He's right. This town of about 4,000 is the birthplace of that quintessential Slovak folk hero, Juraj Jánošík, (see sidebar) and Adam František Kollár, the polymathic librarian to Empress Maria Theresa. The town's annual folk festival is one of Slovakia's biggest, and it is said that each of the settlements comprising the village's chotár (administrative territory) has its own distinct musical style. Add to this some of the country's most spectacular scenery, and you have quite a special village.


Juraj Jánošík's legacy lives on in Terchová with a statue to the beloved folk hero watching over the village from a nearby hilltop.
Paul Kaye

Any Slovak can tell you where Terchová is; it's one of those places that appears in every school history book and is etched into the collective folk consciousness of the nation.

"Terchová has plenty to be proud of," says Ján Mího, editor of the local monthly newspaper.

He's right. This town of about 4,000 is the birthplace of that quintessential Slovak folk hero, Juraj Jánošík, (see sidebar) and Adam František Kollár, the polymathic librarian to Empress Maria Theresa. The town's annual folk festival is one of Slovakia's biggest, and it is said that each of the settlements comprising the village's chotár (administrative territory) has its own distinct musical style. Add to this some of the country's most spectacular scenery, and you have quite a special village.

It's perhaps surprising then that Terchová, 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Žilina in northern Slovakia, is itself visually unspectacular. The only building of note is the parish church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, a hub of life here and a big enough draw on Sunday mornings to sustain a small market catering to worshippers' needs.

Terchová's foundation is rooted in mom and pop farms, and that seems the way it will remain for quite some time.

"Life in this village has never been easy" said the town's mayor, Pavol Krištofík. "Our ancestors lived on what they grew themselves - the climate and the quality of the land precluded any large-scale agriculture and trade based upon it. Industry has never had a place here and probably never will."

The village has had its trials - a particularly dry period in the second half of the eighteenth century led to a plague that took its toll on the local population. Those who survived left Terchová to find more hospitable conditions at lower altitudes. The Second World War caused another exodus. In April 1945, half of the village's drevenice (wooden houses characteristic of Slovakia's northern regions) were torched as the liberating Russian troops battled those of Hitler. Although civilians escaped the blaze by living in the nearby hills, many had no option afterwards but to move to other parts of Slovakia.

Terchová's historical associations merit only an afternoon's worth of attention for the tourist - the village museum is a small affair devoted mainly to Jánošík and important events in the village's history - the surrounding hills lure all. Terchová is the gateway to Vrátna dolina, perhaps the best known of all of Slovakia's valleys and center of the northern Malá Fatra, Slovakia's third highest mountain range. The entrance could hardly be more dramatic; the road from Terchová snakes through Tiesťavy, a narrow canyon-like opening to the valley with serrate rock formations high on either side.

Once in the L-shaped valley, you have a choice - a leisurely chairlift-assisted ascent of Veľky Kriváň or a strenuous hike to the top of the majestic Veľky Rozsute. Both peaks fall along a well-marked path traversing the mountain ridge and provide magnificent views of the surroundings. One possible descent from Veľky Rozsutec leads the unwary hiker through JánošíkovýDiery (Jánošík's holes), a series of cascades and waterfalls down a narrow gorge. When you can't go around the frothing foam, you simply must go over and through it helped by steel ladders and chains.

While Terchová has a conspicuous lack of tourist facilities, Vrátna dolina is more developed; it has hotels, chaty (mountain chalets) and skilifts. There is even an artificial snow machine which extends the winter ski season and makes Vrátna a year-round destination.

"Terchová must build on its tourism potential," Krištofík said. "With all these beautiful spots around us, Terchová's future is predetermined."

While some problems remain (many locals are concerned about an increase in logging activity, though the area is a protected natural reserve), increasing awareness of the area's beauty abroad should lead to an upturn in the fortunes of Jánošík's home town.

Topic: Tourism and travel in Slovakia


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