LIGHTING UP Spiš Castle.
Castle ruins illuminated
ONE of the country's most visited castle ruins, Spišský hrad, which is also the largest and best preserved of its kind in Europe, has been lit up at night in an attempt by its operator to make it even more attractive to tourists.
The Spiš Castle ruins, situated in the eastern Slovak Spiš region, has had a sophisticated network of spotlights and lamps put up around it, making the dominant castle stand out even more against the surrounding area.
But environmentalists have voiced their opposition to the project, for which the castle ruins' operator, the Spiš Museum in nearby Levoča, paid Sk5 million ($104,000).
"I am convinced that certain laws on nature protection were broken with this project. Because the area [where the castle ruins stand] is named in UNESCO's World Heritage list, I also want to turn to that organization," said Milan Barlog, head of Echo, a Spišská Nová Ves-based branch of the Slovak Union of Protectors of Nature and the Countryside.
Barlog maintains that the construction of the massive lighting system has broken into the natural environment of the castle ruins area, which enjoys the highest level of state-guaranteed protection.
All structural changes in such areas must be approved by the Environment Ministry and are subject to much scrutiny in order to ascertain how much damage they will have on the area where they are to be carried out.
Barlog claimed that the local Slovak Paradise National Park organization had been asked its opinion of the castle illumination project, and had recommended that the Environment Ministry not approve it.
"The ministry, however, used its right to issue an exception and okayed it," Barlog said.
"The illumination as it is proposed is in direct conflict with the protection of the area, which is rich in various kinds of flora and fauna. It's barbaric to turn it into a tawdry attraction," he said.
The ministry, however, maintained that its decision was in line with existing laws, and insisted similar illumination systems had been used to highlight other cultural heritage sights in Slovakia as well as abroad.
"Taking into consideration that highlighting the uniqueness of the national heritage site Spiš Castle will not result in any significant damage to the natural surroundings, the section [of natural protection at the Environment Ministry] has approved the exception," said the ministry's spokeswoman Katarína Kubíková.
FANS can inspect hockey memorabilia in the new Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame opens in Bratislava Castle
SLOVAKIA'S Ice Hockey Hall of Fame opened on November 30 in Bratislava Castle, introducing the first 10 laureates six months after the national team won the World Championships in Sweden.
The laureates included national team players as well as NHL players Stan Mikita, Peter Štastný, goalie Vladimír Dzurilla, Ján Starší, Jozef Golonka, Ladislav Trojak, Michal Poloni, Ladislav Horský, Václav Nedomanský and journalist of Slovak origin George Gross.
Gross, a renowned Toronto Sun journalist who has been living in Canada for 50 years, was born in Bratislava and he came to Slovakia for this induction. He was included in NHL Hall of Fame as a journalist in 1985.
Dzurilla, Trojak, Poloni and Horský, all deceased, were represented by their relatives in the opening ceremony, attended by all other inductees except for Mikita, who, as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks of 1961, is the only Slovak player to have won the Stanley Cup.
The only player to be included in the NHL, IIHF and Slovakia's halls of fame is the manager of the Slovak national ice hockey team, Peter Štastný.
"It is hard to say which one I value the most, I'm happy to be in all of them. But this one is special as I grew up here and tried to do my best for Slovak ice hockey," said the double world champion and NHL's 1981 rookie of the year.
The ceremony was attended by PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, head of the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto Phil Pritchard, its manager Darren Boyko, marketing director of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Kimmo Leinonen, legendary Toronto Maple Leafs striker Darryl Sittler, and other ice hockey and public personalities.
Representatives of the Slovak Ice Hockey Association (SZĽH) said they had been thinking about this for a long time.
"We wanted to remember the celebrities of our hockey, without whom this project would have no meaning. Ice hockey is a phenomenon in Slovakia and we do not want it to be a one-off issue," SZĽH President Juraj Široký said.
The Slovak Hall of Fame, the first of its kind in Europe, is expected to select three new members every year. The exhibition will be open to the public until the beginning of next year's world championships.
Hay on fire
MORE than 500 tons of hay were reduced to ashes in a western Slovak village of Častkov after a large-capacity hayloft caught fire.
The fire left local farmers with more than Sk2.5 million ($52,000) worth of damage. Police immediately launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, but suspect it was started by an unknown offender.
According to Trnava regional police spokesman Daniel Hanák, firemen from all the surrounding villages rushed to the scene, but they were unable to stop the flames from destroying the loft.