THE CHURCH tower of the St Mikuláš Cathedral in Prešov was recently opened to the public. Each hour between 7:00 to 11:00, and 13:00 to 17:00 on workdays, tourists may ascend the tower's 56 metres, and Saturdays offer evening climbs.
"The tower is 71-metres high in total, but it's only possible to climb up the first 56 metres. After that, there's only a tip with a loft above," said Stanislava Vavreková, one of the guides to the tower.
To reach the top, one has to climb around 200 steps. Each of the guides usually makes four to five ascents per day, summing up to 2,000 steps. Do their legs hurt? "No. It's not that much. On the first day my legs hurt a bit, but since then I've been managing all right," Vavreková said.
Another reason the climb is not too exhausting may be that the individual storeys on the way up serve as mini-breaks. One can see original sculptures, fragments from the Calvary, the coat-of-arms made from stone, and a cartouche, each with a short lecture describing them.
One can also admire the intricate mechanism of the church clock and the church's four bells in the tower. The top offers a perfect view of Prešov from every angle. When the weather is clear, one can even see the Tatra Mountains, the tower's guides claim.
The belfry hides four bells, three large ones and a death-bell. The oldest bell is 140 centimetres in diameter and dates back to 1872. The only time that all four bells ring together is before Sunday mass, otherwise one can pretty much only hear the "little" death-bell.
"Once there was a boy in the group who really wanted to see a bell ringing. The bell rang and he got terribly scared. It doesn't seem so, but even the small death-bell makes a large noise," said guide Lukáš Douděra.
People are prohibited to climb the tower when the bells ring. "The times are calculated," said Vavreková.
The guides advise a visit to the tower on Saturday between 20:00 and 22:00 when it is possible to see the view of Prešov at night. Apart from locals, tourists from Hungary, Poland, Germany, as well as from oversees - England and America - also visit the tower.
Michal Frank is a journalist with the Prešovský Korzár daily