EVERY year when spring comes, my husband John and I become excited at the idea of exploring another hiking area of Slovakia. Last year we left Ottawa, Canada, in mid-June and spent nearly three weeks exploring eastern parts of the country.
Our day in Slovakia usually consists of an early morning rise, a bus ride, climbing up and down the hills for six or seven hours, a return to the pension and then dinner. To find a restaurant we usually wander around the town square looking at each window hoping to find a nice place. Last year, our culinary options seemed more varied than in previous years and we happened to visit three very fine restaurants, each of which had been operating for less than a year and each offering a unique menu and ambiance.
A banner three metres high caught our eyes: Šarišská Chiže U Kl’učika. We did not understand its meaning but pictures confirmed the essence of the advertisement: Slovak food. We followed the signs leading to the basement of the Senator Hotel and as we descended the stairway we touched the cool stone walls, heard Slovak folk music, noticed wooden tables and chairs and met the eyes of the staff dressed in white traditional outfits.
Filled with joy, we chose a table with a good view all around us.
An ancient dresser sitting by the wall, embroidery resting on a chair and many other decorative items brought Slovak culture to light.
However, disappointment surfaced when I realised that I could hardly understand anything on the menu. Daco, kupal, enke, and site jedzene did not mean anything to me.
When the server, Matthew, arrived at our table I expressed my frustration. Matthew smiled and explained in fluent English that the menu was printed in a dialect spoken in the eastern part of Slovakia.
Matthew is Slovak and lived twelve years in Chicago. He had opened the restaurant just a few weeks before our coming and we were his first customers from abroad. This was celebrated with brandy. A menu in English appeared offering an overwhelming selection of traditional Slovak dishes including lamb, duck, soups and much more.
We let Matthew choose the best dishes for us and most represented a new gastronomic experience for us. I will always remember the delicate piquancy of the cabbage soup. This trip was our fourth to Slovakia but this was the first restaurant for us focusing totally on typical Slovak cuisine served in its cultural environment. We loved the food, the warm atmosphere and the friendly service.
A thirty-minute walk up a red trail to the castle of Stará Ľubovňa provided us with a few hours rich in history. A well-designed tour gave us great satisfaction. It had been another beautiful Slovak day surrounded by heritage and nature.
That evening we chose the Marilla Café Restaurant and Pizzeria located at one end of the square in Stará Ľubovňa. This restaurant surprised us in more ways than one.
First, it was smoke-free. Old, familiar objects and photos filled the room and walls.
John examined the Continental manual typewriter sitting on a treadle table, then the Grundig radio with its wooden cabinet, ivory coloured push buttons and rotary controls. The grandfather clock and other pieces added to a homely atmosphere.