One of the first things I noticed about Lucy Valerio concerned her diet. “I am not the best person to ask about Slovak food,” she said. “I am a vegetarian and I don't really eat a lot of cheese. I haven't tried any local food.“
To be honest, the region of Záhorie is probably the best place in Slovakia for someone like Lucy. It is the kind of area where cooks favour the harmonic taste of local ingredients to the heavy bryndzové halušky, the traditional Slovak dish of dumplings smothered in sheep’s cheese and sprinkled in bacon. It is also a good spot for those looking for a peaceful place full of small, unusual sights instead of bustling, larger tourist attractions.
Lucy, 46, is a former lawyer from Manchester, UK. She has been living in Bratislava, where she came with her friend to teach English, for almost eight months. She loves travelling and has visited lots of places all around the world, therefore she was glad to accept my invitation to explore this often overlooked area of Slovakia and to get to know some authentic local flavours along the way.
Even though Záhorie is located only a few kilometres north of the capital Bratislava, this trip was Lucy’s first visit to this serene region, which is abundant with appealing places and sights.
“It’s very calm, very relaxing, quite flat and there are lots of different things to see,” Lucy said, offering her first impressions from Záhorie while strolling the tranquil early-evening streets in the village of Veľké Leváre. Here, the traditional rural life mingles with the unique Haban history.
Lucy had been impressed in particular by the Church of St Margaret of Antioch, located a few kilometres away, near the village of Kopčany.
“I really liked the old chapel from the 9th century and the very peaceful and solitary field surrounding it,” she said. “[It was] a small church in the middle of nowhere… It made me feel quite humble and really showed that man has been around for some time, and that even without modern technology or training they were able to create and build structures that have stood the test of time.“
A magnificent tree in the vicinity of the church “is almost keeping the church company,” Lucy said. It needs it: while driving to the church on an unpaved road, the only other building was a ruined former duck farm.
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However visitors should also add a good Slovak-English (or German-English) dictionary to their bag if they want to read the information board. “If I were coming by myself I wouldn’t understand anything about the chapel,” Lucy said.
There was no information board necessary for Lucy’s next cultural lesson. “A wonderfully simple yet super tasty sweet treat, I love it!“ she said after sampling the local delicacy trdelník, even after the kind woman from the nearby wine shop explained the whole manufacturing procedure only in Czech.
“It‘s a bit like a doughnut but nicer. So simple and so tasty, but very messy.” Lucy dusted sugar from the table as she washed down the trdelník with a bottle of the traditional wine Skalická Frankovka. It is “very fruity, quite light, it would be nice on a summer evening.”