The oldest Slovak love poem is erotic, humorous and short

Pandemic rules for cultural events revealed. BBC Travel writes about Slovak mountain porters.

BBC Travel spotlights Slovak mountain porters in its latest story.BBC Travel spotlights Slovak mountain porters in its latest story. (Source: TASR)

Hello The Slovak Spectators,

Many cultural places such as museums, libraries and galleries have reopened across Slovakia, and opal mines near Prešov will also welcome the first visitors on May 1. In addition, the Culture Ministry has presented a traffic light system for the cultural sector and events.

However, we won’t talk just about rules. This week’s roundup will equip you with many other stories, including basketball, a BBC Travel story about Slovakia, and a talented multi-instrumentalist based in New Zealand.

May is around the corner, so let’s start off with a love poem.

Slovakia’s oldest love poem

May is a month with many faces. For Americans, it is national burger month. For Catholics, it is the month devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. But many also refer to May as the month of poetry and love.

The oldest love poem from Slovakia, slightly erotic and humorous, dates to the year of 1457. It has got only four short lines which were written by tax collector and scribe Leonard of Uničov while at work.

The poem is called Oh, Dear Virgin. Here it is:

‘Oh, dear virgin,

what you have,

(what) you give me –

you don’t even know…’

If you look at the picture above, published on Facebook by the State Archive Prešov, you may also see the face of a lady that Leonard sketched as he wrote those lines.

Although Leonard was born in Uničov, near the Czech town of Olomouc, he worked in the Slovak regions of Novohrad and Gemer, as well as in the town of Bardejov.

Places to visit

Ondrašová Rocks

Although a hike up to the Ondrašová Rocks, near the Ondrašová village in the Turčianske Teplice district, is an easy one, it provides tourists with a breathtaking view of the Turiec Basin and the Žiar and Kremnica Hills.

It takes less than one hour to walk up to the rocks. It is ideal to start the trip at the end of the only main road in the village. Once the residential area is passed, the road runs a kilometre further across fields. Visitors can park their cars by a road barrier at the end of the road.

From here, walk along an unpaved road and turn right upon reaching a crossroad. The 4.5-kilometre-long hiking trail is not officially marked, but local enthusiasts painted trees with green-and-white signs that guide tourists to the Ondrašová Rocks.

Other travel ideas:

  • A town that boasts three castles. One castle is well-preserved, houses a gallery, and dominates the city centre of Zvolen. The other, Peťuša Castle, remains undocumented at large but can be found near Deserted Castle, which is the most famous of all. Ready to climb it?

  • The atmosphere of Turkey in Košice. In Košice, a replica of the house in which the Hungarian nobleman Francis II Rákóczi and his companions lived during their exile in Turkey in the 18th century can be found. Rákóczi died in Tekirdağ, by the Sea of Marmara, but the replica house together with a bastion and medieval fortifications create a Košice museum complex that tells the exile story of this leader of the last Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs. Rákóczi is buried in Košice.
  • What time is it? This is the question a tourist may not ask when they pay a visit to the House of the Good Shepherd of the 18th century in Bratislava. The building houses the Museum of Clocks, and more than 60 ancient timepieces are on display here.
More information about travelling in Slovakia
Please see our Spectacular Slovakia travel guide.

Slovakia’s cultural sector can breathe (a little)

Even though strict pandemic measures remain in place across Slovakia, cultural events will be hindered no more from May 3. The Culture Ministry has published a traffic light system for the Slovak arts and cultural sector.

This sectoral traffic light system, divided into seven colours, follows the general Covid Automat alert system.

“It determines the number of visitors to an event, test requirements, and also the consumption of food and drinks,” Culture Minister Natália Milanová said on April 28.

The red colour, which stands for the worst scenario, allows for up to 200 visitors outdoors and 150 visitors indoors. Only the events at which people can sit will be allowed. The events will be limited to 50 percent of venue capacity.

The pink colour allows for 500 visitors outdoors and 250 visitors indoors. The conditions mentioned above will also apply. When the traffic light system turns orange, it will become region-based and cinemas will be allowed to reopen.

As soon as the green light is turned on, which represents the monitoring stage, events of up to 1,000 people outdoors and 500 people indoors will be allowed. The events at which people can stand will be greenlighted too. No capacity limits will apply at this stage.

Regardless of colours, events cannot last longer than eight hours.

With regard to Covid tests, the traffic light system for the cultural sector will follow the national Covid Automat system. However, upon its launch next week people will be required to have a negative PCR test older no more than 72 hours or a negative antigen test taken no later than 24 hours before showing up for an event.

“I believe that, once the measures are eased off, we will have the cultural summer we long for,” the minister noted.

Long reads

Slovakia’s liquid gold

Beekeeping has a long tradition on the territory of Slovakia. It has become so popular again in recent years that bees are now kept in cities as well. Get to know some of the Slovak honey and mead producers, several bee-related educational projects, and where to set out on a trip to learn more about honey and mead.

As people wait in vain, a manor house comes apart

Slovak governments’ have promised multiple times to reconstruct the Rusovce Manor House. Activists claim it is falling apart, and they have thus launched a petition for the restoration of the building. Princess Stéphanie of Belgium lived here. Nevertheless, the ancient house was full of bird excrement and holes since then.

Czech artist felt honoured when her paintings disappeared

When a thief steals a famous painting, it is usually of a deceased artist such as Van Gogh. However, a young Czech artist also went through such an experience. When she met one of the thieves, she made friends with him and created a documentary about the man and their bond. The film took home an award from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Induction of the first Slovak player into the FIBA Hall of Fame

The Slovak basketball giant of 208 centimetres, Stanislav “Kily” Kropilák, will become the first player from Slovakia to be inducted into the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame in mid-June.

In 2001, the retired Inter Bratislava player was named the Slovak basketball player of the century. The FIBA Magazine listed him among the 50 best players of all time in 1991. Following the female coach Natália Hejková, he will now become the second Slovak to be inducted into the hall of fame.

Kropilák was born on June 10, 1955 in Kremnica. He grew up in Bratislava. His love for sports started with swimming, then downhill skiing. His nickname ‘Kily’ comes from the name of the skier Jean-Claude Killy. When he grew up, basketball became his number one sport.

The then communist regime allowed him to play for teams in former Czechoslovakia, Belgium, as well as Luxembourg. He became one of the European basketball stars. Due to injuries, he retired at the age of 41. Despite his success, he has never played in the NBA, although there was a chance to leave for the USA after the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

“Three universities wanted me. Wake Forest the most,” he said. “I could have been the first athlete from here to study at and play for an American university. My career might have turned out differently.”

However, an injury changed his plans. So did communism. Kropilák refused to emigrate. Today, he still manages the Inter Bratislava club.

What difference does he see in basketball between now and then?

“Basketball used to be an absolutely contactless sport…Today, basketball is largely about physical strength,” he said, noting that players were happier to play the game back then.

In brief

  • Football: Real Madrid is rumoured to sell Raphael Varane in the summer and replace him with one of three potential defenders. Slovak player Milan Škriniar, who plays for Inter Milan, is one of them. (Fichajes.net)
  • Architecture: Check out the pictures of modern Hotel Bjornson chalets in the Demänovská Valley, which were designed by Michiel De Backer and Martin Mikovčák. (The Spaces)
  • Sherpas: Read a recent BBC Travel story about Slovak porters who have been carrying heavy loads up and down mountain trails for many years, currently Europe’s last sherpas, as Yvonne Gordon writes. (BBC)
  • Museum: The revitalised Czechoslovak Museum in the French town of Darney will reopen in late June.
  • Market: Trstená and Dolný Kubín, towns in the north of Slovakia, will invest funds in new market stands, hoping to support local producers.
  • Discovery: Archaeologists have found the remains of a burial ground from the Great Moravian era in Slovenská Nová Ves, near Trnava.
  • Festival: The intimate version of Art Film Fest Košice will take place in late June of this year as the pandemic fades.

What to listen to

Henika and New Zealand birds

In the video section, most of the time, we try to bring new Slovak music to you. This week is no exception, but we will extend our search to New Zealand.

Henika, or Henrieta Tornyai, is an independent musician and music producer who was born in Slovakia but moved with her family over to New Zealand when she was a little girl.

Recently, she has released a new single titled Strange Creatures that features various New Zealand birds such as the Tui, the Korimako, the Kokako and the Kakapo. The musician decided to donate all profits from the single to volunteers who help in predator-free sanctuaries on some of the New Zealand islands where Henika recorded all the bird sounds.

The Slovak-New Zealand artist goes on to prove her talent in the video. The masks and costumes were made by Henika herself, and she also co-directed the video.

That is it. Thank you for reading the Spectacular Slovakia weekly roundup. Have a lovely weekend. See you next Friday.

- Peter @PeterDlhopolec

Have you got any questions? You can reach Peter at peter.dlhopolec@spectator.sk.

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