SPECTACULAR SLOVAKIA WEEKLY

First Slovak lands on Times Square billboard

High Tatras get its first via ferrata. Japan's father of skiing was Slovak. More news in the Spectacular Slovakia roundup.

Slovak singer Karin Ann is featured on a billboard in New York City's Times Square in late August 2021.Slovak singer Karin Ann is featured on a billboard in New York City's Times Square in late August 2021. (Source: Courtesy of Karin Ann)

Hello. This week, we are covering two Slovaks, one featured on an NYC attraction and the other celebrated in Japan. Our weekend read is on Slovakia's Camino de Santiago.



SPORTS HISTORY

How a Slovak soldier became Japan's father of skiing

In late November 1910, following a two-month cruise aboard the Franz Ferdinand steamer, a soldier from the Danube monarchy, unknown outside military circles, arrived in Japan to teach Japanese soldiers to ski, holding two pairs of alpine skis in his hands.

The Bratislava military officer Theodor Edler von Lerch, born on August 31, 1869, was gifted not only at languages but also in sports, including alpine skiing.

"The Japanese, who had a military attaché in Vienna, knew about the progress of alpine skiing in the Austro-Hungarian army. They also knew that Lerch was an excellent skier," Brigadier Dr. Harald Pöcher wrote.

Lerch left for the town of Takata where he began to train a group of soldiers several times a week, demonstrating his talent for alpine skiing on Mt Kanaya without falling once, in January 1911. The first ski tour on nearby Mt Nambuyama took place a month later.

The Bratislava soldier instructed the regiment in French, often saying "Mettre ski!" This order became legendary, earning him the nickname "Monsieur Mettre Ski."

It did not take long before more men and women wanted to learn to ski. As a result, the first Japanese ski club was established. It had about 6,000 members in 1912. Today, there are millions of Japanese who enjoy skiing.

"If you ask an average Japanese citizen which Austrians they know, several names come to mind. Mozart and Lerch are always among them," Pöcher said.

A ski museum, Lerch memorials, and the annual Lerch Festival commemorate the introduction of alpine skiing and celebrate Major Lerch in Japan. Japanese travel guides and ski books always mention Lerch in connection with the introduction of skiing as well.

Despite his death in 1945 in Vienna, Lerch has thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter thanks to a character referred to as Reruhi-san, which is what the Japanese sometimes call Lerch.

  • Canoeist: Slovak athlete Zuzana Paňková, 16, became the junior champion after winning the kayak (K1) and canoe (C1) finals at the Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom European Championships, held in Slovenia, last weekend. She also came third in extreme slalom.
  • Paralympics: Slovak cyclist Jozef Metelka won bronze in the C4-5 1,000m time trial. It is the first medal for Slovakia at this year's Paralympics.

TRAVEL

First alpine via ferrata opens in the High Tatras

The first via ferrata in the alpine terrain of the Tatra Mountains has been opened to tourists.

The new, 430-metre attraction starts below the Priečne sedlo saddle and runs parallel to the existing trail. It takes a long time to reach the one-way via ferrata since tourists must first reach the Téryho chata mountain hut in the Malá Studená dolina valley and continue further to the Rázcestie pod Sedielkom crossroad.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to set off for the via ferrata from the Hrebienok resort early in the morning to avoid a late return or afternoon summer storms.

After conquering the via ferrata and the saddle, tourists can continue through the Veľká Studená dolina valley to Hrebienok.

The Priečne sedlo ferrata is an alternative solution for the originally planned ferrata from the Skok Waterfall to the Predné Solisko peak in the Mlynická dolina valley, which was not approved due to the protection of animal species.

Advice: A ferrata set and helmet can be borrowed in Starý Smokovec. Do not forget to purchase insurance, even though this is a type A ferrata.

OTHER TRAVEL STORIES

  • From grazing sheep to internationally recognised resort. The Demänovská dolina valley marks 100 years of tourism.
  • To make a visit to the Bojnice zoo more engaging for children, in particular, the zoo launched a year-round activity called zoocaching.
  • Stará Ľubovňa Castle was used to store Polish crown jewels. Near the town of Stará Ľubovňa where the castle is located, in the Hniezdne village, Slovak whiskey is made.
  • If you cannot decide on where to stay in the High Tatras, check out this blog written by Mins Lukas Savela, who has plenty of recommendations.

  • The yellow hiking trail Račkova dolina is closed until September 15. The Račkova dolina valley can be found in the Western Tatras, near the Pribylina village.

  • The re-enactment of a royal wedding will take place on August 28 at the Pustý hrad castle above the town of Zvolen. Just like 750 years ago, Constance, the daughter of King Béla IV of Hungary, will marry Daniel, the son of Leo of Galicia.


MUSIC

Slovak Billie Eilish on a Times Square billboard

Slovak singer Karin Ann, often dubbed the Slovak Billie Eilish, has made history by becoming the first Slovak to be featured on a billboard on Times Square in New York City.

"I am glad my music can reach other people in this way and that it can help them identify with what I sing about," Karin Ann, who is just 19 years old, said.

Equality, love, and freedom are some of the topics she dives into in her songs. The artist has recently released a new song called in company, which will appear on her second EP. She said the song explains "what a lonely person can feel in their own head regardless of whether they are alone or in a room full of people."

Apart from Karin Ann's appearance on the billboard, her latest single is featured on Spotify's Equal Global playlist alongside songs recorded by Billie Eilish, Anne-Marie, and Alessia Cara. In this way, Spotify celebrates female artists around the world.

Several weeks ago, Karin Ann made news after she wore a rainbow flag during her live performance on a national Polish television channel, for which she was criticised by the broadcaster.

Other news from this week:

  • The Sailor, a Slovak documentary about British sailor Paul E. Johnson, recently saw a triumphant American debut when it won an award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
  • The Art Nouveau building that housed the legendary Roland Café and former bank offices on Main Square in the very centre of Bratislava has been restored after fire, but its new look has been criticised by residents.

  • The open-air display "Wall: A Border Through Germany" is held in Bratislava until August 31, mapping the daily lives of Germans during the Cold War era.
  • Pigeons have been filling the historic St Elizabeth Cathedral in Košice with corrosive droppings for several years. Seven tonnes of pigeon poo are being removed.
  • Seventeen wineries will open their cellars in Pezinok, a town near Bratislava, on August 28. Tickets can be purchased here.
  • The American band Slipknot will play a concert in Bratislava on August 3, 2022. Tickets will go on sale this September.

WEEKEND READ

Walking the Camino de Santiago in Slovakia

When a group of her friends set off for the last 100-km stretch of the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain and her duties did not allow her to join them, Jana Liptáková felt the sting of jealousy.

She promised herself that she would go on her own private pilgrimage. When she starting mapping out her route, she realised the walk mattered more than the destination. So she walked the less beaten tracks along the Slovak stretch of Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James.

From late January until spring of this year, she walked the 83-km stretch from Trnava to Bratislava. Not all at once, but during one-day trips, sometimes in the opposite direction.

But that was not enough for her. She took her friend and set off on a week-long pilgrimage trip to eastern Slovakia, walking from Košice to Levoča, in mid-June.

Read more about her thrilling and emotional adventure in her post-pilgrimage reflection.


That's it for now. Thanks for joining me. Have a great weekend. - Peter

Do you have any tips? You can reach Peter at peter.dlhopolec@spectator.sk.

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