Weekend: Can you observe a Christmas comet this year?

Ski resorts are reopening, and so are galleries, museums and libraries.

The ski resort Paseky in the Vrátna Dolina valley, northern Slovakia, on December 10, 2021.The ski resort Paseky in the Vrátna Dolina valley, northern Slovakia, on December 10, 2021. (Source: TASR)

This week, we are writing about two expected meteor showers, ski resorts, and a musical bridge.


Christmas comet approaching

Meteors and a Christmas comet will underline the magic of this year’s holiday season.

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The Ursids meteor shower will be active from December 17 to December 26.

Astronomer Antonín Bečvář, who is also the founder of the Skalné Pleso Observatory in the High Tatras, was the first to discover and observe the meteor shower in 1945 – just two days before Christmas. Back then, one could observe up to 88 meteors an hour during its peak.

“At its peak, we could see about 10 meteors an hour this year, but the conditions for observation are not going to be very good - the moon will be at its maximum on December 22, three days after the full moon,” said Ján Svoreň from the Astronomical Institute at the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

However, people will enjoy excellent conditions for observing the annual Quadrantid meteor shower after Christmas. It will be active from December 30 to January 7. The peak activity of the meteor shower will occur on January 3.

“It will only last a few hours,” the astronomer noted.

The vast majority of meteors will appear as soon as it gets dark outside, and they will be observable until midnight.

The Christmas comet will also fly above Slovakia. During the holidays and after the New Year, there will be perfect conditions for observing the 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko short-period comet.

A small telescope will suffice for observers, the academy noted.

In December, the comet will be visible two hours after sunset. In early January, people can observe the comet all night long.


Lomnica will reopen to skiers

Ski tracks and cable cars in another ski resort in the Tatras, Tatranská Lomnica, will go back into operation on December 18, following the example of the ski resort Štrbské Pleso from the past weekend.

The ski resort will start off this year’s season on the ski runs from Čučoriedky to Tatranská Lomnica. Chairlifts from Tatranská Lomnica to Štart (station) and from Štart to Čučoriedky (station) will also be in operation, as well as cable cars from Tatranská Lomnica to Štart, from Štart to Skalnaté Pleso (mountain lake), and from Skalnaté Pleso to Lomnický Štít – the second highest peak in the Tatras.

Only fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered from Covid can use the services in the ski resort, which will be open daily from 8:30 to 15:30. Restaurants and cafes will serve meals and drinks over takeout windows.

At Štrbské Pleso, people can ski on three slopes: Interski, Turistická and Junior. In Starý Smokovec, a funicular cable car to Hrebienok (ski resort) and a toboggan run from Hrebienok to Starý Smokovec are in operation as well.

Low Tatras: The ski season on Chopok peak in the Liptov region began last weekend, but the season in the Jasná ski resort was symbolically kicked off on December 15.

Bratislava: Small ski resorts Pezinská Baba and Zochova Chata in the Bratislava Region opened last weekend and have operated all week long thanks to good weather conditions.

Other ski resorts across the country are gradually reopening.


United on a music bridge

Walking on an old railway bridge in Trenčín has become a rather unusual music experience, and it grows in intensity as more people gather on the bridge.

The construction reacts to people’s steps. If a person walks across the bridge, one of 16 musical compositions starts playing and other layers add up as more people come and join. So soon as they step off the bridge, the music stops. The song sounding from the bridge was composed by Toello from Trenčianske Teplice.

The civic association Trakt came up with the project to promote the idea of unity, cooperation and companionship in a time when Slovak society is extremely polarised. The pandemic is one of the reasons. “Though an individual plays a key role, they cannot play the song in full on their own,” said Štefan Oliš from Trakt, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

The bridge, used by walkers and cyclists today, is one of the major projects of the city of Trenčín, which has been named the 2026 European Capital of Culture.

Other developments from this week

  • Wine production and ceramics, pastimes still practiced in Modra, hold important places in the town’s cultural history.
  • A hiking trip: Geldek and Jelenec in the Small Carpathians.
  • An old wooden chapel in the heart of Slovakia is an extraordinary sacral construction that many tourists have not discovered.
  • Enjoy an aerial tour of the Malá Fatra region from your sofa.
  • Check out how Bratislava under the snow blanket looked in the years 1963, 1967 and 1987.
  • From the late afternoon on December 17, the city of Košice will run a public ice-rink in City Park for the vaccinated and the recovered, but only 33 people can skate on the ice at one time. The rink will be open daily from 9:00 until 20:30, except Tuesday mornings, until March.
  • Bronze Age jewellery has recently been unearthed on a hillfort in western Slovakia.


Artworks as a universal ambassador

An image of a farmer in a folk costume with a pair of oxen next to an image of a Tatra truck, both with the High Tatras in the background, or folk ornaments literally questioned by conceptual artist Július Koller.

A painting of a struggle of rural Slovaks for a better life with the distinctive brushwork of the famed Martin Benka juxtaposed with an image by contemporary photographer Boris Németh, of two tanks with an ironic undertone somewhere in eastern Slovakia.

While each of these excellent pieces of art published in the book Slovakia in the Artworks of the Slovak National Gallery can stand alone, pairing them together and compiling them into a rich visual mosaic creates a deeper and sheerer picture of Slovakia.

National gallery: The Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava will reopen on December 18, but only for the vaccinated and the recovered.

That is it for now. Stay healthy, stay safe, and enjoy the pre-Christmas weekend! – Peter

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

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