Village burnt down but thanks to contest it is one of Slovak symbols now

Ease your hiking muscles in a spa after a two-hour hike with incredible views and a walk through time.

(Source: NHF)

Rajecká Dolina valley has built an image as a piece of virgin nature thanks to advertisements for the mineral water Rajec. But what else is there in the region? Together with dozens of kilometres of hiking and cycling routes, there are plenty of options to spend your time here. We offer a few tips, including a hike, a town that has become a symbol of Slovakia, and a spa to relax in.

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Hike with magnificent views

The hike to the peak where we are heading today starts in Fačkovské Sedlo saddle which serves as a ski resort in winter. Make sure not to mistake the mountain Kľak in the Malá Fatra range with its namesake in the Veľká Fatra range! The Malá Fatra peak is accessible from several sides, but the route from Fačkovské Sedlo saddle is the easiest one. The peak of Kľak is visible from the paid car park; the unmistakable rocky summit is bevelled from one side and its shape is similar to Kriváň in the High Tatras.

Even though it seems that the summit is far away from the car park, you can manage the hike in an hour and 45 minutes. From the car park, take a dirt road up the hill and in ten minutes you will reach the first sign called Staré Cesty (Old Roads). There you connect to the yellow trail marking, which you will follow almost the whole hike.

In the beginning, the trail winds through the forest. You come out of the forest at Reváňske Sedlo saddle onto a meadow with views over the surrounding countryside, but soon merge into forest again. At the sign Pod Skalou (Under the Rock), where two hiking routes meet, you are really close to the peak of Kľak. Another ten minutes of walking through rocky terrain will bring you to the summit, adorned with a double cross.

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Silvia Vajdíková lives in Lednické Rovne and the hike to Kľak had been on her to-do list for a long time. She did the hike from Fačkovské Sedlo saddle in both winter and summer.

“From Kľak you get a view on all sides, which is a huge plus,” said Vajdíková. “There is plenty of space up there so hikers, and there are usually many of them, have a place to rest. I evaluate the route as not very demanding; at some places, I have a feeling that children manage it better than us, adults,” Vajdíková said.

The overall vertical distance on this route is about 500 metres and so the peak is sought after by hikers and families with children looking for an easier trail. The trail is often quite crowded with hikers.

We return to Fačkovské Sedlo saddle via the same route. “Sheep-cheese dumplings Bryndzové Halušky at Salaš Kľak are the icing on the cake,” said Vajdíková.

Animal-named ornaments

It takes some 12 minutes to get to Čičmany from Fačkovské Sedlo saddle by car. The village with wooden houses of dark wood painted with white ornaments is well known. In recent years, the ornament symbols have appeared on many objects from giftshops you can buy anywhere in Slovakia, not only in Čičmany. Many do not know, however, that they have specific names, which literally translated have names such as "for windows", "twists", "mutton rolls", "for dolls" or "chicken butts".

The origins of Čičmany house ornaments dates back to the second half of the 18th century and is related to the transition of using square beams, as the flat walls of the houses provided a surface for painting such decor, explains Adriana Bardyová, an ethnologist at Považské Museum.

"Initially, the coating had a purely functional character and in continuous strips insulated the most exposed parts of the facade, the cut surfaces of the beams and the window shutters from the weather," says Bardyová.

The iconic village of Čičmany is nearing collapse. Collection organised to save it Read more 

Only later did it develop into a rich ornamental painting over the entire surface of the walls. On the dark wooden base, the women of Čičmany applied white lime patterns, created by repeating simple geometric motifs - dashes, crosses, circles, zigzags, spirals and broken lines, creating a typical, most often band ornament, adds the ethnologist.

"Painting on houses has been preserved until today, but it gradually developed into new forms, transferred from folk embroidery," says Bardyová.

The fact that the wooden houses are so richly decorated can partly be attributed to the architect Dušan Jurkovič and international fundraising. When the village was hit by two big fires in 1907 and 1921, the residents wanted to build brick houses instead of wooden ones. Based on the intervention of the state and preservationists as well as support from the aforementioned collection, the houses had to be built again from wood.

"At that time, a competition for the most beautiful wooden house was announced in the village, and people decorated theirs as beautifully as they could," explains the ethnologist. "They were inspired by rich Čičmany embroidery and extended the ornaments to the entire facade."

Even though there are dozens of such decorated dwellings in the village, only two of them are open to the public as part of the Považské museum exhibition – Radenov house and house no. 42. Here visitors can see housing, employment, folk clothing and folk art. House no. 42 is even the only one in the reservation that is original and was not affected by the fire. Although the Radenov house was rebuilt in 1924, it is exceptional in its size. Multi-storey wooden houses were not usually built in Slovakia.

Not far from the exhibition houses are Humno of Ondrej Gregor and Ľudovo-umelecké (Folk-art) Čičmany, where visitors can buy souvenirs and objects made in Slovakia, have refreshments in a restaurant or even stay overnight.

Mineral water from spa to home

From Čičmany to Rajecké Teplice there are several places worth stopping at - the Slovak wooden nativity scene and Calvary in Rajecká Lesná, the ruins of the Gothic church of St. Helena in Stránske, the Košiare reservoir and hike to Stratený Budzogáň.

However, we travel directly to Rajecké Teplice, where there is a popular spa park with a lake, the Museum of Transport, but above all the Spa Aphrodite, which is the dominant feature of Rajecké Teplice. In the past, the spa and the thermal spring were sought out by Palatine Juraj Thurzo, who contributed to their expansion in the 17th century.

In addition to medical patients, people who are looking for rest and relaxation also come to the spa with a distinctive ancient architectural style. For them, procedures are preventative and an effective escape from work stress. Those who struggle with health problems after overcoming covid can also find a special post-covid treatment here.

Visitors will find indoor and outdoor pools, a mineral thermal pool, a rehabilitation pool, a swimming pool and a leisure pool or a pool for families with children. Visitors can also try the Turkish bath or the reflective path outside. There are also several saunas here, where you can choose from different temperatures and intensities, as well as a cooling pool and popular sauna rituals.

"Spa Aphrodite is a great place to relax for us," says Linda Pršová, who likes to go to the spa together with her husband. "The thermal water together with relaxing music and beautiful spaces have a soothing effect on the body and soul."

Spa guests can also undergo drinking treatments, and those who miss mineral water from the spa at home can order it via the e-shop in bottles. If you want to make your stay more pleasant with an interesting walk, go directly from Rajecké Teplice to the ruins of Lietava Castle. More experienced hikers can do the hike there and back in less than four hours.

The article has been brought to you thanks to a partnership with the Žilina Tourism Region - www.zilinskyturistickykraj.sk.

Implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic.

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