I arrived in Bratislava on Thursday and on Friday morning my brother, two of his friends and I rented a car for a weekend road trip. Friday we spent driving into the fog. However, on Saturday we went to search for some sunshine in Slovakia. Our day began in Zvolen, where we stayed the two nights of our trip. From here we planned to drive up to Banská Bystrica, with a short stop in Hronsek along the way. The day would eventually become a lot more eventful than initially planned.
Hronsek was on our agenda due to the UNESCO listed Drevený artikulárny kostol, a Scandinavian style wooden church. It turned out to be our first stop of the day as we drove north from Zvolen towards Banská Bystrica. The village of Hronsek is quite small, so we thought that we would see the church easily from the road. Which of course never is the case, instead we drove on a small side road where we found the church. It was standing in the middle of the neighborhood. With that said, the building was quite impressive and not something that I thought we would find in a village like Hronsek.
Donovaly – Searching for Sunshine In Slovakia
The weather started to clear up after our visit of Hronsek and the fog was much lighter this day compared to Friday. But as we came closer to our next stop Banská Bystrica we started to discuss our options. Knowing that we were close to the mountains we decided to head a bit further north. We were motivated by the hope that we would get above the fog. Our target became the town of Donovaly where we knew there was a ski resort.
Our search of sunshine in Slovakia looked rather promising as we arrived and parked our rental car in Donovaly. Here the sun was shining and all the skiers prepared themselves for a day on the slopes. For us, we set our new target to get as high up the mountain as we could. Well, not by the means of walking. Instead, we walked towards the area with a cabin lift that goes all the way to one of the peaks.
What we did not count on was the risk of snowfall. During our short walk, it started to snow heavily and we could soon not see anything in the distance. So when we arrived at the lift, going to the top was no longer an option. Instead, we went to the restaurant and enjoyed some hot soup. Slovak garlic soup is a real treat!
Once we had finished the soup, we noticed that the weather had cleared up a bit and we decided to go to the top. It would be a pity to miss it as we are already in the area. I will just say that the top offered some amazing views and even some sunshine. We were quite happy with the fact that we decided to eat while it was snowing.
We did eventually also reach Banská Bystrica, the capital of the region. The old mining town had been on my mind for quite some time. It is one of the towns that we missed to visit while living in Bratislava. As a matter of fact, we did no longer need to search for the sunshine in Slovakia.
We arrived in Banská Bystrica around noon and found a parking lot in an area a bit outside of the center. Consequently, we had a walk through a residential area to find Dolná street, the street that leads up to the main square. The Slovak National Uprising Square was quite impressive, it also set the theme for our visit. The Slovak National Uprising or SNP is something you will find in names all over Slovakia. So it was finally time to learn more about the uprising against Nazi Germany that took place in Slovakia during the Second World War.
Our main stop during our visit was the Slovak National Uprising Museum. Here we first had the possibility to walk around in a park filled with vehicles from the war, both Soviet and German ones. After that, we entered the museum itself. The most interesting fact was that it had been Banská Bystrica that had been the center of the uprising and that the fighters later had moved their operations to the Tatra Mountains where they had better shelters.
A late and short lunch later we were once more heading back to our “camp” in Zvolen.
We had two objectives for the afternoon in Zvolen. The first one was to see the Zvolen Castle before darkness. The second goal was to have a nice dinner in a restaurant that we had been recommended and where the hotel had assisted us with making a reservation.
I grew to like Zvolen during our stay and the main square, Námestie SNP, was nicer than most people had told me that it would be. Yes, SNP, as mentioned previously, is a Slovak abbreviation for Slovak National Uprising. If you fancy improving your Slovak, the Slovak words are Slovenské národné povstanie.
The Zvolen Castle, Zvolenský zámok, reminded us quite a bit of the castle in Bratislava. A few sizes smaller and the fact that it hadn’t seen any renovation in recent times was the main difference. We decided not to go inside because it seemed to only be an art gallery. Instead, we walked around the castle enjoying the building from the outside and then also having a look at the armored WWII trains in the park next to the castle. The Pancierový vlak Hurban didn’t impress as much as other sights this day, but it did at least follow the same theme as our visit in Banská Bystrica.
Just to shortly mention the dinner, we enjoyed the best food of the whole weekend and I finally found a beer that I really liked. Well, it was probably the first and last time I found that beer – so it will have to be wine again from now on. And, I’m quite happy that we also encountered some sunshine in Slovakia.