6 May 2010

Discovering Banska Stiavnica

The Slovak Embassy in London is on bit of a roll at the moment and I was delighted to be back there recently for a presentation on the town of Banska Stiavnica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I did some research on the town prior to the event and had already adjusted my Summer holiday plans to include a few days there. The itinerary is now Berlin, Brno, Bratislava, Banska Stiavnica, Zilina and Prague, with at least one day and two nights at each place. All the travel is by train and one bus (are there really no international trains out of Prague?!).

The taste of Banska Stiavnica started as we waited patiently outside for the presentation to begin with some local dress, music, song and dance from a group of musicians.

Once inside we were treated to some wine and could enjoy the exhibitions of art in wood by Arpad Pal and some early Beatles photographs by Dezo Hoffmann.

The one low point was the couple who compèred the evening who went through a scripted and stilted fake conversation that reminded me of the infamous Fox/Fleetwood incident. But that was all that was wrong.

The good bits included a talk by Arpad Pal on his art, the return of the musicians with instruments similar to bagpipes and the didgeridoo, a talk on the sympathetic restoration of some of the town's old buildings, a welcoming talk by the mayor and more food and drink.

I had a fantastic time listening to the talks, mixing with some of my Czech/Slovak friends and meeting lots of new people.

I managed to corner all of the main speakers (not the compères!), got their business cards and agreed to meet up in July when I am over there.

I first fell in love with Czechosolvakia (as it was then) some nineteen years ago when working in Prague and I've been trotting back there regularly ever since. With places like Banska Stiavnica still to explore I can see me going back for quite a while to come. I may even move there.

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