29 July 2010

In Banska Stiavnica

Banska Stiavnica was the longest section of my tour of Central Europe (four nights) and it earned this distinction thanks to a recent presentation on the town that I attended at the Slovak Embassy in London.

From this I learnt that the town was architecturally interesting and is surrounded by countryside worth walking through. I'll talk about the town first and leave the countryside for another day.

Banska Stiavnica is not big.

My hotel was on the southern edge of the centre and it took less than five minutes to get there and less than that to pass through the other side.

The town is on the side of a hill, rather than at the bottom which is what I had assumed, so there are no flat roads and every stroll is like a trip to the gym.

The are one"main" road cleaves its way through the town to produce something that looks not unlike an English market town. Only the architecture betrays the location.

The centre is pretty and clean, benefiting from restoration and new paint. There are no stunning buildings, and there are quite a few that have yet to feel the tender caress of restoration, but the overall picture is of a living town that is well proportioned, well loved and well presented.

The Old Castle is on the edge of the town preferring to be close to the action instead of adopting the more usual isolated spot high above it.

The modest walls around the inner building support a walkway that both defies health and safety regulations and provides views over the town that confirm just how close it is in distance and height.

You can see why this is the Old Castle and there is a new one elsewhere.

But what the Old Castle lacks in defensive qualities it more than makes up for with its history clearly revealed by the mix of stone and brick that have been used to extend and rebuild it. It's bit of a mess but it's an interesting mess.

There are also (small) towers to climb and artifacts to examine which all means that time there is well spent.

Climbing back down the steps to the town quickly takes you to the town square.

Here you can see a church, town hall and monument to the plague, all while enjoying a drink and a pizza (incidentally, every restaurant seems to be a pizzeria) but the square lacks focus and it is better to move on.

And just next to the square is the road to move on to. Climbing out of the town in the other direction is a short terrace of neat cottages decorated with roses.

You can easily do all of Banska Stiavnica in half a day but it is not a place to rush as its beauty seeps in rather than directly assaulting you. It is best savoured slowly taking in all the streets, alleys and steps more than once and pausing for a leisurely beer or ice cream when the exertion take its toll.

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