2 August 2010

In and around Zilina

After Banska Stiavnica it was time to start heading home to England, stopping first in Zilina in the north-west of Slovakia.

Zilina was a convenient place to stop just not because of its location but I had been there before and knew that it was worth stopping in. I also know somebody there and was hoping to meet up with them.

The town centre has two distinct and contrasting areas.

The old town is in the centre and has the expected square ringed by old buildings that house many cafes and a few shops.

A new square sits below the old one and is very different in character. It has a less well-defined border and a less regular shape. It is more an absence of buildings than a think in its own right.

The one defining feature is rather special, particularly if you are a small child. A large water feature dominates one corner with sweeping layers to paddle through and jets of water to splash siblings with.

The Church of the Holy Trinity, which has seen stranger things in its six hundred years, sits imperiously above it all with perhaps just a tinge of jealousy for the joy that the water easily brings.


Leading away from the square, and following the Tesco department store as it does so, is a long narrow park that has some welcome shelter and some seating where you can linger to savour it.

At the end of the park are a fountain and statue that both fizz with unexpected energy that comes as bit of a shock after the sedate walk there. This is the liveliest spot in Zilina!

Elsewhere Zilina is cute but not that special, which probably says more about Slovakia in general than it does about Zilina in particular. There are quiet lanes revealing the shape of the old town that are surrounded by busy shopping streets built to accommodate the town's growth and, beyond these, residential areas built around attractive communal spaces.


Zilina is set on the edge of three ranges of hills and a short journey in any direction takes you out of the river valley and in to a different land.

Here there are villages like Cicmany famous for it's decorated wooden huts. The tale I was told was they arose from the application of some sort of wood preservative but that lacks the ring of truth. It seems more likely to me that it was done for purely artistic reasons and, besides, that's a better story.

Another village in the area, Rajecka Lesna, boasts both a small Calvary and an elaborate animated carving (called Bethlehem because it includes a nativity scene). Sadly the Calvary is not really worth a photograph and while the carving most certainly is an attendant patrols menacingly to ensure that none are taken.


The final stop on the tour was the spa at Rajecka Teplice.

The waters attracts visitors looking for health treatments and relaxation. There is a large open-air water centre with an Olympic size pool for the serious swimmers and some smaller pools for everybody else.

Between the town and the pools is a sumptuous garden laid out around a lake that is large enough to make it an interesting walk round but too small to be much of a adventure in a boat. One for small children only.

Protruding in to the lake is a classy restaurant that is an ideal place to have a leisurely lunch and/or drink. Which is what I did.

Zilina was asked to keep me entertained for a day and a half and it did that with consummate ease and some aplomb as if to say that it knew that I had been there before and would be tempted back again.

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