Friday, March 02, 2007


On Tuesday we took a local (old) bus to Kežmarok. Our first destination was the wooden articulated church. Built (1687 and 1717) during the time of Protestants’ religious oppression, this was the first time they were allowed to build their own churches. Because the parish carried the entire costs of the construction, wood was used as the sole construction material – even the nails were wooden. The curved ceiling was painted sky blue with fluffy clouds. Especially impressive were the wooden organ pipes. Next to the wooden church was the New Evangelical Church, built in 1894. Outside, it was a coral shade of pink; inside, it was more open and had an airy feeling. Architectural styles were rather eclectic, including some Islamic Turkish influence in designs. In a side room was a tomb of Imrich Thököly, the leader of an uprising and revered by Hungarians who now place national wreaths over the tomb.

After visiting the two churches, we wandered through the quiet town. Mothers pushed their bundled-up babies in fancy strollers. Old ladies strolled at a leisurely pace. The two-storey Renaissance buildings here were again well-preserved, painted in bright, unique colors. Many had wooden roofs. Old Market street, the oldest street in Kežmarok, had houses dating back to the 13th century and were typical regional craftsmen’s homes. One of the homes was now a museum, containing beautiful period furniture and other items of the time. My favorite were the pieces with inlaid wood. Also of interest was the town hall, rebuilt between 1541-1555 in the Renaissance style and later in 1779 after a fire. Its clock tower and spire reminded me of those on Serbian churches.

At the end of the main street was the Kežmarok castle, built in 1462 as a gothic urban fortress. It was built directly inside the town to protect it against its potential enemies. Today it is a museum – which unfortunately was closed (or at least apparently so) when we checked it twice.

Strážky Castle
Back at the bus station, we waited for the local bus to the Strážky castle, one of the most important cultural monuments of the Spiš region. A walk through an Aldi-like grocery store broke up some of that time, but the wait still was long. Finally we were on the bus and reached our destination. The tour began on the hour, so we had a bit of time to kill before entering the castle converted into a Renaissance mansion in the 16th century. Meanwhile, I walked across the street and took some pictures of the late-Gothic church of St. Anna and the attractive Gothic-Renaissance belfry. I then took a quick stroll through the English park-like grounds. Our “guide” gave Olja an English copy of some information on the collection, and turned on the lights in the room ahead of us, waited, and then turned off the lights. The mansion was filled with portraits of aristocracy, most in oil but some in pastel. Although some were disproportional (or had other “mistakes) and others the subject was downright homely, I was fascinated by the detail to the clothing and jewelry. Since 1962 the family of count Eduard Mednyanszky lived here. A large portion of the paintings in the building were done by their talented son Ladislav – the definite highlight of the tour. Olja asked the “guide” a few questions about Ladislav and other basic questions, but received no answers – not a word. Perhaps she was just a fill-in. After a long wait for the bus back to Kežmarok, we made a visit to a second grocery store to kill time before the next bus, and arrived back in Lomnica and walked back to the hotel in the dark.

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