Friday, March 02, 2007


On Wednesday Olja and I split paths. I took the train to visit my cousin in Košice, the second-largest city in Slovakia and the most important eastern city. Arriving in Košice a couple of hours later than originally planned (bad train connections), Drew was there to greet me at the train station. We walked around the old city. I remarked at how clean the city was – no trash around and an absence of vehicles. Some of the buildings looked recently restored. In fact, the scaffolding had just come off of the main St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral and St. Michael’s chapel. Looking in a brochure, I hardly recognized the small chapel in the photo, all dingy dark gray. Drew explained that the area had undergone significant transformation in recent years, including the streets closed off to vehicles. In front of the church was the “singing fountain”, empty for the winter. We did notice some pansies peeking through the grass. We had a late lunch at a small restaurant he knew, and we both had a meal of fried cheese – not very healthy, but tasty. We went in a few craft shops in search of a handmade-looking doll (I try to collect one from every country I visit), but didn’t see any. I did pick up a few unique corn-husk figures for gifts.

After we had enough walking, we headed to the apartment of Drew and his new wife Andrea. Although it was next to the city center, the building (and surrounding ones) was in the drab Socialist style – such a contrast to the architecture of the city center. Over some delivered pizza, they showed me pictures of their September wedding and some videos. I especially enjoyed learning about the unique local wedding customs, including one in which a plate was shattered and the groom had to sweep up the shards as quickly as possible, hampered somewhat by guests kicking around some of the pieces. For good luck, one piece was kept. The video also contained the tradition of Andrea being “kidnapped” and Drew had to visit local pubs until he found her. Although it wasn’t as good as having been there in person (the airfare was way too costly for just a weekend), I was glad I was able to see the footage and to have spent time with Drew and Andrea.

The next morning we got up at a leisurely hour and had breakfast before heading out. We entered the city’s main attraction – St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral. It is the largest eastern-most Gothic church. It was built around 1308, with additions 200 years later. The exterior was very gothic in appearance, complete with gargoyles. The decorative roof reminded me of a church in Budapest. It was quite dark inside (no lights were on and the narrow windows didn’t let much light in on this overcast day), so it was difficult to see many of the interior architectural details. The double-winged main altar from the 15th century was quite impressive though. In various parts of the church people were praying. At the information center (once the town hall), I purchased a porcelain doll in traditional costume – not exactly what I had wanted, but it would do. After meandering through some pretty side streets (including past an old Synogague and a 16th century municipal prison), we stopped and had some crepes. On the way to the train station, I took photos of the building that had caught my eye as I entered the city, the pseudo-gothic Jakob’s Palace, built in the 19th century. Departing after a nice talk in the park, I headed back to the Tatras, carefully counting the number of stops to ensure I got off at the right destination. Thank goodness the numbers are similar in Slovak and Serbian!

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