Friday, March 02, 2007

Poprad and Spišská Sobota

The following morning, we took the modern tram to Poprad, a town about 18 km from Tatranská Lomnica. With a population of about 55,000, it is known as the gateway to the Tatras. We found the streets of Poprad rather deserted and most everything was closed – shops, museums, tourist places, and churches (for viewing). I did hear a Sunday service being conducted at the St. Egidius Church (13th century early Gothic), so we did not go in to admire its medieval wall paintings.

Spišská Sobota
With not much to do in Poprad, we walked to the adjoining town of Spišská Sobota. On our way, we passed by a river with ducks (one of the few wildlife we saw) and the huge Aqua Park. Snow had nearly disappeared, with only piles remaining. As we entered Spišská Sobota, the architecture and atmosphere changed, to a peaceful reminiscence of a medieval town. In the 13th century, Spišská Sobota was an important trade center and was populated by German immigrants. In the 1500’s it was a center of trade, crafts, and culture. Since 1950 it has been a municipal cultural reserve. Many gothic, renaissance, and baroque homes have been preserved, painted in bright, varied colors. Many of the doors were arched, some with decorative wood designs.

Walking the cobblestone street was very pleasant, passing by old men riding bicycles. Its main church, St. Jacob (built 1273 and remodeled in1464) was unfortunately closed. Only after visiting the church in Levoča did we realize that we missed seeing one of Master Paul’s gorgeous carved altars. Other architectural items of interest in the town included a 16th century chapel and a renaissance belfry with sgrafitto on top. For lunch, we ate at a restaurant in one of the restored renaissance buildings with dark carved ceiling beams and enjoyed a satisfying meal of beef goulash with “dumplings”, which looked more like small slices of crustless bread. Completing our leisurely walk of the old town, we headed back to Poprad and took a tram back to the mountains.

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