great travels

Road trip! Day 3: Beautiful Slovakia


s we climb into the car to begin our journey to the next stop on our road trip, the rest from walking is welcomed. Olaf types in our first stop in Slovakia - Banská Štiavnica - and we are underway. The drive is beautiful - the road winds through fog topped forest covered hills topped and small towns. Beautiful, but slow going. Which means by the time we reach our destination, it is later than we anticipated...and it is raining. Despite our interest in exploring this historical site, we are quite tired and less than enthusiastic about the though of leaving the comfort of the car. We do when we reach the top of the street that winds through the old town to take a few pictures.

Our first issue is trying to purchase a 24 hour pass. Although we are near a major tram (and bus) stop, we are having problems finding a machine – oh there is one across the street! We cross the street and wait in line. We follow the instructions on the screen – or try to – there is not a translate button. Everything is in Polish. Olaf puts the credit card in and out pops a receipt (in Polish) and noting else. No tickets. Is this the ticket? for both of us? Or…not sure. After standing there for some minutes watching what the machine spits out for other persons, we determine that we, in fact, do not actually have tickets. We, again, stand in line at the machine and proceed through the same motions as last time. This time, we are rewarded with two tickets. Now, which tram do we take?

An app that I use often in times like these (the need to understand a foreign public transport system) has been very reliable. I open it and put our final destination – Tram 3, the app tell us, should bring us within 4 minutes walking of the café. We look to see if the 3 will stop here but see no sign that is does – and the app tells us to walk around the corner to a different stop. We start walking. Funny thing about corners – there are usually more than one and (in my opinion) it can be difficult to determine which corner to stand on and on which side when dealing with tram stops. Especially if the tram number is still not listed on the stop and you are unsure which direction to travel. It has now been about 30 minutes and we are not any closer to the coffee so urgently needed. We see a 3-tram on the other side – but where is the stop?

Banská Štiavnica is a town in central Slovakia in the center of an immense caldera created by the collapse of an ancient volcano. The region had been inhabited as early as the prehistoric era – long before legendary Celts, devoted to the secrets of mining and metallurgy, arrived in the 3rd century BC. Archaeologists have been revealing the traces of prehistoric areas, cultures and inhabitants in the whole region. The site was also settled by early Slavs and an old Slovak fortified settlement was situated here in the 10th and 11th century. The local Slavic population was joined by skilled German settlers who started arriving in the 13th century. It is a completely preserved medieval town, and, because of its historical value, the town and its surroundings were proclaimed to be a World Heritage Site.

Štiavnica’s Calvary

Knowing that we still have some hours left to drive to the hotel in Bojnice, we continue on our way. Not to far out of town, I catch a glimpse of two red-topped towers on a hill in the distance. This is Štiavnica’s Calvary – a baroque Calvary finished in 1751 build on Scharfenberg hill, thus being visible from all sides and providing a complete view of Štiavnica’s caldera. Even from this distance, it looks spectacular.


We arrive in Bojnice road weary, hungry, and it is late (around 8). We are having an extremely difficult time finding the hotel in the dark and rain. Five times around the “block” and we spot it at the other end of the street to where we thought it was. One more pass to find a parking spot and we are finally there. We are greeted by the front desk hostess saying that she was hoping we would arrive before she left for the evening as she is the only one that speaks English. She arranges for a parking space in the hotel’s parking lot and suggests a few places to eat. A short stop in the room (to see the castle view she said was a part of the room we reserved) and we are back downstairs to find food.


We are off to find the Biograf – the closest restaurant to the hotel. The restaurant is interestingly decorated with old movie posters and movie projectors. On a wall outside as well as on a screen inside is a movie running without sound. We are seated and consult our menu. We place our order and sit to wait for our food. Eventually, I realize why it is decorated the way it is – Biograf is for biography. Only the bio part was said the same as the German word “Bio” to mean organic. So, I thought it was an organic food place.

A delicious dinner and a glass of wine, and we are very tired. We return to the hotel to sleep.