Kapustnica

Kapustnica

To make Kapustnica, you will need to have some home-made sour cabbage (kapusta). You can either buy this or try and make it yourself.

The ingredients used to make sour cabbage are as follows:

  • Shredded Cabbage
  • Apples
  • Beetroots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Bay Leaves
  • Caraway Seeds

And here is a step-by-step video showing you how to make home-made kapusta, otherwise known as sour cabbage or sauerkraut.

Once your kapusta has fermented, you can make the Kapustnica.

Kapustnica
Kapustnica
Print Recipe
Kapustnica is a traditional Slovak Christmas soup, consisting mainly of sour cabbage. The ingredients and method for making Kapustnica are shown below:
Kapustnica
Kapustnica
Print Recipe
Kapustnica is a traditional Slovak Christmas soup, consisting mainly of sour cabbage. The ingredients and method for making Kapustnica are shown below:
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Begin by cooking the pork ribs and the joint of smoked pork, together with the sausage, in a pot with 1 gallon of water.
  2. After 10 minutes, when the water is boiling, add the dry mushrooms and let it cook until the meat is half tender. Then add the sour cabbage and its juices to the pot and cook it again for about an hour.
  3. Half way through the hour, add 2 whole onions, a meat and a vegetable boullion cube and ½ cup of white wine.
  4. Make some ‘zápraška’, which is prepared from oil, pepper, paprika and water, and then thickened with flour. When the hour is up, add the peeled potatoes and the ‘zápraška’, and stir.
  5. Then, let it cook for a further five minutes, adding more spices according to taste. When the cooking is finished, serve it in a soup bowl.
Recipe Notes

Can be used as a starter or a main meal.

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7 Important Slovak Churches and Cathedrals

Slovakia is an extremely religious country, with Catholicism being the majority religion. Below is a look at seven Slovak churches and Slovak cathedrals, which are very interesting and worthy of a visit during your stay in the country.

1). St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava

Saint Martin's CathedralThe biggest, oldest and finest church in Bratislava, St. Martin’s Cathedral was built in the gothic style in the C14th and C15th.

It was here, during the time when Bratislava was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, that a series of Hungarian Kings and Queens, including Marie Theresa, were crowned.

2). Evangelical Wooden Church, Kezmarok

This little wooden church was built in the times of religious oppression of the Protestants.

Evangelical Church KezmarokThis is why it is out of the town centre and made of wood – the cheapest of materials.

The church is in a Baroque style and has a beautifully ornate pulpit, font and altar (built by Jan Lerch, between 1718 – 1727).

3). Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is built on top of a steep hill over looking Levoča.

Marianske LevocaEvery year, thousands of pilgrims from all around Slovakia make the journey up the hill, to demonstrate their love for God. This pilgrimage is known as the Marianske Pilgrimage.

The Marianske Pilgrimage played an important role for Slovak Catholics during the Communist era, and in 1995, the Basilica was honoured by a visit from Pope John Paul II.

4). St. James’ Cathedral, Levoča

In any visit to Levoča, the guided tour around the beautiful St. James’ Cathedral is a must.

Saint James LevocaThe centre-piece of the Cathedral is the late Gothic main altar, which has been preserved in its original magnificence.

A height of 18.62 meters and a width of 6.27 meters makes it the largest altar piece of its kind in the world. The gothic altar is the work of Master Pavol of Levoca, who finished the altar in 1517.

5). Spišská Kapitula

The tiny city of Spišská Kapitula, situated on top of a hill a few miles west of Spiš Castle, is known locally as the Slovak Vatican.

Spisska kapitulaAs well as a Seminary, there is also the impressive twin-towered St. Martin’s Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th Century.

Inside St. Martin’s are a collection of colourful frescoes showing the coronation of the Hungarian monarch, King Karol Robert.

6). St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral

Saint Elisabeth KosiceSt. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, in Košice, is the most beautiful church in the whole of Slovakia.

The gothic cathedral was built at the end of the 14th Century and is dedicated to the daughter of Charles of Anjou, St. Elizabeth.

7). Church of St. Egidius

Saint Egidius BardejovYou could be forgiven for mistaking the beautiful Church of St. Egidius for a cathedral, such is its vastness and spleandour.

Inside the church are eleven wooden altars, including an altar carved by Master Pavol of Levoca.

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Slovak Folk Dances

Slovak Folk Music

In Slovakia, tradition is also kept alive in the form of music and dance. Slovak folk music is popular throughout Slovakia, with different regions performing their own unique dances. When Slovak folk groups perform a dance from a particular region, they wear the traditional costumes typical of that region.

Slovak folk dances are especially popular in the Orava, Liptov, Šaris and Horehronie regions of Slovakia.

ORAVA DANCES

There are many different Slovak dances typical of the Orava region. These beautiful traditional dances include:

Cepovy

This is a folk dance full of energy and quite typical for the Low Orava Region. The dance represents the old traditional way of threshing cereals with flails.

Olasku

This dance is performed by girls dancing over sticks, which are called ‘love’. Olasku, Orava.

This dance comes from the village of Osadka, in the Low Orava Region, and girls traditionally dance this when playing up on the meadows and also at ‘fasiang’ festivals.

‘Fasiang’ is a Slovak festival, with traditional masks, from the Low Orava Region. Typical masks include a bear, a gypsy, a soldier, half-man/half-woman, loktibrada (little bearded dwarf) and others.

SARIS DANCES

The Saris

The Saris is an energetic dance performed by a couple, which is typical for the Saris region, in Eastern Slovakia. The routines includes the following dance elements:

  1. Karicka
  2. Bottle Dance
  3. Sarispolka

HOREHRON

This is another energetic folk dance, which is typical for the Horehronie Region, in Central Slovakia. The dance is always very popular with the crowds thanks to the characteristic stamping rhythms.

MYJAVA

An energetic dance performed by a couple, typical for the Myjava Region, in Western Slovakia.

SLOVAK MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

The folk music that accompanies the dancing, is played using the following musical instruments:

  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Double Bass
  • Clarinet
  • Accordion
  • Penny Whistle
  • Bagpipes
  • Cimbal
  • Fujara
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Slovak Inventors

Slovak Inventors

Despite her small size, Slovakia has provided the world with some important inventors throughout the years. Here we take a look at some of the more well-known Slovak inventors.

JÁN BAHÝĹ

Ján Bahýľ, born in Zvolenská Slatina, in 1845, is probably the greatest of all the Slovak inventors.

In 1869, Bahýľ graduated from the Banská Štiavnica Mining Academy with a diploma in technical drawing. During his year-long army service, he was noticed by his superiors, having made some technical improvements for the Hungarian army, and was enrolled into the technical staff.

As well as being entrusted with complex building tasks while in the army, Bahýľ was also able to study at the Vienna Military Academy, where he graduated in 1879 and was made a lieutenant.

During his time in the army, Bahýľ was able to work on a number of inventions, many of which involved hydraulics. His first notable invention, which he actually financed with his own money, was the Steam Tank. This was bought by the Russian army, the money from which enabled Bahýľ to dedicate the rest of his life to inventing.

Bahýľ was granted 7 patents in all, including the invention of the tank pump, air balloons combined with an air turbine, the first petrol engine car in Slovakia (with Anton Marschall) and a lift up to Bratislava castle.

Perhaps, he is best remembered though for constructing a petrol motor-driven helicopter, which he himself flew up to 4 meters high and for over 1500 meters, in 1905.

REV. JOZEF MURGAŠ

Jozef MurgasJozef Murgaš was born in Tajov, in Slovakia, and at the age of 18 joined the priesthood. As well as his religion, both science and art also played an important part in his life.

In 1889, Rev. Jozef Murgaš attended the Academy of Art in Munich, where he had a lot of success. Meanwhile, his fascination for science continued, and he enrolled at the Electrical College of Vienna, where he studied the field of wireless telegraphy. Murgaš emigrated from Slovakia to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where he achieved his first scientific breakthrough: Murgaš devised a system which greatly improved Morse code.

Murgaš’ “Rotary-spark-system” allowed for much faster communication, through the use of musical tones. He patented his new invention, which is now listed as the “Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus”, as well as 16 more inventions in this field. These patents would go on to form the foundations for the invention of the radio.

A lack of money and a number of financial setbacks led the humble Murgaš to give the younger, and more prosperous Marconi, the rights to all his patents. Murgaš did not seek recognition for his work, and indeed history remembers only Marconi as the inventor of the radio.

ŠTEFAN BANIČ

Štefan Banič was born in Nestic, part of Smolenice, in Slovakia. At the age of 37, Banič emigrated to America, where he found work as a coal miner in Pennsylvania.

Stefan BanicA tragic accident, that he witnessed in 1912, led Banič to build a prototype of a parachute and then register it with the U.S. Patent Office. On the 3rd June 1914, he demonstrated how his parachute worked in the most daring style, by jumping from a building in Washington. He later went on to jump from an army aircraft.

Banič kindly gave away his patent rights to the U.S. Army. Although the parachute proved to be extremely important during WWI, he received little fame or fortune for his invention.

WOLFGANG VON KEMPELEN

Wolfgang von Kempelen was born in Bratislava and spent most of his life in Vienna, where he worked in the service of Maria Theresa, ruler of the Habsburg Empire.

Wolfgang von KempelenVon Kempelen was quite simply a genius. Among his many achievements was the invention of a speaking machine (in 1791) and a special typewriter for the blind.

His most famous invention, however, was the construction of The Turk, a chess-playing automaton, which was later found out to be a hoax.

JOZEF KAROL HELL

The invention of the water pillar, the water pump machine, by Jozef Karol Hell in 1749, played a big part in Banská Štiavnica becoming one of the biggest centres of silver mining in Europe, during the latter half of the C18th.

His first machine could pump water up from the depth of 212 metres. Hell then continued to build a serious of pumping machines, between 1749-1768, which were among the best technology in this field, worldwide.

JOZEF MAXIMILIAN PETZVAL

Jozef Maximilian Petzval, born in Spišská Belá, in 1807, is considered by many to be the founder of modern photography.

Having spent his early years studying in Levoča and Košice, Petzval joined the University of Pest, at the age of 19, where he studied Mathematics and Philosophy. During this time, he enjoyed notable success, becoming an assistant at the University in 1835. This then led to a chair of Mathematics at the University of Vienna, two years later.

Petzval is most renowned for his work on optical lenses in the 1840’s, which was instrumental in the construction of modern cameras. He is also remembered for greatly improving the telescope and designing the opera glass.

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14 Must See Castles in Slovakia

Thanks to its turbulent and constantly changing history, we are able to marvel at a wide array of castles in Slovakia, which are extremely varied in both their function and appearance. Below I take a look at 14 must see Slovak castles, all of which are well worth a visit.

DEVÍN CASTLE

Devín Castle is situated 5 miles West of Bratislava on the Danube, and just a stone throw away from Austria.

The castle was destroyed in 1809 by Napoleon’s army, and today it lies in ruins.

Near the castle is a memorial to Ľudovít Štúr, who fought for Slovak independence from Hungary, and made Devín Castle a symbol of Slovakia’s glorious past.

BRATISLAVA CASTLE

Often referred to as an upside-down table, Bratislava Castle is certainly unique with an original design that is unmistakable.

Parts of the castle are open to the public and contain exhibitions of the Slovak National Museum.

There is a very good exposition on the History of Musical Instruments, as well as a historical furniture exposition and a collection of exhibits called ‘The Jewels of Slovakia’s Remote Past’.

ORAVA CASTLE

Orava CastleOrava Castle is one of the most well-known in Slovakia, with people coming from all parts of the world to admire both its historical and aesthetic values. Today, the castle houses archaeological, ethnographical and natural history expositions. The original dungeons of the castle are also open to the public and house an exposition about medieval justice.

A guided tour of the castle in English is well worth the admission fee and includes amongst other things a demonstration of medieval hawkers and a sword fight between knights over their fair lady.

For those of you that venture to the top towers in the castle, the view over the Orava is simply stunning. All in all, Orava Castle makes for a great family day out.

SPIŠ CASTLE

Spis CastleSpiš Castle, with an area of over 4 ha, is one of the largest castles in Central Europe.

In 1993, Spiš Castle was included in UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.

Today, the castle houses the Spiš Museum. This permanent exhibition, and the superb views of the surrounding countryside that the castle offers you, makes Spiš Castle well worth a visit.

KEZMAROK CASTLE

The Castle at Kezmarok is the only fully preserved castle in the Spis region. It was originally a medieval Gothic fortress, built to protect the town of Kezmarok.

The first exhibition was opened in the castle in 1931, and today the whole of the interior has been given over to the museum, which displays a number of permanent expositions and many beautiful exhibits.

ČERVENÝ KAMEŇ CASTLE

Cerveny Kamen CastleOne of the best preserved castles in Slovakia, Červený Kamen is situated at the foothills of the Small Carpathian mountain range. The castle has a unique complex of monumental cellars, as well as an extensive collection of original household artefacts.

The castle gallery contains works from old masters, predominantly from Central Europe, and there is also a very good military exhibition.

ČACHTICE CASTLE

At the beginning of the C17th, Čachtice Castle belonged to the Countess Elizabeth Báthory.

As any vampire enthusiast will tell you, this was the infamous Blood Countess of Čachtice, who according to legend, bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. In reality, the Countess was one of the biggest serial killers in history, who tortured and murdered over 600 women from the nearby villages.

BECKOV CASTLE

Beckov Castle10 miles South of Trenčín, you can visit the ruin of Beckov Castle, which lies on a steep rock face overlooking the village of Beckov.

In the village itself, at the North end of the main square, there is a museum, which documents the castle’s history. It is from outside the museum, where you are able to enjoy the best view of the castle.

TRENČÍN CASTLE

Trenčín Castle overlooks the town from its place on a high rocky headland.

Trencin CastleToday, Trenčín Castle is owned by the Trenčín Museum, and there are a number of expositions housed in various parts of the castle including an interesting exhibition on ‘Present Slovak Heraldic Production’.

Engraved into the castle rock is an inscription by the Roman army, which dates back to 179AD.

BOJNICE CASTLE

One of the best known historical monuments in Slovakia, Bojnice Castle is also one of the most beautiful.

Bojnice CastleToday, the fairy-tale castle houses art and historical expositions all year round. There is also a falconry in the grounds, and the oldest lime tree in Slovakia.

However, it is the unconventional cultural activities, such as the International Ghost and Spirit festival, which set it apart from other castles in Slovakia.

BUDATÍN CASTLE

Budatin CastleBudatín Castle belongs to the water castles, that in the past were protected by streams and moats.

The water castles were built in the period after the Tatar invasion throughout Slovakia, to help prevent any further invasions.

Tinker Exhibition at Budatin CastleToday, there are three exhibitions of the Považské museum housed here.

Both the archaeological and the historical exhibitions are worth a quick look, but the real attraction here is the Tinker Art exhibition, which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.

KREMNICA CASTLE

The dominant feature of the town castle is the gothic church of St. Catherine, the patron Saint of Kremnica. The church’s short and wide two-aisled nave is not typical of the gothic style.

Kremnica CastleThe church’s tower, which was added to the church in the second half of the C15th, was used as the watchman’s tower in medieval times as it was the highest point in the castle.

Today, the tower, which has 127 steps, offers spectacular views of Kremnica and the surrounding countryside.

ZVOLEN CASTLE

Zvolen CastleThe position of Zvolen Castle is quite unique in that it is located right in the town centre. The castle was built between 1370-1380, originally intended as a comfortable accommodation for royal guests.

Today, this well-preserved castle is home to exhibitions of the Slovak National Gallery. These exhibitions include the “Old European Art” exposition, “From the history of Zvolen” exposition, and also various works by notable Slovak artists from C20th.

BANSKÁ ŠTIAVNICA NEW CASTLE

Banska Stiavnica CastleThe new castle, in Banská Štiavnica, was built during the years 1564-1571, as part of the town’s fortification system.

Up on a hill, overlooking the town, the castle was defensively in a brilliant strategic position.

This same position now provides you with a beautiful view of the historic town and the surrounding area. Today, the castle houses a very interesting exposition about the Habsburg – Turkish wars.

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The Three Kings (Traja králi)

The Slovakia festival, Traja králi (the Three Kings) is a holiday of obligation in Slovakia, on the 6th January, in honour of the Three Wise Men, who came to bow before the newly born, baby Jesus. In the past, this day was celebrated with people going round houses in the village, dressed up as the three kings and singing Christmas carols.

The boys of the village would go around the houses with a star, dressed in long white shirts with crowns on their heads and in some areas even a figure of an angel would accompany them. They would sing carols, make wishes and thank the people for any gifts they might receive. One of the wishes they would make was as follows:

“We, the Three Kings, have come to you to wish you health and happiness for many long years. From far away we have come, our journey has been long. We saw the star when Jesus Christ was born, the star shined above Bethlehem. When we came we found the baby Jesus straight away. He was born in poverty, and in his honour, we beg for forgiveness that we have come round to wish you a Happy New Year.”

The carols were supposed to bring happiness, health and prosperity into people’s homes. At first, the Catholic Church forbade these carols because the Church considered it to be a pagan tradition. However, as the people did not want to let go of this tradition, the Church eventually accepted it. Gradually, this tradition became an important part of the holidays and included priests, sextons, singers, altar boys and even the mayor. They would go round the houses and bless the people with holy water and frankincense, and would write above the door, with a blessed chalk, the initials of the three kings: G (Gaspar), M (Melichar) and B (Baltazar).

The Three Kings, the priest and the carol singer were often invited into the people’s homes, where the woman of the house would sit the visitors around the table and bring them some treats. After the guests had gone she would quickly sit on the same place where the priest had sat, which was supposed to help her hens lay more eggs, all the year round. If a naked girl sat on that place she was supposed to get married in one year, and if she wanted to get married even quicker she had to wrap herself in the tablecloth that had laid on the table during the time when the carol singers were there. This tablecloth was also supposed to help a person with back trouble get rid of backaches.

Another tradition typical for this day was the blessing of water, salt, chalks, candles and other objects of everyday use. Running water during the period of the winter solstice was supposed to have a stronger effect than water from any other period in the year. In the Greek Orthodox and Protestant parts of Slovakia, priests even blessed water directly in ponds and rivers and used to call it “Jordan water”.

In the region of Orava, people used to pour this blessed water onto their homes and stables and then keep the rest of it, because it was believed that this water wouldn’t go off the whole year. The blessed salt and chalks were supposed to protect the people and the house. Therefore, the salt was mixed together with the feed, and the chalks were used to put crosses on the entrances into the house and stables, and also people used to make a circle around the shepherd’s hut. Blessed candles would also be lit next to the bed of a dying person or when there was a storm. Generally, all the blessed objects were used to protect people and animals against demons, witches and illnesses, and also against natural disasters.

Many prophecies were also connected with this day, such as:

“If the night before the three kings the stars are shining, then white rams will be born.”

“If there is a clear sky on the day of the three kings then the wheat will grow better.”

“If on the day of the three kings there are many stars, then there will also be many potatoes that year.”

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Voľby 2002 – Slovak General Election

What with the recent Presidential Elections in 2016, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the very first election that Robert Fico participated in, back in 2002. There now follows an excerpt from ‘Voľby 2002’, taken from my book Letters from Slovakia, now available as a paperback, from Amazon, or as an ebook, on the Kindle.

Friday, early evening, on the 20th September 2002, and all across the country, the people of Slovakia were arriving at polling stations to vote for their next government. Voters casting their votes before 14:00 on Saturday, did so with the knowledge that this particular election would have a huge impact on their country’s future.

The Slovak General Election (Voľby) is slightly more complicated than elections back home. The Slovak voter doesn’t just have to decide whether to vote for a left-wing, centre or right-wing party, instead, they must choose between an incredible 25 political parties. With so many different parties, splitting so many of the votes, an outsider may be forgiven for thinking that it’s all a bit of a lottery.

Voľby 2002 is of particular importance to Slovakia. Membership to NATO and the European Union is not that far off for this small central European country, with a population of less than 6 million. However, it has been made crystal clear to Slovakia that she will not be allowed to join either organisation if former Prime Minister, Vladimír Mečiar, is to play any part whatsoever in the new government.

It was Mečiar’s HZDS party that led the various opinion polls leading up to the elections, hugely popular with pensioners throughout the country. In second place, not far behind HZDS was the young, populist lawyer, Robert Fico, and his SMER (Direction) party. SMER had carried out an extensive election campaign, and the opinion polls showed that the youthful Fico was extremely popular amongst the country’s first-time voters.

However, if the opinion polls were to be believed, neither of these left wing parties would secure the 51% of votes needed to form a government. It looked odds on that Slovakia would have another coalition government ruling the country, and as it was unlikely that any party would side with the Mečiar-led HZDS, Fico was perhaps the favourite to be Slovakia’s next Prime Minister.

The current Prime Minister was Mikuláš Dzurinda, the leader of the SDK government, a coalition of a number of parties from throughout the political spectrum. Responsible for lifting Slovakia from the position of the black sheep of Central Europe to a country on the brink of EU membership, Dzurinda is very well respected in the West. However, the harsh economic measures that were needed to transform Slovakia have come at a price, and at home, Dzurinda is widely seen as the man who has brought mass unemployment and rising prices to the country.

Indeed, leading up to the election the opinion polls showed Dzurinda’s new party, the SDKÚ, lying in third place, and a long way behind HZDS and SMER. But then opinion polls rarely get these things spot on, and so on Friday afternoon, as we went to a nearby school to cast our votes, I had a feeling that Voľby 2002 was going to be a close run thing…

If you would like to read the rest of Voľby 2002 – Slovak General Election and many other great stories about a British ex-pat living in Slovakia, then why not purchase my book, Letters From Slovakia, available as a paperback, from Amazon, or as an ebook, on the Kindle or via iTunes.

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Bojnice Zoo

Bojnice Castle

Bojnice Zoo Bear EnclosureBojnice is a wonderful little town in Central Slovakia, just west of Banská Bystrica, which is famous for both its fairytale castle and zoo. The town also boasts a falconry, Slovakia’s oldest tree and a Spa, but it is Bojnice Zoo that our children are usually most excited about.

There is enough in Bojnice to keep the kids occupied for nearly a full day. It is best to arrive just before lunchtime and then make your way to the Stare Kino (Old Cinema) Restaurant for lunch. I have been to Bojnice on numerous occasions and this restaurant, on the left of the boulevard leading up to the castle, is definitely the place to go when in Bojnice.

Having enjoyed your lunch, make sure that you walk up past the castle, took some photos of the Oldest Tree in Slovakia, steer the kids past the tacky souvenir stalls, and head for the zoo.

Bojnice ZooI really like Bojnice Zoo. There is a wonderful bear enclosure there and you can enjoy a relaxing walk around the zoo, which leads round to a petting zoo and wooden play-park. It is priced well too, only a few Euro for adults.

The last leg of your walk around the zoo, leads you up to some stunning views of Bojnice Castle and the countryside beyond. It really is photo op time and there is even a little wooden podium over the Llama enclosure for just that!