Friday, November 6, 2015

Slovakia :: Visiting Family

Bratislavský hrad (Bratislava Castle)
One of the places that we were anxious to visit was Slovakia. My husband's father was Slovak, and so Dave grew up with stories of 'the old country.'  Above our fireplace is a hand carved panel of the Bratislava Castle that was given to him by his father. 

When Dave was in high school he toured Europe one summer with a group called People to People. They visited Slovakia that summer, and at the time the country was still communist. It was rather bleak and he was looking forward to seeing how much it had changed since the 80s.

After spending 8-9 days in Germany and then Austria, there was a very distinct difference as we drove to Bratislava. Only an hour away from Vienna mind you, but a world apart. I talked a bit about it a few posts back, how people in Vienna believe it is a waste of time to head East out of town. You could feel it on the roads. Driving in to Vienna (from Munich) the roads were packed and over run, but driving East to Bratislava the roads were nearly empty. And most of the license plates shifted to Romania, Hungry, Poland, Czech Republic and of course Slovakia. It quickly shifted from a feel of Western Europe to Eastern by driving that 1 hour East of Austria.

Bratislava, Slovak National Theatre
We absolutely loved our short time in Slovakia. Probably the best hotel we stayed at for the entire trip was in Bratislava. At a place called Marrol's. It was a beautiful old boutique hotel right in the heart of the old town. We stepped out onto the narrow, old cobble-stone streets, and it was like we had stepped back in time. It had such a different feel to it. Lots of cafes with street-side seating where locals were simply hanging out watching the day go by. It didn't have that Western tourism rush to buy every tsotski you could find. That was the other thing we realized once we were home that we had bought next to no souvenirs on our trip. Which I am completely good with --- my house is full enough. 

There was a wonderful local craftmans' area set up in stalls just in front of the National Theatre in Hlavne Namestie (or the main square). It is one of the only places I did buy something to bring home. I picked up a beautiful hand painted egg to hang on the Christmas tree and remember our trip. 

Family Plot Borský Svätý Jur, Slovakia
After our stay in Bratislava we headed North toward Prague. But stopped off in a small, very small little town along the main highway. The town of Borský Svätý Jur. A small village where my father-in-law's family is from. Thank God for GPS, or we would never have found this place. The village dates back to the 1300s, established around a church built in the main square. 

Borský Svätý Jur Medieval Cross
It was in disrepair, and a new one has replaced it. A highlight (as strange as this sounds) was the graveyard. You can see the medieval influences in the gravestones and statuary. It is central to town, just off the main square. And holds the stories of the families who lived in Borsky Svaty Jur through the ages. My husband was wandering through the rows, and stumbled upon the family plot. There was much excitement and snapping of pictures. The headstone is actually the plural of the family name (the ending "ovi") since husband and wife are buried here. 

I think one of the coolest things was hearing locals pronounce our last name. It has been anglicized through the generations and is no longer pronounced in the Slovak way. And while my brother-in-laws will swear it is pronounce in a guttural way (saying that is the 'old country' pronunciation), they are wrong. It actually has a much softer sound when pronounced by a local. And it was fun to see their face light up when they saw our last name on the registry, asking "oh, you are a Slovak?" You just don't get asked that every day in the US. All the rest of the Slovakia pictures are over on Pinterest including the hand painted egg.


  1. I love boutique hotels! How exciting to visit the town your husband's family is from! I bet the handpainted egg is beautiful, but I didn't see it on your Pinterest board?

  2. My cousin did People to People and went to Australia for a summer. Organizations like that are so cool, especially for Americans who are so far from a lot of other countries that it can be hard to jump start a travel bug. It sounds like you had a great trip! Slovakia hadn't been on my list of places to see, but now I want to go. :-)

  3. Oh wow that is soooooooo cool!!!!!! What a great side trip!

  4. PS I was checking out your pinterest pics but the egg isn't on that board.

  5. How amazing you found the family plot! The architecture of the theatre is stunning. Full of details! It must have been peaceful to spend time in a less crowded area of Europe.

  6. How incredible you were able to visit Slovakia and even find family burial spots! The photos are beautiful!

  7. How wonderful that you got to visit your husband's town and found the family's burial site! What a feeling!! and yay for GPS I bet you I still got lost If I had one...I am so bad at following directions lol!

  8. I imagine that the best part of your blogging about your whirl-wind trip is that you get to relive it with every word you write, and every picture you share! Personally, to see the "family name" in the cemetery - not to sound morose - had to be kind of cool! I know that the spelling of the Dutch name Vanderbloemen has bastardized over the past century, as well.

    Also - I never comment on your posts until I have had a chance to click on every single link- your pictures are really so special - you make people want to GO THERE! But, I searched for the hand painted egg, and could not find it on that board....which led me to your other Pinterest Boards. My goodness, you are well traveled!!! I could spend a lifetime arm-chair traveling through your Pinterest Boards! :)

  9. What an amazing trip. This is such an incredible experience.

  10. I have a lot of catching up to do over here at Antiquity! But am glad I got to read this post. What a feeling to be back from where family came from and to HEAR the name pronounced the way it was intended. I want to hear how they said it at our next beadathon. The flowerbed built into that meticulous family plot is beautiful.
    And what a gorgeous egg!!! The talent to do that...the delicacy, patience, skill... pure artistry.

  11. Nice place!!!
    Have a good week!!! and my g+ for you!!!:)))

    Besos, desde España, Marcela♥


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