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- November 13, 2012 at 1:33 am #344711
Turned out great grandfather George Onufer was from a small eastern Slovakian city that seems like a great place to visit one day. Can anyone else tell me more about this city?
Stepping. off the train in Humenné I was in the highest of spirits, and who wouldn’t be considering the welcome one gets here? For there at the station, smiling as always, is the ever jovial and rotund Švejk, one of the jolliest characters in literary history. You just cannot, considering, enter this city in a bad mood.
Švejk is the creation of Czech humorist Jaroslav Hašek. In his four volume book The Good Soldier Švejk, he chronicles the travels of this ignorant and good-hearted man as he bumbles his way into countless hilarious mishaps from České Budějovice, through Humenné, and ultimately to the war front on the Russian border during World War I.
Švejk was discharged from the army for being a certified idiot, a fact which he readily and happily admitted. “I can’t help it. I’m an official idiot,” he once told an interrogating police officer who demanded Švejk “take that idiot expression of your face”. While bragging of his ability to count, he said: “One night I was in 28 pubs. But, God’s truth, I never had at the most more than three glasses of beer in any one of them.” Švejk was also quite the philosopher: “There have to be crooks in this world too. If everyone were honest with each other, they’d start punching each other’s noses.” As one who never travels without a book, I cannot recommend a better selection for Slovakia.
So after having made my acquaintance with the Good Soldier, I marched merrily into town to check out the city, specifically this renovated Main Square I’ve heard so much about. It, too, gives a good first impression. The Main Square is sparkling and orderly and altogether quite smart. It looks as if some royal family paid a handsome price for a roster of landscape architects to turn the backyard into a smashing strolling area to impress the neighbours. Impressive it is. And clean. Not a scrap of litter anywhere, which can be explained by the ubiquitous trash bins. There are so many that they seem to follow you around the square. From end to end, in fact, there are 78 on this one square alone. I counted.
Further exploration would have to be put off as night was fast approaching and I needed a hotel room. So I walked into the swank Penzión Albina, and then walked right back outside when told that rooms started at 2,500 crowns. I instead went across the square to the Irish Pub, ordered a Guinness and asked the accommodating waitress for accommodation advice. She pointed me to Hotel Chemes. I finished my beer, quite pleased with the discovery of this friendly pub, then set off promising to return.
A couple hours later I was surprised to find the bar nearly empty on a Saturday night at 8:00. Perhaps it’s the competition. Tonja, a Humenné native who now lives in my host city Spišská Nová Ves, told me before I left that Humenné has more pubs than any other Slovak city and that during communism it had the widest variety of beers on tap in Czechoslovakia.
“Every Czech and Slovak beer was on tap in Humenné,” she said. “It was the beer capital of the country.”
photo: Chris Togneri
That may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: this Irish Pub deserves better. The roaring fire, lively and creative decorations (although, windmills?), friendly waitstaff and cold Czech, Slovak and Irish beers on tap make this one of the better Irish pubs in central Europe. They even play strictly Irish music, although I doubt that the boy-band Westlife was what the inventors of Irish Pubs had in mind.
I awoke Sunday morning to a gorgeous spring day, the prettiest of the year so far, and my mood further ascended, if such a thing was possible. What a day! Back to the Main Square, which virtually sparkled under the early morning sunshine, past a fountain and a small Štefánik statue, and on to the large museum at the top of the square. The museum was closed – it only admits visitors from May to October – but the manor house it sits in was a sight in itself, especially the sleek lion and tiger statues guarding the entrance.
To the right is a park with a walkway to a skanzen. I was interested in this particular outdoor museum because of its wooden church, which was relocated from Slovakia’s easternmost town Nová Sedlica, outside Poloniny National Park. The skanzen was also closed (again, only open from May till October), but a path leading past offered a clear, unobstructed view of the church.
Since everything seemed to be closed, I spent the rest of the morning walking around and relishing the warm, clean air. The cemetery, on a hill to the left of the museum, was a swirl of flowers and loved ones tending to graves. There were also separate war memorials to deceased Russian and German soldiers.
On the north side of town, while walking through a quiet residential area, I chanced upon a stunning domed Greek Orthodox church. Its clean, white walls radiated against the perfectly clear blue sky as Sunday morning worshippers sang inside. It was one of those magical moments that occur from time to time while travelling.
Back on the main square, I saw a sign for a Miriam’s restaurant/piváreň, and was transplanted to another era when, at the end of a short alley, I found a small room of a pub.
I love this kind of place. It cannot have changed much over the past ten years or so. Rickety wood tables covered in plastic coverings, Slovak folk music on the radio, pictures of cups of coffee on the wall with flowers tucked into the frames, crates of vodka stacked behind the bar, grog (warm water, sugar and rum) on sale for 15 crowns. There is an old guy alone in the corner, at his table, smacking his lips over a beer and occasionally shouting out some affectionate comment to the waitress, who is an old woman with dyed bright red hair and who places a beer in front of me with a grandmotherly ‘nech sa Vám páči’ (Let it please you). The man drains his beer and rises to leave, singing out ‘dovidenia, Mirka, moja zlatá’. I could spend a whole afternoon in here.
This is, after all, why I decided to travel: to sit off to the side and enjoy a foreign slice of real life. All the customers here know each other, everyone is on a friendly first-name basis, and I am thinking up excuses to miss my train back to Spišská Nová Ves. And halfway through my second beer that happy thought strikes me: I’m working right now! What a glorious job, travelling on someone else’s dollar through a largely undiscovered land rich in history, culture and natural beauty.
Leaning back in my chair, I count my blessings for the hundredth time on this trip, motion for another beer, and decide that I can surely catch a later train. It is, after all, what Švejk would have done.
– Chris TogneriNovember 13, 2012 at 11:10 am #402876
humenne? theres not really much to see.November 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm #402877
Hmm maybe cross Slovakia from Bratislava to the border with Ukraine. Then go to Uzgorod and Kiev. Ukraine doesn't require all the paperwork and visas that Russia does, so won't go up to Moscow. I'm planning a trip when my son is older, so he can learn about his roots. My mom is hinting at seeing Slovakia one more time before she dies, so I am feeling the mother's guilt trip.November 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm #402878
longer trip is actually good idea, better make plans before trip thouNovember 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm #402879
Oh lord i do. My dad worked in the airline industry, so we traveled often when I was younger. Might even buy a triangle airline ticket to save time backtrackingNovember 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm #402880
I have no idea what is it but I guess it is helpful. I hope u will enjoy ur trip.November 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm #402881
A triangle ticket is when you fly into one airport and fly out of a different one. Like fly into Prague and out of BelgradeNovember 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm #402882
you want to go by car? or by bus?
going by car through ukraine isnt really good for a foreigner. or more precisely, for his purse.November 13, 2012 at 11:57 pm #402883
I was planning to fly to Bratislava, take the bus to presov, stop in geraltov, hit humenne. Then hit Ukraine, go to uzgorod and kiev. Then fly home from KievNovember 14, 2012 at 12:39 am #402884
am not sure if theres direct humenne – užhorod bus line. if not, then its no fun, bus transport system is sometimes very complicated and confusing, at least for me its horrible
(or maybe its just me, tbh i still dont know how to pay with credit card or buy things from internet )November 14, 2012 at 1:17 am #402885
Well there is always the train or renting a car. Not sure about crossing borders with a rental. Would think crossing from one EU state to another would be ok. Not sure about heading into Ukraine or Russia in a rental.
If not, will start in Prague to see the Czech republic and then hit up Slovakia. My cousin invited us to a vatra in May, but would be only able to go in July or August, when I have the summer off.
November 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm #402886
AnonymousQuote:I was planning to fly to Bratislava, take the bus to presov, stop in geraltov, hit humenne. Then hit Ukraine, go to uzgorod and kiev. Then fly home from Kiev
Well if u start in Bratislava u should take a look at many places on your way up to Prešov. Svätoslawa posted most interesting places on that route somewhere on Slavorum.
Btw: Vatra topNovember 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm #402887
Think it will be more realistic to stick to Slovakia and maybe Czech Republic. Prague looks like an incredibly historic cityNovember 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm #402888
I think that you don't have to complicate things, just fly to Prague, then to Bratislava (flight or bus), then take a train from Bratislava to Kysak (direction to Košice), it's much more comfortable than by bus to Prešov. The other thing why I recommend to you to take a train is that the trains from Bratislava to Košice pass by the Vysoké Tatry mountains, so you can have an amazing view on them from the window. You can easily take a train from Kysak to Prešov, it's nice town. Btw. I also think Humenné is not interesting for you. Then stop in Geraltov as you said. Buses to Užhorod depart from Košice and you can get to Košice from Prešov by bus (it takes 1 hour) – I think your family from Geraltov will help you to get to Geraltov as well as to Prešov (you rather ask them). Well, Košice has also a very nice historical centre, you definitely should walk there for a couple of hours. . . Check at the Slovak-Ukrainian borders (no visa required) are not very pleasant, I don't recommend to go by a rental car. Policemen check all the baggage and by the way they're not very nice, don't expect smiling from them They don't do problems intentionally, but if you don't speak Slovak or Ukrainian, some misunderstandings might arise. Oh, an it takes 1 hour at the borders at least. As far as I know, there's a flight from Užhorod to Kiev. So, that's all what I can tell here. Hope, some infos will be useful for you.November 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm #402889
ill just make some corrections: when taking bus from prešov to košice, there are 2 lines – one through villages (takes more than hour), one by highway – this one takes 30 minutes, and buses for this line depart more often (usually every 30 minutes)
ad košice-užhorod bus line – dont get afraid when you see the ukrainian bus. old red ikarus, roaring like airbus a-300 the faster it goes, the stronger is the wind inside bus cabin
border patrols are worse than bad. they shouldnt demand money from you, but be prepared for chicanery – this happens from time to time. sometimes border crossings are shut down when policemen at ukrainian side are in bad mood. that happens too.
also transport services (and services in general) follow a different schedule during weekends and holidays
do you plan on coming now in autumn? prepare for cold and misty weather
maybe i can guide you through košice if ill be available at that time
[img width=700 height=466]http://www.k-report.net/discus/obrazky/88/79/638879.jpg” />
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