Žilina

17 05 2009
Strecno castle in the rain

Strečno castle in the rain

We have been using Žilina as a base to explore some of the castles and ruins in the area before heading into the Mala Fatra mountains.  It rained while we went to Strečno Castle, but we’ll get more views once the weather clears up and we go hiking on the other side of the river. Strečno Castle has an impressive location up on a steep cliff overlooking the Váh River. From the castle, we could see the ridges through the rain that we hope to hike up to see the Mala Fatra park, further to the north.  Of course, we hope to do this with some nicer weather.

This is then end of a good desert.  Note: no "custard", only chocolate and melted butter remains on the plate

This is then end of a good desert. Note: no "custard", only whipped-cream, chocolate and melted butter remains on the plate

Afterward, we had dinner on the square in Žilina, some chicken stroganoff and chicken with “garlic pancakes”, which were fried garlicky strips of goodness.  For desert, we tried potato dumplings with poppy seeds.  This was delicious.  There was no time to mess around with photos for silly internet blogs, this was time to live life, and make sure the other spouse didn’t eat it all.  So the photo is from afterward, you’ll just have to use your imagination.  They were these dense gnocchi-like potato lumps, covered with chocolate and poppy seed sauce, with a side of whipped cream. Jason thought there was a delicious layer of “custard” beneath the gnocchi and chocolate/poppy seed sauce.  He was enjoying big spoonfuls of the “custard”, gnocchi, chocolate sauce and whipped cream and suggested Alexa try the same combination.  But Alexa noticed the “custard” was gone, and only melted butter and chocolate remained where the “custard” had been.  The “custard” Jason was enjoying by the spoonful with whipped cream and chocolate sauce seems to have been soft butter.  Mmm, that was a healthy and delicious desert.

Us hiking to Lietavska ruins

Us hiking to Lietavska ruins

The next day we hiked off the butter by heading south to Lietavska Lucka, to hike through the hills up to a hilltop with the Lietavska castle ruins.  The sun was out and the spring here has been great.  We had a nice walk through some small villages, up through the fields below the cliff-top ruins, and then up through the forest to the ruins.  It was Sunday as we did this hike, so there were plenty of locals out hiking.  Slovaks enjoy hiking and bicycling, we see them out in droves on bikes and hiking on the extensive trail system.  Maybe all the hiking and biking allows them to eat buttery deserts. We enjoyed another picnic of sandwiches, carrots, chocolates and nutella after wandering around the ruins.  We really have enjoyed the hilltop ruins.  There have great views, and are often on rock outcrops you would want to hike to anyway.  Having ruins on the top just adds to the hiking experience.

Lietavska ruins

Lietavska ruins

The ruins are often more entertaining than the fixed up castles, which often can only be seen on the inside with guided tours, which don’t allow you to freely roam.  At the ruins, you can go anywhere and look around on your own.  You can often see remnants of the old decorative arches in the doorways and window frames, and maybe some of the original plastering and painting.  Some parts are sheer drops, or places you shouldn’t go.

Leitvaska castle

Lietvaska castle

There isn’t a lawsuit culture here that makes the authorities put up warning signs or restrict people from going to the edge of a cliff or climbing on crumbling castle ruins.  If you are climbing on ruins and fall off a cliff, it’s your responsibility.  If you climb on something and fall, it’s your fault.  It is called personal responsibility, they don’t waste time telling you the obvious here, i.e. “this cliff is dangerous and falling off will kill you”, or “these rickety stairs are dangerous, be careful”, etc.  Unlike in the United States (where you can sue McDonalds because the hot coffee burned you), here the thinking is if you get hurt clambering around in mountains or on cliff top ruins, it because it is an inherently risky activity and you did something stupid, it is your responsibility, end of story, no lawsuits.  In this sense, it is nice to be treated as adults and not told where you can and can’t go.

The hike to Lietvaska

The hike to Lietvaska

On the other hand, one eerie leftover remnant of the days of communism are these speakers that seem to be everywhere, even in remote villages in the country side.  We have been in these small villages, and around noon, and this system of speakers has someone start talking (the sound is poor and there is much echoing) in a bland and boring voice, and then maybe some folk music, more speaking and then it goes away. In the days of communism, you can imagine they must have used these system to announce things like “Rejoice, all workers will work extra hours this weekend to meet the quotas set by the great leader.  Long live the revolution and the great leader.  Rations will also be reduced by one half.  Report all subversives to the Committee to Search out Saboteurs and Enemies of the State.  Now, return to work, happy workers.” It is a little odd to hear this bland and distant voice over the speakers, echoing around the small villages and surrounding valleys, but it is more entertaining not knowing what they are saying.

Next on our list of places to see is the Orava Castle, which is a ways away, to the north of Žilina near the border with Poland.

***click to enlarge***

Lietavska gate

Lietavska gate

Old stone carving at Lietvaska ruins

Old stone carving at Lietvaska ruins

Lietavska ruins

Lietavska ruins

Alexa scaring her mom

Alexa scaring her mom

Lietavska tower

Lietavska tower

Alexa at Strecno

Alexa at Strecno

Strecno train station

Strecno train station

View of Vah River from Strecno

View of Vah River from Strecno

Zilina town square

Zilina town square


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4 responses

17 05 2009
Grammy&Grandad

Dear Alexa and Jason, We are glad you are enjoying the wonderful variety of food. Love, Grammy and Grandad

18 05 2009
Amy

My Slovak friends (Michal and Milada) tell me that a common salutation in the days of communism translates into something like “glory to the work”. I imagine that came out of those speakers a time or two.
Also, be sure to call each other the endearing Slovak term “laska”. We learned it from listening to Michal and Milada talk to each other and now we call our cat laska after Milada took care her.

20 05 2009
Tom the Redhunter

Wow. Great photos and commentary. Permit me to comment that you two are clearly getting better at the blogging part as you go along. I can see the progression as time goes on. You’ve got a nice travelogue here.

Romania is like no place I’ve been. Someday I’ve got to get to eastern Europe.

21 05 2009
Andrew

I am so jealous of your amazing adventures!!
Mom would be crying and telling you to get down if she was there to witness your death defying ledge stand. Hope all is well! Can’t wait to see all your pictures. Love you both and I’m sure your trip is just going to get better!

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