Europe Day Six: Slovakia. A Sunday Afternoon Walk In The Land Of My Ancestors, In Old Town Kosice
It was a perfect Sunday afternoon in June when I took my first walk in Slovakia, the country where my paternal grandfather’s parents were born. The sun was shining in calm , deep blue skies with a temperature in the mid 70’s. I left my hotel, the Hilton, in the city of Kosice and walked across the street to the scenic and historical Old Town of the city.
I never heard of Kosice three weeks ago. I only learned of this city when I planned this last minute trip to Slovakia . I now know and love this wonderful ancient city located in the Eastern Carpathian mountains of Slovakia. I was here because, after some brief research done by my brother and cousins, I learned my maternal grandfather’s father was born near the town of Smolnik, and his mother in a village named Valaskovce, both about 40 mile from the city of Kosice. I hoped to visit both towns on this hastily planned trip. It was exciting to now walk in this city, where, they could have met, and walked these same streets. Like me, they could have walked onto the Old Town Square and saw the beautiful Gothic Cathedral St Elizabeth’s Cathedral.
As stated in my last blog, Kosice was located on a major trade route between the Baltic Sea and the Balkans, and Aegean and Adriatic Seas in the 14th century. It was one of the first cities in Europe to be given a coat of arms by the king of Hungary in 1369. It’s importance diminished as other trade routes were discovered, but with the construction of a steel plant in the 1960’s it has again become an important city in Slovakia and the region, It is the second largest city in Slovakia with a population of 250,00. You would not know this walking the quiet and beautiful streets of the Old Town.
Walking past St. Elizabeth’s I saw, and heard, the enchanting Singing Fountain for the first time. I would spend many moments watching these dancing fountains as classical music played from nearby speakers. It was an unforgettable experience. The streets of Old Town Kosice were magical. I immediately fell in love with this charming city.
I was enjoying these wonderful buildings and parks. It was an almost magical experience. And I thought of my great, grandparents walking these same streets, enjoying these same sights so long ago, before they decided to leave their native land for the promise of America. I am sure it was not an easy decision.
In addition to the Cathedral and other impressive buildings and parks the cobblestone streets themselves were charming. They were lined with century old buildings that housed shops, small businesses and many restaurants.
I finished my three mile hike and returned to the hotel. I unpacked, showered and edited some phots before I decided to eat. It was near 6 p.m. when I walked to the traditional Slovakian restaurant, the Med Malina.
Then I ordered halusky. It is the national dish of Slovakia. I was surprised when the dish arrived. In my hometown in Pennsylvania halusky are made with cabbage and potato dumpling. Here, this traditional dish is made with sheep cheese or bryndzove and potato dumplings. It was much different than the halusky my mom made but it was delicious.
And of course I had to try their pierogi the traditional dish of Poland the native country of my dad’s parents. They were good too. They served me a lot of them and I ate them all. I was quite stuffed It was a great first meal in my ancestors native country.
It was a beautiful evening but I had a long day and was exhausted. So I walked back on the charming cobblestone streets and past St. Elizabeth Cathedral looking forward to the next few days I will be exploring this area of eastern Slovakia where my ancestors lived. This is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my first hike in Slovakia. Europe Day Six: Slovakia Kosice June 5 2022.
“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” — Alex Haley, Roots