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  The Spiš Castle | Levoča and surroundings | Mining town Gelnica and surroundings  
Spišská Nová Ves | Poprad and the High Tatras | Kežmarok and surroundings
Stará Ľubovňa, Podolínec and Zamagurie | Trips to the surroundings
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    SPIŠ, A TREASURY OF SLOVAKIA, is from a certain point of view very similar to Switzerland. The Spiš county could be compared to a Swiss canton. It has its own self-government and a peculiar culture. Every county developed independently from the others. It had its own dialect, folk-dress and verbal communication. People living in different counties had different characters and cultural habits. Every county is unique and non-repetitive. Spiš belongs to counties that are rich on natural beauties, educated labour-force and attractive cultural monuments.
    The Spiš region has been endowed by a really beautiful nature. Its northern part is surrounded by massive mysterious peaks of the High Tatras mountains, that merge with the Belianske Tatras and the unique scenery of the National Park Pieniny with the Dunajec river. The eastern border ends at the Levočské vrchy (Levoča Mountains) represented by the Branisko mountain. In the south, there is Slovenské Rudohorie mountain range followed by fantastic cliffs and gorges of the National Park Slovak Paradise. Rivers that flow from the hills in the west belong to the European watershed. The Spiš rivers flow to the north and east, while the rivers from the Liptov region flow to the west. The rivers Hornád and Poprad create something like a "backbone" of the Spiš region. What is interesting, the Poprad river is the only Slovak river that flows to the north - and merges into the Baltic Sea. They are rich on fishes and therefore attract many fishermen. The High Tatras attract mountain climbers, in winter skiers and a lot of tourists as well. Having a very clear environment the High Tatras are used for healing respiratory illnesses. This is the reason why a number of sanatoriums and spas were built here. Slovak Paradise, Zamagurie and Pieniny mountains attract with its natural beauties lots of tourists and lovers of nature. Slovenské Rudohorie thanks to its rich natural resources of copper, iron and precious metals gave jobs to a large number of miners living in local towns and villages. The huge spruce forests cover quite a large area of the Spiš region. They are an important source of foods and often visited by tourists. Mountainy meadows and pastures are used for feeding cattle and sheep, in winter for winter sports. In the Spiš region, you would find lots of springs of mineral water, such as: Baldovce, Nová Ľubovňa (New Ľubovňa), Vrbov, Vyšné Ružbachy etc. The thermal water in Vrbov and in Vyšné Ružbachy is used for bathing and healing various illnesses. The Spiš region is a treasury of protected plants and animals, which is proven by the fact that there are three National Parks: High Tatras, Slovak Paradise and Pieniny and several protected areas.
    The Spiš has always been a melting pot of many nations, cultures and religions - in a positive way. From the very beginning the Slovaks have always been a majority. The first German colonists came in the 12. century. The have been awarded royal privileges and successively founded a lot of independent towns and villages with very lively trade. The Hungarians settled down in the southern part in the 12. century, whereas people speaking the polish dialect (sc. "gorals") settled close to the current northern border. Russniaks and Ukrainians settled usually in mountainy areas in the 14-th century. They brought their own culture, language, but also Eastern Christianity. Many Jews settled down in the Spiš region, too - especially in the village Huncovce. The number of gypsies rose rapidly since the 15-th century. You would find here people of the Roman-Catholic as well as the Greek-Catholic religion, Orthodox, Evangelic and Jews. They worked and lived together. This was the process how a multiethnic culture arose. It has constantly been influenced by a Central European culture and became its inevitable component.
    The Spiš region is also unusually rich on cultural and historical monuments. You can find them almost in every village. You do not need to go more than 100 km in order to find world famous cultural monuments. The evidence is the fact that some of them are a part of the world heritage acknowledged by the UNESCO - such as Spišský hrad (Spiš Castle), Spišská Kapitula, Spišské Podhradie, Žehra and Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa (Dobšinská Ice Cave). Plenty of them are National Cultural Monuments - works of art from the Master Ján Pavol (John Paul) from Levoča, church of the St. James in Levoča, the Spiš Castle, Evangelic Grammar school and a church in Kežmarok, museum in Krompachy, a church in Žehra etc. Almost half of all the municipal cultural monuments in Slovakia are situated in the Spiš region - mainly in the town of Levoča, Kežmarok, Spišská Kapitula and Spišská Sobota. This is just a small part of all the gothic and renaissance architecture, sculptures, wall and board paintings, goldsmith's crafts and other arts as well.
    Ethnical richness of the Spiš culture influenced heterogeneousness of its folk culture - regardless if we speak about the folk architecture, dress, cultural habits, songs, dances or crafts. All of this is harmonically combined with material, spiritual culture and the surrounding beautiful nature.
    The most precious treasury in the Spiš region is the town Levoča. From the Middle Ages till the year 1922 it was an administrative and cultural centre of Spiš. It was one of the most important royal towns in Ungarn. The town Kežmarok was the second most important. It kept its German character up to the present day. Its German Evangelic Grammar School was the most successful in the city. Spišská Kapitula was the spiritual centre of the Spiš region. From the 12. century it was a seat of the Spiš clergy, today it is a centre of the Spiš bishop see. Gelnica was a mining centre. Later the towns Spišská Nová Ves and Poprad gained on importance. Very peculiar character and rich history have the towns Stará Ľubovňa, Podolínec, Spišská Stará Ves, Spišské Vlachy and others. Some of them were given as a deposit to the polish king and it took about 360 years till they were returned.


This is my website devoted to the Spiš region,
which is at the same time my invitation for you to visit this wonderful pearl of Slovakia.
Rudolf Kukura

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