East Slovakia

Picture of kosice_cathedral Kosice is the largest city in Eastern Slovakia. It's heavily into steel and refining and has a nearly endless number of concrete block apartment buildings surrounding the city center. All roads in the area lead to Kosice where they unceremoniously dump you into a neighborhood from whence you can see the highway you want to be on but not actually access it. Somewhere deep in the heart of all this there is a pleasant pedestrian center to Kosice. We arrived by train, spent a night in a concrete block within walking distance of the center, rented a car for a week, and then departed by train again. This incidentally is Kosice's gothic cathedral.
Picture of kosice_fountain Near the cathedral in central Kosice is the singing fountain. It's not really a singing fountain - it's more a large complex fountain and a bunch of speakers hidden in the bushes nearby that play assorted pop music songs. If you're wandering around Kosice wondering where everyone is, they're probably here.
Picture of trocany What does one do in far Eastern Slovakia with a car? Well, mostly drive around and admire the small mountain villages and the scenery. The main corridor from Presov to Kosice is industrial and depending on the weather patterns - polluted. North of Presov are dozens of small villages, many of which feature a wooden church. On our Michelin driving map there was a curious little symbol for them. Once we discovered a few it became sort of like a scavenger hunt. This church is in Tročany and is one of the easier ones to find.
Picture of hervatov We had two travel guides with us that had slightly differing lists of the towns with wooden churches in them and our road map had yet another opinion. In general we found that any town listed with one from any source did in fact have one. They are not as old as they appear, most of them dating from the 18th century. They have been co-opted by assorted regional religions at this point so some of them (like the last picture) are Greek Orthodox, some are Protestant, and this one in Hervatov is Roman Catholic.
Picture of hervatov_church Most villages that have one are remote and tucked away in a small mountain valley or on the edge of forest. Hervatov has probably the most scenic of all the churches we visited as it is surrounded by a small outer wall with a creek running alongside it.
Picture of bardejov_center Bardejov is a different sort of town. It has a gothic central square reminiscent of many of the most heavily visited historic cities in Europe. The big difference is that no one seems to visit it. We were obviously a bit off-season but there are very few hotel options available in Bardejov so presumably it's never a major overnight destination. The town is not very big so parking on the outskirts is still a short walk to this central square.
Picture of altar The Bardejov cathedral is the main draw for two reasons. Inside, they specialize in altarpieces. They might actually have more altarpieces than the entire rest of Slovakia. Ironically, due to construction during our visit there was no altarpiece at the altar but one wing of the cathedral has a display of their collection. The general theme is that every guild in the town donated an altarpiece during Bardejov's golden age and of course felt the need to make their version more spectacular than any of the others.
Picture of bardejov_above The other reason to visit the cathedral is to climb the tower and get your dose of claustrophobic low-ceilinged spiral staircases. It's worth the climb though as the outdoor viewing deck wraps all the way around the tower. The building in the center of the square is the town hall. The little patches of lawn are a rather curious feature of Bardejov. The green space in the top left of this picture is actually the edge of town and pastures are visible in almost all directions from the tower.
Picture of fricka North of Bardejov we continued our hunt for more remote wooden churches. This one, in Frička, is probably the least accessible of those we visited. Frička lies way up a valley into the Tatras right on the border with Poland. The church is at the far upper end of the village. It does not appear that this one can be visited inside. Other churches tend to have a map of the town with directions to the home where the key can be attained (for a small fee). The maps we saw ranged from a marked up google map to some obscure hand-drawn instructions that probably would've involved hours of deciphering and a better command of Slovak than we have.
Picture of krive Krive was the last village we visited as it was getting dark and the lack of viable hotels in Bardejov meant we still had to find a room for the evening. There are actually multiple villages in the region called Krive which leads to more confusion if you're cross-referencing sources. There is a point at which you can reach wooden church saturation. I suspect this varies from traveler to traveler but after three or four, the getting there is more fun than the being there.

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