Pohronie Region. A Magical Place of Unexpected Surprises

Pohronie is a region of the drainage basin of the river Hron. 300 kilometers long, it is the second longest river in Slovakia. Its spring can be found not far from Telgárt, and it flows into the Danube. The first shepherd tribes settled in its drainage basin in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC and learned how to use copper ores in the river’s valley. From the 17th century to the 1930’s, cargo of timber was floated on the Hron and its tributaries; important roads ran through the valley already during the Roman Period.

Today, the Hron on its way runs through 72 towns and villages, including Želiezovce and Jur nad Hronom. Even though Hron isn’t navigable for either freight nor passenger ships, it is navigable for canoes, rafts or kayaks. Everything you need for such adventure can be found in Jur nad Hronom.


Directly by the river there is Camping Vodník, which offers accommodation in simple cabins, caravans or tents. Can you also hear the guitar, rambler songs and smell the aroma of smoke and fried bacon in your head when you think of camping? That’s exactly how it comes alive at the start of the season with the voices of visitors – families, colleagues and friends, who came to experience a little wilderness.

Camping Vodník offers not only accommodation, but also basic infrastructure, hygiene and catering, the option to buy drinks, grill and barbecue and games for children. It’s a great starting point for trips to the surroundings in the Tekov region. Visitors needn’t be at a loss as to where and how to go, because all information is willingly provided by the camp’s manager.

Camping Vodník is a favourite paddlers’ destination, who can sail down and pass from Jur nad Hronom to Želiezovce or even to the Danube, to Štúrovo. River rafting is possible in the opposite direction as well – from Kalná nad Hronom to the home base. Camp workers can willingly drive you to Kalná nad Hronom by appointment and if you don’t have your own paddlers’ equipment, you can borrow everything necessary on site.

Sailing down the river will be safe if you follow the instructions and experience of camp workers. But beware! As the boss of Camping Vodník and lifelong paddler pointed out to us, the view of the world from water is completely different. Maybe you’ll become enthusiastic paddlers after your first passage as well.


Folk House Duba Tájház

The authentic house of the Dubovci family is also located in Jur nad Hronom. It’s no open-air folk museum, but the original house from 1860. It is completely furnished with hundreds of items from everyday life of the household. The kitchen, the room, the storeroom and the stove transfer visitors to the times when the whole family used to meet and live in the house.

Wardrobes full of period clothing and everyday items create the impression that one only needs to move in again and the house will come alive.

A well-maintained farmstead belongs to the house as well and the visitors can see numerous original farming tools. One of the house’s rooms is a furnished school classroom with rich pedagogical documentation from the 1900’s.

The house’s surroundings are picturesque, they radiate peace and prove long-time loving care of their owners. All I can do is say thank you for preserving this piece of history for us. How? The best way is by genuine interest in and respect for troubled fortunes and times which people have experienced in the last 150 years.


The House of Battle Glory

The Pohronie region was inspirational not only for Franz Schubert. It inspired Marcus Aurelius too, a Roman emperor with the unwritten title Philosopher King. During one of his military campaigns around year 168 around the river Hron, he wrote the opening sentences of the 12-book cycle which is known today as “Meditations”. The timeless work dealing with stoic thoughts still speaks to readers today.

One of the relics reminding the battles of Roman armies near the Hron is the Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, which depicts scenes from battles in this territory. However, these battles were not the only ones witnessed by the river Hron.

On March 25, 1945, the Bratislava-Brno Offensive commenced. The river in Kalná nad Hronom became the key place in the liberation battles. History enthusiasts are certainly aware of the Offensive, the rest of us can pay our respects to the liberators by visiting the House of Battle Glory in Kalná nad Hronom.

The place is not only a memorial site, but also an exposition with detailed overview about the liberation battles including period weapons, maps and written documents. The sight of a long list of names and weapons, now harmlessly lying in display cases, unwittingly moves a person. I personally read with interest the original period written documents, which, using plain bureaucratic style, suggested how common people in nearby villages lived, too.

The premises of the House of Battle Glory are easy to recognize – you can see war equipment in its courtyard, which is located near the main road Levice – Nitra.



Time in Pohronie

On the banks of the Hron sat Marcus Aurelius, Franz Schubert, the armies of various nations and today even us. Pohronie is a magical place, where perceptive visitors feel history almost tangibly. So much happened! A river flows like human life, like time. So, safe passage and visit Pohronie sometime!

Pukanec, a Former Gold-mining Town

Pukanec is a former free royal mining town located on the southern slopes of the Štiavnické vrchy Mountains. The nearby Sitno and other ancient volcanoes created silver and gold veins in their underground. It is because of these precious metals that mining engineers and miners from Germany were invited to this town. They formed the architectonic character of the future town. Apart from gold and silver, Pukanec has a favourable climate for fruit farming, gardening and viniculture.

Pukanec’s history dates back to the 11th century. For decades, Pukanec was the home of miners, nobility, scientists and ecclesiastical figures of Hungarian, German and Slovak nationality. Warlike conflicts over the centuries didn’t spare Pukanec, be it Turk raids or battles of Hungarian nobles or bishops’ armies. Thick defensive walls witness to troubled times; they are still preserved in some places and contribute to the characteristic atmosphere of the town. However, even though they were under construction for almost twenty years, they were never completed and in 1640 there came, as recorded in the archives, the Terrible Night of Pukanec, when the town almost completely burned down. It wasn’t the only instance when Pukanec burned down and in the early 18th century, plague spread through the town. The relics from these tragedies and troubled fortunes as well as works of skilled craftspeople can be seen by visitors of Pukanec even today. Let me invite you for a tour.

Town Square

The square with a typical German ground plan has a Protestant church directly at the centre. The original Protestant church originated in Pukanec with the arrival of German businesspeople already; the residents of Pukanec were mostlyProtestants (during the time of the Reformation) and the worship services took place in St. Nicolas Church. During the Anti-Reformation Period, the sanctuary had to be returned to the Catholic Church and after the issue of the Patent of Toleration by Joseph II., a toleration Protestant church was built on a hill behind the city walls between 1783 and 1784. In 1934 to 1935, a new Protestant church was built in the square in the place of a demolished pharmacy. The church is a prominent landmark of the square to this day. If you admire functionalism, don’t miss it.

In front of the Protestant church there is a Holy Trinity column, a baroque sculptural group from 1740, a few steps further across the road there is a small building of the Fire Station, today serving as a museum.

Fire Brigade History Museum

Visitors can admire a functional historical fire engine with its equipment directly from the street, but it is worth visiting the upper floor with the fire brigade museum exposition as well. The exhibits include uniforms and commemorative items.

The most important ones are written documents and fragments of a chronicle. Due to the fiery past of Pukanec, very strict anti-fire rules applied in the town. Do you know what the penalty for arson was in Pukanec? The convict was not only sentenced to three years of prison, they also had to suffer regular fasting and beating with a stick!

St. Nicolas Church

Directly near the Fire Brigade Museum there is the entrance to St. Nicolas Church. Honestly, I have visited many churches in various countries in my life. For a time, I agreed with my friend Carlos from Brazil, who claimed that all churches in Europe look the same on the inside.

Well. They do have something in common. The altar, the pews, the chandeliers, the statues. The stained-glass windows.

And then there are churches that leave one breathless with their atmosphere. Churches like the one in Pukanec, which has a fascinating, unique ceiling, extremely beautiful gothic altars – there are four smaller wing altars apart from the main one in the church – and many other valuable historical artefacts. If you were to see only a single church in your life, hurry to Pukanec. Maybe you too will forget what day it is and why you came.

Mining, Crafts and Fruit Farming

Nothing stays forever, not even the silver and gold supply in Pukanec mines. In the 19th century, the last mine was closed and, sadly, that was the end of the most glorious period of Pukanec’s history. In 1876, Pukanec stopped being a free royal town and in 1891 it became a village.

In the 17th century already, mining started to be replaced by crafts. Coopers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, locksmiths, cobblers, wheelmakers and potters. What masters those were!

You can admire the works and the tools of the old masters in the Pukanec History Museum. You can visit an original and functional potters’ workshop on the Štiavnica Road, you just need to make an arrangement. Master potters work in the workshop, creating clay items for everyday use including mugs, bowls, dishes, but also roasting pans and marble cake moulds or decorative trinkets. After firing the vessels, they paint them with traditional as well as more modern ornaments.

Black Mulberry

The most famous Pukanec fruit is the mulberry. On the Pukanec estates, there grow as many as 470 such trees, some of which are more than 300 years old. A massive tree with fruit, which can readily be classified as superfood due to its content of medicinal substances, is at home in Pukanec.

You can find here not only the beginning and the end of an educational trail, but also growers and breeders, who will willingly show and tell you what the mulberry can do. All you need is to arrange a visit.

Wine and Rest in Pukanec

We concluded the visit of Pukanec in the Greatest Pukanec Cellar. It is located out of the town, in the forest and it really deserves its name. Wines mature in it and it is possible to taste them after an appointment. Accommodation in a furnished cottage is also available near the cellar.

Forest silence, the cellar and the vicinity of a mining road gives unique atmosphere to the town. Maybe, like us, you will be reluctant to leave Pukanec, but at least you’ll promise yourselves that you will return here.

Levice Town Cellars

The town of Levice covers 61 square kilometres. However, no one can probably count how many secret passages and cellars are in Levice underground. One of such spots is almost directly on the Heroes’ Square in the town centre.

When visitors carefully descend via steep stairs, they immediately know where they are. The smell of wine and wine yeasts gently tickles the nose. Today, the cellar is stylishly illuminated so that visitors can fully enjoy the view of the period stone walls and vinicultural tools.

Heavy wooden barrels, presses, mills, baskets for straining pressed grapes, iron scissors and many other tools remind us how hard it is to change grapes into wine.

At present, it is possible to arrange a tour of Levice Town Cellars with a professional guide commentary. It is also possible to visit them as a part of traditional cultural-gastronomic programmes or wine tastings.

When visitors come out after spending time in the town cellars’ premises again, they are disorientated for a while. The thing is, time in the underground passes differently, as it is a time of centuries of vinicultural work and a time of wine.

Víno Svetík. Wine Archive and a Secret Cellar in the Centre of Levice

If you are a lover of natural, unfiltered wines, maybe you know Víno Svetík. If not, let me introduce you.

You can find Víno Svetík in Levice on Bátovská cesta street. Unexpectedly, only few meters away from the Levice Polyclinics, behind a small door, there is a spacious and deep cellar carved in stone. It is not just a cellar, it is also wine archive, with more than 40 samples of wine of traditional local varieties since 1992.

“Around fifteen years ago, a thing happened in our region – almost all winemakers became infatuated with new technologies and took against traditional, old handicraft procedures. Their wines suddenly became intense, fruity, but all had to be drunk fast. They didn’t mature over time and told nothing about the quality of given years. In our winery, however, we wanted to observe how “slow wines! behave over time, we wanted to discover the character of the individual years, so we had to create our own archive full of traditional regional varieties such as Blaufränkisch, Alibernet, Grüner Veltliner or Pinot Blanc”, Ján Svetík told us.

Visiting the Cellar

The cellar is a world of its own. It has its own unique micro-climate consisting of darkness, humidity, stable temperature and time. Wine yeasts smell in the air and wine matures in barrels. The Svetík cellar is extensive, surprised visitors discover room after room. In the light of a headlamp, they slowly move through the corridors as on an adventurous expedition. Bottles full of wine rest in niches and wait for their time. They are in no rush and visitors shouldn’t be either.

The visit of the Svetík cellar is an excellent idea for visitors with a sense of romance and adventure. One should prepare for adventure not only mentally, but also by proper clothing – firm shoes and warm clothes. After a while, the visitors forget that they are in a town in the 21st century. As if they moved through space-time to a completely different dimension with a different, wine reality. In the flickering light they inadvertently lower their voices and smell the aroma of wine from a glass through the nose. They first familiarize themselves with it through smell and slowly proceed to take the first sip.

Tasting in this unique environment is different from the somewhat rushed wine tours. The wines don’t compete, they complement each other, as the guide explains. Drinking glasses cheerfully glitter in hands, blood starts flowing faster and even speech is more dynamic and more cheerful. The host willingly answers all curious questions. Time flows, but you have no idea how fast.

The variety is the mother of wine,

the soil is its father

and the year its destiny.

The price for the mystical atmosphere is subjective discomfort, therefore we recommend the visit of the cellar to visitors looking for unusual experiences. If you suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety, you should rather taste the wines produced by Víno Svetlík in the nearby Rotunda in the Levice Castle. If you have no conditions, don’t miss the opportunity during your visit of Levice and enter the mysterious space-time and breath in the atmosphere of the living cellar. An unforgettable experience and quality wine await you.


Levice Castle: Tekov Museum and Celtic Treasure

Unlike hundreds of other castles scattered across the hills of Slovakia, the Levice Castle is conveniently accessible by car, because it is exceptionally located in the residential area of the district town Levice. Visitors only need to take a few steps from the busy centre and they find themselves in the time-space of distant past.

The ancient walls could speak about the castle’s owners such as Matthew Csák of Trencsén, István Dobó or István Koháry. The last owners were the famous Eszterházy family, later the Schöellers. It was István Dobó who built the prominent Renaissance manor house, around which visitors go to the Captains’ House, which houses the Tekov Museum today.

The Tekov Museum has several expositions. Archaeology, history of pharmacy, history of the castle, guilds and crafts, social life, folk clothing and Ladislav Bielik – 1968. One of the most prominent exhibits, however, is the Celtic treasure, placed in the Treasures of Tekov Museum exposition. As you’ll see, the Levice castle offers many surprises.

The Tour

 The tour of the Tekov Museum begins with the exhibition of artefacts from the most distant past. Visitors find themselves in a room with lit display cases, in which they can admire the skills of people of this region. The archaeological collections contain vessels, weapons, jewellery, and statues made by hands of ancient masters from the Bronze Age, the Roman Period and the Migration Period. The reconstruction of a dwelling with a fireplace reminds us how humanity lived before the onset of civilization. Not only numismatists will be interested in a unique and tastefully organized collection of Roman coins and also copper coins from the Austrian-Hungarian period, left by merchants and residents of these places.

Each room of the museum represents a different world. From the times of the original settlement of the region, visitors move to a stylized armoury. Unlike armouries commonly set-up in castles, this one is clean and lit. Various weapons and an exemplary armour will leave no-one in doubts about people’s diverse ingenuity in arming. The room is dominated by a majestic bust of István Koháry, who was hit by a bullet in summer 1664 during a battle near Levice, in which the Imperial and the Turkish armies clashed. Before he died, he had became famous as a successful warrior and ruler.

The Celtic Treasure

The biggest Celtic treasure was discovered in 1930 by a resident of Levice on a town property called „mrchovište“ (animal cemetery). The Residents of the town used to bury dead animals and later dump construction waste there.

”The labourers, working on a new settlement, discovered one heavy vessel, which they threw aside without interest, because they thought it was a weigh from a lamp. The vessel on the dump was later found by a Gypsy, who paid more attention to his discovery. In a grey vessel with the proportions of an ordinary flowerpot, to his great surprise, he found a large amount of old coins. Since the Gypsy started selling the coins, the police became aware of it and pursuant to the law, they confiscated the find and handed it over to the respectable district court … The police got hold of 150 pieces of silver coins and 5 pieces of gold coins from the Levice find. According to an expert on numismatology, both types of coins are categorized by numismatists as having “barbarian” origin and the site of their discovery certainly deserves attention and is worth exploring.”

The first information about the find in the regional weekly magazine Bars from October 19, 1930.

Numismatists can recognize the Levice Celtic treasure easily – all silver tetradrachms have a vertically positioned wedge sharply driven under the belly of the horse at the core of the coin.

“The Celts were not only good craftsmen, but also skilled falsifiers. They could silver-plate or gold-plate a common little bronze disc and pass it for a genuine coin. This deep incision proved that the whole coin is made of silver and is therefore genuine,” says Peter Pleva, a historian from the Tekov Museum.

The Pharmacy

Not only history lovers will cheer up after entering a replica of an ancient pharmacy. Pedantically polished shelves, drawers, ampoules, scales, flasks, bottles, jars, distillation apparatus, till and the whole interior create the impression that mister pharmacist nipped out for a spirit or herbs and is coming back soon to serve curious customers. As they leave, they can check one more time if something doesn’t drop from the distillation apparatus after all – but no – so we move further through nicely heated, bright rooms. Secrets of townspeople’s houses and guilds await us. Maybe ladies listening to a beautiful gramophone with fairy-tale -like loudspeaker used to go for their medicine to the very pharmacy we have just left.

How People Lived and Worked

The exposition testifies that towns were inhabited by people who improved their dwellings by upholstered furniture, impressive clocks, and elegant porcelain services. The walls weren’t short of pictures and mirrors, chests of drawers of tablecloths and silver candleholders.

The craftsmen, organized into traditional guilds, lived more modestly. However, the remains of their clay vessels provide a more enjoyable sight for lovers of the past than the Celtic treasure. If you have a soft spot for clay moulds, pots, jugs or plates, it might be a shame for you that they are safely placed behind a glass display case. They are certainly perfectly functional!

Apart from the pottery collection, visitors can also admire collections of folk clothing and fabrics, jewellery, various practical and decorative products from withe, straw and corn leaves. The exhibition also includes a collection of farming equipment and folk furniture.

The craftsmen’s skill is also represented by examples of traditional tools and papers which all guild members had to have, be their craft blue print, button production or other. When visitors tear themselves away from craftsmen’s and townspeople’s idyll, they enter another story.

Year 1968

Visitors will be amazed by an over life-size replica of a celluloid film. Rectangle after rectangle the story unfolds. Everyone who lived or grew in Czechoslovakia probably knows it. Ladislav Bielik, a native of Levice, documented among other things also the famous moment when a person, a man, helplessly tore his shirt and stood in front of a Russian tank with his bare chest. The photograph went around the world, the story of its protagonists was a bit different, less famous, less visible.

Rectangle after rectangle the story unfolds, telling of frowning soldiers, telling of boys in uniforms crawling out of tanks. Telling of men drawing weapons one by one. Telling of something unbelievable and yet real happening on the street in broad daylight.

The pages of period newspapers, also over life-size, offer the opportunity to visitors to read declarations of politicians, both our and foreign. In this austere room, visitors can spend more time than expected in silence and meditation.

A Village Is a Good, Healthy Place

The weight of political decadence wears off at the entrance to the exposition with the exhibition of folk clothing and jewellery. The famous Tekov folk costume with an opulent bonnet, which is placed on a leather cap resembling lining reminds visitors of scenes from the famous Feather Fairy. Who can remember today that the width of the ribbons, with which the girls bound the gathered sleeves of the blouse, spoke of their wealth, as did the number of skirts they wore?

Apart from collections of artefacts, the historical information is supplied also by photographs depicting various life situations.

Not Only In the Past, But Also Today

The Tekov Museum and the Levice Castle are also a nice place for contemporary people. The concert hall and the concerts attract music lovers; the amphitheatre comes alive with music and movie atmosphere during summer months. The Tekov Museum actively participates in the life of the region by informing about events such as exhibitions and markets in Levice and the Tekov Region. If you would like to know what you can do during a visit to Levice after seeing the museum, ask the willing guides who accompanied you during the tour. And don’t forget to mint a coin for luck and as a keepsake.

Would you like to visit the Tekov Museum? Adult entry fee is 2 Euros, children and pensioners pay half the price. The opening hours are from 9AM to 4PM, from June to September to 6PM during workdays as well as weekends.

Bátovce. (Not only) Queens’ Town

Bátovce is located at the centre of Levice, Banská Štiavnica and Dudince. Today, its population is 1165 inhabitants; in the past, however, it used to be a royal town. The town’s attractivity is enhanced today not only by historical buildings, but also by beautiful nature, as the town is located directly in the centre of Bátovská dolina valley, at the junction of Sikenica and Jabloňovka brooks. Do you know that there is a stone baroque bridge over Sikenica? Bátovce is full of such surprises.

Like Pukanec, Bátovce was populated by German mining engineers and workers in the 13th century. They didn’t work in Bátovce though, but they traded on markets, which have had a long tradition in Bátovce. It is because of the markets that Bátovce has the inseparable title of “queens’ town”. During the early Middle Ages already, it was a market centre, which belonged to the queen’s estates.

The markets in Bátovce aren’t just a thing of the past. Even today, regular Farmers’ Markets and the famous Bátovce Fair, which is visited by 5000 visitors annually, take place here.

Bátovce also hosts an international arts festival thanks to the Pôtoň Theatre; sportspeople could enjoy the Run Around the Queens’ Town. I visited Bátovce out of season, so to speak, so I visited sacral and historical sights and local nature thanks to a local guide’s willingness.

Churches in Bátovce

The Roman Catholic St. Martin’s Church is originally a Romanesque building from the 1st half of the 13th century, visible from several kilometres’ distance.

The original Romanesque nave is thanks to its dimensions one of the biggest of its kind on our territory, which suggests a lot about the importance of Bátovce during the building of the first church. The Gothic period is observable primarily in the western and southern portals. The church’s interior is breath-taking and even visitors who aren’t history enthusiasts can appreciate the beauty of the altars and the wall paintings.

As it was with Pukanec, German residents brought Lutheran creed to Bátovce. Bátovce can therefore boast two prominent churches, too. The view of the church from the outside is monumental, but it fades in comparison with the view that visitors can enjoy as they enter the church. Regular clear lines and huge space suggest great acoustics not only during worship services, but also during concerts.

The Curia

The originally yeoman curia has a rich history and used to have multiple functions. According to available information, it served as a pub, there was a dance room upstairs and its cellar was used as the village jail.

Today, the renovated premises serve as a marriage hall; there is a small village museum upstairs which informs about the life in the past in Bátovce. Visitors can see the furnishings of a peasant room, farming equipment, historical photographs, and various written documents. A fun part is an exposition of socialist curiosities, many of which we remember as parts of our households.

In the Fresh Air

Do you want to go on an outdoor trip? There is a 5-kilometre-long educational trail starting in Bátovce square. The first stop, where you’d like to spend some time, is the water reservoir Lipovina. Its surroundings are suitable for barbecue and fishermen can use the opportunity to catch carps.

The educational trail continues, however, and on the second bank of the reservoir you will discover a forest path, which leads to traditional vinicultural cellar houses. Today, they are used primarily for recreational purposes as cottages, but some residents still process or store wine here.

There is a beautiful view of the village landmarks from here. Looking at churches’ towers, peacefully rising surrounded by the beautiful nature, it was clear to me that this wasn’t my last visit of Bátovce and that I would at least watch for the date of the next Bátovce fair.