Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slovakia: This Summer Travel the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route

Trencin, Slovakia. Former Synagogue (now art gallery). Photos: Samuel Gruber (2005) click here for more information

Slovakia: This Summer Travel the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route

Summer is here, and thousands - maybe tens of thousands - of tourists will go in hunt of Jewish sites in Europe. Twenty years after the fall of Communism and the opening of Central and Eastern Europe to visitors there is no slowdown in the number of individuals and groups on art, roots or religious pilgrimage to the former Jewish centers. Most visitors still make their way to the big four cities - Warsaw, Krakow, Prague and Budapest. But as readers of this blog know, there is much more of Jewish and, I think, general interest once one breaks from that standard itinerary.

Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia. Former Synagogue. Photo courtesy of Slovak Jewish Heritage Center. For more information click here.

This summer consider visiting Slovakia, a beautiful country of stunning scenery, historic towns and a wealth of fascinating Jewish sites. Centrally located, Slovakia contains cultural elements related to Poland to the north, Ukraine to the East, Hungary to the South and German and Czech speaking cultures to the West. For the past several years the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center in Bratislava under the leadership of Dr. Maros Borsky has worked with local Jewish communities and government agencies to put together a Slovak Jewish Heritage Route through the country. now, you can read about the route and get details on all the historic synagogues included.

The full publication about the route can be read on line or downloaded here.

The route includes Jewish heritage sites in Bratislava, Stupava, Malacky, Trnava, Šamorín, Sereď, Nitra, Komárno, Nové Zámky, Šurany, Šahy, Trenčín, Banská Štiavnica, Zvolen, Žilina, Liptovský Mikuláš, Košice, Spišská Nová Ves, Prešov, Spišské Podhradie, Bardejov.

Malacky, Slovakia. Former Synagogue (now an art school). Wilhelm Stiassny, arch. (1886). Photo courtesy of Slovak Jewish Heritage Center For more information click here.
Some of these buildings are still active synagogues, a few like Nitra, have been turned into Jewish museums and Holocaust memorials. Some buildings like Šamorín are art galleries, and others, such as Stupava are still empty or in restoration.

Most of these buildings are situated in interesting towns, and there are other Jewish sites- especially cemeteries - in close proximity. One can begin the trip in Bratislava - less than a hour from Vienna, and then head east. Travel by car is recommended, but backpackers could make use of trains and buses. Travel information is available on the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center website.

For armchair travelers, the Heritage Center maintains an online monuments database that can be consulted here.

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