Monday, February 3, 2014

 Banska Bystrica is the 6th largest city in Slovakia (Nitra, by comparison is 4th).  The town was settled by German settlers, and officially became a town is 1255! It was known as a copper mining town and today it is the capitol of the  Banská Bystrica Region. The copper deposits were depleted by the 18th century, but timber, paper and textiles developed. The city sits in three mountain chains: the Low Tatras to the north-east, the Veľká Fatra to the north-west, and the Kremnica Mountains to the west. All three are national environmental protected sites.

The oldest part of Banská Bystrica is the Castle (Hrad) at the edge of of the old section of town. It is enclosed within what has remained of its original fortifications − a barbican protecting the main gate, three bastions, and part of the walls.  When built, the City Castle served as the city's administrative center and it also protected the king's treasury. The Hrad is below:

The main square has two interesting statutes or monuments.  The first is one that is common in medieval cities: the plague monument. This was was erected in the square in the 18th century in gratitude to God (or Virgin Mary, I am not sure which) for ending a deadly plague. Apparently, according to a local, the column was temporarily removed before a visit by Nikita Khrushchev in 1964 because a religious symbol was considered gauche and could not be in the background for a Communist speech!

Here is a picture of the plague monument:

The second one (I did not take this picture, it's from wikipedia) is of  a black obelisk that is raised to honor of the Soviet soldiers killed during the liberation of the city in 1945.

During World War II, Banská Bystrica was the center of anti-Nazi opposition in Slovakia when the Slovak National Uprising, apparently the second largest anti-Nazi resistance events in Europe, was launched from the city in 1944. You can read about he failed uprising here or here,  but basically the Russians took the arms supplied by the US and Allies to fight their war, while the insurgents were left high and dry. After the failure to expel Nazi forces,  Banská Bystrica was briefly occupied before it was liberated by Soviet and Romanian troops on 26 March 1945. After the war, Banská Bystrica became the administrative, economic, and cultural hub of central Slovakia.

To document this uprising, they have the SNP Museum (near the Slovak National Uprising SquareThe SNP Museum is located in a building that is quite unusual from the architectural point of view. According to a researcher here on a Fulbright, the museum is shaped like the hat of a Slovak Solider.    

The museum is in a park that also features an open-air museum of military hardware used during the SNP. 

There was also a great statute in the museum that shows the state of mind during the uprising. 

The city is young and vibrant, in part because it is a university town.  Its largest university is Matej Bel University and it was founded in 1992, with about 23,000 students. They also have the  Academy of Arts, which specializes in performing and fine arts. I loved the city!  Th river, and square and history made it fun.  It's a bit happier feeling than in Nitra, and that was on a day that the temperatures were about zero!


Gary Graham said...

Some great reading on a "snow day" and a cancelled RWU Senate meeting. Thanks - I'll visit again. GG

the old man in south texas said...

Seems like most of the equipment there at the museum are old German ones. Glad you get a chance to see the more of the country before you actually start work.

Lavender Shutters said...

So great to hear about everything. I had to laugh about the meetings, though. Sounds like home. How is the coffee situation?
Lots of snow here but your house looks cozy and lived in. Miss you guys!
Miss Lavender and her occupants...wooof!

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