After a thrilling hike up the High Tatras, our next destination was the quaint and the beautiful town (I would ideally call it a country side) of Banska Stiavnica.
Banska, a UNESCO heritage site and a mining relic, is a picturesque station which is surrounded by hills and lakes on all sides. On foot, the length and breadth of the town can be covered in 40 minutes at best, but the very unique architecture, the colorful cafes, the cathedrals and the watch tower, make it impossible to not stop every five minutes for a picture, making it a full day experience at the very least.
Our Apartment at Banska was a part of Hotel Grand Matej which was quite in the beat of things and had a wonderful view of the New Castle. The Hotel, although quite dated, offered a spacious and comfortable room. Plus, the bonus was a personal Jacuzzi with a view of the entire city at your feet. Not complaining at all!
We prioritized our sightseeing by a visit to the local institution, the Erb Brewery, which is a pink colored building located across the Cathedral. Ask anyone and they may carry you there! Erb is one of Slovakia’ best brewery, distilling some very fresh lager and dark ales, lined with copper vessels pumped with fermented happiness. I tried the lager while Nikhil, the Limited Edition dark ale. The frothy brews were refreshing. The lamb chop ordered with the brew was nothing spectacular and could be missed.
After relishing the tipple at the Erb Brewery, we hopped on to a little restaurant right off the brewery called Mastianca. With some confidence I can claim that this was the last standing restaurant open late into the night (which by Banska standards was 11 PM). The pizza here was very good and the ladies who owned the restaurant agreed to serve us fresh pizza despite us arriving post last orders.
The next morning, with only half a day to our rescue, we paraded towards the city center and set out exploring! Some of the notable sights that I recommend are:
The Old castle and the New: The Old Castle stands guard at the top of the town. Originally a church, it was built into a fortification in the year 1564 to protect the town from the Ottoman Turkish invasions. The new castle on the other side of the Hill, easily visible from anywhere in the town, also has commanding views of the town as well as the valley. For shortage of time, we skipped visit to the New Castle.
The Holy Trinity Square: This Square, which rests underneath the Old Castle, is a beautiful spot which houses the Plague Monument, which as the name suggests, was built to express gratitude for saving their lives from the wrath of the disease. This monument looks beautiful in the day and the night and has become the very landmark for Banska.
St. Catherine Church: This very Gothic styled church stands in the core. The locals call it the Slovak Church as the first mass in Slovak language was held here.
The Tower Watch Clock: A huge green tower stands at the edge of the Holy Trinity square on which ticks, the city clock. The unique feature of this clock is that its small hand denotes the minutes and the big hand denotes the hour. So if you ever get late to work, you can always blame the confusing watch for it!!
The Open Air Mining Museum: This is a must visit site for historical reasons and fun value. In the olden times, it is said, that Banska had abundance in rich minerals and silver deposits, so much that, it was called the Silver Town. To its credit, Banska is the first town to discover the use of gunpowder and explosives to mine. It is for its contribution to the mining industry, that Banska has received the UNESCO’ world heritage tag. This Museum is a fun exploration as one is allowed to enter the depths of the earth wearing a mining helmet and carrying torch, getting some real-time mining experience.
After parading around town, it was time to do our favorite hobby- EAT! For Lunch, we went to B5 Street Food cafe. It is docked on the other end of Banska’s tourist attractions and is truly local. It is so tiny that you will surely miss it. The server could barely understand English. But the food- oh the food!, here was heavenly. We swigged in Zlaty Bazant, the local beer while relaxing in the chairs set out in a small shade, outside the cafe. Our craving for a Classic Burger along with some Asian Pad Thai was definitely quenched!
If you are thinking pancakes, hot chocolate in at least 20 different flavors and varieties, delectable puddings and cakes, pralines and macaroons, look no further than Cafe Divina Pani. This grand cafe, staged in at least 5 different types of sittings, can put any cafe in Paris to shame. The decor is classic vintage and has tables with colorful pillows, beautiful lanterns and cushy lazy boys. A beautiful rose and vine wine cellar sits in the middle of the hall. Bring a book or borrow one from their library and soak it in all! Of course with some Chocolate! We had the sinful hot chocolate mint and cocoa with a layered carrot cinnamon cake! Sluuuurrrpppp!
Another cafe, which though we didn’t visit, but was also recommended by the locals, was the 4 Sochy Cafe– a green building with canopy chairs. Its roof was lined with Roman statues and looked very grand. We note this place for a visit next time.
Banska was a true delight and took us back to an era, where time takes time. My affair with this picturesque town was short and left me wanting for more. With our head plastered with beautiful memories and stomach stuffed with lots and lots of food, we set out towards our next hotspot, Bratislava!