Rebecca and Bob are cousins from 3rd generation. They met personally first time in Vienna this year before their first visit of Slovakia in their life. Rebecca and Bob wanted not only to trace their family's roots, but they also wanted to visit some of the nicest places in Slovakia. We spent 5 days together and traveled more than 1630 km (1021 mi) in multifarious Slovak counties: Šariš, Spiš, Zemplín, Liptov, Orava, Považie. Before we met in High Tatras National Park, they visited with my colleague other Slovak towns (the capital Bratislava, UNESCO town Banská Štiavnica or UNESCO village Vlkolínec).
As I wrote before, we met in High Tatras National Park, in a tourist resort Štrbské Pleso. High Tatras is one of the nine national parks and is the oldest national park in Slovakia (founded in 1949). Štrbské pleso is also the name for the second largest tarn in High Tatras and the most visited place in this area. We had a nice walk around even the weather was pretty changeable. Later we continued to Starý Smokovec, where we took a funicular railway to get Hrebienok (tourist center) and we did hiking to the impressive waterfalls full of foamy cold water. Next stop was the town of Tatranská Lomnica where we took a cable car to see the High Tatra mountains from above.
Second day belonged to the Spiš region with its UNESCO highlights. The first stop was charming medieval town Levoča, cultural and historic jewel among Slovak towns. The highlights of Levoča was the Roman Catholic church of St. Jacob from 14th century with its highest wooden altar in the world - a masterpiece from Master Paul of Levoča. We also visited his old house, today it serves as a museum. Then we continued to the Spiš Castle which is one of the most precious cultural monuments in the Spiš region. It is not just an evidence of architectural development from the 12th to the 18th century - it is also one of the largest castles in the Central Europe. We also made a break in the village of Žehra to see the church famous for its fresco Tree of life. Further we visited Spišská Kapitula, also known as "Slovak Vatican" and participated at the concert at the Cathedral of St. Martin.
The third day was very important for Bob and Rebecca. Rebecca was prepared for her trip absolutelly perfect - she has spent three years doing her genealogical research and collecting all information together. We visited several small villages in Šariš County and Zemplín County starting in Ohradzany, Sopkovce and Turcovce in the administrative district of Humenné, than village Novosad in the district of Trebišov. Everywhere we tried to find a gravestone with an ancestor and a church where their great-grandparents belonged. In Sopkovce we met Bob´s cousin Štefan and they spent the rest of the day together. Rebecca and I continued to Novosad, where her great-grandfather was born. We checked the greek-catholic church with typical iconostasis. The church was so old that Rebecca´s ancestors visited this place for sure! We took many pictures and in late afternoon travelled back home (to Prešov).
On our way back to Prešov we did a short break in a pub in a small and unknown village. I always ask my clients to check if they have everything (passport, cellphone, wallet) and if we can continue. Rebecca agreed so we left this unknown village. After one and half hour of driving we finally arrived to the hotel and after getting off the car Rebecca found out, that she has lost her cellphone with all pictures she took this day. Can you imagine this feeling? After whole day exploring your ancestral villages you don´t have any photo. I tried to stay positive and after getting home I started a search action. First I needed to trace which was the last place or village Rebecca saw her cellphone last time. It should be this unknown village and the pub where we made a break. So I opened the Google Street View and followed the whole road we drove till I discovered the pub. It was in the village of Veľký Ruskov just some kilometers after Trebišov. Because I couldn´ t find any contact of the pub, I tried to call to the mayor of this village. He sent me the phone number of the owner. When I called him and introduced myself, he already knew why I am calling him. They found Rebecca´s cellphone some minutes after our visit. I asked him if there is any chance to get the cellphone a bit closer to us, because it would be a big loss of time if we needed to travel there next day. He answered "Give me a moment". After 10 minutes somebody was calling me. It was a guy living in Veľký Ruskov who is working at the military air base in Prešov and next day he is travelling to work, so he can bring me the cellphone! What a coincidence! Next morning when I met Rebecca after her breakfast I brought her the cellphone (-:
The fourth day was again a genealogical day. Today we explored villages and towns in the Spiš County: Olcnava, Domaňovce, Harichovce, Spišský Štvrtok, Dlhé Stráže. We had a luck at the cemetery in Spišský Štvrtok where we found the gravestone of Rebecca´s great-grandfather. After asking in local town hall we found Rebecca´s cousin too. It was an amazing meeting! Mr. Gaj is an artist, talented inventor, musician and folklorist in one person. I loved his workroom where he spends hours and hours creating new gadgets.
On the last day we left Prešov and made the first stop in one of the nicest open air museums in Slovakia - in Zuberec. For this museum are typicall houses from all over the Orava region. The whole settings looks like real village.
After Zuberec we drove app. 35 kilometers (22 mi) to the village called Oravský Podzámok. It is famous for it spectacular castle (Orava Castle) on the very high and steep rock. Orava castle is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia. The castle was built in the Kingdom of Hungary in the thirteenth century. It is also famous for many scenes of many films which were filmed here. If you go absolutelly on the top, you will manage more than 680 stairs!
After we finished our tour of Orava Castle we continued to the city of Trenčín, another historical city with a beautiful castle. It was my last day spent with Rebecca and Bob. We had a great time exploring Slovakia and exploring their Slovak roots. I am sure it wasn´t their last visit of my country! Thank you Rebecca and Bob for your visit and I hope to see you soon!