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Biking Slovakia

Exchange rate: Rand 1 (R1) = Euro 0,048 (€0,048)

24-25 July 2023, Malė Levare, 58km
Autokemp Rudava €20 [R412]

"This is getting a little tedious." As Charl seldom complains, these were strong words uttered around 15km into Slovakia.
Before leaving Lednice, we strolled through a small segment of the Lednice castle gardens, breakfasted on the pavement on open sandwiches from the Coop (co-op) Jednota, and bought a selection of stamps for Charl's collection.
We were directed by Google Maps onto pleasant cycle paths and tracks that avoided much of sizeable Břeclav. Then pottered southeast on route 425 to our last Czech town, Lanžhot, where Charl imbibed his last Czech beer and I my last zmrzlina, strawberry sorbet.
While doing so on a terrace opposite the fire station, a deafening fire alarm sounded. Two women from the restaurant ran out to move their cars parked outside the station, a couple of men pulled up shortly thereafter, zipped into the open parking spots, dashed into the station to change, and soon were off in the fire engine to put out a fire somewhere.
Not much later we crossed the Morava River and without fuss or fanfare were in Slovakia.
Oddly, almost immediately, we found ourselves cycling into a hot headwind in oppressive humid weather; the air itself felt heavy. So, although the terrain was relatively easy, we struggled to do the distance, around 47km total.
The first couple of small towns we cycled through were clearly poorer than those in the neighbouring Czech Republic, the road a little rough.
We are staying at Autokemp Rudava, a large park with less than optimal ablutions, though adequate. When we asked about a room, we were offered accommodation in the unused playroom for just €3 more than the cost of camping. So we have an enormous room filled with day beds and toys...
26-27 July 2023, Bratislava, 52.66km
Autocamp Zlate Piesky €16 [R332]

A relatively easy 55km run, predominantly on route 2, to the northeast corner of Bratislava, including 16km of city cycling. The video above shows a short section of fairly rough cycle path which elevated us off the highway for a brief period.
It rained for much of yesterday and as our host seemed happy to continue to accommodate us in the campsite playroom, we spent the day watching YouTube and Netflix, with a quick shopping outing for lunch and dinner supplies, and a little planning thrown in.
It seems that Slovakia is in a state of flux and that the Romanian embassy in Bratislava is not at the moment issuing visas to tourists. We will have to apply in Budapest, therefore, assuming we can persuade Pretoria to forward our application forms.
There is a distinctly different feel to Slovakia. I mentioned more poverty in my last whatsapp, though a couple of the bigger towns through which we passed today looked better off than our earlier examples. Route 2 parallels the motorway into Bratislava. It sometimes sports a shoulder and is sometimes in perfect nick, but often not.
Both campsites of which we now have experience, are somewhat run-down, adequate but not optimal. Tonight's campsite is also more security conscious than others in Eastern Europe, with a boom, a security guard, signs suggesting you not leave your phones charging unattended, and a bike shed to which only reception has a key.
A super day in Bratislava after an unexpectedly chilly night.
I have revised my opinion of our campsite. Although there are several run-down and abandoned buildings on the premises, the bathrooms are renovated and the administrative staff excellent. There are two or three bufets (fast food outlets) on site and a kitchen and a laundry and a lake and lots of trees.
Just behind reception is a pedestrian bridge up-n-over the double-carriage highway on which we arrived by bike yesterday. Along the road run trams, buses and trolley buses. A good public transport system is a pleasure. Our receptionist had told us to take tram 4 and at which stop to disembark both outward and inward bound. Buying a senior (half-price) ticket was easy and within 20 minutes we were in the heart of the old city. Later we took the tram two stops to visit two sites in the new city, then shopped at a Tesco Express and hopped a tram home. Easy peasy.
Atlas Obscura: Meet Cumil, Bratislava's somewhat notorious sewer worker statue.
Debate rages on as to what this cheeky chap is actually doing as he pokes out of a sculptural manhole in Bratislava’s old town district. The odd statue was installed in 1997 as part of an effort to spice up the look and feel of the area, which was traditionally marked with drab, Communist-era architecture and decoration.
As Cumil is leaning out over a curb it comes as no surprise that his head has been clipped off more than once by careless motorists. In order to protect drivers, amblers, and—most importantly—Cumil himself, the city installed a warning sign just above his head.
Physical dangers aside, Cumil has come to be a beloved institution in the city, and visitors come come all over to lay in the street and look him in the eyes, or just sit on his head.
Atlas Obscura: Napoleon and his army came to Bratislava in December 1805, when 9,000 infantry soldiers and 300 horsemen marched through the streets. While passing through the town, one of the soldiers is said to have fallen in love with a local girl. He decided to stay in Bratislava and began making sparkling wine which he named after himself, Hubert.
We spent some time hunting out this small memorial...
Atlas Obscura: Brass plaques embedded in pavement preserve the memories of those who lost their lives at the hands of Nazis during World War II.
The Pamätné Kamene of Bratislava
The Stolperseine Project was begun by German artist Gunter Denmig in 1992. The name of the Stolpersteine in Slovak is pamätné kamene, meaning “memorial stones.” The project aims to commemorate individuals at their last place of residency or, in some instances, their place of work, which was freely chosen by the person before they fell victim to Nazi terror, eugenics, euthanasia, deportation to extermination camps, or those who managed to escape persecution by emigration or suicide.
This is achieved by placing small brass plaques (10 centimeters by 10 centimeters) engraved with the names and life information of those who were killed by Nazis. The first pamätné kamene were placed in Slovakia in 2012. Pamätné kamene are currently placed at 16 locations in Bratislava.
City representatives from Bratislava have gone on record as stating that these stones should express the respect and wish for the Slovak capital to become, again, a place where people of different cultures and creeds can live together side by side peacefully.
Most pamätné kamene are placed to commemorate Jewish individuals but criticism has been voiced about the project. Charlotte Knobloch, described it as “unbearable” to put the names of murdered Jews on plaques which are then embedded in the ground where people can step on them with their feet. Many other prominent Jewish leaders however defend the memorial stones.
Joseph Pearson, a Cambridge historian, argues that “It is not what is written [on the stolpersteine] which intrigues, because the inscription is insufficient to conjure a person. It is the emptiness, void, lack of information, the maw of the forgotten, which gives the monuments their power and lifts them from the banality of a statistic.”
Atlas Obscura: On February 21, 2018, investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were both gunned down in their home at the age of 27.
The killings of Kuciak and Kušnírová only confirmed what the citizens of Slovakia had dreaded—that an intricate web of organized crime existed within the country. At the time of his murder, Kuciak was working on a report about the connection of Slovak politicians with the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the most feared Italian crime organizations...
As soon as the news of the double murder broke, people started to rally nationwide for change, forming the largest protest in Slovak history since the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
In the end, the protest was largely successful, culminating in the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his entire cabinet in mid-March.
In February 2022, to mark the fourth anniversary of the Kuciak-Kušnírová murder, the city of Bratislava unveiled a memorial dedicated to them in the central square of the Slovak capital.
Atlas Obscura: It's unclear who Biatec was. The name appears on the coins that circulated among the Celtic tribe of the Boii, minted in what is present-day Bratislava around 60-40 B.C. These rare ancient coins are also referred to as Biatec...
Generally sizing 25 millimeters in diameter and weighing about 17 grams, the silver coins were equivalent of Hellenistic hexadrachms or tetradrachms, which they are believed to have imitated. Fourteen hoards consisting of these coins were unearthed in the 20th century, six of them in Bratislava.
Although rather obscure internationally, the Biatec coin has become a sort of icon in Slovakia. From 1993 to 2008, its design was featured on the five-Slovak koruna coin, and even today, the horseman can be seen on the National Bank of Slovakia’s logo.
In 1988, a bronze monument shaped after and commemorating the Biatec coin was created by sculptor Ľudmila Cvengrošová. More than a hundred times larger than its real-life counterpart, the monument was 3 meters (10 feet) in diameter and weighed 3 tons. It was relocated in front of the National Bank of Slovakia in 2008, one month before the country’s transition from the Slovak koruna to euro.
Radio and Television Slovakia
While this building has been included on lists of the ugliest buildings in the world, it’s still an impressive sight. The building is designed as an inverted steel pyramid that glows burnt orange in the sunlight.
Completed in the mid-1980s, this building continues to house Radio and Television of Slovakia, a public broadcasting station. There have been several rumors that claim the shape of the building actually affects energy flow or that the building was modeled after the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In 2017, the structure was named a national cultural monument for being an excellent example of Central European Modernist architecture.
Inside the building’s concert hall, visitors can see one of the largest organs in Slovakia. The hall is suspended in a steel structure and is mounted on acoustic springs that dampen vibrations from the outside. It’s such a special space that the Vienna Philharmonic records inside, it’s also the place where Nokia recorded its classic polyphonic ringtones.
The Absentee Gallery…
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