Banska Bystrica – the town of many melodies
by Yana Yovcheva - 3 years ago
Mining, German settlers, a one-time capital, Italian Renaissance influence – these are all things associated with the history of this charming provincial town of roughly 80,000 inhabitants. What remains from this heritage are a number of beautiful historical buildings, a few really well curated museums, and a pleasant relaxed atmosphere. That, and a concerto of melodies throughout the day.
There is the Clock Tower behind the Marian Column (a statue of the Virgin Mary erected at a geomantic site). You can treat yourself to the most delicious gelato outside of Italy at its doorsteps, climb up the staircase decorated with paintings by local kids, and reach the terrace with the 360-degrees panoramic view. On one side you get to see the whole square – down to the Black Obelisk commemorating the 1945 Soviet victory in WWII and beyond. On the other, it’s the Castle area – with the Barbakan, the Praetorium, Matej’s House (now the town’s Historical Museum) and the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (the oldest building in town – surviving since the 13th century). The Tower’s most prominent feature, however, is its rich repertoire of melodies it plays according to hour and day of the week. Morning tunes differ from afternoon ones, afternoon tunes differ from evening ones, and weekday melodies are not the same as weekend ones. But the Tower has competition. The next-door Church of St. Francis Xavier (the Jesuit church in town) boasts its own set of tunes. Spend a few days around town, and you’ll be treated to everyday clock concerts. You might also be lucky to chance upon impromptu classical music concerts by Slovakian orchestras visiting Banska Bystrica.
Apart from a penchant for music, the town also has one of Slovakia’s most famous artists to be proud of: Dominik Skutecky. A late 19th – early 20th century painter, Skutecky left a lasting legacy which can be seen at his house for just 1 euro entrance fee (0.50 if you’re a student). A booklet with reproductions of his works is also available for 1 euro.
Another place worth visiting is the Slovak National Uprising Museum. It hosts an exhibition of “Slovakia in the Anti-Fascist Movement in Europe between 1939 – 1945”, and also presents the political, social and military events in the history of Slovakia between 1918 – 1948 with regard to the history of Europe. But what captures the eye even before entering is the esthetic of the whole space. Not only is it modernistic (in line with the historical period it represents), but it also speaks of the emotions surrounding the struggle – the building torn in two, sculptures of people in pain etc. The museum offers a break from the Renaissance charm of the central square and a glimpse of Slovakia’s more recent history.