Order No Rainbows

Life as an expat, Photography, Crafts, Vegan Food, Music, Art, Animals…..

Day trip to Žilina

on February 9, 2014

Yesterday I took a two-hour train ride from Piešt’any to the pretty town of Žilina. Why? Because I could get a direct train there and come back the same day, and I’d heard that it was a nice place to visit. Which it was. But a couple of things are worth knowing if you want to go there – the tourist information office is closed on Saturdays (!) and the public toilets close at noon. A free map of the city can be obtained from the information desk in Aupark shopping centre, which is close to the squares. And be prepared to deal with the many and persistent beggars.

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The town is built around two squares which are just a short walk from the train station and which have many interesting buildings. There is the usual Slovakian mixture of beautiful old buildings, old buildings which are falling apart, churches, 1970s-style buildings and modern buildings. Lots of statues and plaques commemorating various people and events.The city centre is easy to walk around and seemed safe, but the outlying part of the city did not feel so secure.

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One building that I particularly liked was Žilina’s House of Art, which had some very nice carvings on the front.

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After walking around the centre of the city I went to the outskirts (about a 15 minute walk) to the church of St Stephen the King, which is the oldest monument in town. It was very pretty, but sadly the gate was locked so I couldn’t get in for a closer look.

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However the walk was worthwhile because close to the church there are two other monuments which are worth seeing. The first is a memorial to Jozef Gabčík who came from the Žilina area and was one of the people involved in the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, nicknamed “the butcher of Prague” in 1942. There’s a great book by Laurent Binet, called HHHH, which deals with this story.

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The second monument is the monument to the thousands of Slovak Jews who were deported from the transit camp in Žilina to the Nazi death camps during the World War II. Called “The road of no return” the monument takes the form of a section of railway line with the title in Hebrew, English and Slovak, along with a stone block with a text in 3 languages and a pylon with a star of David. The fact that the monument stands beside an army camp with barbed wire above the walls and a watchtower (which overlooks an obstacle course) makes the site feel even more sinister.

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On the way back from these monuments I stopped to photograph some street art on the subway under the motorway and some traditional houses and a traditional Slovak pub with some wonderful wood carvings before heading back to the station for the train home.

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Žilina is probably worth a longer visit in the summer – the surrounding countryside is very pretty and there is a castle just out of town, but at this time of the year one day was enough to take in the sights.

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