Saturday, 27 January 2018

Natural History Museum

Have you ever seen the film "Night at the Museum"? The main character spends a night in the Museum of Natural History and it proves to be a life-changing experience. Will you dare to try yourself? Then let me invite you to the Natural History Museum in London. At night.

As we enter inside, we are welcomed by a large collection of fossils.

Next to them comes the plesiosaurus, a large marine reptile that lived (yes!) in Jurassic era.

This giant mammal was a huge ground sloth. It was by far larger than a horse.

As we enter the Hintze Hall, we immediately discover the king of the place - a twenty five metre long blue whale skeleton.

Luckily it is suspended in the air - I would not like to get anywhere close to his jaws. I know they are supposed to be eating only small sea food. Still, I would not take the risk.

The Hintze Hall looks like a giant cathedral. In the front, you will find the figure of god almighty. Or more precisely the one who has redefined the natural history - Charles Darwin.

In the side chapels you will find some of the finest specimen of the Museum. Like this two and a half billion years old metal rock.

Obviously, the Hall would not be complete without a proper dinosaur. The 125-million-year-old Mantellisaurus on display in Hintze Hall is one of the most complete dinosaur fossils ever found in the UK.

The next "chapel" houses a giant Turbinaria coral (three hundred kilograms of pure coral!). It looks like a huge lettuce to be honest.

By the way, did you know that corals are actually animals? Plants are also represented of course. The seaweeds are important not because we use them to make sushi. They are a vital part of the marine ecosystem.

The seaweeds were dried and pressed to be better preserved. On the opposite, sea animals are kept in a special liquid. This blue marlin only joined the collection a few years ago.

Last but not least, this is my favourite exhibit. If you want to discover the natural history inside out, you need to come to London!

Saturday, 20 January 2018


Leštiny is a very small village just half an hour drive from Liptovský Mikuláš. It has a few farms and probably a grocery shop. In essence nothing really worth a detour. Except one special place in the upper part of the hill.

I am sure that those of you who read my blog for a longer time have already some suspicions, since we have seen similar buildings in the past in Poland. And yes, this is a wooden church. A wooden church that is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of the Carpathian Mountain Area.

On the right hand side you can see some extensive tourist information. Very useful. If you speak Slovak, of course.

If your Slovak is as poor as mine, I propose we simply go up and see the church.

The church is not too large. It is surrounded by a wooden fence that goes around it.

Luckily, there is a door in the fence.

Behind the door there is a little cemetery.

The outside walls of the church accommodate a little gallery with a small balcony.

From there, you can judge by yourself how small the village is.

Now you probably ask yourself why on Earth someone would build a church on a hill, quite far from the village. And build it out of wood, which is not the most solid type of material. The answer is simple - because he would not have a choice. The church in Leštiny was a protestant church in a deeply catholic Austrian Empire. The emperor has consented in the second half of the seventeenth century that some protestant churches are built in the Kingdom of Hungary (where Slovakia belonged at that time) but imposed several conditions. They had to be outside the city walls and could not be built from stone or steel. A lot like the churches of peace in Silesia. So if you hear again about wooden churches in Slovakia, you will know that they are really wooden. And why. 

Unfortunately, this nice sign says that it is strictly forbidden to take pictures inside the church.

I assume the main reason is to protect the paintings on the walls. Because of the limitations related to building materials, paintings were the only way in which the church could have been decorated. To give you a feeling on what the church looks like, we will peep into the Slovak tourist website.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

Liptovský Mikuláš

Liptovský Mikuláš is a small town in Northern Slovakia, just next to the Chopok mountain. It has something around thirty thousand inhabitants and is a perfect location for a short stroll on a winter night.

The history of Liptovský Mikuláš dates back a thousand years. In the Middle Ages it was granted several privileges, coming into force through parchments and great seals made of red wax.

Have you noticed something special? Yes, the name of the town is different there. In fact, the original name of the town was until 1952 Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš which means "Saint Nicolas of Liptau", where Liptau is the region in which it is located. So where is the Saint Nicolas? In the church of course.

The gothic church of St. Nicolas is one of the landmarks of the town. Inside you will immediately recognise the high arches on the ceiling.

The small organ is decorated with pictures of the twelve apostles.

The gothic altar is covered with gold and includes tall and pale figures. Am I the only one to see here a whole team of Maries?

Outside the church you will notice a monument. It is the monument of Janko Kráľ, a romantic poet, one of the first ones to write in modern Slovak language. He was also a patriotic activist in times where Slovakia did not exist as a country but was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Because Liptovský Mikuláš is an important place for the Slovak identity. Just look at this building.

Between 1713 and 1793 it was the capital of the Liptov region and this was the first County House.

But do not think that Liptovský Mikuláš is only living its past. They have public wifi all around the Town Hall.

The Town Hall is located, not surprisingly, on the Market Square.

As you can see, the building is nicely lit up with Christmas lights. So are the streets around it.

The only dark place is directly behind the Town Hall. This is a monument commemorating the soldiers of the Red Army. Soviet heritage is not valued high these days in Eastern Europe.

The snow has invaded the town.

So I propose that we stop here and order a good warm burger.

Saturday, 6 January 2018


You all know that I am a huge fan of winter sports. Over the last years, we have been skiing in Poland and Switzerland. Today, I will take you to Low Tatras, a beautiful 80 km wide mountain range in the middle of Slovakia. Lower Tatras are a part of Inner Western Carpathians. I have chosen for you their most popular peak - Chopok. First we need to arrive to Jasná, 943 meters above sea level. Jasná was hosting the Alpine Skiing World Cup in 1979, 1982, 1984 and 2016. So this should be a proper place for skiers at our level.

Look, I am not the first horse here!

Those of you who do not feel yet fully comfortable on steep slopes can stay in this snow kindergarden. There is plenty of fun there.

Those who are masters of black pists will need to take cable car up to the summit.

The cars are nicely decorated so that you can start smiling already on the way.

If you will be happy with a blue or red piste, you can choose one of the chair lifts.

But before we can go up, we need to get into the queue. It goes quite fast and we can sunbath and discuss our day plan.

The cable car goes steep up.

Finally we arrive at the top.

Ladies and gentlemen, plese meet Demián the dragon, the strongest guard of the treasures hidden in the valley of Demänová. He weighs 1.5 tonnes and is 3 metres tall. Two of his heads spit fire and steam, inside the third, there is a copper bell in the throat which brings luck when rung. He came out of his Demänová cave especially todat to meet you.

Chopok is one of the top peaks in Low Tatra, so you can for example look south and see Slovak Ore Mountains.

But when you will look North you will understand why these mountains are calle the Low Tatras. Ladies and gentleman, please wave your hands to the High Tatras, shining bright especially for you.

When the weather goes bad or you just get hungry, there is a nice place here.

How do you prefer to go down? By sledge? Just make sure to pull the break really hard.

Or maybe your prefer a snowmobile?

But I would really recommend you to put you ski on and move gracefully down the slope.

The trails are well prepared by the snow groomers.

But please ski carefully, so that the mountain rescue service does not have to bring you down.

See you again in Jasná, near the Smile point!