Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 59, Bardejov,Slovakia

We truly enjoyed our day in Vienna and will definitely be returning to Austria very soon.

Now Sita wants to go to Bardejov, a spa town in Slovakia.The therapeutic mineral water springs are claimed to be beneficial to people with oncological, blood circulation, and digestive tract problems.

Wait a minute, did you know that Bardejov exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town centre and is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites??

Oh, there is the central square (Slovak: Radnicné námestie), which used to be the town's medieval marketplace.

Much of the credit for Bardejov's contemporary appeal undoubtedly belongs to the Saxon weavers, who first made Bardejov their base in the 12th century, and their descendants, who designed the spectacular central marketplace to parade their wares.

And they must have had cartloads to flog, if the enormous space they allocated for the market is any indication.
Bardejov sits atop a hill in the verdant valleys of Slovakia's Šariš region, and the majority of the available room was given over to the marketplace, whose cobbles span an unusually wide and open space from one row of colourful burgher houses to the other. Most of these narrow residences still boast the triangular gables favoured by German settlers, and the best examples are bedecked with intricate artwork – crests and flourishes around windows and doors – that recall Alpine villages (or cake decorations).

Dramatically isolated in the centre of this expanse is Bardejov's town hall, believed to be the first Gothic-Renaissance building in Slovakia.It was built in the early 16th century and originally served a dual purpose, with the municipal offices upstairs (the Renaissance part), above an indoor market on ground level, with Gothic arcades. The whole building is now the town museum.

From the outside, the town hall is at least the match of some of the ornate burghers' houses, with the casements around the window on the east side worthy of particular scrutiny. One of the small cherub-like figures under the eaves is indulging in some very un-cherub-like behaviour, defiantly showing the public his naked cherub's behind. Unsubstantiated rumours suggest that a disgruntled architect might have had similar feelings towards the town mayor, whose office windows these bare cheeks face.

At the north end of the square, St Aegidius's Basilica is an august example of Bardejov's former affluence. Built on the site of a 13th century Cistercian monastery, the present construction began life as a three-nave basilica with simple arcades, before a host of star-name architects got to work throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, adding a shrine, vestry, three more chapels (for St Catherine, Verica Mager and St Andrew), the royal oratory, new vaulting and, finally, the tower.

The finest interior decorators of the era, including Master Paul of Levoca, then came to the party and filled the church with 11 wing altars, most of which still remain, and numerous other choice adornments.

A squeeze up the 180 steps of the tower was really worthwhile as the view put the entire town into perspective.
The four sides of the balcony offer the best views across the marketplace, as well as the fortification system around the central areas, much of which is still intact

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