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Rambling trough the town

The district capital of Žilina represents a natural cultural and economic centre of North-Western Slovakia. It is situated on the confluence of the Kysuca and Váh rivers. Its geographical position has always been of exceptional, strategic importance. The town became a commercial and transport crossroad not only between the east and west but also between the north and the south. Žilina has gone though rich and tumultuous history. One of the oldest sites in Slovakia, the town now has the population of about 85,000 and ranks among the most dynamic metropolis of Slovakia. The fist written mention of the town dates back to 1208. A hundred years later, Žilina saw its town privileges confirmed by the king Charles I. Robert along with other privileges such as the fishery right or exemption from toll. Yet the oldest preserved architectural monument of the town is the Pre-Romanic St. Stephen-King's Church in Závodí. It comes from the 12th century and is fenced off by a wall. Some old frescos?reconstructed in the 20th century? have been preserved until the present day. In 1381 Žilina became the oldest town in Slovakia where Slovaks and Germans enjoy the same rights, e.g. as regards representation in the town council. That is attested by the so called ?Privilegium pro Slavis? granted by the king Ludvík Velký addressing the social and national issues between the richer Germans and the majority Slovaks. At the end of the 14th century, the town became an important administrative centre and a commercial hub (major markets). Despite some strong pressures applied by the Hussites (15th century), Žilina continued to grown in crafts. During feudalism, the centre of the town was inhabited by rich German townsmen. The gothic wooden St. George's Church with a shingle roof, situated in Trnová on the suburbs of the town, comes from the very period. The Žilina Town Book ranks among the most important archive documents of European importance. Not only because it is a testament to the disputes between the individual groups of townsmen, but also because it was written in three languages (Latin, German and Slovak). The initial entry in Slovak comes from 1451 and it is deemed to be the oldest book entry in Slovak in the territory of the country. The architecture, massively influenced by the presence of the Prussian citizens, contains Renaissance elements. At the square-ground plan Mariánské Square burgess houses with typical arcades (the so-called "Laubně") were preserved until the present day. The municipal heritage site (declared in 1987) is dominated by the sculpture of the Immaculate Virgin Mary (Immaculata) from 1738 as a symbol of Upper Hungary recatholisation. The St. Paul Apostle's Church and the Jesuit cloister put the final touch on the antique atmosphere of the historical centre of Žilina. The close vicinity of the centre of the town was encircled by trenches and ramparts, which has been preserved until the present day in such names as Horní and Dolní val (Upper and Lower Ramparts). Not far from there, there is the (now already Diocesan) Holy Trinity Church representing, along with the Burian Tower the symbol of the town. The valuable baroque interior and décor have been preserved at the St Barbara? Church¸ which along with the Franciscan cloister complement Žilina?s historical wealth. Not far from the historical central of the town, at the confluence of the Kysuca and Váh rivers, there is the Budatínský Chateau, in the past known as the Water Castle. Owing to its position, it served a major defence purpose. A Baroque-classical chateau was later build on the remains of the castle. It comes under the administration of the Váh River Basin Museum of Žilina and is accommodates a unique permanent exhibition of tinker crafts. The ?Tinker? collection is the only specialised collection of its kind in the world. Grand Bio Universum, now known as Dom umění Fatra, can be regarded as one of the most significant achievements of art-nouveau architecture (1920s). In 1921 the venue hosted the premiere of the first Slovak feature film, Jánošík. Today, the building is the seat of the top quality State Chamber Orchestra. A number of historically significant sites may also be seen at Hlinka's square and in the picturesque lanes around it. In 1970s, Žilina became the first town to develop a pedestrian zone in Slovakia. The University of Žilina, car manufacture industry, chemical plants and a number of construction or furniture making companies are but fraction of the town's rich economic structure and that is one of the reasons why today Žilina attracts a lot of people from the surroundings. There can be no doubt about the capital of an autonomous region being not only an industrial, but also cultural and sporting centre of the Váh region. It regularly hosts sporting events such as football matches of the well-known MŠK Žilina, ice hockey matches or various exhibitions. A sports area is available as well as a swimming pool with a toboggan, an indoor swimming pool or tennis courts. Summer vacations facilities attract still more holiday makers to places such as the Žilina water reservoir, Hričovská reservoir or the thermal baths in Stráňavy. The town organises a range of cultural events such as Carnival Slovakia, Old Town Feasts, Žilina Midsummer Night, ?Jašidielňa?, Žilina Culture Summer with the popular Middle Ages Day and a carving symposium incorporated within the event, Festival of Seniors, New Year?s Eve festivities, concerts or festivals, thus taking care of the cultural live of the citizens all year round and actively increasing the attractiveness of the town for visitors. The cultural m ix is enriched by several institutions such as the Vah River Basin Art Gallery or the Town Theatre and themed exhibitions. The Žilina Marionette Theatre is the oldest professional marionette theatre in Slovakia. The surroundings of the town is imposing with its natural sceneries of the Malá Fatra National Park, Lúčanská Malá Fatra, Kysucká vrchovina, Javorníky (Kysuce Protected Zone) or Strážovské vrchy Protected Zone (with the northern projection of the Súlovské vrchy). Many of these places are worth a visit, no matter whether to rejoice amidst the wild nature as tourists (mountainous relief and deep forests) or to pay a visit to the old sites as a historic explorer (castles and scattered original wooden houses). Žilina is also attractive due to the wide range of catering and accommodation facilities, the night life, various leisure activities (the unique Preles rope centre) and the tourist information office.

A 15km drive on the Bratislava motorway will get you comfortably to Bytča. From the historical perspective, the town is dominated by its castle originating from the feudalist era, perhaps the most impressive in Slovakia from the architectural point of view. It was the seat of the Hungarian palatine Juraj Turzo, who the second highest official in the region after the governor, and the King's deputy in almost all departments of the state administration and jurisdiction. Juraj Turzo became famous for his uncompromising resistance to the Turkish armies in the 15th and 16th centuries. The site was first owned by the Esterházis, yet finally ended up in the hands of the local major entrepreneur, Popper. The local brewery steam bears his name. In the Middle Ages Bytča was an important hub as the town is situated on the crossroad of the Kysúce and Turec and Žilina roads from the east, Morava on the south-west and Trenčín and Bratislava on the South-West. The Renaissance castle currently used as the seat of the State regional archive. The reconstructed Sobášny palace from 1601 accommodates expositions of the Váh River Basin Museum of Žilina. Today, the palace?formerly intended to host feasts and festivities of the Turzo family has the appearance that was given to it in the 17th century. Connected with the case is a famous name of the legendary Slovak hero Juraj|Jánošík. The legend has it that he served his military duty here as a guard soldier and it was Bytča itself that set him on his bandit route. Similarly to Žilina, Bytča, too, was always under the Prussian influence. The testament to that is the square-ground plan square trimmed with Baroque arcades. The town is a starting point for tourist trails leading to Javorníky (Kysuce Protected Zone). The trails mainly lead through the attractive Makov area and the manifold tourist path in the surroundings and beyond. The attractiveness of the town is further enhanced by the proximity of the Súlovské vrchy with unique rock formations (from Hrabová or Hluboká nad Váhem).

A visitor who sets out to the south of the district capital will get to the picturesque Rajecká dolina. One of the shortest folds offers impressive natural sceneries. The entire area is dominated by Rajecké Teplice as the spa and relaxation centre. The first written mention comes from 1376. Similarly to other locations, ?teplie? (hot) was an adjective annexed to all settlements featuring hot or healing springs. Villa Tapolcha gradually became a major spa resort. The site heals motoric system diseases with various procedures (thermal baths, saunas, paraffin, massages). The Slovak Aphrodite baths are an outstanding wellness resort too. Similarly, yet the other 4-star Hotel Diplomat extends the possibilities for high-quality services at the European level. Not far from the spa park and the Swann Lake (boat rides) there is Laura thermal baths. The resort ranks among the most frequently visited summer swimming pools in the region. In addition to sunshine and water amidst the imposing landscape, the visitors may indulge in other services too: minigolf, beach volleyball or tennis. The Church of Virgin Mary Taken to Heaven is undoubtedly the most important cultural/historical monument in Rajecké Teplice. The small single-nave church comes from 1909. In 2001, The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was ceremoniously sanctified by His Eminence Jan Ch. Cardinal Korc, the Bishop of Nitra. Rajecké Teplice offers a wide range of accommodation ? ranging from private accommodation, via boarding houses up to top class hotels. Outstanding conditions for mountain cycling are offered not only along the forest trails of Skalky above the town (with impressive panoramic views along the trails) nut also in its immediate vicinity (Lúčanská Malá Fatra, Súlovské vrchy). Adjacent to Poluvsia (local part of Rajecké Teplice), PR Slunečné skaly are located representing dolomite massifs offering a number of opportunities for mountain climbing. Several rare and protected species of flora and fauna are found there, such as Yellow Gentian (Gentiana clusii) or pasqueflower (Pulsatilla slavica). PP Poluvsianska skalní jehla is yet another unique geomorphologic formation. In the direction to Zbyňov along the yellow natural trail, you will get up to the unique natural formation of the Rajecká dolina ? the rocky Budzogáň. Rajecké Teplice with its mild climate represents an outstanding place for active rest. In addition, during the hot summer months, you may enjoy the atmosphere of the Culture Summer (Summer Festivities) and various social events.

If you continue in your drive towards Prievidza, you will get to Rajec. The first written mention of the former district capital (1960s) comes from the end of the 12th century (1193). Rajec used to belong among important subjective towns of the Litava Estates. The place important due to its markets was exempted from the Royal Toll and local fees, which is attested to by the Deed of Matthew II, later confirmed by Mary Theresa in 1749. The document belongs among the most important exhibits of the Town Museum located on the square ground plan square from the 17th century. The museum building was declared a national cultural monument. There is a permanent ethnographic and biological exhibition to familiarise the visitors with the life of the people and the nature. Rajec is one of the places with a relatively compact square, including the adjacent lanes, from the urban planning point of view (effects of German architecture). In the centre of the SNP Square, the visitors may now visit the building of the Town Council Hall built in the Renaissance style. The trinity Column comes from 1818. One of the oldest cultural/historical monuments is St. Ladislav's Church, which originally comes from the 14th century. Until the present day, a gorgeous late Gothic portal (southern side of the building) has been retained. The three-naved stone church was built in the 17th century in the place of the original building. Above the town, to the east, an antique Jewish cemetery can be found. What made Rajec famous in the past were not only its craft traditions: carving, leather processing, weaving or smithery. The town was also known as a holiday resort. The Veronika thermal baths with its broad range of additional activities (toboggan, basketball or table tennis) and vast catering facilities attracts a lot of visitors every summer, both locals and tourists. Moreover, it is easily accessible by car, bus or train as the town is the terminus at the Žilina-Rajec railway track. The visitors are often also attracted by the all year round cultural and social events, including the most popular of them, the Rajec Marathon, with its tradition of 27 years, taking mostly place on the second August Saturday.

To the north of Žilina, towards Moravia and Silesia, after a 10-15 minute car drive, you will reach one of the smallest district capitals in Slovakia, Kysucké Nové Mesto. It comes from the first half of the 13th century; its first mention, as Jesetin and Jacatin, respectively, dates back to 1244. Therefore, it belongs to Slovakia's oldest towns. The centre of the town consists of a single historical complex which was preserved until the present day in the Kysúce region. It involves a municipal heritage site surrounding the central sculpture of Jan Nepomucký (18th century). In this part of the town, several Renaissance town houses from the 17th century have been preserved. From the architectural point of view, along with the town council, they reflect the German influence attested to by the arcades. The classical Church of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary was built at the beginning of the 19th century. A number of historical sites can be found in Kysucké Nové Mesto, such as the Jewish Cemetery, the building of the brewery from the 17th century, the birth house of the poet and priest Andrej Majer ? Dlhomír Polský or the Town Library. In the town, rich folklore traditions have been preserved until the present day and the town hosts a market festival. In the past, this was an old toll station which sped up the development of the town. It was the northernmost toll station in the Budatin Estates. In 1320s, the settlement was awarded the privileges of a town which was again reflected in the subsequent economic growth. The 15th century was characterised by the Hussite dominance, even in the territory of the town. The citizens suffered from a fire in 1904 which destroyed a large part of the town along with the old cultural/historical monuments. Today, Kysucké Nové Mesto is the administrative and cultural centre of Dolné Kysúce. It exhibits outstanding position, within easy reach on the blue tourist trail in the picturesque area in the confines of the Kysucká vrchovina from the east and Javorníky from the west. The town, along with this background offers to the visitors rich vacation opportunities (tourism, cycling trains, skiing).

If we continue on our journey to municipal monuments in the Beskydy Euroregion, we arrive, within some 20 minutes of leaving Kysucké Nové Mesto, in one of the northernmost corners of Slovakia, Čadca. The border district adjoins with the Czech Republic and Poland and it contains the so-called Triple Border (place where borders of three countries meet). The town lines directly on the Košice-Bohumín railway track. Its position on the link between Žilina and Ostrava predetermined it to be a commercial, administrative and cultural enter of the historic Kysúce region. Čadca, as a town, was established in the second half of the 16th century. The cultural/historical dominant of the town is the baroque St Bartholomew?s Church from the 18th century. It houses an altar picture from the famous artist and biologist, Jozef Božetěch Klemens (19th century). The exterior of the church is finalised with 19 old lime trees protected by the law, which symbolise a movement of the Slovaks between 1848 and 1849. The central square is dominated by the Municipal House built in 1932. The town accommodates the Kysucké museum with expositions on history and nature of the Kysúce region or development of forest railways in Slovakia. There is Kysúcká galerie to familiarise every visitor with the rich Kysúce art, a testament to the visual arts of the present region. Čadca organises for all citizens and visitors a score of cultural events during the entire year. In addition to folklore and classical music concerts, it also organises theatre performances or the St. Bartholomew Fair (market festivals of various types). One of the main events of the summer season is undoubtedly the popular and attractive Kysuce marathon. Čadca has also become famous for its international Etnofilm festival. There are numerous natural beauties in the close vicinity of Čadca. To name but a few, PP Bukovský pramen ? a mineral spring with a content of sulphide, characteristic for the flysch zone of the external Carpathian coating. Not far from the Moravian borders PP Megoňky are situated, special ball formations that evolved as a result of detachment of the flysch sediments. Many tourist trains in the surroundings direct to the area of Turzovská vrchovina, Kysucké Beskydy and Kysuce Protected Area in the east and Javorníky on the southwest. Hotel Husárik to the south of Čadca offers further opportunities for active winter recreation ? cross country and downhill skiing. In its vicinity, PP Vojtovský spring rises to the ground. The people often refer to it as the Salty Spring. It is a source of mineralised, mildly salty water accompanied with regular outbursts of gases (methane). The surrounding forests offer a broad range of mushroom picking localities and relatively sought-for corners, especially due to their remoteness from people?s abodes.

The last municipal area in Kysuce is Turzovka. It is situated on the route between Čadca and Makov, in the vicinity of the state border with the Czech Republic (Moravia). These two towns are also connected by the local railway line. The town is situated in a picturesque basin of the Kysuca river, the biggest feed of the Váh. The natural centre of the cultural and social action of Horné Kysúce was established during the area of Wallachian colonisation by the Hungarian palatine, Juraj Turzo. In 16th and 17th centuries, the territory of present Slovakia was submitted to ?koničiarské? settlement of the mountainous and hilly regions. The settlers were mostly shepherds of cattle, goats and especially sheep, from which they used to obtain wool. The town is rich in cultural and social events, such as the Turzovka Summer, whose program culminates in the Beskydy Festival, show of car veterans, Beskyd Rallye, Drotária, Rock Beskyd Fest, Řezbářský plenér, World Meeting of Turzovka Citizens, International Football Tournament or tourist meetings. Many a sporting enthusiast is familiar with the municipal sporting facilities in the Sporting and Rest Site in Závodí. The Roman Catholic baroque Church of Virgin Mary Taken to Heaven from 1759 is an important cultural monument. It accommodates paintings from Jozef Božetěch Klemens form the second half of the 19th century. In the centre of the town, there is a national cultural monument, the rustic St. Jan Nepomucký Column by an unknown author, from the 19th century. Turzovka has always been the centre of tinker craft. That is attested to by the bronze monument called ?Drotár a džarek?, which shows a tinker master and his learner. The town is the birth place of a participant of the Slovak National Uprising, the well known Slovak writer Rudolf Jašík. It is to his work that the literary competition Jašík?s Kysuce is devoted. A famous pilgrimage site is located in the vicinity of Turzovka?the Živčákova hill with the Panny Marie Královnej Kráľovnej pokoja chapel on top, complemented with 3 Calvaries, each with 14 stations for contemplation of the suffering of Jesus Christ. The relatively good accessibility by traffic, vast parking space and comfortable infrastructure yield good condition for a large number of pilgrims from entire Slovakia. Moreover, the religious site offers healing water from several sacred springs. Turzovka surrounded by the Beskydy and Javorníky mountains (Kysuce Protected Area) offers a range of opportunities for summer and winter vacation.

Námestovo is the only Orava town which lies in the territory of the Beskydy Euroregions. As part of the northernmost district of Slovakia of the same name, it has evolved to become a natural administrative, cultural and tourist centre of Horní Orava, especially due to its position on the old commercial route (the Salt Way). The square was founded as a town in the 16th century on the basis of the Wallachian Law. The first written mention dates back to 1557. In the 19th century, the town became famous especially for its drapery, production of and trading in linen. Its position on the bank of the Orava reservoir offers a range of opportunities for a summer vacation and water sports, such as yachting, windsurfing or swimming. In addition, the Orava Reservoir is a major fishery region. In its surroundings, there are a number of restaurants and accommodation facilities (hotels, boarding houses, private accommodation, car camps). Slanický ostrov holds a permanent exposition of Orava people?s folk art and represents one of many preserved historical sites. The Roman Catholic Church of Elevation of the Holy Cross and the adjacent Anton Bernolák?s monument deserve a mention. At the Hviezdoslavné square, there is a monument dedicated to one of the most important Slovak poets, Pavel Országh Hviezdoslav. At the street of the same name, a commemorative table was installed in the past on the house where Hviezdoslav himself lived for some time. As a lawyer, he spent 20 years of his life in Námestovo, the social centre of Biela Orava. Another point of interest of Námestovo is the Múr dejateľov Bielej Oravy, which is located on the central square, in the vicinity of Hviezdoslav?s Sculpture. It presents the most important awakeners coming from the towns in the Namestovo district. In summer, visitors should not miss on the cultural events (concerts) organised here. Fantastic natural sceneries may be appreciated around Námestovo, offered by Oravská Magura and Podbeskydská vrchovina in the contrast with the Orava Fold.

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