History of The South of Slovakia – Jelka, Levice and Brhlovce

July 7, 2015

Speaking to some friends of mine, all tour guides, we decided to take a day tour of Slovakia, somewhere not too far. Although it was a whole day tour, I would like to write about at least these three places we visited on the day: Water mill Jelka – a Central European rarity, a nice little Levice castle ruin and one of the unique places in Slovakia – Brhlovce.

Jelka is a village located approximately 40 km east of Bratislava on the left bank of the Little Danube meandering through the country. There is a remarkable technical monument from 1894 there – a fully functional wooden three-storey water mill considered a rarity within Central Europe. You can see fully working mill machinery inside it! The mill was originally built as a ship mill but was converted to a water mill later on and started grinding in 1906. The mill stopped working in 1951 due to its bad technical condition after 45 years of use. Later on it was disassembled, restored and put in use again in 1992. Now it is open to the public and offers its visitors really interesting exposure. Also the yard surrounding the mill is full of very old original agricultural items. Should you get hungry there is a little restaurant just next to the yard. There are also a museum of the agricultural past of the village and a well equipped water tourism camp near the mill.

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Built in the second half of the 13th century and rebuilt several times by its various owners Levice castle is now a really nice little castle ruin. Its first known owner was Matus Cak of Trencin. The castle was built to protect the road to the area of the monastery fortress of Hronsky Benadik and to medieval mining towns around Banska Stiavnica north of it. The swampy area around the castle made the access to it really difficult. In 1321, after the death of Matus Cak of Trencin, the castle became property of the king Charles Robert, who gave it to his wife Elizabeth, and people from the nearby villages started to move and settle around the newly strengthened castle. This was the beginning of formation of the new town of Levice in the possession of its Levice Castle. In the middle of the 16th century the mayor of Tekov county had a comfortable renaissance mansion built on the lower court. The mansion is now the home of Tekov museum. The last known owner of the castle was the Eszterhazys family in the 18th century who only used it as a warehouse.

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Brhlovce is a village located about 10 km east of Levice with a population of about 330 inhabitants. It is known for its houses cut into the volcanic rock reminding of the times of prehistoric humans. The area is a part of Tekov museum and was awarded the Europa Nostra prize in 1994. It has also been suggested for the UNESCO World Heritage List. The houses are said to be built this way by the locals in the 16th and 17th centuries in order to make them “invisible” and so to avoid the Turkish invasion. One of the cut-in houses is a two-storey exposition. It has a kitchen, store-room, and pieces of stone products and tools on the ground floor and a terrace with a little store-room on the floor. The interior is equipped according to the functions of the rooms and demonstrates the specifications of folk architecture and housing since the late 19th until the half of the 20th century. The lady who guided us said that each of the houses had taken about 8 months to cut and the whole complex had taken about 5 years. There is still about 30 meters of stone mass for cutting into the depth. The temperature in the houses is constantly around 15-19 degrees Celsius; in summer, and in winter, no matter how warm or cold it is outside.

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So if you come to visit this part of Slovakia and would like to cool down in a hot summer day, you might stay longer in one of the cut-in houses in Brhlovce, or you could turn north and within one hour you will get in the middle of Stiavnica Mountains where there are plenty of beautiful lakes surrounded by wonderful hilly nature. But I will write about the UNESCO Banska Stiavnica – “the historical capital” of Slovakia Midlands and its wonderful surroundings in an extra blog because this place deserves its own space and some extra attention.

Have a great day folks and don’t forget: Visit Bratislava – Visit Slovakia