Over the Hills and Far Away… to the Silver Town! So is my last wish before leaving Europe behind to relocate in the Arctic for the next year or two.
With my headphones on I travel by train all the way from Milan. While it is definitely the longest, it is also the cheapest way, and crossing Eastern Europe in a personal cabin was certainly the best choice. On top of that, where else can I spend the last two days in Europe but the east? Over in the east lie some of the most untouched sceneries. This may be an elusive term, overused to describe innumerable places around the world, but it truly captures the magic of Eastern Europe with no exceptions. Incredible history, culture, traditions, castles, legends, people and secluded places can all make your trip an authentic experience.
Securing a Strategic Location
Just before getting to Budapest I decide to travel deep into the rolling wild hills of Stiavnické Vrchy, in search of a Silver Town. I am told to look for a very old town which has been immersed among these hills for the past 800 years. The bus stops me quite close to the centre and I walk towards one of the main hotels in town; The Grand Matej. As recommended, I ask for one of the attic rooms facing the New Castle, to capture one of the best views of this town. It would have been difficult to find another such simple, yet impressive building. The strategic location watching over the local settlements determined the building to be a watchtower, from which back in the days, fire signals were sent out to guard the town against the Turkish invaders.
The next morning, I find myself standing at the foot of the Calvary hill searching for the perfect spot to avoid the shadows of the sun rising against this solemn hill; an enchanting 18th century building which blends harmoniously with its surrounding nature. I notice the trail covered in snow, and as soon as I look up I realise that I am in for a very challenging climb. I do not get discouraged amidst the freezing temperatures, and set off on the steep slippery serpentines, following each one of the 17 stations until I get to the very top. This early morning effort is very rewarding once at the top, where I find myself facing the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills, distant mountains and the splendid Romanesque stone houses, with their wooden shingle roofs covered in snow – a typical, perfect, winter, postcard.
Caught up in Myth
Walking down the hill, and back on the steep cobbled streets, I discover from some local people that these houses, built back in the 16th Century, contain a small yard and a mining tunnel carved into the slopes. They were owned by mining officers, notaries, mining academy professors, craftsmen and merchants. I express the wish to enter in one of these houses, to get access to the old mines whilst avoiding the usual touristic mining routes, but an elderly fellow suggests that the way of the shepherd is far more interesting. He smiles, and recounts to me the most popular local legend. A long time ago, on a bright sunny day, whilst walking his flock, a lazy shepherd decides to doze off, leaning against a rock. When he woke up, something sparkling crossed in front of him. Two lizards had just passed carrying something glistening on their back. They escaped and hid under a rock. When the shepherd rolled over to look under this rock, the lizards were gone, but instead he found nuggets of silver ore.
I follow this rough trail for almost two hours, at a very arduous pace to reach the Glistening Hill of Glanzenberg; a hill which the earth forgot to close up! It was the exact spot where centuries ago, the rich ore veins surfaced and could be literally extracted. My trek continues towards the 7 lakes, once used to drive mine hoisting equipment. Nowadays, these are used for swimming in the spring and summer seasons, and when they get frozen in the winter season, for entertaining rolling practice!
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia