Slovakia - Kosice
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I owe the most beautiful, true, human, European memories of my life to that extraordinary Hungarian frontier town’s culture that I found nowhere else in the world," wrote Sándor Márai, the famous Hungarian author, about Kosice. How does the city look now, a century after it sent the author off with such fond memories?
The town owes its birth and rapid growth to its geographical position. This is where the Hornad valley narrows, the lowlands end, and interminable woods and steep slopes start. Merchants heading towards Poland inevitably had to stop here; they had to rest before the most arduous lap of their journey.
The first written record of Kosice appears in a contract signed in the year 1230. Košice is referred to in this document as "Villa Cassa", which developed into the Latin name Cassovia, Kaschau in German, Kassa in Hungarian, and in Slovak it became Košice. Košice started to stand out from the rest of the region’s settlements after the Mongol invasion, when German communities began to settle down among the Hungarian and Slav inhabitants.
During the next centuries, in the times of Anjou kings, the proud city dwellers exercised their privileges and built city walls, bastions and churches. Their new Cathedral, according to Márai, was “one of the European lighthouses of the soul".
The city’s first golden era lasted until the battle of Mohács in 1526. With the Kingdom of Hungary then torn into three, the city gained military significance overnight. Its inhabitants endured centuries of suffering and strain, religious tension, and witnessed particularly bloody struggles for independence.
During the peaceful decades of the 18th century, the city grew wealthy and expanded; nonetheless, the centralistic Hapsburg government started to limit the rights of its citizens. These changes are illustrated by the aristocratic palaces which stretch out grandly where narrow town houses had stood before. Košice gradually became a vibrant city, an administrative, educational and garrison centre.
The dark clouds of the 20th century didn’t spare Kosice. Two bloody world wars, four coup d'états, two extremist dictatorships. Meanwhile, the periods of population growth and construction reshaped the city's image, society and demographics. Today, the city is an important administrative, educational and economic centre. Its symphony orchestra, theatres, and museums are internationally renowned.
Over the last half decade, new life has been breathed into the once-neglected, crumbling historical centre - churches, palaces and townhouses are gradually recovering their original splendour, and Hlavna street and the small adjacent streets are bursting with life. Visitors and locals of all ages love and appreciate this city which, despite so many hardships, has managed to preserve its values, tolerance and ambience.
TOUR AROUND THE ISLAND
Along our tour, we will visit the Hlavna Street's most famous historic monuments - St. Michael’s Chapel, St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, Urban's tower, and the theatre. We are standing in front of the way down to the Underground Archaeological Museum which is built below the surface of the street.
WALK ALONG THE TOWN WALL
Our walk following the traces of the town’s oldest town walls.
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