Visiting a country, it is often hard to get a picture for the history of the people. We’re not talking about the nobility, historical events or even war – we’re talking about understanding the history of the people and how their lives evolved and changed. Visiting villages like Vlkolinec, Slovakia can provide insights into the people of the Carpathian Mountains.
Vlkolinec in Central Slovakia is unlike any place we’ve ever visited. The 55 completely intact houses, school (which houses the Gallery of Folk Art) and the Church of Visitation of Virgin Mary show a traditional Eastern European community frozen in time. It’s still the 1800’s in Vlkolinec – and always will be. This is the best preserved village in the entire region and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The word Vlkolinec takes its name from the word ‘wolf’, which was common to the region at one time. The town was first documented in 1376 and by 1469 had grown to include five streets. Documents from the 1630 give a clue that the residents of the town maintained the “wolf-pits” for the nearby manor of Likava. Our guide, Magdalena Valkovicova, explained how in the 18th century, the town served as a logging community for the nearby town of Ružomberok. Logs were harvested on the Sidorovo peak above the town during the winter and pulled down the hill on the snow. Since 1882, Vlkolinec has been an annexed territory and administered by Ružomberok.
We visited Vlkolinec’s Blockbau timber houses in the early autumn. The leaves were giving up their green and turning shades of yellow and orange. A few late summer flowers were clutching to life on the steep mountain hillside. That morning, Laura had seriously sprained her ankle in Banska Stiavnica and was unable to get out of the car. Our guide, Magdalena Valkovicova, was able to get permission for us to drive our car into the village so Laura was able to see some of it (even though she wasn’t able to get out of the car). While Vlkolinec is kind of living-history town, it’s still a real community. Out of the 55 buildings in town, 18 are still lived-in full time and a number of other houses host occupants seasonally.
In the two room museum, I was able to get a better understanding of the lives of villagers. The two room houses were constructed of local timber and mounted on stone foundations. The entrance and central room of the home is the kitchen and the large stone hearth warms all the rooms in the cold Carpathian winters. The museum shows the tools, clothing and implements of daily life (cooking supplies, beds, furniture, etc.) in Central Slovakia. The museum has a shed behind it where several pigs welcome visitors by squealing loudly.
The primitive nature of Vlkolinec stands in contrast to modern Slovakia. We enjoyed visiting Vlkolinec and seeing this slice of life from Slovak life.
We were the grateful guests of the Slovak Tourist Board and our guide Magdalena Valkovicova. As always, all opinions and photography are our own.
And because you can never have too many photos, here are a few more from Vlkolinec, Slovakia: