Carved casks in wine cellar of a Slovak producer. (© Renáta Sedmáková Fotolia.com)
There was a time when the stretch of land between Bratislava and Trnava was the most important road in this part of the world. Roman chariots roamed up and down, carrying a precious libation, brewed by Bacchus himself, all the way from Gerulata, to the table of the emperor. Today, this is called the Small Carpathian Wine Route – no longer a royal site, but a sight for sore eyes, nevertheless.
Visitors to the south-west of Slovakia will no doubt note the unique qualities that make the region so universally appealing. At once medieval, and at the same time clean and modern today, this place was inhabited since Neolithic times. The area grew expansively once the Romans took over. What they brought with them, the winemaking tradition Slovakia is now noted for, is one of Bratislava’s, and the country’s most cherished activities. The Small Carpathian Wine Route is a part of this tradition, and travelers to this region have enjoyed it for generations, albeit their passion is not noted in detail by many travel guides.
Perhaps the limited access to some of the villages here explains why not many tourists dare to pursue a tour of the Small Carpathian Wine Route. If you don’t have your own car, Modra, with its celebrated Manor House, which holds a handicraft market for Christmas, and some other interesting wine-related activities around the season, is out of reach. But specialized touring companies have no trouble taking you there, and if you are an experienced hiker, there are many resources, including detailed maps, to help you find your way around.
An experiential tour that combines wine, countryside, history, and the exceptional gastronomy of the region between Bratislava and Trnava, the Small Carpathian Wine Route proposes a rich bounty. What was once part of the Great Moravian Empire, is today a treat of another kind. Strung along this wine route, the towns of Pezinok, Modra, and Jur, all take part with their unique wine production techniques and idiosyncrasies. But no matter which town you find yourself in, you’ll discover not only fine quality wine but people who speak of centuries-old excellence and goodness.
The Small Carpathian Wine Route is not well known outside Slovakia: only about 0.3% of all European wine comes from here. Nevertheless, some wines are exported and enjoyed abroad, in particular, the sweet varieties blended with beet sugar: Nitrianske knieža (Knight of Nitra), Kláštorné červené (Red from Monastery) and some other refined creations. These and the more traditional libations are served all over the region, even in the fine restaurants surrounding our magnificent Mamaison Residence Sulekova.
Beginning in November, on Deň otvorených pivníc, the cellars of the region open all around the Small Carpathian mountainous region, with top varietals; Veltlinske Zelene, Rizling Vlassky, Frankovka Modra, Rizling Rynsky and Modry Portugal, to name a few of the more famous. About 80 wineries participate in the event, and many other small cellars along the route open their doors to show their fine winemaking traditions. But, for first-time partakers, the Malokarpatské múzeum Pezinok (Small Carpathian Museum Pezinok), 20 km northeast of Bratislava, is the best to take in the history of viticulture and winery under the Small Carpathians. The museum offers a tour of the cellar, a permanent collection of wine-press machines from Central Europe – the largest of its kind, as well as tastings of local wines. If you are in the region, don’t miss the cellars of the Pezinok Castle, a former moated fortress turned chateau, which are now home to the National Wine Salon (Národný salón vín Slovenskej Republiky).
In Častá, on the same route, this time 37 km NE of Mamaison Residence Sulekova Bratislava, you will find Hrad Červený Kameň, a 13th-century castle which houses wine tastings and an art exhibition at the wine-cellars day in May, when the season opens. Widely considered the most beautiful castle in the Little Carpathians, Hrad Červený Kameň was built at the request of Queen Konstancia Uhorska, on her own land, before 1240. The original construction was modernized by Rudolf Palfi and his wife Maria Eleonora Kaunitz – Rietberg in the 18th century. The castle is now a museum, opened to the public year round, and offering a diversity of public and private tours, as well as spaces for weddings and other events. The 1729 historical items collection of the castle is one of the main attractions here, but the library beats every record held by this landmark, with its 14 312 books. After you visit the museum, stop by its wine tavern, or the restaurant, to taste the fine wines of the Small Carpathian Wine Route.
Tasting these wines, echoes of the time when this land thrived as a winemaking region, you will discover an utterly unique European treasure, a tasteful retreat into the very heart of the continent. Just follow the little white signs that read; Malokarpatská vínna cesta – Small Carpathian Wine Route.
Holešovice has emerged in the past ten years as Prague’s capital of cool. It boasts fancy industrial spaces housing bars, clubs, and all kinds of artsy shops showcasing up and coming Czech designers and artists. Some of its abandoned factories and slaughterhouses are now used for pop-up cultural events, exhibitions (like DOX Center for Contemporary Art), or are centers for performing arts.
Some of the coolest places to see in Holešovice include the neo-Gothic Church of St. Anthony of Padua, the Veletržní palác, and the Praha-Holešovice railway station. But besides architectural landmarks, this neighborhood offers enough to entertain you.
The Národní galerie v Praze, National Gallery in Prague, is housed in large part inside the Veletržní palác. One the largest museums in Central Europe, the gallery has an extensive permanent collection featuring works by artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Miró, Klimt, Gauguin, and many others. Czech and Slovak painters and sculptors are also represented through the works of Alfons Mucha, František Kupka, Rudolf Fila, and Bohumil Kubišta, among many others.
Výstaviště Praha is another interesting destination in Holešovice. These are Prague’s Exhibition Grounds, a popular attraction since opening in 1891. They are located next to the Stromovka Park.
Or, you can hang out with the hipsters at VNITROBLOCK. It is a multifunctional concept store with original brands, sustainable fashion, and interior design by European designers, as well as live DJs, art exhibitions, DIY workshops, and other cultural events. One side of the space is occupied by trendy café.
If nature is your thing, there are two beautiful parks in Holešovice: Letna, with views of the Old Town, and Stromovka, the largest park in Prague.
Last, but not least, Holešovice is a great destination if you love street art. Almost all its streets will reveal a gem of proportions, but the best art is still on Milady Horakove street.
Holešovická Tržnice, now Pražská tržnice, or the Prague Market, is another appealing attraction. It’s a maze of stalls selling all kinds of goods. You’ll even find a “Mint Market,” a pop-up design market selling original fashion, jewelry, and accessories, plus concerts and workshops.
Do you have any other favorite spots in Holešovice you would like to mention?
Although the Moscow Halloween is not a tradition recognized by the church and religious groups and conservative politicians try to ban it in Russia, you will find out that many Russian enjoy marking the event with parties, decorations, themed-food, and festivals.
Dubbed as Bratislava’s extreme sports hall, Hangair is a novelty in Slovakia. It is a one-of-a-kind destination, designed for adrenalin junkies.
One of the gems of Eastern Europe, and the Pearl of Danube, Budapest is a fascinating destination – a city with pulsating nightlife, charming parks, stunning architectural landmarks, and museums that will inspire, surprise and even provoke.
John III Sobieski Reserve (Image by Anetaelzbieta via Wikimedia Commons)
The John III Sobieski Reserve in Warsaw is a forest area in the north-eastern part of the Wawer district. It is one of the locals’ favorite spots to escape the summer sun.
Music on the Water aboard Maestro.
Moscow is such a fascinating city if you visit it like a local. This summer is interesting for outdoors enthusiasts who like music as they can embark on the Maestro to admire the summer panoramas of the Moscow River and to enjoy concerts under the naked skies.
When in Prague, don’t follow the tourist crowds. The city has a lot to offer if you want to explore it like a local. You will find many surprising spots to hang out if you get off the beaten path. One of them, Naplavka, also known as “Prague’s hipster hangout,” is a stretch of pavement along the River Vltava.
It all started with Bajkazyl, a bike shop and bar founded in 2010 by Martin Kontra. When people discovered it, they found the neighborhood irresistible, and soon, other venues popped up. Today, Naplavka stretches from Palackého most to the railway bridge at Vyton. It is a lively spot with buzzy sidewalk cafes and restaurants serving good food and drinks al fresco.
The locals usually come here to spend a couple of hours at a terrace, but other activities may include roller skating, cycling, or attending a cultural event. Evenings are full of laughter, with many live concerts taking place in summer months. The Rašínovo nábřeží embankment in Naplavka is the perfect spot for beautiful panoramic views of the Hradčany Castle too.
On the official website of the Naplavka neighborhood, you can find a map of the boardwalks, practical information, and a list of events. Among the latest, the farmers’ market is a must see. It takes place every Saturday, from 8:00 am till 2:00 pm. Besides fresh flowers, fruit, and vegetables, at this market, you will also find original culinary creations, including cakes, pies, strudels, cookies, fresh juices, ice cream, chocolate, coffee, tea, beer, wine and handmade toys and jewellery. You can also drop in for ready meals at breakfast or lunch. The market is also the occasional site for thematic events like beer and wine festivals, live concerts, and more.
Last, but not least, Naplavka is where you will find four Busking sites. Busking is a musical, theatrical or artistic production run in public places with the purpose of obtaining a cash contribution from passersby. You can find more information here.
Children's Railway (Photo by Maurits90 via Wikimedia Commons)
The Children’s Railway in Budapest is one of the city’s most celebrated attractions. It’s known locally as Gyermekvasút, and the special thing about it is that it is entirely operated by little ones – aged 10 to 14 – under adult supervision.
Trenčín Mesto Módy, a legendary fashion festival, will return after nearly a decade pause to the Slovak “city of fashion” in September.