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Quest for the History and Culture of Germans

The monuments to architecture and fine art created across seven centuries by communities of “German guests” are preserved on the territory of present day Slovakia, formerly, the northern part of the Hungarian Kingdom. They belong to the most beautiful and noteworthy contributions to the cultural heritage of Europe.

Cultural tour

Miners, metallurgists, craftsmen and merchants from Saxony, Schwabia, Tyrol and the Austrian and Bavarian Danube regions gradually arrived in response to the invitation of Hungarian kings. This began around 1200, and then following the invasion of Mongols (after 1242) as well as in later periods (until the end of the 18th century). Their role was to settle unused territories, establish towns, work and do business with royal property – especially with mineral wealth. In exchange, they received economic and legal privileges and free administration of the affairs of their compatriots according to the model of towns in Germany (Nuremberg, Magdeburg, Kuttenberg). Their economic possibilities, the self-presentation of guilds, societies, brotherhoods, as well as contacts with their homeland and local artistic ideas led to the building of structures and altars in the most topical style forms. Artistic novelties also flowed in through the royal court, especially in the periods when sovereigns had wives from the German environment. “German guests” settled in several regions in the Hungarian Kingdom. The most famous were Transylvania and Spiš.
There were three significant areas with populations of German origin in the territory of present day Slovakia – the surroundings of Bratislava, the mining towns and their vicinity in central Slovakia and the most famous region of Spiš in northeast of Slovakia with several original mining sites in the Gemer and Malohont regions and towns in the region of north Šariš.

  1. the surroundings of Bratislava because of its natural geographical contact with the Danube region. In Bratislava they were significant townsmen and in small towns at the foot of Small Carpathians they were wine-growers.
  2. in the towns of central Slovakia and the vicinity, they completed settlements as miners, experts in the extraction and processing of ores, lumbermen, coalmen and forest management experts. We are referring to the regions of the Upper Nitra River valley, the Hron River valley and the northern Hont region.
  3. in the northeast regions at the foot of the Tatras (which were called the “Snow Mountains of Spiš”). Particularly the region of Spiš, where the completion of settlements was necessary for the development of trade centers along significant routes, agriculture, crafts and mining. It was also a significant step in proving that the Spiš region is definitely a part of the Hungarian Kingdom. The town of Levoča became the capital of the Spiš Saxons and Spiš Castle became the seat of the royal delegate; the influence of the German community on the local ancient church administration was also significant.

In all these areas the artistic aspects of architecture, sculpting, painting and other crafts were based on the topical streams of art in northern Italy, Bamberg, later Nuremberg, and in general, the art of the German and Austrian Danube regions and Silesia.  
Until the 20th century, the populations of each area kept their dialect and the customs of their homeland. Several significant European scientists, technicians and artists hailed from these communities; we will mention them in the course of our trip.
The designation “Carpathian Germans” occurred only in the 20th century when these people became citizens of Czechoslovakia. In 1930, a total of 156,279 Germans lived in the territory of Slovakia. Two thirds of them were evacuated before the Russian front arrived in 1945 and the others became victims of expulsion. Today, only 5,629 people in Slovakia claim to be German.




Zväčšiť mapu

Meeting at Vienna (WBhf). Bus trip to the hotel in Bratislava (Preßburg).

Bratislava (Preßburg). We shall begin our trip at the Museum of the Culture of Carpathian Germans. We’ll visit the castle above the city, whose main palace was built by Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg as his residence. The Old Town Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral carry traces of the builders, mayors from the Jakobeus family with their roots in Schwabia. We will become acquainted with the wine towns of Sankt Georg, Bozen, Modern and their monuments in the foothills of the Small Carpathian Mountains.
This day will be dedicated to getting to know the region with original German settlements which in 1930 was referred to as “Hauerland” because many of the town names ended with “Hau” which means glade. In Nitrianske Pravno (Deutsch Prawn) and Handlová (Krickerhau) we will visit the interesting expositions of the House of the Carpathian German Society. In the village of Janova Lehota we’ll see rural houses whose walls are made of square-stones. Eventually we will become thoroughly acquainted with the sites of the famous “golden” mining town of Kremnica. The area of the town castle includes several noteworthy structures which are evidence of their affiliation to the architecture of the Danube region (karner), Vienna (the vault in the church nave) and Schwabia (the vault in its presbytery). We will also see various late Gothic townsmen houses, wooden houses of miners and the exposition of the oldest operating mint in Europe.  

We will travel to the legendary region of Spiš and visit the town of Levoča – the capital of the Spiš Saxons. The architecture and interior furnishing of the Levoča parish cathedral (9 Gothic wing altars, the main altar among them, which is the tallest Gothic altar in the world and more than one hundred works of art and arts and crafts in the interior) is undoubtedly the most impressive part of this trip.  We will also see other religious sites and museum expositions in Levoča.  Next, we will walk to Spiš Castle (the most extensive medieval castle in central Europe) which in the 13th century was called Zipser Haus  by Spiš Saxons and then to the small fortified church town of Spišská Kapitula (Zipser Kapitel) with the Roman cathedral and church houses. The cathedral’s interior features Gothic altars with panel paintings which originated in the workshop that determined the level of Gothic painting in the Spiš region. Before settling in at the hotel in Spišská Sobota (Georgenberg) we will visit the local parish church. Its Roman sections with typical Gothic Spiš double nave and interior furnishing are among the top examples of Spiš Gothic and Baroque art.

In the morning we will cross the Magury Mountains on our way to the Zamagurie region, home of Pieniny National Park. The monastery in Lechnica, called the Red Monastery, which was originally a Carthusian and later a Camaldoli monastery, is a famous landmark. Rafting through the Dunajec River gorge, which has been a tradition for more than 150 years, is a part of the cultural heritage trip of the Spiš region. We will then become briefly acquainted with various sites in the northern section of the Spiš region, where the Poprad and Dunajec rivers leave the territory of Slovakia (and historically, Hungary).  They are the only rivers from the Carpathian valley that flow to the north and enter the Baltic Sea (Alt Lublau Castle, town of Pudlein). We will complete our day in Kežmarok (Käsmark) the second most important town of the Spiš region. In this town we will see the interesting layout of streets, the parish church, the Renaissance bell tower, the castle and the world famous wooden Evangelic church with its remarkably diverse interior. Our short stay in the old lyceum building, which was made famous by many students from the Spiš German community, is also important.

This day will be dedicated to Bardejov (Bartfeld) the pearl of the Gothic-Renaissance towns founded by German guests, its square, the town hall and its exposition of extremely precious artifacts and the parish church with eleven preserved Gothic wing altars and unique architecture. We will also talk about significant scholars of the Reformation such as Leonard Stöckel (1510 – 1560) the founder of the Baroque period Zarevucius. We will also become acquainted with the famous Gothic wooden church and its unique interior in the nearby German village of Hervartov. We will pass through Prešov on our way to Gelnica (Göllnitz) the formerly significant center of the Lower Spiš region and learn about the activities of the local German residents.

As we pass through the Hnilec (Göllnitz) River valley we will see former German villages which used to be centers of mining and metallurgy before their economic decline in the 19th century. We will continue to the Gemer region and the mining town of Dobšiná to see the medieval wall paintings depicting German Saint Hildegard von Bingen. Gothic wall paintings in other local mining towns such as Štítnik (Schittnich), Getzelsdorf and Ochtiná, as well as the churches in the Rimava (Rima) River valley – Kraskovo, Rimavská Baňa brought fame to this region. These municipalities and churches were founded by German (and Italian) miners and have been Evangelical since the Reformation.  
We will continue to explore the legendary mining towns in central Slovakia where unique Gothic monuments of the Spiš and Danube regions (Vienna, Nuremberg) await. In the afternoon we will arrive at the bustling town of Neusohl. We’ll make a trip to the nearby mining village of Špania Dolina (Herrengrund) with its extremely important past and in the village of Sásová (Sachsendorf) we will see a unique set of Gothic wing altars in a small neo-Gothic church.
In the town of Banská Bystrica (Neusohl) we will visit the museum exposition in the original house of the Thurzo – Fugger company and the town parish castle church featuring many precious works of architecture and sculpture which include the finesse of the Vienna Building ironworks, the Veit Stoss sculpture of Christ on the Mount of Olives, the large wing altar by Master Pavol of Levoča and the Baroque frescos of Anton Schmidt.

Our tour of Banská Štiavnica  will begin at Nový zámok (New Castle) with its exposition of Turkish battles; we will then move on to Starý zámok (Old Castle) a noteworthy Roman-late Gothic town church which had to be rebuilt in a fortified castle due to the Turkish threat.  Other sites (the Church of St. Catherine, collections of the mining museum) are proof of the life of the German mining community.
We will return to Vienna in the late afternoon.

Service package:

The price of the tour covers:

  • A qualified guiding service
  • Expert guiding by a renowned art-historian
  • Travel from Vienna, around Slovakia and back to Vienna in a comfortable bus.
  • 8x accommodation in double and single rooms at three/four star hotels and guesthouses
  • Full board in carefully selected stylish restaurants - 8x breakfast, 7x lunch, 8x dinner
  • Entrance fees (except Group tours and VIP tours)

The price of the tour does not include the following:

  • drinks
  • voluntary contributions
  • insurance
  • charges for taking pictures in museums and monuments
  • individual transportation from the residence to the point of departure (except Group tours and VIP tours)

Tour price

The price for the tour KR DEK 8 is 787,- € per person in double room,

Extra charge for a single room is 137,- €.

For tours of the type Group tours and VIP tours the price is calculated individually


19. 10. – 28. 10. 2013 (KR DEK 8)

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