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Day 5: Košice

The weather looked even worse this morning than when we went to bed this evening, if that was possible, and we couldn't see any mountains at all when we left the apartment. This was as the forecast had predicted, so we went ahead with our rainy day plan for a trip to Košice.

Košice isn't a very well-known city, but it is the second largest city in Slovakia and has even been the European City of Culture in 2013. It's located in the eastern part of Slovakia, only about 20km from the border with Hungary and about 80km from the border with Ukraine. From Poprad it was a journey of just over an hour on the train, through a very picturesque and hilly landscape.

As the train pulled into Košice, the city itself didn't look terribly picturesque at all, with large communist-style housing blocks and a fair amount of heavy industry. Once we walked out of the train station, however, we immediately found ourselves at the edge of the city park, which was much more pleasant.


We strolled around the park for a while before entering the main town centre. The first building we saw when we emerged was rather surprising.


This is Jakabov palác (Jacob's palace), although it isn't actually a palace in the normal sense of the word but was built as a private house by a seemingly rather eccentric builder called Peter Jakab in 1899.


We didn't have a map of Košice but the town centre is quite small and compact, so we were able to stroll around and discover things by accident. There were lots of pretty colourful buildings in the centre of town...


...and plenty of churches too.


This impressive building was the East Slovak Museum...


..while this one was the town hall.


The biggest street in Košice is simply called "Hlavná ulica" (Main Street) and is lined with attractive buildings.


I particularly liked this Franciscan church.


In the middle of the street there is a large plague column, which was built to celebrate the end of a plague epidemic in 1710.


Behind the plague column there is little park with a fountain, which leads up to the State Theatre.


The most unusual park in Košice, however, was a bit further on, behind the theatre.


It's hard to capture in a photo, but all the jets of water in this fountain were moving in time to music which was being piped from somewhere in the trees. We could see lots of lights in the water, so I assume that at night the jets of water are illuminated in different colours. It's known as the 'Singing Fountain'.


By coincidence, we happened to be standing in the park just at 1pm. The music from the fountain fell silent all of a sudden and these bells started ringing a tune instead!


At the far end of the main street, we found the most famous building in Košice, the cathedral of St Elisabeth. This is the largest church in Slovakia and apparently also the most eastern Gothic catehdral.


The construction of the cathedral started in 1380 and continued until 1508.


When seen from further away you get an impression of just how large it is.


Behind the cathedral is another small park. This one doesn't have a singing fountain, but it does have this statue, which depicts the coat of arms of the city of Košice. Košice was apparently the first town in Europe to get its own coat of arms in 1369.


The sky looked like it was beginning to darken at this point so we decided to go in search of lunch, preferably somewhere where we could sit inside. As we walked along the main street looking at menus, we could definitely see a big difference here compared to Bratislava; almost all the menus in Bratislava are translated into English and/or German for the convenience of tourists, but in Košice they didn't seem to be expecting any tourists and almost everything was exclusively in Slovak.


In the end we managed to find one bar where we could understand the menu and went inside. We both had a delicious chicken schnitzel and chips, followed by some jablková štrúdľa (apple strudel)


Tim had a number of beers, I had a glass of wine and a Turkish coffee, and overall the bill was still only €28 :)


We headed back to the station after that and managed to jump on a train before the heavens opened


Unfortunately we made a slight error of judgement in getting on a slow regional train to Poprad rather than one of the fast trains to Bratislava (which all stop in Poprad). The journey which had taken just over an hour on the way there, ended up taking over two hours on the way back. Lots more time to enjoy the (rather damp!) countryside and hope that the weather will take a turn for the better tomorrow!


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