Kosice is the second largest city in Slovakia, but isn’t on the tourist trail. It was important to me to make the journey there as it is where my great grandparents lived before they immigrated to the US. To get the opportunity to see where my lineage started was very exciting to me. Since I had ties to the city, I did quite a bit of digging into the history of the city, much more than we typically did and were surprised how much fun it was.
When we arrived we were impressed with how cute the city was. The layout of the city is quite a bit different than most cities in Europe. Instead of the city being built around a town square, there was an island of sorts in the middle of the main street instead. It was extremely easy to walk to all of the different sights which was really nice. Ultimately though, we can both agree that one of our favorite things was the fact that there were not too many other tourists around.
Getting to Kosice
We headed to Kosice from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, which made the transportation very easy. We had 3 options – 2 different trains or a bus line. Ultimately we ended up choosing the RegioJet train, purchased through Student Agency Bus, as it was less expensive and faster than both the government run train and bus.
Our tickets were for assigned seats in a 6 person cabin. Unlike buses, where our luggage goes under the bus, we stored our luggage in the luggage racks above our seats. When we left the station there were only 3 of us in the cabin, but by the time that we arrived in Kosice, all 6 of the seats were taken.
Not knowing what our food selections would be, we packed sandwiches to eat for lunch and were shocked when we saw the food and drink selection. Not only were there a lot of options, everything was very reasonably priced. Ultimately though, it worked out that we packed our lunches as it saved us a few bucks.
Things We Did & Saw in Kosice
Our first stop was to the Beggars House, a home built in the 14th century. The fable behind this house is that it was built with the money that a beggar collected. At the top of the home is a statue of the beggar with his hat out, thanking those who helped fund his home.
I’m not sure if the story is true, but if it is, the beggar was quite good. The house is located right on the main street and is quite large. Our stop was quick, taking a few pictures before heading on to the next stop.
Coat of Arms Statue
One of the things that I did not know until we arrived in Kosice was that in 1369 the city was the first in all of Europe to receive a coat of arms. In 2002, there was a bronze statue with the coat of arms dedicated and erected in the town square. This was another quick stop, just taking a few pictures before continuing on.
Andy was in need of a haircut but we were having a bit of a hard time finding someone that was reasonably priced in the cities that we were in prior to Kosice. When we walked down a street we noticed a sign for haircuts. We inquired how much they cost and were told only 3.5E or $4.
Even though just about everyone we interacted with in Slovakia spoke English, the woman who cut Andy’s hair spoke none. Fortunately we had perfected the charades game and had photos of his haircut on his phone.
While it wasn’t the best haircut that he ever got, it was decent, especially for the price.
As we walked down the street we noticed the Hostinec Pub. What ultimately drew us inside to check it out was their happy hour signs. We decided to take a break to enjoy .5 liter beers brewed at the pub for only 1E or $1.15.
As we were inside, reading the menu, we learned that Hostinec Pub is the oldest bar in Kosice, dating all the way back to 1542. It was pretty cool to think that over 100 years earlier, when my great grandparents were in Slovakia, they could have been at the same bar I was currently sitting at enjoying a beer.
We first saw Jakabov Palace when we were walking from the train station to our apartment. I absolutely loved the architecture and was excited to check it out when I was not wearing my heavy, large backpack.
Interestingly enough the palace never held nobility. It was simply the home of a very wealthy family in the town. It did have some level of fame though, in 1945 it was used to house the president of Czechoslovakia.
There isn’t much to say about the palace except that it is absolutely beautiful. The green roof is beautiful and all of the detail work is amazing. Of all of the things that we saw in Kosice, the palace was by far my favorite.
We set up the tripod and took a few pictures in front of the palace. There is a large street on one side of the palace, fortunately though, the interesting, ornate side is on a mostly pedestrian street.
Old Gate of Kosice
In 1996, when the city was doing some construction work, the original gate to the city was uncovered. The Old Gate of Kosice dates all the way back to the second half of the 13th century and was buried in plain sight for years.
We checked out the old gates which were located below the street level. There are times during the year where there are events at the gates, but sadly when we were in town nothing was going on.
Márai Statue & Chair
Andy was looking for some off the beaten path things to see in Kosice when he stumbled upon the Marai Statue and Chair. The statue is dedicated to Sándor Márai, a Kosice native who was a world famous writer, humanist and philosopher.
While we liked sitting in the chair and posing funny when we were taking photos, there was symbolism in the empty chair. The meaning of the empty chair was the writer facing an internal dialogue while at the same time reflecting on what was important in life.
St. Elisabeth Cathedral
The place I visited that I knew my extremely Catholic great grandparents also spent time at was the St. Elisabeth Cathedral. It is the largest cathedral in Slovakia which was not surprising to me since it was massive. One thing that did surprise me was the fact that it is the furthest east cathedral designed in the western gothic style.
You could see how well maintained the cathedral was, especially when we compared it to others that we saw in Europe. The outside did not have any dark discoloration on the stone, an issue that we saw when we were in Vienna. I think my favorite part of the cathedral was the ornate roof which had a colorful, beautiful design on it.
We went inside to look at the cathedral which was also very well preserved. Unfortunately we didn’t take any photos as purchasing a photo pass to take photos of the inside was quite expensive.
We did opt to pay 1.5E or $1.70 to climb up to the top of the tower. The stairwells were pretty tight but once at the top we had a bird’s eye view of the city. For what I believe is safety reasons, there was a wire fencing material covering the windows. Luckily, people had created holes in the fencing which allowed enough space to stick your head out to look at the city and take some photos.
As photographers, one of our favorite things is to take pictures of old things without showing the modern world that surrounds it. The cathedral was great as there were very few modern things around. In fact, at night, the cathedral was extremely well lit with the majority of the lights mounted to surrounding buildings. This allowed us to get great shots of the cathedral without getting any light fixtures in our pictures.
Right next to St. Elisabeth’s Cathedral was the State Theater. In pictures that we had seen of Kosice, there was a really cool fountain in front of the theater. Unfortunately when we were there the fountain was not yet filled and the state theater was under construction. We were pretty disappointed since the pictures that we had seen made it look really fun.
I’m extremely happy that we made the journey to Kosice. We had a really good time, but had I not had the lineage linking me to the city, I’m not sure that I would have liked it as much as I did.
You don’t have to spend much time in Kosice as you can easily see all of the sights in the city in a day or two. We were fortunate enough to visit when there were not too many tourists around which made sightseeing quite enjoyable.