BANSKA BYSTRICA (83 056 inhabitants, 350 meters above sea level, Hron River)

Banska Bystrica lies on both banks of the Hron River, at the divide of three mountain ranges: Vel’ka Fatra (the Grand Fatra), Nizke Tatry (the Low Tatras) and Slovenske Rudohorie (the Slovak Red Mountains). It is an important junction of the Pohronie highway, with routes north to Liptov and Turiec. The new settlement Bystrica, „Nova Villa Bistrice”, is the first name of the town documented in writing. The settlement received its town status in 1255 granted by ungarian King Bela IV. The history of Banska Bystrica is not only linked to mining – of gold, copper and iron ores. For long centuries, church schools, culture and enlightenment retained their high standards here. In the evangelical parsonage lived K. Kuzmany, a writer and first Deputy Chairman of the Matica Slovenska. Today the city is the seat of regional and district state administration bodies, the Office of Industrial Property of the SR, the workplace of the Supreme Control Office of the SR, the University of Matej Bel, the Academy of Arts, the State Opera and a number of secondary and primary schools.

Owing to its strategic position, the city became the centre of antifascist resistance and national liberation movement in the period of the Slovak State. The stately Pamätnfk SNP (the Monument of the Slovak National Uprising) is one of the dominant sights of Banska Bystrica. Its cornerstone was laid on the occasion of 20” anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising in 1964. Masiarska basta (the Butcher’s Bastion), one of the city’s best-preserved historical sights, lies within the monument’s area. The SNP Square is dominated by a 34,54 m high Clock Tower erected in the 16” century, with the clock dating from 1765.

Both in the summer and in the winter Banska Bystrica becomes the centre for sports and hiking. Besides the open-air beach swimming pool in Štiavničky available are scores of ski lifts, ski jumps, cross-country skiing routes and a winter sports stadium. Every year not only tourists but mushroom pickers as well seek the wider surrounding area. The nearby cliff Hrb (the Hump) in Lubietovsky Vepor, a state natural preserve, is the geographic centre of Slovakia.

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