The carillon in the tower of the town hall of Banská Štiavnica at each hour and two minutes exactly plays nasty Rococo melodies in mundane arrangement, lifting up the key of the final refrain by a half-tone in the style of the estrade orchestras. “Is there also turning something?” asks Kata by twisting her neck toward the clockwork which can be hardly seen from below. “Yes, Mozart in his grave,” replies Gyuri.
Facing the main square at the beginning of the Silver Street, the synagogue built in 1893 rises authoritatively. Our respect increases even more when we see from behind what a substructure was necessary so that the synagogue which, as a matter of fact, stands one street lower, is lifted up to the same level with the town hall and the Catherine Church.
The synagogue which at our last visit was rather ruinous has been nicely restored. “We-asu li mikdash we-shakhanti betokham,” reads Gyuri on the facade, “let them build a shrine for me and I will reside among them” (Ex 25:8), and with surprise he discovers that the first three and the last one letter of the text have been simply whitewashed in the course of the restoration. The complete inscription originally had to be like this:
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
The Partizánska street running along the lower side of the synagogue now bears the name of the 19th-century scholar Andrej Kmeť. As we descend toward the main street, only a few houses remind us as to what a heroic work had to be realized to restore the historical downtown since the the inclusion of the town on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage in 1993. This one above is the back front of the former Bristol Hotel.
The mystical Sion Club (“Club of the Good Will”) is followed by the partly Gothic, partly Renaissace style massive building of the Chamber House, the former centre of superintendence of the rich silver and gold mines in and around the town. Opposite to it opens the Böhm restaurant, our well-tried favorite lunch place, with a medieval vaulted room on the ground floor and another covered with wooden beams on the first floor. In the late summer and autumn hunting season they serve excellent game dishes, while now in winter time majestic cabbage soup and various dumplings with cottage cheese (bryndzové halušky). You are recommended to choose whatever is served with sausage because it is incomparably seasoned.
We are looking for the Art Café whose sympathetic site announces it as the first one among the seven wonders of Banská Štiavnica. However, it is closed, and it is not sure whether only for the winter of for ever. We climb up the tiny noname street starting at the café so that we could admire at least the view mentioned on the site as the second wonder. The view is still there.
We arrive to the end of the Dolná Ružová street at a hour and two minutes, and the waltz resounds from the tower of the town hall. “It was installed in ninety-six,” explains us a gentleman washing the car in front of the house, “and it plays mineworkers’ songs all year along. It only changes for Christmas songs in Advent. Well, not on the first, but on the second Sunday of Advent, this is the wonder of Banská Štiavnica.” Albeit the site of Art Café does not mention this among the seven ones.
The Divná Pani (Bizarre Lady) Café, as far as it can be decided from the borders of the ancient building plots, was established in the building of the former Jesuit and later Piarist college. Perhaps this prehistory inspired the classical Latin furniture, the couches, the antique niches. “Ut quemus, aiunt quando, ut volumus, non licet.” – “As they say: As we can, when it does not go as we would like,” announce the owners modestly, hiding behind a phrase from Terence. Although they only have one reason for modesty: the books used for decoration, the sad mass literature of the seventies and eighties. These few shelves could have really been filled up with something more beautiful or better or both.
“A real Bösendorfer”, says Gyuri with devotion.
The assortment is really rich, and the coffee is superb. Not for nothing is it praised by the Slovakian connoisseurs. And you pay for it less than for a simple espresso in Budapest.