Slovakian holiday home

The Carpathian mountains begin just north of Bratislava as gently rolling hills, clothed with vineyards, and extend northwards and then eastwards through a series of mountain ranges increasing in height to the towering peaks of the High Tatras. 100 km north of Bratislava, in the region known as the Bielý Karpaty, or White Carpathians, is a 1000m peak called Javorina (after the maple, or sycamore??) Forests clothe the upper slopes, and just below the treeline, in a hamlet (named after people who live(d) there Kovačove, or U Kovačov, or Černačkovci) is a converted farmhouse, Orechový Dom (Walnut Tree House), familiarly known as OD..

The climate is typically continental, with cold winters (a metre of snow lying for a couple of months is not uncommon) and warm summers, with a short, intensely colourful spring. There are still family farms and smallholdings on the hillside, as well as the former collectives in the valley below.

The settlements scattered over this hilly but fertile region are quite unspoilt and you will see a lot of traditional houses and farm buildings built of sun-baked clay bricks and wood.

Orechový Dom dates from the mid-19th century, with additions and alterations since. It was built just below an even older farmhouse, which is still standing, but partly in ruins. (Our next big project will be to preserve this building.)

The area around is great for walking, cycling, cross-country skiing or just relaxing. Within easy reach for a day-trip are mountains, castles, dramatic gorges, spas, picturesque villages, historic towns. It has not yet been ’discovered’ and so is not over-run with tourists (though the high mountain peaks have always attracted visitors from central/eastern Europe and are beginning to be appreciated by hikers from all over Europe).

The hamlet is part of the administrative district centred in Lubina, a village of about 2000 inhabitants. The nearest small towns are Nove Mesto (east of Lubina) and Stara Tura (west). Nove Mesto is just off the main highway (E??) from Bratislava, so access is easy – it is only about an hour’s drive from Bratislava to OD.

OD is in three parts. Furthest from the road, and closest to the eponymous walnut tree, is ’No. 1’, the part that was most habitable when we bought OD, but is now awaiting restoration and mostly used as storerooms.

’No. 2’, the middle part, includes the old core of the farmhouse (the date is carved on one of the beams). On the ground floor is a dining room, sitting room with open fire (also used as a bedroom), kitchen and bathroom. Upstairs (through a hatch in the sitting room) is a light, spacious, wood-lined converted attic, with a gallery for sleeping. Altogether, No. 2 can easily accommodate two families with children.

’No. 3’ is a small, self-contained unit. It was originally a gatehouse over the entry to the farmyard, with only the bedroom over the gatway. The gateway was enclosed and is now a sitting room plus small kitchen, and above that is a tiny, very functional bathroom.

OD has electricity, water pumped from the village spring, a very large garden, car-parking space, a barbecue area, a small pond, fruit trees….and a genial old local resident, Milan.

It is accessible in the winter, though you will need winter tyres and may need chains too. With electric radiators, open fireplace and wood-burning stoves, it can get very cosy.