New UNESCO House in the historical heart of Liptov
A remarkable place with a unique atmosphere. I have always loved Vlkolínec, a little village hidden in the picturesque mountains of Liptov. It reminds us of the past long gone but it is still bustling with life. However, the modern life does not push forward, it stays in the background, humble and respectful of tradition. I couldn’t help my urge to return after some time.
I am walking again between beautiful log houses. The cars are parked in front of the entrance gate and I absorb the atmosphere of strange peace and beauty. However, it’s not the silence of an open‑air museum with lifeless buildings and exhibits. Vlkolínec is unique in that real people live there. Its two dozens of permanent residents are multiplied by cottagers coming over the weekends. And it’s not just elderly people, the first young families have settled here. They live in houses resembling the most beautiful postcards with folklore themes. They are probably used to it, but as a city person who lives in noise and stress, I am fascinated by this beauty.
Déjà vu after 75 years
Again, I’m admiring the narrow centre of the village with a stream flowing in wooden troughs. The small square is dominated by a log belfry from 1770, the oldest preserved monument. It still works although it is now powered by electricity. In addition to familiar sights, I have been drawn by curiosity and expectation of a new house, built on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Vlkolínec’s addition to the list of the world cultural heritage. „So this our new
UNESCO House,“ says my guide, Gabriela Demčáková from the Ružomberok Municipal Office. I almost overlooked it. Not that it was not interesting or nice. It looked as it had always been there. I soon learnt that I was right, but the house had a pause for three quarters of a century. It is
an accurate copy of the log house that had stood here until it was burned down during World War II. It’s not easy to notice at first sight that the log house is new. „That’s exactly what we wanted. The log house was built in harmony with the existing buildings. It was
difficult but it was worth it,“ says Gabriela Demčáková.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail The effort to recreate the original design of the house and to meet preservationist requirements produced a sophisticated result. For example, there are double windows and front doors, of course wooden: the outside wings open outwards and the inside wings open inwards. It is high‑quality work by master joiners from the region who have a feel for the place and its tradition. The dark roof with wooden shingles contrasts with the white façade. The inside and outside of the log house is painted with lime, which is Vlkolínec’s tradition, and the painting will be repeated every year. When I entered the house, it was clear that the internal layout also reflects the tradition. The porch of the UNESCO House is used as a reception and information desk, the point of first contact with a visitor. On the right, there is a storeroom turned to a memorial room, an exhibition of Slovak cultural heritage protected by UNESCO, both tangible and intangible, such as the sound of fujara (shepherd’s flute). „We will add more exhibits and interactive elements, depending on the interest of the visitors and our capacity. We are very enthusiastic,“ says my guide, answering a question I didn’t ask.
A range of activities
On the left side of the porch, there is a large front living room, which serves multiple purposes. It contains showcases with exhibits, information panels and video projections about the history and traditions of the village, and also a fireplace. In cold winters of Liptov, the fire from wooden logs flickers and heats up the room, creating an authentic atmosphere of this unique place. The front room is also used for presentations and workshops for smaller groups. The porch, storeroom and cellar no longer have earthen floors and visitors now walk
on modern tiles. The cellar is used only for exhibits exposed along the walls on panels and in showcases. If the weather is bad, it is used for craft demonstrations. „One of the first thematic exhibitions will be dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising, which had in impact on Vlkolínec and some people still remember
it,“ says Gabriela Demčáková
The magic of Vlkolínec lies in that it is alive. The life is real, not pretended. The woman raking hay behind the house is not an actor showing traditional technology to tourists. You may laugh, but this is what some people think. Not everyone reads the leaflet that comes with a ticket. This results in funny situations, which may not be so funny for the locals. That’s why fences were built around the inhabited log houses, although there used to be none in the village. That’s a part of life in a world‑famous village where people inhabit cultural monuments. I hope it will live on and keep its fascinating atmosphere. I will be happy to come back again. I heard that something else will be brought back to life…
ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED IN TATRY MAGAZÍN WINTER 2018/2019.