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Špania Dolina

Špania Dolina

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Špania Dolina is a village and municipality in central Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, near the city of Banská Bystrica
Banská Bystrica
Banská Bystrica is a key city in central Slovakia located on the Hron River in a long and wide valley encircled by the mountain chains of the Low Tatras, the Veľká Fatra, and the Kremnica Mountains. With 81,281 inhabitants, Banská Bystrica is the sixth most populous municipality in Slovakia...

. Although its permanent population does not exceed 200 people, it is a picturesque historic village situated 728 m above sea level and is surrounded by the Staré Hory
Staré Hory Mountains
The Staré Hory Mountains is a small mountain range in Central Slovakia, near the town of Banská Bystrica. It is a part of the Low Tatra, which is part of the Fatra-Tatra Area and the Inner Western Carpathians. The mountain range is named after the village of Staré Hory .It borders the Veľká Fatra...

 and Veľká Fatra mountains. It has become a popular tourist recreation centre.


The ancient Latin name of the village is Valis Dominorum (meaning "Lord’s Valley"). The first part of the Slovak
Slovak language
Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

 name ("Špania") is derived from another Latin word for "lord": spanatus. The second part ("Dolina") means "valley" in Slovak. The old German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 name of the village was Herrengrundt and it has been used for centuries by Carpathian Germans
Carpathian Germans
Carpathian Germans , sometimes simply called Slovak Germans , are a group of German language speakers on the territory of present-day Slovakia...

 living in the area. The Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

 name of the village is Úrvölgy.


Prehistoric mining tools excavated in the territory of Špania Dolina have been dated from as early as 2000-1700 BC. Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 from Špania Dolina has also been identified in bronze artifacts from the Balkans and the Middle East. It indicates that the local mines were part of an extensive network of trade routes during the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

. However, the first written reference to the village itself only appeared in 1254. Abundant deposits of copper and silver were exploited first by miners from Banská Bystrica and after 1494 by one of the first multinational corporation
Multinational corporation
A multi national corporation or enterprise , is a corporation or an enterprise that manages production or delivers services in more than one country. It can also be referred to as an international corporation...

s, founded by the affluent Fugger
The Fugger family was a historically prominent group of European bankers, members of the fifteenth and sixteenth-century mercantile patriciate of Augsburg, international mercantile bankers, and venture capitalists like the Welser and the Höchstetter families. This banking family replaced the de'...

 and Thurzo
Thurzo or Turzo was a Hungarian noble family from the 15th century to the first half of the 17th century.The ancestors of the Thurzo family came to the Kingdom of Hungary from Lower Austria....

 families. The rich region attracted many foreign visitors. The House of Fugger funded a laboratory of the famous alchemist
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

Paracelsus was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist....

 there. The prominent French thinker Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

 visited and described the copper mines in Špania Dolina upon the encouragement of Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

. The ancient tradition of making bobbin lace
Bobbin lace
Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the...

 led to the establishment of a bobbin lace craft school in 1883. The copper mines were closed down in 1888 and the economy of the village is now based primarily on tourism.


A covered stairway leads to a fortified church, built in the Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 and Renaissance
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

 styles. Wooden miners' houses, now reconstructed, were originally built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The so-called "Knocker" from the 16th century served as a special bell tower for calling the miners to work in the morning. Ancient shafts and other technical monuments are scattered in the nearby forests. Špania Dolina is also a hub of hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

, mountain biking
Mountain biking
Mountain biking is a sport which consists of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially adapted mountain bikes. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain.Mountain biking can...

, and cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is a winter sport in which participants propel themselves across snow-covered terrain using skis and poles...



Špania Dolina has only 182 residents (as of December 31, 2005). According to the 2001 census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

, 95.3% of inhabitants were Slovaks
The Slovaks, Slovak people, or Slovakians are a West Slavic people that primarily inhabit Slovakia and speak the Slovak language, which is closely related to the Czech language.Most Slovaks today live within the borders of the independent Slovakia...

 and 3% Czechs
Czech people
Czechs, or Czech people are a western Slavic people of Central Europe, living predominantly in the Czech Republic. Small populations of Czechs also live in Slovakia, Austria, the United States, the United Kingdom, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Russia and other countries...

. The religious makeup was 82.8% Roman Catholics and 10.7% people with no religious affiliation.

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