Čičmany with its only 200 inhabitants is a little village in the Žilina region in the northern part of Slovakia. It is famous for its well-preserved wooden houses and folk art. Walking around this village makes you feel like you are in a fairy-tale. Here, you can soak up the history and learn something new about Slovak folklore, or even travel back in time and admire a life of the Čičmany people in one of the authentic hotels.
Čičmany village was for its unique folk architecture declared an open-air museum in 1977. Wooden houses painted with white ornaments have been well-preserved. The best-preserved house is the Radenov dom and the neighbouring Gregorov dom, that shelters an ethnographic exhibition where visitors can learn more about the history and folklore of this region. An interesting fact is that people still live in some houses, so it is not just a museum and a gallery, but a village like any other. However, 200 years ago, when houses were built, they served often for as many as 30 persons. This has, of course, changed, but if you want to have a unique experience, you can make a reservation and spend a night in one of the houses, as they also serve as hotels now.
If you are a true sports fan, you might recognize the geometric ornaments, worn by the Slovak Olympic team during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Čičmany village was the inspiration for a design of our Olympic team clothes, as those ornaments can be seen only in Čičmany and are quite unique. So what is the meaning behind the white geometrical ornaments painted on the wooden houses? The village Čičmany was built on a swamp and people needed to isolate their houses from the humidity, so they covered their houses in white lime. Later on, they switched the material from wood to stone, and there was no need to isolate the houses anymore. But people of Čičmany really liked the look of white lime on their houses, so they kept using it even though it lost its original purpose. Geometric ornaments symbolize harmony, stability and fertility. Those ornaments are associated with Slovak folklore and can also be seen on a typical Slovak dress called “kroj”.
Untouched nature of the region offers many activities as well. For instance, there are numerous hiking and biking trails with breathtaking views. When the wind conditions are good, people can also perform paragliding. During the winter season, you can head to the little Ski centre Javorinka, that offers three ski slopes and two cross-country routes. There are several facilities like a ski-rental, a ski school or restaurants and buffets. Worth mentioning is also the nearby castle Bojnice, which is one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia and its zoological garden. Bojnice Castle is located around 40 kilometers from the Čičmany open-air museum, so it makes a nice one day trip. In the opposite direction is a little town Rajecká Lesná, a place of pilgrimage since the 15th century, where you can find a beautifully carved wooden Bethlehem.
To reach the well-preserved village of Čičmany, you need to drive about two hours from Bratislava. It is also possible to take a train from Bratislava to Žilina, and in Žilina, you need to take a bus to Čičmany. The entrance fee to the open-air museum is just two euros. The best way to experience this fairy-tale village is definitely on foot. I recommend spending a night in one of the wooden houses so that you can have a closer look at the daily life of Čičmany people, a deeper understanding of our history and more time to admire Slovak folk art.
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