A former village in central Slovakia
that was destroyed as part of the reprisals by the Nazis
in retaliation for the Slovak National Uprising during WWII
. The remote village was never repopulated and its ruins, mostly just foundations, are now a memorial to this very grim chapter in Slovak history.
Kalište was not the only village to suffer this fate, there were about a hundred others, but it was particularly tragic in this case that the Nazis arrived as late as 18 March 1945 to set about their torching and killing spree – just days before the Soviet
Red Army liberated the area.
The remote location of the village, high in the wooded hills, had made it a suitable hideout for partisans after the Slovak National Uprising had failed. And indeed the villagers would have assisted the partisans, or at least some of them would have in some ways.
When the Nazis finally reached Kalište, they shot the villagers as they came out of the houses and torched every single building. Some residents died inside their burning houses.
The destroyed village was never repopulated – too remote was the location and too tragic its legacy. Instead it was turned into a memorial from the early 1960s onwards. It is administered by the Muzeum SNP
in Banska Bystrica that also saw to some more recent improvements and additions, such as the memorial arboretum: in 2008 a tree for each of the villages destroyed in the reprisals was planted at the site on the slopes just below the ruins of Kalište.
What there is to see: not all that much. At the end of the long and winding approach road through the forest there's a memorial marker by the car park. From here it is a short hike to the former village itself.
The village is spread out along a clearing on a slope near the top of a 3000 foot (930m) mountain. One central path leads through it and to the left and right a few other paths branch off – other vestiges of the ex-village are scattered around the grassy slopes.
Only a small chapel and two houses have been restored/rebuilt – the other 36 former village houses are marked only by their exposed stone foundations (the houses on top of these foundations were wooden).
The restored houses are home to an ethnographic exhibition (about rural life back in the day in general). At the time I got there the museum parts were already closed, so I didn't see the inside. But my guide (see under access
!) assured me that it was only about “country life”, and not actually about the dark history of the place.
The tragedy of that dark history, however, is spelled out by plaques attached to the foundations of the ruined houses. These plaques tell the individual stories of the respective houses and their inhabitants, in some cases noting that victims burned to their death inside as the Nazis
torched the village.
These texts, however, are all in Slovak only. Without my guide translating them for me I wouldn't have got much out of them.
In addition, a few information panels have been put up along the path and a few locations up the slopes. One of these has a painting of the old village as it looked before the destruction, another describes the different types of houses and their functions. Some of this can be understood from the images. But the texts and labels are, again, in Slovak only.
Roughly in the centre of the village stands a memorial monument, made from marble blocks of different sizes, which have the names of villagers on them. Weathered wreaths and flowers in different stages of decay lay at the base of the monument, indicating that it must be visited by officials (or maybe relatives) with some regularity.
On the lower slopes of the village numerous young trees were to be seen, still protected by plastic tubes around their bases. These were planted in 2008 as a memorial arboretum of sorts – with each tree marking one of the ca. 100 villages destroyed at the time alongside Kalište.
Some old partisan shelters and the old village cemetery are nominally also part of the memorial complex – but since night was beginning to fall when I visited, we did not have the time to check these out too.
All in all, tragic as it may be, this is not a major dark-tourism site – unless you can read Slovak and/or your specialist field is the period of the Slovak National Uprising and the Nazi
reprisals afterwards. Without my guide (see below
!) I wouldn't have got much out of it at all. That said, though, it is quite an atmospheric place in any case, set in a beautiful, lonely rural spot. Whether that makes it worth the considerable detour, you have to decide for yourself.
in a very remote spot in the hills of central Slovakia
some 8 miles (13 km) north-east of Banska Bystrica as the crow flies, but at least twice that distance by road.
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: Remote and difficult to get to other than by car; free.
Details: To get to this isolated location you really have to have a car (although I've also seen hardened mountain bikers on these remote roads!).
Take the main road (R1/No. 66) heading east from Banska Bystrica in the direction of Nemecka, Brezno and Poprad, and after crossing a bridge exit to the left towards Podkonice and Slovenska Lupča – there is even a small brown sign for the Kalište memorial site. Drive past the industrial plant and on through the village of Slovenska Lupča and shortly after the road almost meets with the Hron river to your right turn left, again following the brown sign for the memorial.
Then head north on an unmarked little country road for another ca. 7.5 miles (12 km). Passing through the village of Moštenica keep to the left at the fork in the road. Soon after that, the road begins to climb steeper and steeper up the hill with a few switchbacks to navigate. Keep going (it's slow going) until the road ends by the first memorial marker with a small car park. The rest you have to hike – follow the signs. It's a fairly easy walk – inside the village only the higher-lying ruins require a bit of steeper uphill clambering.
The site of the village is in theory freely accessible at all times, but make sure to be there in daylight (we got quite close to nightfall when we were there – and I wouldn't have wanted to find myself stranded out here in pitch-black darkness).
The museum about rural life is only open seasonally during the summer months, Thursdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – admission: ca. 1 EUR.
Note: Even though it is possible in practical terms (provided you have your own means of transport), it actually makes little sense coming here independently unless your Slovak is up to it.
I went as part of a longer, specially tailored guided tour of central Slovakia that was put together for me by the alternative operator “Authentic Slovakia
” – see their sponsored page here
! It is not part of their regular off-the-peg portfolio but they can arrange this especially (as they did for me). Going with a guide/driver not only takes having to navigate out of the equation but also provides the essential added value of the guide being able to tell the story and translate the various text panels at the site.
between 45 and 90 minutes or so, depending on how exhaustively you want to explore the parts higher up the steeper slopes or the additional parts (e.g. the cemetery) and also on whether you want to (can) see the ethnographic exhibition too. Add about an hour's driving time from Banska Bystica
Combinations with other dark destinations:
The most important must-do combinations have to be a) the Muzeum SNP
in Banska Bystrica, and b) the Nemecka memorial
and its museum. These have all the background information, and that mostly in English too, that the remote village memorial site of Kalište lacks.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The picturesque rural scenery can count as enough non-dark added value as such, if that's your kind of thing. Not much further on there's also the official National Park of the Lower Tatras.
The nearest town is Banska Bystrica, which also has its little charms (see under Muzeum SNP
See also under Slovakia
in general (also for photos
of the rural Slovak countryside!).
- Kaliste 1 - memorial marker by the car park
- Kaliste 2 - emptied abandoned village
- Kaliste 3 - impression of what the village used to look like
- Kaliste 4 - central monument
- Kaliste 5 - chapel and reconstructed houses
- Kaliste 6 - a tree for each victim
- Kaliste 7 - plaque
- Kaliste 8 - candle
- Kaliste 9 - remote location