Liptovský MikulášOctober 29, 2012
Situated in one of the beauty spots of Slovakia, Liptovský Mikuláš played a major role in the Slovak National Awakening of the 19th century. It and its surrounding villages were also the home of the Pálka family for almost three centuries.
This small city lies in a broad valley nestled between the craggy High Tatra Mountains to the north and the more rounded (but nevertheless steep and wild) Low Tatras to the south. It is a great center for outdoor sports—hiking, climbing, ski mountaineering—and is home to the main training facility for Slovakia’s outstanding whitewater kayakers, who have won numerous world and Olympic medals.
A century and a half ago Mikuláš was one of the main centers of the Slovak National Awakening, the movement toward defining and uplifting Slovak language, culture, and political self-awareness. My great-granduncle Michal Miloslav Hodža led the huge Lutheran congregation in Mikuláš for thirty years while playing a leading role in this National Awakening.
From the 19th century on into the post-World War II era, the economic foundation of Mikuláš was leather production. This was a relatively minor industry at the national level, but until Czechoslovakia was established, leather was the virtually the only one in Slovak hands. Such industries as mining, smelting, and furniture making, as well as the huge agricultural estates, were owned and operated primarily by Magyars and Germans. The leathermen of Mikuláš, including my grandfather Ján Pálka and many others among my ancestors, made major contributions to the development of Slovakia as a nation by generously funding the activities of cultural and political leaders.
After a perod of decline during the past half century, Mikuláš is once again on the ascendant. Its economy is much more diversified than in the past, its cultural life is full, and the city is beautiful!