In July 2016 I attended a wedding in eastern Slovakia, which also provided a chance to visit Humenné and explore the local area. Humenné is a small town in the Prešov Region in eastern Slovakia. Situated at the confluence of the Laborec and Cirocha Rivers, and close to the Vihorlat Mountains, a volcanic mountain range which stretches into western Ukraine, it’s a very isolated part of Europe that has a low population and sees very few tourists. However, those that do venture this far are rewarded with unspoilt nature, with most visiting the Poloniny National Park, which is also a dark sky park, or the primeval beech forests of the Carpathian mountains.
Destroyed during the Second World War, Humenné was rebuilt in the years that followed. Influenced by the Soviet Union, the architecture was that of a socialist style, and whilst not the most attractive town, it’s clean with a practical layout. There are also numerous well preserved socialist murals. It’s probably not worth an overnight stop unless you are there for a specific purpose, although I’d definitely recommend stopping to see the Skanzen museum (see below).
The central point is Námestie slobody (translates as Freedom Square), which is more of a long pedestrian avenue than a square. The numerous trees and fontains give it quite a relaxing and laid back environment.
The majority of sites of interest to tourists are located at the top of the square, the most obvious being Humenné ‘castle’, which is a Renaissance manor house. Built in 1610 on the site of the original Gothic Castle, it was renovated in the 19th century in a baroque style. Near the manor house is a Soviet Liberation Monument and a statue of General Milan Rastislav Štefánik, both of which are common features of many Slovak towns and cities. Štefánik was a diplomat and politician who fought in WWI, and saw that the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Imperial Germany would provide an opportunity for the Czechs and Slovaks to become independent. His statue was removed the Soviets, although the head was recovered and hidden, and now forms part of a new sculpture.
The most interesting thing for me was the Skanzen open-air museum, exhibiting folk architecture, which is situated in the grounds of Humenné manor house. Whilst there are a number of traditional buildings characteristic of the local area, as well as tools used for farming, the focal point is undoubtably the wooden Greek Catholic church. Originally located in Nová Sedlica, it was badly damaged in 1944 during the Second World War, and later moved to the museum in Humenné in 1966. Wooden Churches are a common feature of the Slovak Carpathian Mountain Area, eight of which were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008, although there are many more throughout the region. Entrance was €2.50, and I highly recommend spending an hour wandering round. Unfortunately I got caught in a torrential downpour as I left the museum – not even the trees provided shelter and I ended up soaked through.
EATING AND DRINKING
Having arrived fairly late on the Friday evening, we went in search of somewhere to eat. There are many places on Námestie slobody, although we found the food options were somewhat limited (it was only 8 pm). The first choice would have been to sit on the terrace at ‘Yes Grill’, although it was too busy. We ended up at the Kapitan Pub which was a reasonable choice, but nothing particularly special. The fairly new U medveďa pivovar is situated next to Humenné mesto railway station, and is a popular place in the evenings. They have an excellent range of beers for a small brewery, with prices starting from €1.30 per half-litre, and a limited food menu.
Unfortunately I never managed to get any hiking done whilst based in Humenné, although I had investigated several options, including the ruin castles at both Brekov and Jaseno, both of which looked like interesting trips. The hills immediately north of Humenné also offer some shorter hiking trails, however the Poloniny National Park or volcanic Vihorlat mountains are better destinations.
Humenné is situated around 25 km north of the E50 / E58, which is the main road between Slovakia and Ukraine. We travelled from Bratislava by car, which is the quickest option at around six and half hours, especially should you wish to explore the surrounding area. I returned by overnight train, which was comfortable enough. Always find that lying down makes a longer journey more bearable. There are plenty of trains during the day to Košice (for onward travel to Bratislava), as well as local trains to Prešov, Medzilaborce and Stakčín.