The 17 best architectural works nominated for the 15th edition of the CE∙ZA∙AR awards organised by the Slovak Chamber of Architects in 2016 included the design for a tourist shelter and walkway on Straník.
The competition jury decided between two nominations in the category exterior design: the Shelter and Walkway on Straník by the team of designers Michal Marcinov, Andrej Badin, Zuzana Demovičová, Peter Lényi, Ondrej Marko a Marián Lucký and the exterior design of the Digital Park Complex in Bratislava by Igor Marko and Peter Pasečný. The winners in each category were announced at a ceremony in the Old Market Hall in Bratislava on 06 October 2016.
The idea to build a tourist lookout came from the Town of Žilina, which is an important member of the Malá Fatra Regional Tourism Organisation (OOCR Malá Fatra). The whole idea had to be handled responsibly because it would be implemented in a national cultural heritage monument. OOCR Malá Fatra organised a workshop on the topic of a tourist lookout on Straník, which resulted in the proposal to build a walkway and shelter on Straník that would respect its importance as a national cultural heritage monument, the requirements of the landowners and the paragliders who use the site. In 2014–2015 design documentation was prepared by the team Ing. Michal Marcinov, Andrej Badin, Zuzana Demovičová, Ing. arch. Peter Lényi, Ing. arch. Ondrej Marko and Ing. arch. Marián Lucký and archaeological research was carried out by VIA MAGNA, s.r.o. which opened up new possibilities for developing tourism on Straník in future.
In autumn 2015, the winner of the public tender, SOAR, spol. s r.o., began construction of the walkway and shelter on Straník. “We expect the investment to make a significant increase in the tourist potential and attractiveness of our members the Town of Žilina and the village of Teplička nad Váhom. Straník will be an pleasant place for walking for families with children and older people, who will be able to safely and comfortably reach the best hilltop view of the Malá Fatra ridge, the Terchová valley, Žilina and the Javorníky Mountains,” Peter Šimčák, chief executive of OOCR Malá Fatra did not conceal his excitement.
The total investment in the workshop, design, archaeological research and construction of the walkway was financed from the budget of OOCR Malá Fatra in the sum EUR 71,590. The opening ceremony on Straník took place on 09 April 2016 during the Žilina Thousand event.
Straník (769 m a.s.l.) is a hill in the Kysuce Highlands, 6 km east of Žilina. It can be reached by following the yellow hiking trail from the village of Zástranie. There are fine views of the Malá Fatra Mountains, the Žilina Valley and Kysuce from the summit.
Straník earned a place in the history of sports flying in 1934, when instructor Štefan Pleško took off in the glider Zlín under the supervision of the sports flying commissioner Ing. Josef Elsnic. He glided above Straník and Dubeň hills for half an hour and landed by the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk in Teplička nad Váhom
For this flight, the sports commissioner Ing. Josef Elsnic recognised him as meeting the Grade C performance requirements. Štefan Pleško thus became the first glider pilot to achieve this grade in Slovakia. Thanks to his efforts, Straník soon became the most popular gliding location in Czechoslovakia and it is still a paradise for paragliding and hang gliding. The first gliding competition in Czechoslovakia took place on Straník in 1936. Štefan Pleško trained glider pilots to fly on the military training grounds at Brezový majer (now replaced by the suburb of Vlčince). In 1935 a military airfield was built here.
The gliding centre on Straník and the Central Gliding School for Slovakia
Žilina glider pilots learned to fly at the Brezový majer training ground which is part of the suburb of Vlčince. In 1935 a military airfield was built here. Training was conducted in the surrounding countryside, mainly on the rounded hill of Veľký diel above the base and Dúbrava at Bytčica. Štefan Pleško began test flights from Dubeň and later from Straník in 1934. The best sports glider in pilot in Czechoslovakia and the commissioner for sports flying, Ing. Josef Elsnic, came to Žilina from Prague at Pleško’s invitation in 1934. Elsnic made a two-and-a-half-hour test flight over Straník and Dubeň in his Kasel 20 glider. After this flight he declared that Straník was the best place for gliding in all Czechoslovakia. He later ordered the construction of a hanger on the north side of the hill under the summit of Malý Straník. It was opened on 24 August 1935.
Another large wooden hanger was later built for storing gliders on Straník. A factory was later added for the manufacture of gliders and aeroplane repairs. Gliders from all over Slovakia were brought here to be overhauled.
Straník was recognised as an outstanding location for gliding in Czechoslovakia and became toe location of the Central Gliding School for Slovakia. Nearly all military pilots and pilots for the airline ČSA from Slovakia were trained on Straník. As motorised flight became the dominant form of aviation, the site could not keep up with the times. Eventually the facilities were taken over by a flying club. The Central Gliding School for Slovakia on Straník was shut down in a reorganisation of the air force despite having built up a reputation for itself in Czechoslovakia and abroad. Air operations were relocated to Brezový Majer Airport at Vlčince in Žilina. The aircraft repair facilities on Straník continued to exist for a while but were later relocated to the aviation repair works, Letecké opravovne, in Trenčín. The facilities that played a major role in the development of aviation in Slovakia are now part of a social services home for adults.
Straník is now an important centre for paragliding and hang gliding. Žilina has several paragliding schools offering courses in sports flying and the hill is sought out by pilots from far and wide. It is also a venue for regular competitions organised by the Slovak Aviation Amateur Association (LAA).
Paragliding on Straník
The location has excellent thermal conditions for starting longer flights. The shape of the hill provides good conditions for slope flying. There are two launch areas on the peak:
- south west - can be used for launching with S, SW and W winds.
- north - can be used for launching with N and, to some extent, NW winds.
Potential landing sites include the south west launch site, the saddle between Straník and Malý Straník and a field in front of the KIA car factory under the hill’s south slope.
The Straník broadcasting mast
On Straník there is broadcasting equipment for television, radio and GSM signals serving the town of Žilina and its surroundings. There are 2 lattice masts on the summit: one 18 m and the other 30 m tall. The broadcast digital and analogue television signals, the Frontinus and Vlna radio stations and signals for mobile phone operators. They cover the town and its immediate surroundings but their signal can also be picked up in Rajec Valley, in Kysuce, the lower Turiec and the Upper Váh region.
The archaeology of Straník
The archaeological site of the Straník hillfort has been a listed cultural heritage monument since 30/12/1967 based on Decision No. 18G/67 of the District National Committee in Žilina, updated in June 1992 under no. UZ : 2147/1 and the unified name Hradisko, a hilltop fortification south-east of the village at an altitude of 769 m a.s.l. Treasure hunters have significantly disturbed the site and many finds have been lost in private collections. The first evidence of early settlement of the site was produced by surveys conducted by A. Petrovský-Sichman in 1947. He gave most of his finds to Professor Budinský-Krička at the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak National Museum in Martin, with whom he had studied archaeology and served as his assistant after graduation. Find report no. 568/51 of 1951 in the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Nitra reports the excavation of a probe in 1949 in the centre of the rampart with dimensions 0.5 x 2.5 m and a depth of 0.3–0.8 m to the living rock. Fragments of pottery were deposited in the Žilina Museum. There is a report of the find of an Old Slavic potsherd on the hilltop from 1946 (A. Petrovský-Šichman: Slovanské osídlenie severného Slovenska. In: Vlastivedný zborník Považia VI, 1964, p. 73, tab. VII:5). All the other finds from various locations on the hillfort acquired from collections and random gifts date from the Lusatian culture of the young to late Bronze Age or the young to late Iron Age – the late La Tène culture, which is called the Púchov culture in northern Slovakia. The Straník hill fort dominates the eastern part of the Žilina Valley, where there is the most fertile land, especially between Teplička and Varín. A large hillfort was built on the summit of Stranik in the young to late Bronze Age with a massive rampart on the more accessible north slope of the hill. The highest part of the hillfort is a geological fold that resembles a rampart. The northern part of the fold was artificially made into a long platform by breaking off the rock surface. On this platform there is a cultural layer including many potsherds from the late La Tène period. In 1971 the museum in Žilina received new finds of Púchov ceramics from Straník including rim sherds decorated with peripheral grooves on the upper surface and under the ring, which are typical of the late La Tène period. This scenario repeated in subsequent years. The image was very similar – Púchov culture ceramics, sometimes accompanied by older finds from the Lusatian culture. The fortified area of the hillfort measures around 450 x 150 m, which is about 6.7 ha. On the northern and western sides, the rampart is broken by 3-4 gates. When the road for hang gliders was built cutting through the north rampart, ceramics from the young Bronze Age were found inside the body of the rampart, indicating this as the oldest date for the fortification of the hilltop. The massive ramparts of the hillfort on Stranik were probably intended to protect the people of the nearby settlements, which are documented by a relatively large number of finds in nearby villages from the young Stone Age to the high middle ages. Examples include settlements at Gbeľany, Teplička and Varín; cremation burial sites at Gbeľany and Varín. Forts in Belá, Dolní Tižina, Terchová and Varín. Random finds of bronze objects from Teplička found during construction of the dam – a bronze axe, a bronze sickle from the suburb of Prostredný lán, an early Bronze Age bronze axe with bars from Terchová; an iron javelin from Medziholie in Terchová and another from Varín; a ninth-century iron sword from Varín, an iron spear-head found near Vyvieračky in Belá etc. The intensity of settlement is extremely especially in the younger or late Bronze Age and in the late La Tène period. These were the times when the hillfort on Stranik probably served as a central fortress for the eastern part of the Žilina Valley helping the main fortress on Veľký vrch hill at Divinka to organise life in the society of the time. Around this time, massive fortifications were also built at Divinka, which became the central fort for both the Žilina and Bytča valleys because it was situated where they met. The hillfort on Stranik performed its function in two main periods – in the younger to late Bronze Age and then in the late La Tène period, possibly extending into the older Roman period. Although no archaeological research has yet been conducted here, the many finds collected in the area of the fortifications clearly indicate its importance for the oldest villages in the region and there may therefore be reason to believe that its importance extends beyond the region of the northwest Slovakia and that it was rightly entered in the list of important heritage monuments of Slovakia. It would now be difficult to investigate the original composition of the cultural layers after the many years of looting at the site and the frequent disturbance of the original locations of finds. Any disturbance of the layers of a hillfort degrades the quality of the site and impedes the scientific evaluation of the acquired finds. It is no longer enough to pile up find upon find in depositories; a site must be studied in its entirety, including the location of the settlement layers and the items within them.
Pic. 1, 2, 3 - Walkway and shelter on Straník. Source: OOCR Malá Fatra