Banská Štiavnica is a town in the centre of volcano. Millions of years ago rich veins full of precious metals and minerals were flung out of the volcano during explosion. In this way the fate of this region had been preordained for a long time. People have engraved the marks of their work deeply and uniquely into the image of the countryside.
It might never become known again who and when began to mine here. Gold and silver veins used to be visible on the surface. A legend says a shepherd used to graze goats on steep rocky sun-drenched places. Once he noticed two lizards. One of them looked like it had been sprinkled by silver, another by golden dust. The shepherd ran to catch the lizards, but they hid under a stone. The young man rolled the stone away and was blinded by glittering gold and silver ores.
In the oldest written documents today’s Štiavnica used to be called Bana and the land surrounding it – The Land of Miners. Everything in this place is connected to mining. The town as well as mountains around the area have been pierced by mining tunnels like Emmental. There are thousands of kilometres of mining tunnels. At the time of the greatest boom of mining, around 24 thousand people lived here. The Land of Miners achieved several first places. It was the first place to use gun powder for blasting rocks. It was here that one of the most sophisticated hydro-power systems – tajchy of Štiavnica was developed. It was the location of the first technology-focused university in the world. Many inventions and technical equipment spread into the world from here. In nearby Sklené Teplice one of the first meetings of world technical experts took place; today we would call it a science congress. Alchemy was also present here, as well as one of the Europe’s most influential Freemasonry lodges.
This place witnessed unimaginable toil, poverty and oppression. However, it was also a place of faith, masterpiece art and craft and immense creative power of man, which had saved mining in this region several times.
Open Air Mining Museum (Banské múzeum v prírode) is the most visited mine here (including open air museum, approximately 1.5 km from the town centre). The visit takes about 1.5 hours.
Glanzenberg Mining Tunnel is located in the very centre of the town. Even their Imperial Majesties used to go down this shaft when visiting Banská Štiavnica (more about opening hours of about one-hour visit can be found in the Tourist Information Centre).
Really short Michal tunnel is located right next to the Tourist Information Centre in Holy Trinity Square (Námestie sv. Trojice). It is as well suitable for children, elderly people or those with little time, as it can be walked through in 10 minutes.
Visiting the Mine of Starovšechsvätí in Hodruša-Hámre has to be booked in advance (available only for groups), however it offers a unique and authentic experience.
If you want to find out as much as possible about the history of mining, you should visit the exhibition in Kammerhof – Mining in Slovakia.
Monuments of old mining times can be also found in Hodruša-Hámre, in Štiavnické Bane and Vyhne.