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Five Weeks in Lišov, Slovakia

A traditional crafts placement

14th April 2022

Lišov (pronounced lee-show) is a small village in Slovakia. This is where I spent five weeks from August till September in 2020, on a group Traditional Crafts placement provided and funded by Grampus Heritage and Erasmus+. I was joined by five other girls, Selina, Lily, Kris, Claire & Amy. Selina I had met before, the others I had not.

The Beginning

It was night time when we arrived in Lišov, and as we drove down into the village along a road surrounded by forest, I looked out of the window and saw the eyes of deer shining out from the edge of the woods. When I woke the next morning I looked out over the balcony, it was luscious and green and the air was warm and humid. We were staying in an old clergy residence, it was big, echoey and slightly creepy, we called it the priest house.  

We spent the day exploring the village and the local museum. So many bugs! And different trees! It was enchanting and a dream to be there. Wild and exciting, Lišov was like an oasis. There were river snakes in the creek, hidden cave houses in the hills, lizards in the rocks and in the museum there were old looms, traditional tools and masks from all over the world.

Power Tools and Eating Well

In the week we worked hard at the museum. This is where I learnt how to drill and how to plaster a building, using a traditional plaster mix from clay, straw, sand and water that we mixed together ourselves. I learnt to use a band saw and angle grinding became my new favourite thing. It was liberating to have the freedom to learn through doing, with a safe space to fail and succeed in.

Every lunch time we were treated with delicious, traditional soups and cakes made by Marta, a local woman from the village. We learnt some traditional cooking from our host Jakub, and made roasted vegetables and meat stews in a clay oven that was built by hand by a previous group. One night we made Harula (potato pancakes), outside over a fire. This is the same night we made small clay objects & animals and threw them into the fire, finding them partially fired in the ashes the next morning. 

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Wild Swimming and Wild Women

Mondays were for cultural trips led by Jakub and the weekends were ours to explore Slovakia. We would wake at 3am to catch a 4am train to places across the country. My favourite was the city of Banská Bystrica. It was beautiful and bright, with a fruit market and a fountain. It was hot, but it  had an inner city swimming pool. If you travel just a little out of the city there are caverns in the hills, we went for a forest hike to get to them, but had to rush back to get our train.

We went swimming a lot. In lakes and reservoirs with glistening cool water, accompanied by lavender lemonade and Nutella pancakes. I used to be afraid of swimming in rivers, but things are a lot less scary when you do it with people you trust.

I began to feel a familiarity and nostalgia for places I’d never been. Thinking about it now, I realise those feelings were because of who I was with, not the places I was going to.

On the new moon, we celebrated together outside the on the balcony of the priest house, joined by a local cat we named Mamuška, who visited us often. We spent the night talking, eating, listening to music, writing positive things down and setting them alight, hoping they would come true.

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Traditional Craft, Connecting

From being in Lišov, we met many talented and kind people who weren’t teachers in a professional sense but were teachers by nature. We met Miro first, who we considered a very wise man, he runs a coffee shop and leather goods brand called Akela, with proceeds going to restoring cave houses in Brhlovce. Fero Liptak is an artist with a great sense of humour who invited us to create linocuts in his Stodola, his studio barn. And of course, Soňa (pronounced Sonia), who my loom is named after. She is a local weaver who lives in the village, in an old house that was her grandparents’, which she and her husband are restoring together. She has a magical garden, with peaches, apples and pear trees, dotted with flowers and bushes. We sat there with her in the strong heat of the afternoon and she began to teach us what she knew. When we left, she gifted us a basket of fresh fruit and vegetables she had grown.

On another day with Soňa, we wound a huge cotton warp, on the largest warping board I’ve ever seen, making a warp 24 metres long! We wound this on to one of the looms at the museum, ready to weave on another day. 

We would have many lessons with Soňa, but one is very clear in my memories. It was morning, and we sat in a circle on blankets, in the grass of her tranquil garden learning about processing wool, from the freshly shorn fibre, to spinning it into yarn. This work has always been considered ‘women’s work’ and it was a coincidence that we were an all female group. After a quick eye-roll from the sexist division of labour, we learnt that in the past, women would sit together carding the wool, telling stories and singing. As we did the same, a presence was felt, as if empowered by all the women before us.

the women who came before us

Back to Nature, Myths and Stories

Between the hand weaving lessons, we learnt basket weaving with homegrown willow branches from another local woman called Tatiana who would also take us herb picking. We spent the morning walking through the fields just outside of the village, taking notes about the properties of different plants and finding insects in the long grasses. Later that afternoon we drank fresh herb tea with honey. 

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Slovakia was brimming with stories and folklore, sometimes when I stopped to think about where I was it felt like I was living in one of those stories. In the town of Dudince, there’s a story of a beautiful fairy named Dudinka, who gave healing power to the natural springs found there. She is said to have healed a young Roman boy who could not walk, and in the sloping hills outside of the wellness resorts, you can still find the ancient thermal baths said to have been carved into the landscape by the Romans. 

One of the more mysterious stories is that of the ‘Wall of Giants’. Now all that’s left are the remains of a large wall, overgrown with moss and oak trees,  resembling nothing more than a small hill that you may not even notice you’re on. But beneath the moss there is said to be volcanic rock and burned earth, no one knows how either of these came to be there. Of course, there are many theories and myths, about fighting Gods, huge bones discovered close to the wall, the devil (because he always has a hand in the mysterious and unknown), volcanoes, dragons and even Icelandic legends, but no one really knows the truth about how and why it’s there. But I think that’s the beauty of it, the reality of the why and how isn’t there to stop the imagination. So, you can return to the child in you and run wild with the stories.  


Our flights left on different days, so on the last day it was only me and Selina. It was the evening before, that we had to wave goodbye to the other girls we had spent over a month living with. It was the hardest goodbye I’ve ever felt.

The next morning Selina and I woke early and walked to the museum. We went there to weave for the last time, with some grasses we had picked together a few days before. Throwing the shuttle to-and-fro, the cloth grew. We cut off and tied back on, leaving the loom ready for whoever would weave next. And as the sun was taking its place in the sky, we breathed in the morning air, saying goodbye to the village that had become our home, walking away, with pieces of woven cloth in our hands and Slovakia in our hearts.