Úl’uv is Slovakia’s centre for folk art production and, with several strategically-placed outlets in Bratislava, is the obvious first port of call for any visitors to Slovakia who are seeking a souvenir beyond the bog standard tourist tat. There is a branch now on Hlavné Námestie (Bratislava Old Town’s central square) and then the main premises at Obchodná No. 64 right opposite the Vysoká tram stop (tram numbers 3, 5, 6, 8). The Obchodná branch, particularly, is well-deserving of a half-hour or more of your time if you’re in the market for a decent gift for those back home. It spans both sides of a small alleyway which leads back into a courtyard of sculptures, from which there’s access to a number of small ateliers, or craft workshops. These workshops do put on demonstrations and even classes, but if you miss these there is still the shop itself… and a very nice daytime restaurant for refreshments afterwards.
The shop. Giftcards made with lace, lace wallhangings, handcrafted wooden animals, Majolika ceramics from Modra (with its striking blue, yellow and green colouring), ceremonial axes, šupolienky (figures fashioned from corn husks), ceramic bottles for serving slivovica, the painted eggs which form such an important part of Slovak Easter traditions… there is a world of choice here. The other section of the shop across the alley focuses more on materials – tablecloths, scarves, traditional clothing.
It’s all very beautiful. It’s also incredibly expensive. Úl’uv’s defence will be that handicrafts take time and incur costs – and that the best work is necessarily pricey. But the prices go beyond high. They are astronomical. 11 Euros for a birthday card? 300 Euros for a table runner? With such prices Úl’uv is putting itself firmly beyond the financial reach of most Slovaks and quite a lot of tourists too.
But most importantly, if I am to pay such sums for good Slovak handicrafts, I want to know something about them. Axes, painted eggs and lacework are all very well. But what’s the story behind them? Where do they come from? Why are they so traditional for Slovakia? Well, Úl’uv, englishmaninslovakia can explain on this blog in time but this is really down to you – you’re the experts! And everyone these days likes to know a bit about what it is they are buying. I appreciate Slovakia isn’t a big enough country to divide into craft regions – but say something about Orava’s sheep-farming heritage next to those models of sheep, or explain Slovak Easter customs alongside those wondrous displays of painted eggs. You would probably see interest pique and sales increase…
Incidentally, the all-time coolest item I have seen in Úl’uv, and only in the Hlavné Námestie branch, is a huge traditional ceramic oven for roasting duck or goose… I’ve just got no idea how you’d get that one in your baggage allowance…
OPENING: Tuesday to Friday, midday to 6pm – and Saturdays 10am-2pm.
MAP LINK (Obchodná branch)