Vlkolínec – a live village, is an inhabited village with permanent residents and “cottagers”, owners of wooden huts, seasonally staying in Vlkolínec.
Sidorovo, a dominant peak above Vlkolínec, belongs to the Great Fatra mountain, it is commonly referred to as Žiar, in geographical maps until 1950 it is found under Híravá, it shows signs of a prehistoric hill fort from 2500 years ago, amateur archaeological research (Ing. Ivan Houdek in 1931-32) confirmed Hallstatt and early Lusatian cultures in the form of broken ceramic pieces. Every year, the Vlkolínec Citizen Association organizes a starfish hiking tour to Sidorovo hill on Easter Sunday.
Natural monuments – protected natural formations from 1952: geological formations: “Krkavá” Rock on the eastern slope of Sidorovo Hill. The cliff height is 22m, with area of 0.26ha, growing on the top of this limestone formation is a group of conifers of the Scots pine. “Vlčia” Rock is a travertine strata formation in the form of a terrace steeply falling into the Trlenská Valley. Situated at the top of the terrace is the building of the Jesuit monastery convalescent home in Ružomberok. “Doggerské” Rocks are situated in the Trlenská Valley with area of 0.17ha, they are a karst of natural outcrop of Jurassic strata of radiolarite evolution from Dogger era in the Great Fatra.
Flora represented by valuable plant communities: damp habitats in the Trlenská Valley and below Borovník: broad-leaved marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis Rchb), bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata L.), bird’s-eye primrose (Primula farinosa L.), sheathed cotton-grass (Eriophorum vaginatum L.); limestone cliffs are the home of bear’s ear primrose (Primula auricula L.); peripheries of woods are the home of grassland and herbaceous communities: clematis (Clemantis alpina), lady’s-slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus L.), European columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris L.). Possible vegetation consists of spruce-pine and beech woods.
Fauna is typical of the mountain areas of central Europe, animals living here include brown bear (Ursus arctos), grey wolf (Canis lupus), Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)
The first (preserved) written mention of Vlkolínec comes from 1461 (Wylkovinecz), the village was and still is a part of the town of Ružomberok, which was granted town privileges in 1318. However, shortly after, on July 9, 1376, king Louis I the Great ordered mayors and residents of all villages situated within the Ružomberok town area (town “streets”: Černová, Biely Potok, Vlkolínec, Villa Ludrová) to pay taxes to the town (collecta) and to seek representatives of Ružomberok in cases of conflicts, which was the beginning of their dependency.
Peasants and tenant farmers were lieges, peasants were owners of a farmstead, a house and a piece of land, tenant farmers were tenants of a house in the village.
The rebellion of four streets, or the conflict of “streets” with the town in 1771. From the oldest times, the outer streets of Černová, Biely Potok, Ludrová and Vlkolínec have been a part of the town of Ružomberok (there are records of city council elections (1598), two senators were elected from each village), however, there were conflicts about the use of the common town area (logging in the woods, fishing, grazing of pastures and meadows by livestock). The magistrate of Ružomberok impeded the “people of streets” from using the common town area and forcibly captured livestock, issued monetary and physical fines and punishments, the magistrate did not consider the inhabitants of the four streets to be townsmen with equal rights, on the contrary, they were seen by the magistrate as lieges (the town forced them to pay to the Likava nobility a portion of the monetary census which the town itself was obliged to pay to the Likava nobility), and so in 1771, the conflict between the town and the streets culminated, the streets wanted to become independent from Ružomberok in a legal, lawful way, but they did not succeed and riots broke out. The person behind the riots was a Ružomberok’s craftsman, a cooper called Ondrej Krička, who agitated the unsatisfied people of the streets and was joined by other leaders from the unsatisfied villages, Adam Púček from Biely Potok, Martin Hlásny from Ludrová, and Michal Laurinček from Vlkolínec. In 1775, at the request of the town of Ružomberok, the “streets” were occupied by the imperial army. The male population fled to the mountains, fields were left untended, women and children were left behind to be tyrannized by mercenaries who stayed settled in the streets until 1777, when the difficult survival conditions forced the population of the streets to surrender. (Only Vlkolínec proved its loyalty to the town in 1777). The three popular leaders of the riots were sentenced to strict imprisonment in Segedín and after serving the sentence they remained under permanent supervision.
The folk architecture of Vlkolínec is architecture typical of mountainous areas, the basic building material is wood from the surrounding woods, (stone was used as building material only for granaries and storage chambers). Levelling of the sloping terrain is achieved by means of a high stone underpinning, the skirting creates a colourful contrast to the walls of the log houses. Irregularities of the walls were repaired using clay, which was whitewashed and then painted with colour twice a year, in spring and autumn. The inner walls of the log houses were also levelled out with clay and painted after drying. The floor in the entrance hall and the storage chamber was commonly made of rammed earth, the room had wooden flooring.
Log houses: basic technique of wood architecture is log layering, placing of hewed tree trunks horizontally on top of each other, without a frame of vertical pillars at places where the beams of two walls form a cross, and they are joined by mortising. The filler used to be moss, which had the role of sealing of structural gaps in between the individual hewed logs. The primary purpose was to protect against wind (draft) and cold, as well as to maintain the heat from the fireplace, or the furnace. Moss was placed in between the individual logs already at the time of building the structure and clay was filled into the individual gaps only after completing of the structure, serving aesthetic purposes, in addition to many others. The log houses in Vlkolínec have three rooms (main room, entrance hall, storage chamber).
The main room was the biggest room in the house, the place for family life, it served a large family (sometimes more than one family, 2 generations), not only for sleeping, cooking and eating, but also for all house chores and for protection of offspring of domestic animals during winter, in some houses there was a hole dug in the room, which served for storage of potatoes.
The entrance hall: an entrance room placed in the centre of the house, which over time changed into a kitchen – back section of the entrance hall, as a kitchen with a furnace and a fireplace for cooking, the smoke was exhausted through an opening in the ceiling (“smoker”) into the attic, which was also the space for smoking of meat and shingles, which were smoked in the so-called cages, the fireplace also served as a heater for the bread oven located in the room. (At the beginning of the 20th century, the smoke was exhausted through a chimney from the brick furnace).
The storage chamber was a dark room with a single window, it served as storage space for food and for grain stored in the chests called “štoky”, there was also a barrel with cabbage, farm tools and wooden dishes. Occasionally, the chamber was also used for sleeping.
“Humná” were wooden barns, farm buildings with a working area and supplies, located at the back side of the house, closing the yard.
The stable stood separately or it was joined to the barn, serving for domestic animals, along with sheds and sheep pens, called “záčiny”.
Wooden shingles are a type of wooden roofing made by splitting of softwood, which would last for about 30 years. The first step in the manual production process was the selection of a tree with a straight trunk, which was then cut using a two-man saw into even blocks, depending on the desired length of shingles. The blocks were split by an axe into plates of the desired shingle thickness, and the prepared plates were further processed by carving with a two-handed knife on a carving bench. Subsequently, using a special knife – “pažák”, small grooves are cut into the thicker side, which are needed for joining of the individual shingles. The shingle roofs of Vlkolínec houses are of saddle type, finished by angled shields with length of approximately 5 rows of shingles. At the top, the shields are finished with a half-circle and a peg (on some houses, the bottom plating of the half-circle is decorated or marked with the year inscription, a cross, or the name of the builder).
The creek in Vlkolínec creates an axis of the settlement, with communication running along both sides of the creek, water from the creek is distributed through wooden conduits with 40cm diameter (to allow the women in Vlkolínec to wash laundry and bring water to the cattle), however, today it no longer creates an axis of the entire area, as it is led away from the road in the central part of the village, between houses no. 8 and no. 9, into the gardens and out of the village.
The well is situated in the centre of Vlkolínec, the log well with a winch used to serve as the only source of potable water. (Today, the village has a water distribution line).
The belfry was built in 1770, the structure of the walls is made of logs, the outer side of the walls is covered with shingles, the shingle roof is ended with a cross, the belfry has two floors, originally it served as a timekeeping instrument for announcing the time of prayer. The bell ringer would ring the bell three times a day: in the morning, at noon and in the evening, the bell was also rung when someone died. The belfry also functioned as a border between the upper and the lower end of Vlkolínec, dividing the people in Vlkolínec into “the Lower End-ers and the Upper End-ers”.
The church is situated at the eastern end of the area, it was originally built as a chapel by the road leading to the cemetery. It is a one-nave building in the Baroque-Classicistic style, with a presbytery and with a tower built into the facade. It is consecrated to the Visitation of Virgin Mary at St. Elizabeth, the object of the consecration were flowers symbolizing fertility, based on that, the annual village festival in Vlkolínec takes place on July 2, another festival takes place on the feast day of Our Lady of the Snows, on August 5, to commemorate the “miraculous” snowing in the middle of summertime and the stopping of the plague epidemic.
The school in Vlkolínec in the 18th and 19th centuries was a people’s school in a wooden house in the centre of the village, and later, with the growing population of children, at the time of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the town of Ružomberok built a brick school – a one-classroom school, with a compulsory 6-year attendance and one teacher. After the establishment of the 1st Czechoslovak Republic, in 1918, there was a new education act in force establishing 8-year compulsory attendance (one of the local teachers was Jozef Májek, who died in Spain in 1936 as an international brigade soldier at the age of 25), currently the building is the seat of the Folk Art Gallery. Today, children from Vlkolínec attend the elementary schools in the town.
Hay barns – stalls, served for storage of hay or for housing of livestock during winter or summer, they were placed throughout the town, there were stalls on each of the meadows around Vlkolínec (there were approximately 50 hay barns on the meadows surrounding Máliné), and in winter, hay was brought home for feeding of the livestock, on a sleigh – called “krňačky”.
Agriculture in Vlkolínec. On the terraced fields, people used to grow cereals – “grain crops”, most frequently barley, for flour and groats, grain for poultry, barley straw with weed overgrow was cut up into mash to be used as feed for cattle and sheep during winter. Rye – “wheat”, its straw was placed in the straw mattresses called “strožliaky”, on which people slept. Oat for its durability. Grain was threshed manually, using a flail, in wooden barns (“humná”) on the thrashing floor (“holohumnica”), then it was sieved in a sieve (“riečica”) in order to remove straw and ear fragments, then the threshed grain was picked up with a wooden shovel and winnowed, and finally, the grain was sieved in a special sieve with only grain-size openings. Potatoes – “švábka” and cabbage (pressed sauerkraut) were an integral part of the diet in Vlkolínec.
Pea was grown in Vlkolínec on the pea fields, the ripe pea was harvested, left to dry and threshed using a flail, the empty pods were eaten by the cattle. Pea was a typical rustic food, it was cooked into porridges, and during the unfruitful years, it was ground into flour and added to the bread flour, it was considered to be a magical instrument in superstitions for its multiplicity, it was a symbol of prosperity, cooked peas were a part of the traditional Christmas Eve meal in Vlkolínec.
Beans, currently popular among legumes, Vlkolínec bean soup, which is prepared by the Vlkolínec Citizen Association at programme events.
Flax and hemp, plants used in textiles, which were for centuries planted by women in Vlkolínec, home-processed and woven into linen canvas and hemp canvas. Torn off stems of these plants were dried and then soaked in a soaking pond, after drying they were crushed with a beater, shook in a shaker, the fibres were hackled on a hackle and then a tow was prepared for spinning of thread. In Vlkolínec, flax and hemp seeds were beaten in a mortar for oil, which was used to grease potato porridge during fasting.
Potatoes and cabbage were the basis of the diet in Vlkolínec.
Common fruit trees in Vlkolínec were, in particular, resistant varieties of plums and pears – “hniličky”, which were dried in the bread oven into cookies.
Sheep were kept in Vlkolínec in large numbers, at the beginning of the 20th century there were still 2 sheep farms in Vlkolínec with 500 sheep. Sheep wool was processed into cloth, which was sold at the market in Ružomberok.
Woodcutting. Men from Vlkolínec earned money as woodcutters, they cut down trees during summer in the surrounding mountains, and then, in winter, they transported them on sleighs – “krňačky” all the way to the town.
Working with wood. The inhabitants of Vlkolínec used to be well-known carpenters, they used to build wooden houses in the villages of Lower Liptov, they used to chop shingles, and do woodcarving. Originally, the traditional Slovak woodcarving was associated with production of dishes for the shepherds (wooden mugs “črpáky”, moulds for “oštiepok” and other types of cheese) and dishes for the household (kitchenware, wooden dishes, spatulas, spoons, pounders, whisks, …). At present day, traditional woodcutters create decorative objects, artistic reliefs and plastic works, which are annually displayed for the admiration of the public, during an August event called Sunday in Vlkolínec.