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14 Feb 2018

Valentine's Day: An ode to Slovakia's Romeo-Juliet and their love

Slovakia's Banska Stiavnica is the home to a historic love story, of poet Andrej Sladkovic and Maria Pischlova.

In 1844, Andrej immortalized his doomed romance with Maria in a 2900-line poem called Marina, world's longest ode to love, which is now considered a Slovak national treasure.

This Valentine's Day, an exhibition in the Slovakian town celebrates Marina, the fabled couple and love.

Here's more.

In context

This Valentine's Day, looking at Slovakia's 'Love Bank'

The story of the star-crossed lovers

Cupid struck Andrej and Maria when they were 14. A poor student, Andrej used to tutor Maria at her parental home. Maria's parents, however, refused the match and got her married to a wealthy gingerbread-maker instead. Andrej took to priesthood and wed a clerk's daughter.

The 'Love Bank'

Marina is at the heart of the Slovakian consciousness

Marina is deeply embedded in the Slovakian culture. It's even on the compulsory reading list in elementary schools.

To build on the folklore, Maria's Banska Stiavnica house has been turned into a museum. A long basement tunnel now serves as a vault with Marina printed on 100,000 drawers, one for every alphabet, gap, and punctuation, like the original manuscript. It's called the 'Love Bank.'

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Andrej-Maria continue to inspire lovers even after 174 years

Wanting to preserve memories of their romance, people from across the world visit the museum to make deposits in the Love Bank, which has become a treasure trove of love stories.

However, couples can submit contributions only on selected dates in a year.

The exhibition also has a "love-o-meter," which lets lovers assess the strength of their affection by measuring their body current.

The next Verona?

The organizers wish for Banska Stiavnica to become a haven for lovers worldwide, much like Verona and Paris. If people can flock to see the balcony of fictitious Romeo and Juliet, then the real story of Andrej and Maria will definitely interest them, they believe.

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