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14 Must See Castles in Slovakia

Thanks to its turbulent and constantly changing history, we are able to marvel at a wide array of castles in Slovakia, which are extremely varied in both their function and appearance. Below I take a look at 14 must see Slovak castles, all of which are well worth a visit.

DEVÍN CASTLE

Devín Castle is situated 5 miles West of Bratislava on the Danube, and just a stone throw away from Austria.

The castle was destroyed in 1809 by Napoleon’s army, and today it lies in ruins.

Near the castle is a memorial to Ľudovít Štúr, who fought for Slovak independence from Hungary, and made Devín Castle a symbol of Slovakia’s glorious past.

BRATISLAVA CASTLE

Often referred to as an upside-down table, Bratislava Castle is certainly unique with an original design that is unmistakable.

Parts of the castle are open to the public and contain exhibitions of the Slovak National Museum.

There is a very good exposition on the History of Musical Instruments, as well as a historical furniture exposition and a collection of exhibits called ‘The Jewels of Slovakia’s Remote Past’.

ORAVA CASTLE

Orava CastleOrava Castle is one of the most well-known in Slovakia, with people coming from all parts of the world to admire both its historical and aesthetic values. Today, the castle houses archaeological, ethnographical and natural history expositions. The original dungeons of the castle are also open to the public and house an exposition about medieval justice.

A guided tour of the castle in English is well worth the admission fee and includes amongst other things a demonstration of medieval hawkers and a sword fight between knights over their fair lady.

For those of you that venture to the top towers in the castle, the view over the Orava is simply stunning. All in all, Orava Castle makes for a great family day out.

SPIŠ CASTLE

Spis CastleSpiš Castle, with an area of over 4 ha, is one of the largest castles in Central Europe.

In 1993, Spiš Castle was included in UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.

Today, the castle houses the Spiš Museum. This permanent exhibition, and the superb views of the surrounding countryside that the castle offers you, makes Spiš Castle well worth a visit.

KEZMAROK CASTLE

The Castle at Kezmarok is the only fully preserved castle in the Spis region. It was originally a medieval Gothic fortress, built to protect the town of Kezmarok.

The first exhibition was opened in the castle in 1931, and today the whole of the interior has been given over to the museum, which displays a number of permanent expositions and many beautiful exhibits.

ČERVENÝ KAMEŇ CASTLE

Cerveny Kamen CastleOne of the best preserved castles in Slovakia, Červený Kamen is situated at the foothills of the Small Carpathian mountain range. The castle has a unique complex of monumental cellars, as well as an extensive collection of original household artefacts.

The castle gallery contains works from old masters, predominantly from Central Europe, and there is also a very good military exhibition.

ČACHTICE CASTLE

At the beginning of the C17th, Čachtice Castle belonged to the Countess Elizabeth Báthory.

As any vampire enthusiast will tell you, this was the infamous Blood Countess of Čachtice, who according to legend, bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. In reality, the Countess was one of the biggest serial killers in history, who tortured and murdered over 600 women from the nearby villages.

BECKOV CASTLE

Beckov Castle10 miles South of Trenčín, you can visit the ruin of Beckov Castle, which lies on a steep rock face overlooking the village of Beckov.

In the village itself, at the North end of the main square, there is a museum, which documents the castle’s history. It is from outside the museum, where you are able to enjoy the best view of the castle.

TRENČÍN CASTLE

Trenčín Castle overlooks the town from its place on a high rocky headland.

Trencin CastleToday, Trenčín Castle is owned by the Trenčín Museum, and there are a number of expositions housed in various parts of the castle including an interesting exhibition on ‘Present Slovak Heraldic Production’.

Engraved into the castle rock is an inscription by the Roman army, which dates back to 179AD.

BOJNICE CASTLE

One of the best known historical monuments in Slovakia, Bojnice Castle is also one of the most beautiful.

Bojnice CastleToday, the fairy-tale castle houses art and historical expositions all year round. There is also a falconry in the grounds, and the oldest lime tree in Slovakia.

However, it is the unconventional cultural activities, such as the International Ghost and Spirit festival, which set it apart from other castles in Slovakia.

BUDATÍN CASTLE

Budatin CastleBudatín Castle belongs to the water castles, that in the past were protected by streams and moats.

The water castles were built in the period after the Tatar invasion throughout Slovakia, to help prevent any further invasions.

Tinker Exhibition at Budatin CastleToday, there are three exhibitions of the Považské museum housed here.

Both the archaeological and the historical exhibitions are worth a quick look, but the real attraction here is the Tinker Art exhibition, which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.

KREMNICA CASTLE

The dominant feature of the town castle is the gothic church of St. Catherine, the patron Saint of Kremnica. The church’s short and wide two-aisled nave is not typical of the gothic style.

Kremnica CastleThe church’s tower, which was added to the church in the second half of the C15th, was used as the watchman’s tower in medieval times as it was the highest point in the castle.

Today, the tower, which has 127 steps, offers spectacular views of Kremnica and the surrounding countryside.

ZVOLEN CASTLE

Zvolen CastleThe position of Zvolen Castle is quite unique in that it is located right in the town centre. The castle was built between 1370-1380, originally intended as a comfortable accommodation for royal guests.

Today, this well-preserved castle is home to exhibitions of the Slovak National Gallery. These exhibitions include the “Old European Art” exposition, “From the history of Zvolen” exposition, and also various works by notable Slovak artists from C20th.

BANSKÁ ŠTIAVNICA NEW CASTLE

Banska Stiavnica CastleThe new castle, in Banská Štiavnica, was built during the years 1564-1571, as part of the town’s fortification system.

Up on a hill, overlooking the town, the castle was defensively in a brilliant strategic position.

This same position now provides you with a beautiful view of the historic town and the surrounding area. Today, the castle houses a very interesting exposition about the Habsburg – Turkish wars.

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Voľby 2002 – Slovak General Election

What with the recent Presidential Elections in 2016, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the very first election that Robert Fico participated in, back in 2002. There now follows an excerpt from ‘Voľby 2002’, taken from my book Letters from Slovakia, now available as a paperback, from Amazon, or as an ebook, on the Kindle.

Friday, early evening, on the 20th September 2002, and all across the country, the people of Slovakia were arriving at polling stations to vote for their next government. Voters casting their votes before 14:00 on Saturday, did so with the knowledge that this particular election would have a huge impact on their country’s future.

The Slovak General Election (Voľby) is slightly more complicated than elections back home. The Slovak voter doesn’t just have to decide whether to vote for a left-wing, centre or right-wing party, instead, they must choose between an incredible 25 political parties. With so many different parties, splitting so many of the votes, an outsider may be forgiven for thinking that it’s all a bit of a lottery.

Voľby 2002 is of particular importance to Slovakia. Membership to NATO and the European Union is not that far off for this small central European country, with a population of less than 6 million. However, it has been made crystal clear to Slovakia that she will not be allowed to join either organisation if former Prime Minister, Vladimír Mečiar, is to play any part whatsoever in the new government.

It was Mečiar’s HZDS party that led the various opinion polls leading up to the elections, hugely popular with pensioners throughout the country. In second place, not far behind HZDS was the young, populist lawyer, Robert Fico, and his SMER (Direction) party. SMER had carried out an extensive election campaign, and the opinion polls showed that the youthful Fico was extremely popular amongst the country’s first-time voters.

However, if the opinion polls were to be believed, neither of these left wing parties would secure the 51% of votes needed to form a government. It looked odds on that Slovakia would have another coalition government ruling the country, and as it was unlikely that any party would side with the Mečiar-led HZDS, Fico was perhaps the favourite to be Slovakia’s next Prime Minister.

The current Prime Minister was Mikuláš Dzurinda, the leader of the SDK government, a coalition of a number of parties from throughout the political spectrum. Responsible for lifting Slovakia from the position of the black sheep of Central Europe to a country on the brink of EU membership, Dzurinda is very well respected in the West. However, the harsh economic measures that were needed to transform Slovakia have come at a price, and at home, Dzurinda is widely seen as the man who has brought mass unemployment and rising prices to the country.

Indeed, leading up to the election the opinion polls showed Dzurinda’s new party, the SDKÚ, lying in third place, and a long way behind HZDS and SMER. But then opinion polls rarely get these things spot on, and so on Friday afternoon, as we went to a nearby school to cast our votes, I had a feeling that Voľby 2002 was going to be a close run thing…

If you would like to read the rest of Voľby 2002 – Slovak General Election and many other great stories about a British ex-pat living in Slovakia, then why not purchase my book, Letters From Slovakia, available as a paperback, from Amazon, or as an ebook, on the Kindle or via iTunes.