Oh no! Not another damn castle
Trip Start Jun 27, 2014
58Trip End Aug 24, 2014
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We passed the 4,000 mile mark on yesterday's bimble, but today it's a day off the bikes. We're going to a castle!
Orava Castle is built on a hill overlooking the village of Oravský Podzámok, on a bend in the River Orava, in north eastern Slovakia.
It was first mentioned in chronicles dating back to 1267 but there had certainly been fortifications long before that. It was added to many times from the 15th century to the 18th. Sadly it was badly damaged in a fire in 1800 that apparently burned for 14 days. It was again restored into what we see today.
Entry to the castle and St Martin's Chapel inside the walls costs €6 (but only €3.50 for the old git). All visitors must be in a group with a tour guide. There are English-speaking tours every few hours, so we joined Michael, our guide, for the 11am tour.
It is not for the unfit. Apart from the steep sloping paved paths and courtyards, Michael tells us at the end of the tour that we have climbed and descended 663 steps on our visit.
The castle is built on a number of levels dating from different periods in its history. The local tourist board has spent serious money here and it's a great experience. Michael, an IT student at Bratislava university working the summer, is very knowledgable and enthusiastic.
Francis Zilchy, owner and rebuilder after the great fire, established a museum here early in the 19th century, one of the first such in Slovakia. In the middle castle there are rooms displaying weaponry and furniture from various periods. Here and there pretty girls dressed in period costume sit gazing wistfully out of window niches, inviting photographs.
We climb higher and higher. The castle has been constructed on a sheer and jagged rocky outcrop and different levels take advantage of the natural stone, weaving the building around the rock faces.
From the highest walled courtyard there are views down over the village. We can see our hotel way down, and just get a glimpse of the bikes. In the picture the hotel is the building with the grey roofs stacked one above the other, centre of shot.
In one room there is a violin and guitar duo. They treat us to a bit of Mozart and a rendition of Henry VIII's "Greensleeves".
The final part of the tour is a visit to St. Martin's Chapel. It's a small and ornate mix of Lutheran and Catholic, depending on period. The large altar looks like marble but is in fact all wood carving, skilfully painted to resemble stone.
After the castle visit we go for a pizza. There is a huge thunderstorm so the planned short ride to find a local forest steam railway is abandoned. It's so beautiful here we just may be forced into staying another day. It's a hard life, but someone's got to do it!