Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Slovakia  , Trenčiansky,
Monday, August 9, 2010

I got up first thing in the morning to go back to Trenčín Castle. I was at the gate when it opened at 9am, but I didn't get to see the castle until 10am, because that was the time of the first English-language tour. I was so excited to get an English-language tour, waiting an hour wasn't a problem. I thought about it, and it was my first English-language tour since they scrambled around at Pannonhalma Abbey to find me a guide. I probably didn't appreciate it enough at the time.

Fortifications existed at Trenčín from probably the 11th century, during the Moravian period. With steep cliffs on three sides, the castle was never conquered. Turkish invaders did reach Trenčín, but they only pillaged the town while the residents hid safely inside the castle.

The tour started near the "Well of Love" with the guide telling the legend of a Turkish prince who dug the well in order to win back his kidnapped love--and then promptly debunking the myth. Most of the rest of the structures from the "lower" castle were missing. When the military value of the castle declined, it was abandoned, but the gunpowder was left in the magazine. Later, a great fire swept through the town and up the hill into the castle, where there was no one around to fight it, so it ignited the powder and blew-up the lower castle.

There were two versions of the tour, the short tour and the "grand" tour. I signed up for the grand tour, which was a good decision. The short tour ended at the door of the upper castle, so the rest of the group basically just got a little bit of castle history, but otherwise hadn't seen anything they couldn't have on their own. As I was the only English-speaker signed up for the grand tour, I had a private tour of the rest of the castle.

This was a good tour to take in English. Like at Banská Štiavnica's Old Castle, inside of the castle was mainly a museum. There was a lot of the guide explaining the exhibits and not much else to look at while he was talking because the Communists "restored" the castle interiors by pouring in lots of concrete and adding modern fixtures like tile flooring.

My guide was entertaining, and he spent a little extra time explaining things since I was the only person in the group. We were passed by a slightly larger group on the Slovakian-language tour. Much of the castle museum contained Renaissance and later paintings, mainly of the owners and their relatives. There were around 90 items in the collection. Originally, there were more than 200 paintings, but many were used for target practice and fuel by soldiers stationed there in the early 20th century.

I learned a lot about cosmetics of the 1700s. The giant wigs they wore were glued on by a mixture of grease and honey. That explained something I'd heard but not fully understood on my German-language tour of Esterházy Palace, where the guide was talking about ladies getting insects stuck in their hair. On top of that, the powder they used for whitening their skin was made from ground bone, chalk and lime, so many of the women in portraits had puffy eyes from allergies and reaction to the lime.

After Trenčín, I had two tiny Slovakian villages on my list for the day. The first was Čičmany. Čičmany was known for it's wooden houses painted with white geometrical designs. The village consisted of basically a single road. After taking some pictures, I decided to spend a little money in the town and went to a small museum.

There wasn't much in the museum. It was mainly just an excuse for visitors to peak inside two of the houses. Admission did include an amusing English-language audio guide in the form of a large, but portable, tape player. I did learn a little about the history of the buildings from the guide. Apparently, it wasn't until the early 20th century that villagers started painting the houses on all sides. At the time of my visit, most of the houses were more like family heirlooms than family homes, and were primarily used as vacation houses.

Of course, exiting the town, I couldn't help comparing Čičmany with Hollókő. Hollókő was more of a destination, with the castle to visit and plenty of stores to browse. Čičmany did have a handful of restaurants and guest houses, but there really wasn't much there to do other than take a few pictures of the houses and maybe buy a few postcards. While I was debating which village I liked better, I pulled into the parking lot at the edge of Vlkolinec, and it blew them both away.

The village itself was cute, although not as well decorated as Čičmany. Like Hollókő, Vlkolinec was recognized by UNESCO for preserving the features of a traditional village. The best part for me, though, was the setting. Vlkolinec was nestled in the mountains, surrounded by alpine meadows. There may have been some frolicking in the hills after the sun finally peaked out. If said activity did take place, which I will neither confirm nor deny, pictures of such an event, should they exist, will not appear in this blog.

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