Saving the Best for Last
Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
79Trip End Aug 26, 2010
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It was an Articular wooden church just outside of the town of Svätý Kríž. When I got within a few kilometers, I started to see tourist signs for the church. Despite my experience at Hronsek, I'm an optimist, so I took that as a good sign. This time, I was correct. The church door was open, and I didn't have to track-down a key-holder.
The Evangelical church was originally located in Paludza, but moved to an empty plot south of Svätý Kríž in the 1970's because Paludza lay within an area designated to become the Liptovská Mara reservoir. Like most of the other Protestant churches, it was very large
The interior was rather plain compared to Leštiny and Kežmarok. There was a row of painted panels around one of the balconies, though. It included the usual selection of Bible scenes, but also paintings of a band located near the organ. Most of the band members looked just like regular musicians, but there was a king playing a harp and an angel playing an organ. Another unusual, but logical, substitution was one of the Bible-scene panels showing a lamb carrying the cross and being harassed by soldiers instead of Jesus. A lamb was also shown standing on a skeleton, a devil, and a person, so one of the painters must have really liked the lamb symbolism.
Finishing with the church, I drove on to Orava Castle. I had noticed it yesterday while driving around tracking-down churches, and it looked impressive enough to warrant another two-hour drive back to the area. Returning today, I think it was the best castle I've seen on the trip, and I've seen a lot of great castles in Slovakia.
It had a good location, on top of a cliff overlooking a river in a tree-covered mountain valley. There had been a fortification on the spot since at least the 13th century. Much of the current shape was from the 16th and 17th centuries, and reflected the neo-Gothic style popular at the time. A "fortnight" long fire swept through the lower portions of the castle in the 1800's, and two modern renovations had been done with the most recent taking place in the middle of the 20th century
The castle had never been conquered or dismantled, and the stonework survived the fire. It had a great multi-level layout, with a series of three gates leading up to the lower courtyard, several separate buildings on different peaks of the cliff, and an mid-sized free-standing chapel. One of the "renovations" had filled in the upper building with the same sort of poured-concrete and tilled floors I saw at Trenčín castle. The lower building had been fixed as part of the first modern renovation and used wooden flooring and architectural details.
Going inside of the castle gate required joining a tour. It was only offered in Slovakian, but it seemed like an interesting tour. It lasted for an hour and a half, and it was too bad I didn't understand Slovakian because even not knowing the explanations of everything, it was still entertaining for the most part. There was a somewhat random and totally unnecessary natural history exhibit, complete with stuffed animals and shiny minerals, but we didn't spend much time in that room. Another unrelated exhibit had a small number of folk items from the area, be we also passed through that quickly enough it didn't get boring. My only disappointment was that we couldn't go all the way to the top as parts of the the upper sections were closed, possibly either for renovation or for need of it.
We still did quite a bit of climbing. On the way back down, we descended on a spiral staircase cut into the cliff. Several large passages had been cut through the cliff as the castle consumed basically every spare inch of the hill. At Trenčín Castle, the guide said the top three Slovakian castles in size were the bland-tastic Bratisalva, followed by Spiš, and Trenčín
The impressive castle was a nice way to end the Slovakian leg of my trip. Tomorrow I'll return my rental car and head on to Austria for just under a week. The Austrian stop wasn't originally planned, but since the trip was over two months long, I had to buy my airplane ticket before I'd figured out exactly when I would be done with what I intended to see. When I figured out my itinerary for Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia, I still had a few days left at the end to fill. In Budapest, I decided I'd stop in Vienna since everything in Budapest seemed to be trying to out-do that city, so I could compare the two for myself.