These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.


By James Thomson

    Part of the castle ruins at Devín.
 Part of the castle ruins at Devín.
 Photos by James Thomson

Devín is where the Morava, which flows south from the Czech Republic, meets the Danube. Unsurprisingly, given such a strategic location, it is also the site of a picturesque castle. Once a Roman fort and part of the empire's line of defences along the Danube, some archaeologists claim to have found evidence of a three-apse church dating from the period of the Great Moravian Empire, a Dark Ages-forerunner of Slovakia. What is rather more certain is that it became an important castle under Hungarian rule, ending up in the hands of the ubiquitous Pálffy family.

The castle is now a ruin, though large chunks of its upper, middle and lower sections remain and are open to visitors.

The cycle path starts from beneath the castle, next to a large concrete monument, pock-marked by bullets holes, to the dozens killed by communist-era border guards as they tried to flee across the river to Austria during the Cold War. Access to the whole area was heavily restricted during communism: as if to remind you, occasional red-and-white signs still warn that you are near a state border, despite the fact that even the official border crossings are now unmanned.

Another reminder of the Cold War period is a remnant of the Iron Curtain, which appears alongside the path a few kilometres north, near the town of Devínska Nová Ves. Behind the barbed wire is a concrete pill-box, though this of an earlier vintage, built by the inter-war Czechoslovak state as part of its national defensive network. The defences were never used, owing mainly to British and French capitulation to Hitler's demands at Munich in October 1938, and the disintegration of the First Czechoslovak Republic that ensued.

Shortly afterwards, acknowledging the potential strength of the defences, the Third Reich (of which Austria was then a part) annexed this section of the east bank of the Morava, along with the nearby north bank of the Danube towards Bratislava, and the whole of present-day Slovak territory south of the Danube. The areas remained technically German territory until early 1945.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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