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.

Smolenice: Wheel-breakers and parachute-makers

By James Thomson

    Smolenice Castle
 Smolenice Castle
 Photos by James Thomson

Smolenice is a small village nestling at the foot of the Malé Karpaty, as they roll down towards the plain on which Trnava stands. It is a picturesque spot, with the romantic 19th-century Smolenice castle behind the village and Záruby, the Little Carpathians’ highest peak, rising above them both.

In the grounds of the village's 17th-century church is a family crypt of the aristocratic Pálffys, surrounded by statues of four missionaries, and bearing the familiar Pálffy emblem of a stag above a broken wheel (the same motif also appears in Trnava Region’s coat of arms).

It represents a family myth in which a deer ran under the family's carriage on a night-time journey, breaking its wheel and thereby preventing the carriage and its occupants from plunging into a crevasse. ¬Whatever truth there is in the tale, the crest which recalls it can be found right across western and central Slovakia, such were the family's huge property holdings.

Smolenice also has an 18th-century pillar of shame, used to tie up transgressors in order to persuade them to repent (and also, presumably, to provide some amusement for their neighbours) and a monument to the Slovak-born inventor of the first military parachute, Štefan Banič.

Banič was born in the village but actually designed the revolutionary device after emigrating to the United States, which was the first country to use it (in World War I). The monument conscientiously lists its US patent number. A room of the Molpír Museum behind it is dedicated to his memory.

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

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