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.



Small Carpathians

Ostrý Kameň

    Ostrý Kameň
 Ostrý Kameň
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Only 10 kilometres northeast of Plavecké Podhradie is the village of Buková. Following the red-signed tourist path from the burned cottage, Brezinka, you will get to the castle of Ostrý Kameň (Sharp Rock) in around 45 minutes.

The castle, built in the 13th century as a royal castle defending an important trade route, was named after the sharp rock on which it stands.

In 1707 it was occupied by imperial armies. As the route of long-distance trade routes had changed, the castle lost its defensive function. Then, because of its disadvantageous location and frequent property disputes, it was abandoned and from the 18th century, fell into disrepair.

The ruins are tightly joined with limestone rock. These offer fine views and if you follow the red signs, you can climb the highest mountain in the Small Carpathians - Záruby (767 metres) in 30 minutes.

Once you have returned from the hike, you can swim in the Buková reservoir or cool down in the only cave in western Slovakia. Driny cave is situated only 10 kilometres east of Buková, near the town of Smolenice.

Plavecký Hrad

You can get to Plavecké Podhradie by road no. D2 from Bratislava to Lozorno and by 501 northward to Jablonica. You can observe the silhouette of the castle at the bottom of Small Carpathian from far away. The blue-signed tourist path leads to the castle, the walk taking approximately 30 minutes.

This defensive frontier castle was built in the second half of the 13th century. Together with the castles of Korlátka and Ostrý Kameň, it defended the commercial, so-called Czech road joining Bohemia and Budin. Named after the Plavci tribe who guarded the border with Hungary, it is not, as many would presume, a 'swimming castle' (plavecký means for swimmers in Slovak).

In the late 16th century, the Fugger family and then the Balassa family took possession of the Gothic castle and converted it into an archetypal Renaissance fortress.

At the end of the 16th century, the printing house of Peter Bornemisza - one of the first in Slovakia - was sited here.

During the Rákoczy revolt, the castle was occupied by rebels and in 1706 conquered by the imperial army. It was then that the castle started to deteriorate.

The castle offers fine views of the Záhorská lowland and the hill of Pohanská where a fortified settlement from the Iron Age is located.

Devín

No castle plays as important a role in Slovak history or consciousness as Devín, whose ruin rises defiantly - and dramatically - out of a jagged rock formation at the confluence of the Danube and Moravia rivers just outside Bratislava.

The hill was originally fortified during Roman times, from which effort traces remain today. The Great Moravian empire added to the fortifications in the 10th century, and from this perch, Moravian warriors won two major (if Pyrrhic) victories over their Frankish overlords. Hungarian nobles took it over in the 13th century, using it as a fort. A palace was added in the 15th century, and for a time it fell under the ownership of the notorious Báthory family (see the text on Čachtice Castle).

In 1809, it fell to ruin at the whim of no less a figure than Napolean Bonaparte, who was leading his army to a confrontation with Habsburg forces. It later became a central symbol for the Slovak National Revival, whose central figure, Ľudovít Štúr, organised a series of publicity stunts there to whip up revolutionary fervour leading up to the failed insurrection of 1848.

Lonely, austere, proud, Devín Castle has ever since served as a symbol of Slovak national aspirations.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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