Bus to Spisske Castle
up the hill
Around the castle
down the hill
Tourist info was very helpful today. They gave us the timetable to get out to Spisske Hrad (Castle). This is one of the biggest castles in Slovakia.
Making our way the bus station, and hanging around for a while, we made it onto a bus. Hopefully going in the right direction. It was and after a fairly long trip through the countryside, as the highway is still under construction, we made it to the town below the castle.
There was a very nice town before, that had most of its old town walls still intact, and a walled off monastery, before we made it to Spisske. Here we were dropped beside the church. Making our way to the main town square, we got a good view of a few old buildings with the castle as the backdrop. The town itself is not that big, and most of it is not that old. However the main church needs a bit of pinning to prevent the front section from falling down.
Walking along the marked track took us past many old dilapidated houses that have probably needed work for the last couple of hundred years and to fields past the town. From here there is a half completed path leading up to the castle. This is a fairly steep walk, but we made it up eventually. Ok, so we stopped a few times to admire different aspects of the castle as they appeared, or enjoy the view looking out over the the town.
At the top we found there was another car park. Probably for the tourist buses, as the people on them don’t have the time to walk all this way up, as well as the people that work at the castle itself. Entering through the main gate, we found that the people working here couldn’t even be bothered walking that far and park their cars in the main courtyard. Also surprising was the amount of tourist shops that are up here. A couple of Cafes and a few tourist shops. Then there is the ticket office. This is to be expected as it is a Unesco site. Listed in 1993. The bill however was not too bad and it was only a couple of Euros each. Even the audio guide is a deposit only. I like it. This is unusual for UNESCO, and we hope to see more of this, as there are lots of sites in the region that are listed by them (See previous blogs for feelings on UNESCO).
Setting out we won’t say too much about the castle other than it was built at the turn of the 13th century. Changing hands every hundred years or so depending on who was favoured by the King at the time. In 1531 it was given to Thurzo family. They did a lot of work on the complex and turned it into a Renaissance Era Castle/Palace that is the main outline of the castle today. From 1636-1949 it was owned by the Csasky family. They were not that interested and preferred their country mansions. In 1780 it burnt down and was never rebuilt. There are a couple of stories relayed by the audio guide about different periods, and the thought it was burnt down when there was a problem with one of the guards’ still.
It is a beautiful ruin to walk around, with Romanesque archways, large baileys and courtyards. The buildings themselves have the outer walls made from stone and are still there, but everything else was destroyed in the fire. Still, it is a nice ruin to walk about, and at the end there is a small museum set up with cells and memorabilia around from the last time it was used for an Artillery regiment.
The last section is the chapel. It is the Chapel of St. Elisabeth – She was raised as a child here, was married, Widowed, went to live with her Uncle then joined the Nuns and finally died at the grand old age of 24. Apparently she did so much during this time that she was made a saint four years later!
There was also a small museum at the end of the Castle. It depicted its use as an Artillery station, along with some history and the mandatory torture chamber!
The castle section itself is fairly large, but what makes it one of the largest is the outside area within the last set of walls build around the mountainside. This is now grassy land within the walls, and a few broken and dilapidated towers. There was a sign up here, listing the animals you could see, and we came across one of them – spermaphiles. A gopher type animal. Needless to say this was the butt of many days worth of humour to us. They were cute little things, not really photogenic,yet you could still see them darting around in the grass.
Walking around the battlements, we saw an interesting thing on the hill below us. There were lots of white stones laid out. These were made to be seen from the main road going past, but we could get small views of it. We found out later that it is a very old design found on ancient coins. It was built a few years ago by Andrew Rogers. He is an Australian Landscape artist that goes around the world creating massive landscape art.
We went up the tower (of course!) The first part is a rickety stairway on the outside, but after you go in, you can wind up the original stone staircase that is embedded within the walls itself. Steep and narrow, but well worth the effort.
The only issue we had with the entire visit were Cars in the courtyard. They could have parked down in the car park, after dropping off the days supplies. It was a bit of a let down over an otherwise fine effort.
On the way back, we decided to walk around the mountain to try and find the cave entrances. Apparently these have been used for storage, escape (when the fortress was blockaded, the inhabitants used these to go out and do flying attacks, or kidnap princesses to take back for ransom, or let enemies in to kill the children of the lords. Not sure about the last, as we don’t know how the enemy knew about it!) and in the deeper section they found the bones of an old Roman trader complete with his purse of coins.
The castle is full of history and stories, both good and bad, and is a great place to visit. Making our way back a different way, through the fields, we spent a bit of time walking through the town before our bus back. Trying to find a magnificent building we could see from the castle itself. Walking around, we eventually found it, only to discover that it is now a school. A good use for the building that at one stage was a palace, but we couldn’t go in to check it out.
The bus back was not that interesting, as we went the same way,and the few towns we passed through seemed pretty similar. However one was walled off, and it would have been good to visit,but we were unsure if we could get a latter bus back.