For many Slovaks, Bojnice castle is the cream of the country's castle crop. That's no accident, says castle festival organiser Jozef Mikuláš Pálffy: although the communists neglected many monuments and historical sites as a matter of doctrine, Bojnice was actually used by top communists as a weekend getaway and private conference centre. As a result, Bojnice glittered while other castles crumbled.
"Whenever a travel guide is made about Slovakia," says the castle's marketing director Sylvia Maliariková proudly, "they use a picture of Bojnice for the cover."
The first written record of central Slovakia's Bojnice castle dates back to 1113 from the Zobor Abbey scrolls, in Latin. The original fortress was a wood structure with thick walls and a moat. It was turned into a stone fortification during a gradual process lasting throughout the 13th century under the Poznanovec family.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the castle became the renaissance seat of the local nobility and was soon expanded through the construction of two additional wings, built to offer more accommodations for guests.
In 1644, the castle was taken over, and given a baroque make-over, by the Pálffy family, a Hungarian noble family which from 17th to the 19th centuries was one of the richest and most influential in the Hungarian Kingdom. Count Ján Pálffy (1829 to 1908) was the last noble owner of the castle. After hiring Austrian architects in 1888, he renovated the zámok in the romantic style, according to chateaux he had seen on the river Loire in France and palaces in Venice.
Today, Pálffy's remains lie inside the castle in a red marble sarcophagus (one of the last stops on castle tours). When he died in Vienna, it was his wish that the castle be opened to the public, that he might share his accumulated wealth and treasures with common people. The collection is impressive, even though much of it was sold off after his death.
Some 300,000 to 400,000 visitors from around the world visit Bojnice each year. Several films have been shot at the castle, and some Bojnice natives even claim that the replica castle at California's Disney Land was modelled after their own. Although Disney Land told The Slovak Spectator that their castle was "partially influenced" by a castle in Neuschwanstein, Germany, the resemblance is indeed striking.
14. May 2001 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri