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EVERY WEEK, THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO A SLOVAK CASTLE AND ITS ENVIRONS, LISTING ACTIVITIES AND CULTURAL EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE FORTRESS

The Pearl of Orava

WHEN heading from the northern Slovak town of Ružomberok north to the village of Oravský Podzámok through Dolný Kubín, one can see a large castle rising above the Orava river. The Orava Castle, also known as the "pearl of Orava", stands on the 112-metre high cliff. It has been an inspiration to many folk songs, poems and legends.
The castle was built around the 13th century on land that had been occupied by a small wooden castle. The fortress used to have a strategic defensive function on an important Hungarian-Polish road running below it. What you see today has been formed over many centuries, and in its architecture one can find elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Roman styles.
Various owners gave the castle various shapes. The first, most significant changes were made by the cruel knight Peter Komorovsky, who enlarged and fortified the castle.


Orava Castle is above Oravský Podzámok village, 11 kilometres north of Dolný Kubín. From the village train station follow the blue marks up to the castle. It is open daily from 8:30 to 17:30. Tel: 043/5816-111. For more information check www.oravamuzeum.sk.
photo: Ján Svrček

WHEN heading from the northern Slovak town of Ružomberok north to the village of Oravský Podzámok through Dolný Kubín, one can see a large castle rising above the Orava river. The Orava Castle, also known as the "pearl of Orava", stands on the 112-metre high cliff. It has been an inspiration to many folk songs, poems and legends.

The castle was built around the 13th century on land that had been occupied by a small wooden castle. The fortress used to have a strategic defensive function on an important Hungarian-Polish road running below it. What you see today has been formed over many centuries, and in its architecture one can find elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Roman styles.

Various owners gave the castle various shapes. The first, most significant changes were made by the cruel knight Peter Komorovsky, who enlarged and fortified the castle.

Legend has it that Komorovsky had a habit of abducting maids on the day of their wedding, so that he could engage in the so-called "rite of the first night" with them.

One day, when he was abducting a beautiful bride, a local priest cast a spell on him: "Let the god of thunder himself punish you for your misdeeds." As Komorovsky was approaching the abducted girl, she started defending herself and she hurt him. He got mad and ordered the soldiers to whip her. But when they started to tear her clothes away, her hair suddenly got loose and covered all of her. The soldiers froze in shock and could not move. The lord of Orava Castle wanted to beat her himself but as soon as he raised his hand, a bolt of lightning hit him and he fell dead on the floor.

Another significant owner of the castle was the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus, the founder of the first university on the present territory of Slovakia. By the end of the 15th century he built the most attractive part of the castle - the Middle Castle.


REACH the island by boat.
photo: Stanislav Bodorík

The castle acquired its current look in the 16th century, when the Thurzo family, one of the richest and most influential families in the then Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was its owner.

In 1800, the castle was largely destroyed by fire and remained abandoned for several years. The main reconstruction was done under the supervision of Edmund Zichy and József Pálffy. The castle's resemblance to its original shape was achieved in the 1960s.

The reconstructed castle, which contains a Gothic Church and a 70-metre deep well, currently houses a part of the Orava Museum. The permanent exhibition features the castle's original furnishings, archaeological findings from the Orava region, and pictures and paintings of regional customs.


One day around the castle


THE peak of Veľký Choč offers a panorama of Orava's dramatic lansdscape
photo: Chris Togneri

Morning

In the Oravský Podzámok village, visit the Orava Castle and its exhibition. (see the instructions under the top picture).


Afternoon

Take a trip to Kubínska Hoľa, the peak in the Oravská Magura mountain range that lies to the west of the castle. From the bus stop in Oravský Podzámok follow the blue trail leading to the Kubínska Hoľa Cottage. The cottage is both a restaurant and a pension. The round trip is about 6.5 hours and is a moderately difficult climb.

Chata na Kubínskej Holi (Kubínska Hoľa Cottage), Oravská Magura. One night: Sk170 per person. Tel: 0907/854-366.


Evening

Drive about 25 kilometres south-east of Oravský Podzámok to the village of Bešeňová to relax in the thermal water of the local spa.

Termálne kúpalisko Bešeňová (Thermal Spa Bešeňová), Bešeňová. Open daily 10:00-21:00. Admission: Sk50 and Sk100. Tel: 044/4392-429.



Other activitiesin the region

Cultural events and attractions


Kuchyňa starých materí

(The Old Grannies' Kitchen)

Kysuce Village Museum, famous for its narrow-gauge forest railway, holds an event where locals prepare traditional specialities, such as cabbage cakes and potato pancakes, the same way as their grannies used to do , on wood-fired stoves.

Starts: July 13 at 13:00. Admission: Sk25 and Sk50. Múzeum Kysuckej dediny (Kysuce Village Museum), Vychylovka, Nová Čadca. Tel: 041/4397-350.


Slanický ostrov umenia

(The Slanický Art Island)

On the island situated in the middle of the Oravská priehrada (the Orava dam) sits a church which houses a collection of folk works entitled Slovak Traditional Folk Sculpture and Painting. Around the church is a lapidarium, an open-air museum of stone sculptures.

Open daily 9:00-17:00. Admission (including boat transport, start is from the Slanická Osada harbour): Sk20 and Sk40. Slanický ostrov, Oravská Priehrada, Námestovo. Tel: 043/5863-212, 0905/915-108.


Vodné mlyny v Kvačianskej doline

(Water mills in Kvačianska valley)

Kvačianska valley is a 2.5-kilometre long narrow, canyon-like rock formation in the Choč mountains. The wooden water mills from the 19th century can be found at its beginning.

Kvačianska dolina, Kvačany (around 30 kilometres south of Dolný Kubín).


Hiking trips

Orava Castle is surrounded by hills. Though they are not as high and rocky as the ones in the High Tatras, they are equally beautiful. The one-day, quite demanding climbs listed below lead to the tops of the peaks, which offer a great view of the nearby mountain ranges.


Veľký Choč (1,611 metres above sea level)

The red trail starts from the train station of Ružomberok, passes the Likavka Castle, and takes you up to Predný Choč. From there, change for the blue trail in the direction of Stredná Poľana and at the next crossroads change for the green trail, which leads to Veľký Choč. To descend the peak, follow the red trail to the village of Lúčky. The whole hike lasts about eight hours. To get back to Ružomberok, take a bus from in front of Lúčky's municipal office - the bus leaves daily at 16:57 and 21:12.


Veľký Rozsutec (1,609 metres above sea level)

From the village of Štefanová (40 kilometres west of Dolný Kubín, towards Terchová) follow the green trail markers to the mountain pass of Medzihorie. Change there to the red trail, climbing up to top of Veľký Rozsutec. The difference between the starting and final altitude of this 8.5-kilometre climb is almost 1,000 metres and it can be hiked up in three hours.

Note: For the exact trails of the two hikes described above see maps Chočské vrchy No 111 and Malá Fatra No 110, published by the Vojenský kartografický ústav, Harmanec. The maps are available in bookstores and information centres across Slovakia.


Accommodation

Hotel Park, Radlinského 21, Dolný Kubín. Tel: 043/5864-110., Hotel Summit, Bešeňová. Tel: 044/4303-311., Pezión Fontána, Bešeňová 135. Tel: 044/4392-858.

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