Spiš Castle lords over the village of Spišské Podhradie, 29 kilometres northeast of Spišská Nová Ves. From the village, follow the yellow trail for almost half an hour up to the castle. It is open daily from 9:00 to 18:00. Tel: 053/4541-336. For more information check www.spisskyhrad.sk.
photo: Ján Svrček
Spread out over more than four hectares, the castle is one of the largest ruins in Europe. At the time of its greatest fame, there were five courtyards and 135 rooms. In the past, the rising castle represented state power, while Spiš Theological Centre represented the power of the church. The castle and the centre were the focus of political and social life in the Spiš region.
The cliff, on which the castle was erected, was first settled in the stone age. At the time of Christ, a huge fortification was built there, spreading out over a larger area than the original stone castle that was built in the 11th and 12th centuries. First, a massive round tower was built in the centre of a large fortification. It was later turned into a palace in the romanesque style.
Habsburg rulers owned the castle until the 15th century, and then presented it to the Zápolyai family. The Zápolyais gave it a gothic character. Later, the Thurza family became its owner, and enlarged the fortress further. One of the family, Juraj Thurza, became one of the central characters of castle legend.
One day when Juraj, the young lord of the castle, was returning from battle with the Tartars, he decided to celebrate the victory with a large feast. He invited various aristocrats, including a young woman, Dorota. Juraj fell in love with her, and in a game they played, he had to kiss her. He then expected the same in return, but Dorota refused to kiss him.
The next morning, when Juraj was thinking about how to approach her again, a servant announced her arrival. She returned, because she had left her fan the night before. Juraj wanted to use that moment for her to return his kiss. Dorota ran away from him laughing, and somehow ended up falling out of one of the castle windows. Terrified, Juraj called his servants and ordered them to go and find her. But there was no trace of her.
In the evening, a servant came to tell Juraj that Dorota's parents wanted him to visit them. Juraj was thinking how he was going to tell them about their daughter's death. But when he entered, he saw Dorota alive. She had grabbed onto a tree as she was falling from the castle. Juraj then asked Dorota to forgive him, and later, the two got married.
After the last male descendant of Thurza's family died, the castle became the subject of intense arguments and in the end it went into the hands of the Csáky family. They owned it until 1945, when the communists nationalised property.
Its owners had lived on the premises until the end of the 17th century. During that period, the castle's owners moved from the uncomfortable cold castle to a more comfortable manor house. The castle then started to deteriorate and in 1780 it burnt down.
In 1970, archeological research was started at the castle and its conservation began. The castle today is home to an exhibition of the Košice Museum of Eastern Slovakia.
One day around the castle
AT THE castle, falcons will fly ...
photo: Ján Svrček
... and fighters will fend off foes.
photo: Ján Svrček
Take a trip to the Dreveník nature reserve, one of the largest and oldest travertine hills in Slovakia. The flat top is covered with rare plants and karst formations, such as caves. To get there, follow the yellow trail winding around Spiš Castle. It starts in the village of Spišské Podhradie. The easy trail is around three hours round trip from Dreveník.
Afternoon + Evening
When coming back from Dreveník, stop to see Spiš Castle. This weekend, a Festival of Historical Martial Artswill take place there, featuring fencing demonstrations, falconry shows, and examples of period crafts.
The festival starts on Saturday, July 19 at 12:00 with a presentation of the 150 performers accompanied by the music of the Brass Collegium ensemble. The entire event runs until 17:00 the next day.
Other activities in the region
Cultural events and attractions
Letný festival ľudového spevu a tanca (Summer Folk Song and Dance Festival)
The 11th annual event presents the traditional music of the Gemer region.
Starts: July 20 at 14:00. Park of the local manor house, Vlachovo, Rožňava district. Tel: 058/7959-126.
Chrám Sv. Jakuba
(St Jacob's Church)
The largest gothic church in the Spiš region, St Jacob's Church was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is most famous for its altar carved by the renowned Master Pavol at the beginning of the 16th century.
Open Mon 13:00-16:00 (entrance every hour), Tue-Sat 9:00-17:00 (entrance every half hour) and Sun 13:00-17:00 (each half hour). Admission: Sk30 and Sk50. Námestie Majstra Pavla (Master Pavol Square) 53, Levoča.
(Spiš Theological Centre)
photo: Zuzana Habšudová
Situtated in the western part of the village of Spišské Podhradie, Spišská Kapitula is just a short walk up the hill from the village's main square. This is a small complex of church buildings dominated by the late-Romanesque Cathedral of St Martin, built between 1245 and 1273. The cathedral's precious interior consists of gothic altars, sculptures and frescos.
Open Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00 and Sun 11:00-16:00 (entrance every hour). Spišská Kapitula, Spišské Podhradie.
The Spiš region with its centre, the town of Spišská Nová Ves situated only a few kilometres from Spiš Castle, is the gateway to Slovenský raj (Slovak Paradise) national park.
HIKES in Slovenský raj often feature creative traverses.
photo: Ján Svrček
The blue trail, which follows the curves of the river, starts from the Podlesok camping area, 20 kilometres west of Spišská Nová Ves. Some parts of the trail lead right above the river and one has to climb the metal steps secured to the rocks. The 16-kilometre canyon ends at the influx of the Veľká Biela Voda river. From there, continue on the blue trail for about another 30 minutes to Čingov, which is just a short drive from Spišská Nová Ves.
The bus from Spišská Nová Ves to Betlanovce goes daily at 8:30 (walk 1.5 kilometres to Podlesok), and the train from Čingov to Spišská Nová Ves leaves at 17:48 and 19:29.
From the village of Dedinky (30 kilometres southwest of Spišská Nová Ves) follow the red trail to the valley of Stratenská. The hike, following the Hnilec river leads to Dobšinská Ice-cave through Stratenský Canyon, which is shaped by the river. The ice cave, the first cave in Europe illuminated by electric light, was added the Unesco World Heritage List in 2000.
Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa is open Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00 (entrance every hour). Admission: Sk60 to Sk110. The bus from Spišská Nová Ves to Dedinky leaves daily at 9:00. The train from Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa to Spišská Nová Ves leaves at 17:53, with a change in Margecany, where the train to Spišská Nová Ves leaves at 20:03.
Note: See the trail map for Slovenský raj No 124, published by Vojenský kartografický ústav, Harmanec. The maps are available in bookstores and information centres across Slovakia. Spišská Nová Ves information centre, Letná 49. Tel: 053/16-186.
14. Jul 2003 at 0:00 | Michaela Melounová