Castle Devin

We took a half day trip up the Danube to Castle Devin. It’s about a two hour boat trip up stream and half hour back on one of the little boats that regularly cruise the river.

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Castle Devin is set on a cliff at an altitude of 212 meters and sited where the Danube and Morava rivers meet and has served as a fortification since a stone castle was first built on the site in the 13th century

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The castle is in ruins these days, partly due to Napoleon blowing it up in 1809.

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Here is the tiny watchtower, known as the Maiden Tower. Separated from the main castle, it balances on a  rock and has plenty of legends around it featuring imprisoned lovelorn daughters leaping to their deaths.

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Before 1989, the Iron Curtain between the Eastern Bloc and the West ran just in front of the castle.

The area surrounding it constituted a restricted military zone, and was heavily fortified with watchtowers and barbed wire. After the Velvet Revolution the area was demilitarised.

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Nearby the castle is a memorial to those who lost their lives from 1945 to 1989 under the Communist Regime.

Many people lost their lives trying to cross this spot on the Danube river to get to Austria.

The memorial shows how many victims died under the communist regime in different circumstances.

According to the memorial, 2,200,000 people were deported from Slovakia from 1945 to 1989. 20,000 Slovaks were also sent to gulags from this period.

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Bratislava Castle

One of the most prominent structures in the city is Bratislava Castle.

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Sat 85 metres (279 ft) above the Danube. The “upside down table” as it is affectionately known by locals, is an imposing glaringly white block.

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You can see it from most places as it looms, in an almost affectionate way, over the town .

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The castle was converted into a Gothic anti-Hussite fortress under Sigismund of Luxemburg in 1430, became a Renaissance castle in 1562 and was rebuilt in 1649 in a baroque style.

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In 1811, the castle was destroyed by fire and lay in ruins until the 1950s  when it was rebuilt mostly in its former Theresian style.

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As usual we whisked around the outside but refused to pay to go in! I have a lot of exterior memories of places . . .

Prague Castle

One of the main sights is the impressive Prague castle that dominates everything from its commanding position above the city.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 square metres.

It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and is crammed full of awe inspiring architecture such as the Gothic St.Vitus’s Cathedral pictured below.

St.Wenceslas, the main Czech patron saint, is buried in the Cathedral that towers up from the courtyard.

There’s so much to marvel at including the huge ornate rose window with its jewel bright stained glass.

Here’s part of the stunning stained glass window by Alphonse Mucha that was installed in the north nave in 1931.

The window shows St. Wenceslas as a boy with his grandmother St. Ludmila in the centre, it’s surrounded by scenes from the lives of Saints Cyril and Methodius who spread Christianity among the Slavs.

The Golden Gate marks the southern entrance to the cathedral. It’s decorated with a beautiful gilded mosaic of the Last Judgement and dates from the 14th century.

Other sights in the complex include Golden Lane that dates from the 15th Century and has eleven historic houses where period scenes have been recreated to show the life of the artisans who once worked, ate, drank and slept in them.

From the castle walls you have a stunning view of the terracotta roofs of the city stretching into the distance.

Meander your way back down to the city through the castle gardens, slopes covered in green vineyards, rambling roses and the buzzing of hundreds of industrious bees.

Wawel castle and giant stalking beer men

So wandering the streets of Krakow old town you will stumble across some beautiful buildings and architectural delights, not to mention some of the friendliest and most helpful people in Europe!

Take time to relax and watch the world go by in the old town square but then head out to some of the sights to be found a hop, skip and a jump away.

One of the areas we liked was Wawel and its surroundings, sited near the Vistula  river and overlooking a huge open expanse of parkland where the locals come to hang out, picnic and watch the world go by.

One of the city’s myths is that of the Wawel dragon and it’s commemorated on the lower slopes of the Wawel Hill by a metal statue that occasionally belches out a plume of flame!

Here’s Neil getting stalked by the giant walking beer in the parkland beneath Wawel castle . . .  . (I will devote a post to this squishy little mascot later!)

I will upload some photos of the castle itself that sits within the Wawel complex when I figure out where on earth I have stashed them!!!