Castles & cities in Slovakia

<< Previous episode : Tatras

Now that the hiking adventure has been shortened, we had 2 days more to explore the cities and castles of Slovakia. From now on, our trip was improvised on a day to day basis. Only schedule : be in Vienna 5 days later.

We started with the castle of Spiš, 40km east of Poprad, which is supposed to be the largest medieval fortress in central Europe. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

It took a bit more than an hour to go to the village of Spišské Podhradie and then we had to find our way up to the impressive castle that dominate it all.

Spiš Castle

Half an hour uphill later we met the lazy tourists buses, brought directly at the door of the castle. But at 9:30 in the morning there weren’t that many people in the fortress. The view is wide from the highest tower, but the High Tatras are invisible, hidden behind another range.

Spiš Castle

And the stairs are narrow to go up with backpack.

Narrow stairs

We went all over the place !

Spiš Castle

There were no immediate buses to go back to Poprad and we had picnic in the village, tasting Kofola for the first time, tchesch coca cola, far better than real one I think. There was a folk festival and people in traditionnal dresses were dancing while waiting their bus.

No direct bus to Poprad before late in the afternoon, so we took one to Levoča, which happened to be a very picturesque medieval city.

Levoča

Levoča

Levoča

Back at Poprad-Tatry train station, we took a train to Trenčín, only because there seemed to be a nice castle. This was our longest and more expensive train ride in Slovakia, 3h for 220km, and still less than 10 euros. The train was really crowded and some people were standing in corridors for hours.

On arrival, we chose an hotel among the very few in town (surprisingly Poprad is a lot more touristy),  and discovered the castle from downhill.

Trenčín

The center itself is nice to, with a large square, churches, a belfry and a synagogue.

Trenčín

And the next morning we saw it from the castle above. We visited it with a guide who could speak only a few english words. Otherwise th tour are planned in Slovak, but there were only us too, so she didn’t had to speak that much.

Trenčín

Trenčín castle

We had then an hour to kill in the city and we went to a bookstore. There were cheap maps and guidebooks. I bought one about Bratislava and surroundings, in German, for less than 2 euros.Interesting but fastidious to read during transportation time.

An hour and twenty minutes of bus ride later, we reached Prievidza and the neighbor city of Bojnice. There is probably the most visited and most interesting castle in Slovakia.

Bojnice

All 3 castles we visited were very different, starting with the medieval fortress, ending with Bojnice which was still inhabited in the 19th century, which explains its very good conservation and gothic architecture elements.

Bojnice

Outside is a huge linden tree. There is a story about a king who liked to spend time under its foliage. But I forgot already.

Bojnice linden

Then we left Prievidza by train. We just missed a bus, but a train was leaving shortly after. As it was an omnibus, it took 2h for only 77km to reach the city of Nitra.

Despite the stars on the map and the flattering depiction in the « Bratislava und Umgebung » guidebook, this was just a nice place to spend the night and a few hours.

Nitra

Nitra

Even the cathedral was closed when we tried to reach it, on top of the upper city.

Nitra

The following day we reached Bratislava, and stopped on the way in Trnava. Nice medieval city surrounded by walls and with numerous churches. It also appeared very lively.

Trnava

My favourite church :

Trnava

Finally we arrived in Bratislava on a remote train station, Nove-Mesto. And a short, accidentaly free, tram ride brought us close to the center.

The medieval center is really small, only a few streets but very pleasant and interesting. And even with its small size, it’s full of tourists, I guess it is due to it’s position of capital city and the cheap flights arriving there from all over Europe. And also young people like it because beer is cheap, it’s a bit sad to go visit a place because beer is cheap. So cheap tha Viennese people call it « Gratislava ».

Bratislava, primatial square

On top of the hill is the castle, which has, in my opinion, no architectural interest, it’s basically a square. But its location offers great views over the city.

Bratislava castle

The nex bridge on the Danube is one of the symbol of the city.

"New" Bridge

View on the center, and the St-Martin Cathedral under scaffoldings.

View on city center

A narrow street in the city center with the Michalska tower in the back.

Street in the center

Gothic tower

St-Martin's Dom

The main square, besides hosting upper class cafes, is also home to the city hall, Japanese, Greek and French embassies. Good location.

The main square

The Michalska tower.

Michalska tower

There are also some realistic street sculptures at several locations.

Street art, man at work

On the main square

And finally on the way to the train station, there is the palace of the presidency.

Palace of the presidency

Now we are heading to Vienna.

Next and last episode : Return from Vienna >>

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