We travelled south out of Poland through the Tatra Mountains. We even saw our first snow! Sadly, there was a lot of cloud cover, so we missed a lot of the views. There are a surprising amount of ski resorts in this area; I have to admit that I have never even considered Poland as a skiing destination. But it looks like it would be pretty good come winter. Up and over the mountains we drove, round about a thousand hairpin bends (I think we hit the supersonic speeds of 7 miles per hour on one of them) and into Slovakia.
I have to admit that I do very much enjoy changing country on a back road, partially because it isn’t usually a manned border, and thus I don’t have to remember where I hid the passports to keep them safe, partially because there are no hold ups, but mainly because it is a road less travelled and you never know what you will find.
The border we crossed was tiny, simply a single lane bridge across a river, but that’s what makes it special. Because it is so nondescript it goes full circle to special.
Our first stop was at Spiš Castle; a tumble down, yet imposing castle looming above the nearby town of Spišské Podhradie. The castle is the largest fortified castle in Central Europe. We apparently did not park in the castle car park, so had a short, muddy, uphill walk to reach the entrance. It is possible to see across the valley – in good weather. On a miserable day like the one we visited on, it’s not so easy to see the distant views.
From Spiš, we travelled to Levoča. The town is small, with cobbled streets and crumbling city walls. It was a sweet town, but not enough to warrant a de-tour if it was not already on your route.
As we continued through Slovakia, we saw more castles (hrad) than I think we have ever seen before. Slovakia seemed to be castle central. Every five miles down the road was another one – or even two – more castles, which shows the turbulence of Slovakia’s past. Invasions from the Mygars (9th century), the Tatars (13th century), the Turks (16th century), even Napoleon’s forces invaded. Add to those religious wars in the 15th and 17th centuries, and it is no surprise that the people living here wanted to protect themselves and their homes. Consequently, Slovakia is a castle spotter’s dream (I’m sure that must be a thing).
Our final day in Slovakia was spent in Bratislava. And I have to admit that by this point, I was starting to become a bit ‘citied-out’. We had visited so many in such a short amount of time that they had begun to blur together. I think if we were to travel in the camper again, we would plan more country days to break up and refresh the towns. Bratislava was lovely, it had beautiful buildings with intricate details, unique statues and some rather delicious food. But it wasn’t cheap. It was surprisingly expensive. I don’t mean that things actually cost a lot (it was probably en par with costs in the UK) it was simply surprising that things cost as much as they did, for the Slovakia is a place that we expected to compare with Poland and the Baltics in terms of cost. Not back home. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying our day around the city before driving the 40 minutes to Vienna!
Where do you recommend to visit in Slovakia? Which castles are the most spectacular? Let me know in the comments below!