Every time I want to describe part of Slovakia I need to check the Thesaurus for the best words. And the adjectives that would describe Orava the best are: magnificent, impressive, proud, majestic and lost in time. This description would fit nature as well as the local people.
You wouldn’t find another Slovak region that has preserved the traditions and habits of everyday life more than Orava. Hard work, strong moral values and importance of the family are the key values of every proud Oravak (someone who comes from Orava).
One of the most outstanding symbols of Orava is its castle – Oravsky Hrad (Orava Castle). It is one of the most beautiful and largest castles in Slovakia and it is situated on a high rock above the Orava river in the region of the North Orava. The village that has grown around the castle is called Oravsky Podzamok. It’s a cozy small place full of local restaurants and folk shops. People are friendly and ready to help you.
As it usually goes with Slovak castles, also Orava castle was built in the place of a former fortified fortress. That was right after the Tartar raids, in the mid 13th century. A legend says that the castle couldn’t be built by any man, that’s why the rich nobleman who owned the fortress made a pact with a devil. The devil was supposed to build the most spectacular home for the nobleman in one night, otherwise the nobleman’s soul will end up in the hell. But the devil didn’t succeed and he wasn’t able to finish the castle in one night.
Orava Castle, also called eagle nest because of its position on the top of the cliff, was owned by many aristocrats, county heads and noblemen, protecting important road to Poland and serving as an administrative and military centre for the region. One of the most memorable owner was Francis Thurzo, close friend of Elizabeth Bathory (labelled by the Guinness World Records as the most prolific female murderer but that’s a different story) got the castle reconstructed extensively, added supporting walls to statically disturbed parts, annexed a palace and a new chapel.
In 1800, the castle burnt out after several days and nights of fire. Fortunately, it got repaired and reconstructed almost immediately. Shortly after that one of the first museums in Slovakia was established here. Currently the Orava castle hosts three different expositions: Historical, Archeological and the exposition of the natural history.
Before you get to the castle make sure you had a proper breakfast. You need energy for this trip. The place is pretty accessible and you can leave your car at the Castle parking lot down in the village. The only way how to get up there is the old fashioned walk. The castle itself is huge and well restored. You feel like walking back in time, right into the middle ages. The whole 17th-century atmosphere is completed by local students and actors wearing medieval clothes and behaving accordingly to their dress code. Be prepared for live performances like dancing, singing, instrument playing, fencing, archery, hawkers, and many more.
The tours around the castle are both in English and Slovak. The tour guides are pretty passionate about their jobs and would love to answer your questions and get some feedback. Please don’t be one of those zombie tourists who blindly follow the crowd. Ask and explore! There is so much to be seen and said. The castle rooms look great, you will get a chance to see the restored army rooms, living rooms, bedrooms or toilet.
A special part of this article is reserved for the view from the highest part of the castle. Only for the bravest! To get there you will need to use some steep and narrow iron staircase, but the view is well worth it. Imagine all those noble men who spend nights there counting their money and planning the next battle strategy. Or all those peasant lovers who hide there to get their first kiss. The castle is full of stories of local people who lived and died there. Just keep your eyes and ears open and you might see the ghost of Elizabeth Bathory herself.
The castle is open daily whole year except April. The opening hours varies from month to month, depends on how long there is light outside (winter has shorter days and thus shorter opening hours). The tours should take place every 30 min. If you want to visit with a bigger group also private tours can be arranged. For an extra fee, there is an option to visit the castle chapel. You shouldn’t skip it.
On your way down from the castle, you will feel blown away and for sure hungry. Don’t forget to stop in the local restaurant where you can feast on Slovak traditional dishes and nice beer. Try some pyrohy or halusky. You won’t regret it. And then, when your tummy is full and the mood is up in the sky, turn around and look again at the majestic Orava castle. It’s simply beautiful! It almost makes you want to climb back on the top of it.
Would you like to visit Orava Castle? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we prepare a trip with a local guide and a driver according to your wishes and preferences.
Orava castle is also included in the 7-day tour Highlights of Slovakia. Book your private tour now!