While on a trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, my travel buddies and I decided to rent a car and take a look at some of the castles that Slovakia had to offer in its western countryside. Unfortunately, it was a Monday when most castles are closed – that is of course the ones that were open. Some castles are only open to the public in July and August. Still, seeing the exterior of some of these structures is well worth the trip.
The castle system in Slovakia traces its origins to the eleventh and twelfth centuries when they were constructed to protect the frontier against attacks by invaders and to prevent insurgents from entering into the kingdom. In addition to this function they were also served as guardians of the major roads over which the flow of commerce kept money flowing into the kingdom.
The most extensive construction of stone castles in Slovakia was built immediately after the Tartar invasion in the middle of the thirteenth century and lasted until the second half of the fourteenth century. New stone forts were built in the place of original wooden castles which made them key to a formidable defense system. By the fifteenth century, most of the castles in the region had been built, and during this period many of them were enlarged or refortified. By the first half of the sixteenth century, with the new threat from the Turks looming on the horizon, this process continued.
The system of the castles gradually lost its military and strategic importance from the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century and aristocratic families started to move from castles to manor houses. In this period many castles were unfortunately demolished or burned and others fell into disrepair after the inhabitants moved out.
Fortunately there are still many castles to see such as the Čachtice, Beckov, Topoľčany, Trenčín, Budatín, and Strečno castles. Just remember not to visit on a Monday.