What I Did on My Summer Vacation: July 13–Orava Castle and Strecno (with Pictures!)

Summer NightsJuly 13 we were up bright and early for a drive up to Orava Castle, the most visited castle in Slovakia (although I’d never been before this trip). It also happens to be the place where most of the exterior shots of Nosferatu were filmed, if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I am. My brother-in-law Milos was our guide for the trip, and Denisa and I brought the kids with us this time. It’s only about 100 miles, but it was around 3 hours of driving.

(On a side note, driving in Slovakia can be very confusing to an American. First of all, they have highways, but you need to know that you have to pay a fee and get a sticker to use them–otherwise you face a hefty fine if you’re caught. The speed limit on freeways is around 75. If you’re not on the highway, there are two speed limits: 30 if you’re in a town, 55 if you’re out of a town. You need to know this, since the town markers themselves serve as the speed limit signs. (There are only numbers for speed limits when the speed limit is different than the 55/30 rule.) We didn’t buy a highway pass, so we had to take the back windy roads (which is preferable, if your goal is to the see the country, anyway. Hence the long trip.)

Orava Castle was magnificent, although the town it lords over is pretty darn tiny. Still, we weren’t there for the town. The castle is in great condition, with many original details still intact (murder holes, wood interiors, paintings, etc.) Here’s a sampling of pictures. Looking up from the castle courtyard:

A view of the countryside around it:

The fam down at the base:

The kids with Nosferatu:

From Orava, we figured we might as well get in one more castle, so we swung by Strecno (pronounced STRETCH-no) Castle on the way home. Strecno is much more ruinous than Orava or Trencin. Pieces of Dragonheart were filmed at the castle. Not quite the same pedigree as Nosferatu, but still cool. (Dragonheart was filmed in Slovakia, and many of the castles in the area can lay claim to that. My brother-in-law also got to be an extra in some of the guard scenes, as I recall.) Both castles involved steep hikes to get to them (sort of the point, with castles), and it was a tiring day for everyone by Milos, who walks up to Trencin castle fifty times a day, just for fun. He also got to marry a ghost in a comedic number performed at the beginning of the castle tour:

Denisa and DC outside Strecno:

A view of the country:

Random bearded man:

Medieval toilet:

TRC the Dragonslayer:

DC the Dragonslayer:

And . . . Milos the Dragonslayer:

And that was the day. We got home pretty wiped. Denisa had gotten too much sun, so she had a headache. (You’ll note a trend on this vacation: we were constantly doing too much. But I’d rather do too much than too little, since we only go to Europe once every three years.)

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