Saturday, October 8, 2011

Classic Castles # 4 - Krásna Hôrka, Slovakia

This large and fully intact Gothic castle sits on top of a rocky limestone hill above the small village of Krásnohorské Podhradie in south-eastern Slovakia. Built to protect the trade route running north from the Hungarian plains into the Spiš region, the castle has an ideal defensive position and appears to be virtually unconquerable when viewed from a distance.
The first written record of the castle dates from 1333, when it was owned by the Bebek family. During the Turkish invasions of the mid-16th century, the family fortified and enlarged the structure in order to boost its already impressive defensive capabilities. The Bebeks occupied the castle until they were discovered to be counterfeiting currency (and supporting Protestantism) in the late 16th century, whereupon they were unceremoniously turfed out and the castle fell into the hands of the powerful Andrássy family.
In 1910 the Andrássys owned enough properties in the region that Krásna Hôrka wasn't needed as a place of residence, so they decided to convert it into a family museum. Today the castle appears much as it did a century ago and the guided tour of the interior takes in lavishly decorated rooms full of artifacts and furniture collected by the Andrássys.
Outside on the hill that surrounds the castle goats and sheep wander and graze on the grass, while the bells around their necks make a tinkling sound which adds a rustic soundtrack to the pretty pastoral setting. The village of Krásnohorské Podhradie is located on the main road between the city of Košice and the former medieval mining town of Rožňava. While you are in the village don't miss having a look at the Andrássy family mausoleum, a fantastic Art Nouveau building constructed in 1904 by Dionysus Andrássy in memory of his wife Františka, a Czech opera singer.
Most buses travelling between Košice and Rožňava stop in the village, so it is quite easy to reach by public transport. There are several accommodation options and quality restaurants to choose from in Rožňava, so it makes a suitable base to explore the surrounding region's castles, caves and other attractions.

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