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ghosts and ghouls

Bojnice Castle

Another overdue blog post about a castle I visited weeks ago.

Every May, Bojnice castle holds the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits. For an international festival, I was fairly surprised to not encounter a single person who spoke English, or any information presented in perhaps the most international language, but anyway…

A hot Spring day and a two day festival that most of Slovakia had come to participate in meant even jumping the queue involved a standing time of 2.5 hours (and that’s jumping in a less than half way!). Time was passed with occasional trips to numerous stalls littering the area selling honey wine, ice cream, corn on the cob, barbecued food, candy floss and pancakes to name but a few. I guess they thought about it, but somewhat stupidly didn’t think to offer anyone toilet facilities. I wonder about the Slovaks: they so often get it almost right.

I soon understood the reason for the lengthy queue. You enter the castle in groups of 30 and are taken on a tour of the darkened castle, to watch a series of re-enactments (75mins worth actually) of stories involving the ghosts of past castle residents. It’s all based around the May Ball, which a distant queen held as a reunion for all previous inhabitants of the castle. The tour, songs and theatre all performed in Slovak meant that I don’t have much evidence of actual stories to share, but I did indeed enjoy the general idea. We were lead through each room, where we were shown some aspect of each character’s life: either their death or a significant moment, complete with trip down a dark corridor where dead people jump out and touch you, take your hand or just try to scare the shit out of you. One of the final rooms was indeed the ballroom, where all the characters are assembled and the audience are also invited to dance. I was propositioned by a dead man, who tried to take my hand. I politely declined, as I really couldn’t imagine the conversation I would have whilst ballroom dancing with a dead Slovak lord from the 17th Century….

Being an adult it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, save for the silly people who thought it a good idea to take their unsuspecting children on a ghost tour where “dead” people jump out in your face. There were some hysterical children whose parents should have been sent home in my opinion.

The town Bojnice doesn’t have anything to offer worth writing home about, but had certainly cashed in on the expected volume of people with an array of market stalls offering you a range of local and mainstream products. I was particularly taken (as were my companions) but two jewellery makers, dressed somewhat traditionally making pieces out of glass and precious stones. I stood fascinated watching a man make glass beads out of pieces of coloured glass with a blow torch. Wanting to buy that I then spotted what his wife was making: beautifully unique hand crafted pieces with precious stones and metal. Next time you see me, check out my fabulous Turquoise angel necklace!

I am starting to love Slovakia more and more for its quite literal hidden gems here and there. It really is a country that needs to be discovered and with time running out I will be frantically squeezing in as much as I can….

Until next time….