Orava Castle

October 29, 2012

Since ancient times there has existed an important trade route heading from the south of Europe, through the Tatras along the River Orava, and on into Poland. Even today the road following this course is clogged with heavily loaded trucks. On a steep, rocky promontory above the Orava River, providing control over this important trading corridor, sits Orava Castle. This castle (Oravský zámok, sometimes Oravský hrad) is one of the best preserved, most often visited, and most picturesque castles in Slovakia. Countless school excursions go there—I well remember going myself while I attended school in Liptovský Mikuláš in 1948. My best friend from those long-ago school years took me there again in 2005.

The site on which the castle is situated probably saw its first fortifications around the beginning of the Common Era. The first written documentation dates from the mid 13th century when the already-existing castle became the property of the king of Hungary. Later it passed into the possession of a series of noble families. As was the case for so many other Slovak castles, it was repeatedly damaged and rebuilt, resulting in a mix of architectural styles. In 1800 Orava Castle suffered a devastating fire, following which the Pálffy family undertook extensive, rather romantic restorations. Further restorations were conducted in the period 1953 – 1968 during the Communist era. This is the form in which we see the castle today.

Orava Castle View

Orava Castle, perched high above the River Orava. The castle was well restored following a devastating fire in 1800, and has been well maintained ever since.

Orava Upper Castle

The Upper Castle seen from the courtyard of the Lower Castle.

Orava Castle Roof Work

The roofs of the castle are made of the beautiful wooden shakes typical of the Orava region.

Orava Castle Walkways

Ascending the castle using the elaborate exterior walkways and stairs. Like the roofs, these are constructed of wood.

Orava Lower Castle

Looking down on the Lower Castle and the River Orava.

Orava Sword Display

One of the many displays on the interior castle walls.

Orava Distant View

The beautiful countryside of Orava seen through a window of the Upper Castle.