Saturday, September 23, 2006

My first visit - April 2006

First impressions Finally at Easter I was to see the Greenhouse. We drove down again, this time through the Czech Republic - a route I far prefer to Germany/Austria, purely because it feels like being abroad to me. There is also a great little motor-rest around 60km from Brno with big rooms at 30 euros and secure parking. This really helps to break the journey and means we arrive mid-morning in Slovakia with time to shop. Down the hill By now the snow had almost all melted - with only a few stubborn drifts resisting the lovely spring sunshine. Our arrival was intriguing as the entrance road led steeply upwards through beech forest with tantalising glimpses of the house through the trees. We soon had to leave the car though as she was really not built for this terrain, and continue on foot. We turned a corner in the track and suddenly the view opened up - stunning! The land drops away in a gentle slope from the level of the house, dotted with fruit trees, until it meets the forest on 3 sides. However, the house is high enough on the hillside to see over the level of the trees below to the hills on the other side of the valley... this is exactly what we've been looking for. The only question that leapt to my mind was, why on earth the sellers didn't include a photo of the view in their ad'..? View from the terrace Madness! Still it meant less competition for us, so I wasn't complaining. Funnily enough we probably spent more time wandering around the land and drinking in the view than actually looking around the house itself. But then in summer at least, that's where we would be spending our time - outside. Immediately I thought how wonderful this would be for kids - forest all around to explore, deer to stalk, huge meadows to run around in and plenty of trees to climb... perfect. And not forgetting a lovely old barn -with owl in residence as we discovered- with all the tools we would need to try to tame the land, and it was basically love at first sight.And again We still had a few more places to see over the next few days in Centra Slovakia, but I think somehow we already knew that this was the place for us.

Firstly though we decided to poke around the area a little, and see a couple of the local attractions. I will go into the area in a lot more detail soon in another posting, but will already mention Cachtice Castle, home to the infamous Elizabeth Bathory better known perhaps as the Blood Countess. View from the castle ruins I won't go into her story here as there are already many many resources on the web, but it is a must visit if you're in the area. The castle is perched on top of a steep hill with commanding and stunning views over the surrounding countryside. It's quite a long walk to the top, and luckily you won't find any souvenir shops or any other tourist facilities for that matter when you get there. But once there it's a wonderful spot for reflection both on the past history of the castle, and on the nature of the woman who once dominated this area, striking fear into the population to rival any Count Dracula. And this is no myth; the official transcripts of her eventual trial in 1610 survived to tell this grisly but compelling tale. Slovakia is full of stunning castles although many are in ruins as a testament to her turbulent past, and while driving through the countryside you will often catch sight of a distant fortress perched on a hillside. For a comprehensive listing and extensive information, take a look at; Through a window to the hills beyond - an excellent resource for planning a trip to Slovakia. I'll leave this post here as we head off to Northern and Central Slovakia to visit Lipto, Banska Bystrica and the beautiful Unesco heritage town of Banska Stiavnica.


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