Many of Slovakia's castles are symbols not only of the country's individual regions, but also are among the most beautiful destinations for many tourist excursions and routes. For this reason, the publication has selected 33 most beautiful ruins not just from the visual perspective but also for what they offer tourists. Since there really is no such publication focusing on castles, it has attempted to approach the selected castles in a different manner than has existed until now. The book seeks to be a bit of a tourist guide, and its goal is to provide the reader with a comprehensive picture of the castle prior to visiting. The presentation of each castle begins with a description of the routes to them accessible to tourists and continues with a brief history and description of its current state and points of interest to be found nearby. The texts are interwoven with the legends, tales and histories of the castles, their residents and the historic events surrounding them. Also included are period illustrations, old postcards, site plans, maps and of course contemporary photographs.
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Slovakia and castles
Slovakia is a nation rich in culturally and historically significant fortresses and formal residential buildings. More than 180 castles may be found in its territory, and at least as many manor houses built during a variety of historical eras. In the past, these have been the sites of historic events and their owners influenced the country's course over long centuries.
The predecessors of the castles were the hill fortresses and forrified courts typical of Slovakia in the 9th and 10th centuries. The 11th and 12th centuries saw the beginning of construction of stone castles (such as Spissky hrad and Nitriansky hrad), and these were developed even more intensively following the Tartar invasions of 1241 and 1242. Many of the stone castles arose particularly in borderland areas, on important roads and at critical junctions and fords (such as Plavecky hrad, Branc, Oravsky hrad, Liptovsky hrad and Lubovniansky hrad). Many of these acquired the functions of county castles. This means that the lord of the castle governed an assigned territory - a county. The castles took the form of stone fortresses and stood at strategic and difficult-to-access locations. Along with their defensive and administrative functions, they also served as residences. Another type - the so-called town castles such as Stary zamok in Banska Stiavnica, Kremnicky hrad and Banskobystricky hrad - filled defensive roles for especially wealthy towns.
At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, the owners of many castles performed reconstruction leading to new free-standing palaces built inside the castle fortifications. Renaissance craftsmanship brought about a fundamental change in architecture in which fortifying elements were linked to the residences' comfort and grandeur. In the 17th and 18th centuries, most of the castles began to decay and many were burned at royal command and fell to ruins. The monarch considered them to be centres of anti-Habsburg opposition, thus sealing their fate. Some, however, have been preserved until the present time and stand as sites which teach of the course of historic events and ways of living in their regions (Bratislavsky hrad, hrad Devin, Trenciansky hrad, Oravsky hrad, Kezmarsky hrad, Lubovniansky hrad, Spissky hrad). Spissky hrad and the monuments nearby by were entered into UNESCO's list of World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1993.