We entered the Slovak Republic (Slovakia) near the town of Trencin with its castle
being our first destination. Its castle is being rebuilt in the original style and
is available for tours.
But first we had to find a place to park. Like most European cities the traffic
is heavy and the streets are narrow and the surface is poor. In watching all of
this I missed a sign which said, in pictures, No Cars or Motorcycles! I was pulled
over by the police and fined 2,000 Slovakian Crowns right there on the spot, about
$100 USD. But I wasn't the only one, the police were making fortune here. The bald-headed
man with the cop at the car is paying the fine too. And we saw several others pay,
evidently the sign was new and a lot of locals were getting caught by it also. The
strange thing was that the traffic the other way was flowing freely, only our direction
was prohibited. We never found out why, we turned around in the middle of the street
and went back the other way.
After parking, just down the street from the ticket we hiked up to the castle and
signed up for a tour (in Slovak, the only option) and wandered along with the group. The
castle has all the usual walls, gates, arrow slits and tower of most castles. It
is about half reconstructed. The earliest foundations date from the 1200's. Most
of this reconstruction is following the 1600's castle.
We traveled up to the northern mountains and looked at rocky promontories and forested
Along the way we saw several more castle ruins on hilltops that commanded a view
of the valley. Evidently this area was a major trade route and the local lords taxed
the merchandise as it passed through. We have seen this situation in several countries
including Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the Baltic States.
The eastern end of these mountains were visited by a tremendous windstorm in 2004. Tens
of thousands of acres were laid flat and salvage logging is still going on today. Some
of it has been reforested but actually very little. It would have been impossible
to come up with enough seedlings that quickly to do the job properly.
(Our "Lonely Planet Guide" says that "pines" were the trees blown down, I saw only
firs, hemlocks and larch in the area. Trust a retired forester to know the difference. Most
people use the term "pine" interchangeably with "conifer" when they are not the same
and shouldn't be used as the same.)
This is a heavily used hiking and skiing area and has probably suffered from the
We drove past more hilltop castles and mountains as we turned north to Poland. We
are on our way to see an ancient salt mine.