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Bojnice Castle
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Journeying Through Slovakia 1996

Bojnice Casle
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Walking Through Centuries of Cities and Towns

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Bojnice, a pearl of Horne Ponitrie (Upper Nitra Valley), the town housing one of the oldest spa in Slovakia, is situated below the Bojnice Castle built on travertine rock at the foothills of Mala Magura.

Archaeological surveys have proved that Bojnice had been inhabited since primeval times. At the beginning of feudal period the area was known for tar manufacturing. In the early 10th century, after the decline of the Great Moravian Empire part of Slav populations facing invasions of the Hungarian troops had to retreat to mountain valleys where they started to built mountain fortresses and small castles.

Bojnice castle was first built in the 11th century as it is first mentioned in the bill of Zobor Abbey in Nitra, originating in 1113. The history of the castle is very rich in the events that often influenced the history of Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

The first owner was Matus Cak, "The master of Tatras and Danube," who got the castle in 1302 from Hungarian king Vaclav II. Then Ladislav Opolsky a Hungarian nobleman and in 1489 legendary king Matej gave it to his illegitimate son Jan Korvin. Famous king Matej liked to visit Bojnice, from where he was working on his royal decrees. He used to dictate them under his beloved linden three, that was later named: "The Linden three of king Matej." After his death and conflicts about the ascension of the Hungarian throne, the castle became the property of Zapolsky family. Jan Zapolsky was the strongest Hungarian Aristocrat.

Since 1528 when the Thurzos, the richest family in northern Hungary (now Slovakia), became the castle's owners, the castle silhouette began to change and they made serious changes, additions and alterations. What was until then known as a fortress became a roomy renaissance castle. From 1646 the castle's owners were the Palffy family, who continued with its rebuilding, especially Pavol Palffy, emperor's general. The last famous castle owner from the Palffy's, Jan Palffy (1829-1908), made a complex romantic reconstruction on the edge of 20th century and he created a beautiful imitation of pomp French castles in the Loire valley. He was not only a builder, but also the architect and graphic designer. He utilized his fine artistic taste and love for collecting pieces of art. He was one of the greatest collectors of antiques, tapestries, drawings, paintings and sculptures of his time. Jan Palffy in his last will charged his heirs to create a public museum at the castle. Unfortunately, his dream has not come true. After selling many precious pieces of art, the Palffy heirs in February 25,1939, sold the whole castle, the health spa and the surrounding lands and forests to Jan Bata of the shoe empire. After the W.W.II, Bata's property was confiscated by the government and Bojnice Castle has become the seat of many institutions. On May 9, 1950, the castle fell victim of massive fire, later on it was rebuilt at States expense. After the reconstruction a museum specializing in documentation and presentation of the era of architectural neo-styles had opened here.

Bojnice ZOO founded in 1955 has the longest tradition in Slovakia in its field. At the end of 1991 it had 242 different species and more than 2000 animals, among them Royal Condor, Mandarin Ducks, African Military Monkeys, Chimpanzees, Barbary Apes, Polar Bears, Brown Bears, Leopards, Lions and Tigers, Australian Red Kangaroos and mighty African Elephants.

Bojnice spa's healing therapeutic springs are first mentioned in 1549. Today they treat patients with disorders of locomotion apparatus, rheumatic diseases, post traumatic conditions, conditions after orthopedic disturbances of the spine in adolescents, neurological diseases and occupational diseases.

The town of Bojnice was granted its city's patent by king Ludovit I, on February 22, 1366, through his royal privilege. This status strengthen its position both politically and economically. The economic life of the town was flourishing with handicrafts, however the main subsistence remained agriculture, fruit growing and saffron collecting.

Today the population of Bojnice is somewhere around 5100, many of them employed by the spa, hospital or in service industries. Last few years the private enterprise is flourishing too.

I have been to Bojnice on school trips during my school years in Bratislava, later on alone, as my hobby was to visit old castles and ruins during the summer school break. I started hitch-hiking year after my dad passed away at age 12 and went around Czecho-Slovakia castles numerous times. Bojnice was always my favorite. I returned in 1989 with Maria and our two children and we were all happy to be there.
Last week of June there is a Folk Festival of Upper Nitra Region being held at the amphitheatre and just before Christmas every year they have The Days Of Christmas Carols Of Christians Of Slovakia. I did participate at two of the Christmas festivals and I will write about my feelings soon.







Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 2, No. 1, Spring 1994
Copyright Vladimir Linder 1994 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.