Once upon a time in history, there lived a woman by the name of Báthory Erzsébet, or in English, Elisabeth Bathory. She lived during the 1600s, a Countess who owned several castles, mansions and land around what is today Slovakia. Obviously, all this I learned from Wikipedia, but what I did know before I came here, was that she is famous for (supposedly) the killing of several hundred women and bathing in the blood of virgins in an attempt to stay young. Why do I know this? Well, Jana was raised in the closest village to the Bloody Countess’ Castle, Cachtice, and for the last months we’ve been walking around in her footsteps. We’ll get back to the Countess in a little while, but first, we need to go cool the dogs off in a nearby river.
There is a river valley connecting Cachtice to another, smaller village called Visnove. It is quite narrow and overgrown with trees, but it is absolutely beautiful. For me, being from the north of Norway with small trees and tall mountains, this must be what a jungle feels like. There are oak trees here that may have been around during the Bloody Countess’ reign, trees that make you feel smaller than an ant, but there’s also tiny creatures like the beautiful blue-winged Dragonflies that flitter about, or the lizards that dart out of the way unseen, but nor unheard, when we come stomping down the trail. There’s a trail following the river, and along it there are three bigger camp sites where the locals cut the grass, make rough furniture and stack firewood. It is very popular for campers, especially now in summer.
We have made it almost a habit now to go here during the mornings, particularly when it gets really warm, to let the dogs run a bit and cool off in the river. Here they get to sniff around, figure out what kind of animals passed through during the night, and stretch a little bit.
For the woodworker in me, it’s also highly fascinating to walk there. Many of the trees lining the river are scarred by decades of flowing water and the flotsam that it carries, and there are some giant, dead oaks that look absolutely stunning in their own, ancient way. It’s a highly fascinating place, and it hasn’t stopped awing me since I got here.
But when the weather gets a bit cooler, we sometimes decide the dogs need a bit more training, and that’s when we go to visit Countess Bathory. The official trail up to the old castle ruins start in Cachtice, with a nice road leading all the way up to the gates, or, like we often prefer, a slightly shorter, but steeper, walk from Visnove. The castle itself is situated on one of the hills overlooking the village, and we usually go to a small viewpoint next to the castle.
To this day, I have not set foot inside the castle myself, to be honest. I have visited the castle in Beckov, a village a few kilometers away (another one of the Countess’ holdings), and it was quite grand, with lots of it rebuilt. The castle in Cachtice looks nice at a distance, but apparently it hasn’t been quite as rebuilt as many of the others around the country. No real matter though, it makes an interesting backdrop to many of Janas photos. There’s also a multitude of trails leading into the forest from the castle and even to other villages around. They are mostly marked, so it’s not too easy to get lost.
There’s one last place I’d like to show you, the only reason that there’s really nothing like it in Northern Norway, and I find it very fascinating. It’s a large field of grain just outside of Cachtice with a road running through it, and we went there on a day that a storm passed over our heads. Half the field had been harvested, the other half still golden with ripe grain just waiting for a mill. It’s a nice area for a quiet walk, as not too many people come there, and the dogs could finally really stretch. And as a bonus we got some awesome pictures out of it.
I am enjoying my stay here in Slovakia. It’s definitely different from what I’m used to, but change can be good sometimes, for everyone.