We headed up the Vah River valley from the capital of Bratislava to the city of Trenčín. We stayed at a nice campground that is on a island in the river and close to the train station and downtown, with showers, a kitchen, bathrooms, etc. From our campsite we have a great view of the castle on the hill, which is lit up at night.
We went up to look around the castle, the tour was underwhelming but the view from the main tower overlooking the town, river and valley was really worth it. They also had a little medieval booth where you could fire black powder firearms and shoot a bow and arrow. The town is nice, and was a good base to explore many of the castle ruins and hikes in this area. There was a unique fountains of a man crawling out a well and spitting water, which then leaped up in a series of arcs. Kids loved it and it was usually crowed with kids playing with the water which was well designed as an interactive fountain.
Čachtice Castle Ruins
The next day, we took a trip to the town of Nové Mesto nad Váhom, and to the ruins of the Čachtice castle. From the train station in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, we hiked up through the hills, down some hills, along a river, through some small valleys and farms, eventually arriving at the ruins on the top of a hill. The history of the castle is grim, as it was held by a horrible serial killer woman, Elizabeth Bathory (the Blood Countess), who killed many people in gruesome ways and was eventually imprisoned for her crimes here.
It was a long and hot hike, and we ate lunch in a meadow looking over the ruins. We finished by walking back down to the town of Čachtice, fantasizing about water, soda, anything because we had finished most of our water during the long hike, and it was a long and hot day of hiking. In Czech and Slovakia, they have a local soda called Kofola that we were fixating on as we headed back to town. As we arrived in small village, right across the main street was a outdoor cafe where we saw people drinking cold looking glasses of the dark soda. We happily gulped down a few in the hot sun. Kofola tastes a little like a mix between Dr. Pepper and Jagermeister, without alcohol, and is not too sweet. It is made with a mix of 14 natural ingredients, including extracts of apple, cherry, currant, herbs and other things and does not have as much sugar as coke or pepsi. They serve it cold and on tap in big glass jars. It was really good after a long day of hiking.
We we got back to Trenčín on the train, we decided to try some traditional Slovak food. Alexa had “bryndzove halusky” which are potato dumplings, like gnocchi, with sheep cheese and bacon. Sheep cheese is a common and traditional Slovakian food in this area. Jason had a potato pancake with pork, gravy and the usual veggies. Both were excellent and we were super hungry.
The next day we went to Považská Bystrica looking for more castle ruins, but ended up just taking a long walk through some nice valley with meadows, small farms and mature forests. Afterward we had a barbecue at our campground, looking across the river and up at the castle, which is lit up at night.
Next on our list for the Trenčín area was the ruins at Bechov. We took the train down to Nové Mesto nad Váhom, and then got on a bus to the small town of Bechov. There are some castle ruins up on the large rocky bluffs above the town that are very photogenic. We had great weather and the rolling hills around the castle are green and the fruit trees were blooming, making for some awesome views. We ate our picnic lunch looking over the castle, with stunning views. We walked around the village below, looking at the massive bluffs and castle from different angles from below. There are some great trails in the area and the ruins set in rolling hills and small farm fields made for a nice day of hiking. We had another meal at the campground and then got ready to move on.
Here in Europe, they have well marked trails with plenty of wayfinding signs from the train and bus stations, providing directions to the downtown, or other major destinations (mostly castle ruins in this area) that match the colors on our trail maps. This handy system means it is easy to find our way from within the city to the hiking trail destinations, or other landmarks in the city. Next stop is Žilina.
MORE OF TRENCIN
MORE OF CACHTICE
MORE OF BECHOV