I’m on my way to Tbilisi, Georgia!
After a long and very hot drive from Kosice to Budapest, we made it through security and passport control no problem and now have some time to kill before catching our first connection to Istanbul. We’re going to be seven hours in Istanbul before boarding our next flight to Tbilisi, arriving at around 3am. I’m trying to see if it will be possible to actually go in to Istanbul during our layover, but I think we’d be a bit short on time with security and customs on both ends. One day I’ll get back there!
Yesterday was so exciting that I didn’t even mention visiting the castle. After saying goodbye to the Smihula family, we grabbed lunch at a small slovak restaurant nearby. I ordered perogies, or perohy, and they were absolutely delicious. Somehow they were so much better than the ones you get at home. I think it’s something to do with the cheese – there’s a special kind of cheese here that isn’t available in other parts of the world, and they put it in everything! It’s got a very distinct flavour, and it was perfect wrapped up with potatoes, bacon, and sour cream.
After lunch, we headed up the mountain to visit Spis Castle. We were worried it was closed, but once we got up there they were still letting people up to see it. Spis Castle is by far the most impressive and amazing castle I’ve ever seen. It’s built on top of this massive hill, and from the top you’ve got the most incredible view of all its surroundings. It’s incredible that anyone was ever able to conquer it.
I think the Hungarian Empire was in power when my ancestor, George Smihula, helped lead the peasant uprising in Bijacovce, so the Hungarians would have controlled the area from this castle. From the top there’s a clear view of all the surrounding towns, so they must have kept a watch out from there. The castle is so impressive and its defense was so intense – the peasants never stood a chance.
The castle was built in the 12 Century, and the castle as we see it today was completed by the end of the 13th Century, which is pretty incredible considering how much work would have gone in to building it. Apparently the castle burnt down, which is what caused it to be abandoned, but I’m not entirely sure how a fortress built entirely of stone could burn down. Either way, it is considered in ruins now despite having maintained a lot of its structure.
The hike up the hill was brutal in the heat and had me wondering how badly I really wanted to explore these ancient ruins; when I got to the top, I was happy I stuck it out. The castle grounds were so impressive and beautiful, and the views were way more beautiful than I could have imagined. We wandered through all of the rooms and halls, and you could read what used to be bedchambers, kitchens, a chapel, the weaponry, and all sorts of different palaces from when it was owened by different families.
We also got to climb up to the top of one of the watch towers, which gave a complete 360 of the castle’s surondings, including a beautiful view of BIjacovce. It was crazy to stand up there thinking about who would have watched my ancestors in the village below from that tower.
It was a great end to a spectacular day.
After seeing such a cool part of Slovakia yesterday, it feels crazy to be flying to Georgia today. But I’m armed with my Lonely Planet travel guide, and I’m ready to explore Georgia and Armenia! We’re staying in Tbilisi for six days, then going to Yerevan for the next six, and plan on doing day trips into the mountains. Both countries are supposed to have stunning mountain ranges with ancient monasteries overlooking the peaks – I can’t wait to get there!