Once upon a time in the land of Bohemia, there was a beautiful town nestled on the banks of a curving river. On top of a craggy hill was a mighty castle where the royal family lived. Through the centuries, the town retained its medieval appearance; it escaped destruction by war or natural disaster. Today, that pristinely preserved town – Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic – invites visitors to step back in time onto cobblestone streets and walk the same paths of those from long ago.
Ninety-six. That is the number of castles listed on Slovenia’s official tourist website. While seeing all 96 is not a goal of ours, we had seen four of the most popular – Bled Castle, Ljubljana Castle, Skofja Loka Castle and Predjama Castle – and decided to visit one more, Celje Castle, which happens to be the largest medieval castle in Slovenia.
Celje Castle History
Just like in a fairytale, the Ljubljana Castle sits prominently atop a hill complete with a lookout tower and giant, billowing flag. The Castle is visible from practically every point in town and it beckoned a visit.
Getting to the Ljubljana Castle
We could have been zipped to the top of the hill via the modern, glass funicular, but instead opted for the steep climb. We followed the signs through town and down an alley to the trailhead. At the fork, rather than taking the switchbacks, we continued on a gradual incline around the hill, being greeted by fantastic views of the city along the way.
Since arriving in Kotor, Montenegro, we’ve been determined to hike the town walls – and all 1355 steps – to the San Giovanni Castle that sits at the top of the hill high above the city. A few days ago, we started the hike, propelled by the stunning scenery even though the skies were covered in dark clouds, but only made it halfway before a storm swept through. This time around, the sun was shining and, despite the gusty winds, we took the stairs from our front door and started hiking in Kotor, making the climb along the ramparts to the castle above. We paused at all the same places we had on our previous shorter hike, finding the views even more vibrant under a sky of blue.
Located inside the Charles V Castle, the Museo della Cartapesta, or Paper Mache Museum, celebrates the historic connection between the art form and Lecce. In the 18th century, many of the paper mache masters called Lecce home and took on students to teach the required skills.
Far from my childhood memories of using a blown up balloon and strips of newspaper coated in glue, the techniques used by the artists to create the stunning artwork are far superior. Many of the works were based in religion and created for Lecce’s churches. Today, a handful of Paper Mache art galleries and studios are present within the old city walls.
In the 1540s, under the direction of Charles V, the Lecce Castle was built, simultaneously incorporating and destroying the previous Norman castle that dated back to the year 1137. Lecce’s Castello di Carlo V is designed as two separate rectangular shaped buildings, one essentially ‘inside’ of the other for fortification. At one time surrounded by a moat, with only two drawbridge entrances – Port Royal faced west and led into the city, while the ‘False’ Gateway faced east.
Through the years, Lecce’s Castello di Carlo V has undergone many changes, including its purpose. It has been used as a prison, military headquarters and now is used as a cultural center. The long hallways and vast rooms with vaulted ceilings no longer contain the furnishings the castle once did. Instead they house a small Paper Mache Museum and display other current artwork. As the castle is currently under refurbishment, we were limited to wandering through only part of it, but were still able to get a sense of its historic past.