Note: I wrote this in the spring, on the first sunny day after a long, dark winter. But, I didn't get around to finishing it until the heat of August. That might clear up some confusion.
There are certain questions that most of us will never ask ourselves. Such as, if you were a king or queen, would you designate a royal sunbathing area in your castle?
It may sound silly, but perhaps it’s a thought that bounces around royal heads.
We recently visited the old castle ruins at Visegrád, Hungary, and I was most impressed by the location. After a hike up a leafy hill, we found ourselves at the ticket line to get through the gate. Fortunately, there was no draw bridge to block our way – just an old lady who didn’t collect entrance fees very quickly. (I can imagine her thoughts: “The castle isn’t going anywhere, it’s been here for hundreds of years, there’s no rush…”)
This is a boring story so far, but bear with me.
Strolling around to the other side of the castle, we were overtaken by a great view. The castle sits on a hill overlooking the famous Danube Bend, so you can look at a curving river, plenty of grassy hills, and, in this case, the first blast of spring sunshine.
This is where I noticed the priorities of modern tourists, and spoiler alert, history isn’t at the top. Rather than walk up into the castle itself, many took the 20 steps down a staircase and relaxed on some benches with the view. When the benches were full, the rebellious types started reclining on the grass.
This is what made me start thinking about my question from the beginning. Did the original owner choose this location because of its strong defensive position on top of a hill, its close proximity to the mighty river – the superhighway of the day – or because of the great spot to sunbathe while still inside of the castle walls?
If it sounds a bit trivial for a castle built centuries ago, just think about how much trouble it must have been to saddle up the royal carriage just to go catch some rays!
After touring the rest of the castle, I realized that most of it is in ruins. I’d been prepared for that, but I was also hoping that there would be some cool museum exhibitions around, or at least some good historical learning possibilities. They had a little of each, but nothing spectacular.
You had to pay extra if you wanted to go into the room of wax figures set up as if they were having a banquet. We weren’t part of the Italian tour bus that was also visiting, so we obviously just left that little adventure for them.
In the end, I’ll probably never know whether the royal family of old used to lounge around in the sun outside of the castle. All I know for sure is that the royal seat was eventually moved down the river to the Buda castle, and the angle there is far less ideal for sunbathing. The king who made that choice probably sunburned easily, like me. Sounds like a wise man.
Hungarian Word of the Day:
This is pronounced “Fell-egg-varr,” and it’s the name of the upper citadel on the top of the hill in Visegrád (the castle I’ve been talking about here). It’s interesting because it literally translates to “Cloud Castle,” so they might have given it that name to keep secret their amazing sun spot. “Nope, it’s cloudy here, so you can’t come over today. Go build your own castle, you lazy freeloaders!”