Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Hrad Day's Night

At the risk of sounding immodest, I’ve probably visited more castles than any other bear in the world, but all the ones I’ve seen had either been Muslim alcázars or alcazabas “appropriated” by conquering Spanish Catholic armies. Today though, I visited my first ever non-Muslim castle - what's called a hrad in Slovak - and it was quite different from the castles I saw in Spain. My female bipedal attendant was quick to point out that the sky wasn’t very pretty (she actually used the word “ugly”) but that’s hardly the fault of the castle. I have to keep telling her that we're not in Spain anymore.

The castle at Devín - barely 10 kilometres from Bratislava - is perched strategically atop a rocky cliff some 212 metres high, and the settlement of the site can be traced back to Neolithic times. Historically, if you could control this site then you could control the many trade routes which travelled along or across the Danube - especially the so-called Amber Road which ran from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea. I love amber - especially amber cuff links, even though the colour doesn't go very well with grey flannel.

The Celts were here, as were the Romans and the Slavs, as well as lots of other people. As far as fortresses go, this one’s a survivor and has been breached, fallen, changed hands, been modified and reinforced many many times, although Napoleon did a pretty good job blowing it up in 1809. Little men shouldn’t have access to explosives.

Much of what I visited today dated to the 15th and 16th centuries but there were remains of a 9th century basilica as well as a 4th century Christian chapel which may have served the spiritual needs of the Roman legionnaires who were stationed there at that time. I guess when men aren’t thinking about killing each other, they think about their god. Or at least their place in heaven. Humans are such an odd species.

Far far below the castle flow the grey (not blue) waters of the Danube and the brown waters of the Morova Rivers. In fact, Devín Castle overlooks the confluence of these two waterways, the middle of which is actually the border with Austria. On a clear day you can see Vienna and bits of the Alps although it was clear today but we didn’t see much except grass and trees. Still though - it was Austrian grass and trees.

As a freelance Goodwill Ambassador, I am very mindful that until 1989, the Iron Curtain followed this waterline and barbed wire was strung along the banks, cutting off access to the water. I like the fact that the dissolution of centralized Communist authority is called the “Velvet Revolution” – and not just because I’m a former international fashion model and very sensitive to fabrics (although I do look very nice in velvet – especially red velvet).

As you can see, I was forced to dress weather-appropriately today, and my bipedal attendants kindly took my hoodie out of mothballs, but not without a lot of complaining about the temperature. Last weekend it was in the mid-30’s here and today it was a brisk 13 – which I admit is a pretty significant drop in temperature. Of course, listening to my female bipedal attendant, who had to wear socks and running shoes today and who hasn’t been out of flip-flops since March, you’d think the world had come to an end. Maybe she should have been there when Napoleon was blasting the castle to smithereens. That would've given her something to complain about!


Anonymous said...

Heh Grey Bear
One of these days I expect I will see you riding a polar bear in northern Canada, or playing with the penguins in Antartica or better yet sitting in a kangaroo's pouch in Australia where it is nice and warm.

Frisco said...

Yo GB, you be stylin in red,,, I’m down with bringing back the Little Red Riding Hood look. You’re the only dude I know who could pull it off. You are always one step ahead the rest of the world. I guess we will be seeing red hoods on the runways around the world soon. Any word from Oprah?

Grey Bear said...

Snap Frisco!

Frisco said...

Anonymous, have you not read what GB's female bipedal attendent thinks of below-30 degree weather?
Australia maybe in December but I think never a polar bear or penquin.

Grey Bear said...

*Sigh* She is awfully precious.