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Munkacs - Mukacheve
Munkacs castle on the hill over the town
Munkacs castle

Its showcase foundation is a 68 meter high dormant volcano. It watches over the city lying below, wide open to all eyes and winds, and only the volcanic Carpathians stand up behind it as a devoted wife. It has seen a lot in its lifetime, and now it peers out at Europe and its own past, spanning about a thousand years. It is Palanok Castle in Mukachevo, in the Transcarpathian region, an invincible relic of the Middle Ages.

The Story of Palanok

Castle in the past

They say that Mukachevo is named after the castle. Residents of the Transcarpathian region poured their pain (muka in Ukrainian) into a lonely hill, and there an outpost appeared at the crossroads for trade and military routes.

 

And the fact is that this hill is not artificial, but of natural volcanic origin. In the 9th – 11th centuries the first wooden fortresses appeared here. And neither Polovets Khan Kuteshko, who besieged the wooden fortress for 50 days in 1089 nor Mongolian Khan Batyi in 1241 with a horde of sixty thousand did not manage to defeat Palanok.

 

In the 14th century, instead of the oak stockade named “palanok” (where the castle got its name) stone walls arose. Annually the residents of Mukachevo were obliged to hack out all tree sprouts or bushes on the hill in order to prevent the enemy from approaching the fortress suddenly under the cover of the brush.

In 1396 Mukachevo became the property of the Prince of Podillia, Fedir Koriatovych. The magnate strengthened the castle, dug a moat and turned into his residence. Under the Old Tower he ordered a well dug in the rock. Now a new pain: they had to dig 85 meters in order to find water! Legend has it that after centuries of work this titanic project got a fabulous break. The devil helped Koriatovych with the construction of the well after the prince promised to give him a bag of gold. When the time came to pay, the prince gave the devil a small bag! The angry devil jumped to the well and even now he is not still and sometimes you can hear his clamor.

 

Palanok’s strength has always been impressive: 5-meter thick walls, a large permanent garrison, 164 guns, 60 barrels of gunpowder, and sufficient food supplies in the event of a long siege. In the times of the Transylvanian Prince Rakoci (1633-1711) Palanok Castle became one of the strongest fortresses of Central Europe. It’s incredible: for three years from 1658 to 1688, the widow of Prince Ferenz I, a delicate woman named Ilona Zrini withstood the troops of Austrian Emperor Leopold I in Palanok. The Turkish sultan Mehmed IV, impressed by her courage, awarded the princess with special credentials: the only such case in history. Now the wise princess with her son Ferenz Rakoci II peers out over the city, because in March 2006 their monument was established on the central bulwark.

 

The monument to prince Koriatovych remains in the castle yard where for good luck you need only to take hold of the bronzed finger of this nobleman, now polished by a thousand hands.

Photo by I. Khoma
Photo by I. Khoma

Palanok was a stronghold for the anti-Habsburg struggle (1703) and the capital of Transylvania (1705). At that time they even had their own mint and an Austrian political prison (1782-1897). From December 1805 to March of 1806 these walls hid the greatest treasure of Hungary from Napoleon’s troops – the Hungarian Holy Crown. During Soviet times the castle was even a technical school. Now on the territory of Palanok, with a total area of almost 13,930sq.m, there is a historical museum (tel.: (+380 3131) 44-096), art gallery, art studio and cozy coffee houses.

 

 

The castle is situated on Pidzamkova Str. It is open everyday except Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The entrance fee for adults is 4 hryvnas, for children – 1.50 hryvnas.

Getting there

Map

 

 

You can get to Mukachevo from Uzhgorod (49 km) by scheduled busses or short distance trains. There are comfortable daily trains to Uzhgorod from Kyiv or Lviv. To get to the castle from downtown Mukachevo, take mini bus #3.

 

© Blacky

© Panorama Magazine



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