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Boldogkő Castle, the hidden treasure of Zemplén Mountains

Boldogkő Castle
Boldogkőváralja
Tokaj and Nyíregyháza

Boldogkő Castle stands tall on the incredibly steep, almost vertical ridge of the Zemplén Mountains. Its attractions include a military history, as well as a mint and numismatic exhibit, tin/lead soldiers and dioramas, and even humorous jousts.

Boldogkő Castle rises on a steep, almost vertical ridge on the western side of the Zemplén Mountains. If you climb onto the walls of the castle, you will see a spectacular view of the Zemplén Nature Reserve. There is no information as to when exactly the castle was built, but we know that construction began before the invasion of the Tatars so that it could defend the road to Košice (Kassa).

The history of Boldogkő Castle

In 1282, the castle was obtained by Ladislaus IV from the Tomaj clan that built the stronghold, which then remained the property of the reigning king until the extinction of the Árpád Dynasty. The one-time drawbridge has been replaced with a wooden plank connecting the road and the gate tower. When you walk through the gate, you arrive at the lower courtyard and from then on the castle is all yours. Though small and rambling, inside it holds many spectacular and interesting things to see, so you could easily spend two or three hours here. It is made up of a lower and an upper castle. The former includes the lower courtyard and the truncated bastion, while the latter includes the donjon, the keep and the palace. The archaeological, military history, coin, coats of arms and flags exhibitions, the smithy and the castle prison take visitors back to the Middle Ages. You are taken back to the time of Béla IV and through the era of Charles Robert, up until the end of the age of chivalry. Legend has it that a master fruit dryer named Bodó helped Béla IV hide from the Tatars. To express his gratitude, the king gifted the surrounding land to him on the condition that he would build a castle. Fortunately, Bodó had seven smart, beautiful daughters who decided only to marry men who were willing to help build the castle for at least one year. The castle was therefore ready in seven years and was given the name Bodókő. Of course, the king himself was also present at the girls’ weddings and so he issued the following order: “This castle shall be named Boldogkő henceforth for these seven maidens, these seven fairies who spent their happiest times here.” Although this may be just a legend, it might be easier to remember than the true story of the castle.

 

The dry mill

The present of a castle

The palace wing houses the largest tin/lead soldier exhibition in Central Europe and presents famous battles from the history of Hungary. The scenes include such intricate details as the characteristics of the seasons or the smoke from the cannons and the guns, for which a grey cotton-wool-like material was used. In summer, the picturesque castle is home to excellent jousts mixed with banter and light humour. Knights errant present imitated jousts, where they use their single and double-handed longswords to fight with unmatched grace. The spectacular show includes fights with formidable striking weapons, the infamous chain flail and the battle axe. The most picturesque part of the castle is the so-called ‘Lion’s Rock’ at the end of a 20 m high knife-edge ridge, where a lookout platform was built. During the latest renovation, a wooden walkway was erected to take visitors around the beautiful ridge. The castle cellar and wine cellar have been linked, so whenever you get parched and tired of the sights, you can rest there in the cool atmosphere. You will also find a medieval restaurant at the foot of the castle. There is no common agreement as to which is the most picturesque castle in Hungary, but if you are looking for the one with the most beautiful view, Boldogkő Castle on the Bodókő Hill is up there with the best. To reach Boldogkőváralja from Budapest, take the M3 motorway, exit at the junction to Miskolc, then drive from Miskolc towards Encs. Put on a pair of sturdy shoes and enjoy your walk.

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