If you're visiting Vienna and are itching for a day trip, it is almost effortless to hop the border into Slovakia by taking a train to Slovakia's capital Bratislava. While Bratislava is certainly charming, it's worth leaving Bratislava for a short bus or car ride (10 km) to visit Hrad Devin, a ruined castle straight out of a fairy tale. Perched upon the confluence of the Morava and Danube Rivers, the visitor is treated to quite a hike to get to the top, complete with haunting statues and views of the Slovakian countryside. But once you step foot inside Hrad Devin, you will know exactly why you came.
Due to its strategic location, Hrad Devin occupies a spot that has been settled, fortified and fought over since the Iron and Bronze Ages. Celtic and Roman fortresses once stood here and from the 8th century on, castles were built here and added to (including the construction of a palace). The history of Hrad Devin is somewhat uncertain; it changed hands many times, including that of the Moravians, Ottomans, Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, and the French. It is said to have been finally destroyed by Napoleon I of France during his retreat in 1809. Now this castle stands as a monument to Slovakia's past; it was even used at a certain point to watch for people trying to escape the communist east into Austria.
A beautiful 55 meter deep well stands in the center of the courtyard, and visitors are free to explore every nook and cranny of the castle grounds, which winds and sprawls, taking every advantage of the cliff on which it rests. Some argue that the design was taken from the Byzantines, and there is even evidence of Italian Renaissance frescoes. On Castle Hill there is a 9th century church, and nearby the ruins of the Renaissance additions in the 15th and 16th centuries. One of the buildings houses Roman ruins that were recently excavated and can be viewed by descending a steep passage.
Possibly the most striking is the Virgin Tower, complete with the story of a knight and damsel in distress. It stands silent vigil for Margaret, a Carinthian, who lies in a watery grave at the foot of the tower. Read the full tale here.