Orava Castle: Inside the Lair of a Vampire

The flickering, grainy image of a hunched figure creeping up a silhouetted staircase, his claw-like hand extending towards a shadowed door, is an iconic piece of cinema history belonging to the 1922 German Expressionist movie, ‘Nosferatu’ – one of the first Dracula movies ever made. Although the story is set in Romania, the studio actually filmed at Orava Castle in Slovakia.

‘Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror’

Unable to obtain the rights to ‘Dracula’, the cash-strapped studio controversially copied Bram Stoker’s famous novel; admittedly, they changed the characters’ names and some of the narrative, but essentially the story is the same. Bram Stoker’s widow was not impressed at this bold display of plagiarism, in fact she won a court ruling that insisted all copies of ‘Nosferatu’ be destroyed. Her victory bankrupted the small studio. Happily for cinema buffs, a single copy survived and enabled the film ‘Nosferatu’ to become a cult movie today.

Further cost-cutting measures took the film crew to Slovakia – a closer, cheaper alternative to Transylvania, which consequently, is how I came to be standing at the bottom of a large rocky outcrop on a cloudy November morning staring up at the impressively rugged Orava Castle.

Orava Castle

It all began many years ago when I studied ‘Nosferatu’ in a Film Studies class. A few years later, I studied ‘Dracula’ in a Literature class. My love of classic vampire fiction is well established on this blog, (You can read about my visit to Transylvania here, my visit to Dracula’s tomb here, and my fascination with Vlad the Impaler here) so when I found out that my most recent travels took me within 30 minutes, I simply had to visit Nosferatu’s castle.

Entering Orava Castle

Orava Castle (Oravský Hrad in Slovak) is a formidable fortress guarding the Orava River not far from the Slovak/Polish border. It is a magnificent feat of architecture; the granite walls of the castle meld perfectly into the limestone karst on which it stands. An attacking army would certainly have approached this place with extreme caution. Looking up at the castle on a dark and stormy winter’s night, a lone traveller could well be haunted by vampire lore even today.

Today, you can only enter Orava Castle as part of a guided tour, and, luckily for us, a tour was just starting when we arrived. Unfortunately, it was with a Slovak language guide only. Having no other option to see inside the vampire’s lair, we decided to join anyway. We paid the entrance fee and passed the large wooden door into the courtyard. After the last guest entered, the guide turned the key, pocketed it, and proceeded to start his tour.

We were locked in!

Courtyard to the Castle

Not only were we locked in, but an old-fashioned, unharnessed horse trap that waited patiently in the entrance tunnel indicated that Nosferatu was at home.

An Unattended Carriage. Orava Castle

The Vampire’s Lair

Most of the castle is fairly standard – staterooms are decorated beautifully, portraits of fine-looking men and women adorn the walls, and latticed windows overlook stunning countryside.

Lattice Window, Orava Castle

But, it was the architecture that interested me most. Looking up at the castle from the courtyard is fantastic; the castle rises steeply from the rock, dramatically culminating in dizzying uppermost turrets.

Courtyard, Orava Castle

Most of the tour is an exhilarating upward climb towards the sky, and the view from the top is stunning.

View from Orava

It is clear to see why the studio chose this location for their vampire’s castle; see how this description from Bram Stoker’s Dracula describes Orava perfectly:

The castle was built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable, and great windows were placed here where sling, or bow, or culverin could not reach, and consequently light and comfort, impossible to a position which had to be guarded, were secured. To the west was a great valley, and then, rising far away, great jagged mountain fastnesses, rising peak on peak, the sheer rock studded with mountain ash and thorn, whose roots clung in cracks and crevices and crannies of the stone.”

Orava Castle Museum

Orava Castle plays an additional role as a museum showcasing Slovak life throughout the centuries. You can see exhibits of clothing, farming and hunting methods, local wildlife, as well as read explanations of the geographical terrain. 

The exhibits are all very interesting, but it was Nosferatu that I had come to see, and I finally met him in the topmost room of the castle. Surprisingly (to me at least), the others in the group barely glanced at him, which meant I got longer to pose with him alone. My journey was complete.

Nosferatu himself

We were pretty hungry by the time we came out of the castle, so after our visit we walked around by the river in order to view the castle more from ground level, before heading into a local restaurant for some Slovak food and a glass of the local soft drink, Kofola.

Obviously, I would absolutely recommend a trip to Orava Castle if you happen to be in the area. It really is worth a few hours of your time. You can see my Snapchat Story from Orava here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV66c5PbQ7w

What do you think of this castle, would you like to visit it? Have you ever visited a place based on a book or a movie? Let me know in the comments below, or share the post if you enjoyed it. Thank you!

Post Author
Runaway Brit

Comments

19 Comments
  1. posted by
    Faith Coates
    Dec 17, 2016 Reply

    Oh my god this is just epic what an absolute dream to experience this I just loved it.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Dec 17, 2016 Reply

      Thank you!

  2. posted by
    Amalia
    Dec 17, 2016 Reply

    Very nice pictures! I didn’t know that the film was not done in Romania!!

    I’ve been to the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, which is the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Very beautiful! You should consider going there 🙂

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Dec 17, 2016 Reply

      I really want to go to Neuschwanstein Castle! I was in Germany in the summer, but we didn’t go quite close enough to get there in the time we had. I absolutely will get there one day – it looks beautiful!

  3. posted by
    Mri
    Dec 17, 2016 Reply

    That’s an awesome place to visit! I love mythology and the old gruesome, historical stories of vampires – even though their logic is extremely weird. Like, how does throwing rice or beans on their graves at night to stop them from eating you? lols that would make for a great movie though.

    Will definitely have to check out Orava Castle just for the views of the town by the looks of it! And your other two posts about Dracula and Vlad. (:

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Dec 17, 2016 Reply

      Yeah – I never really got the garlic thing either, but vampire lore is totally fascinating, for sure!

  4. posted by
    Rhiannon
    Dec 17, 2016 Reply

    This looks like such an incredible place to visit – and your writing really brings it to life! I definitely felt like I was there with you for the most part. Such an interesting backstory to the castle! I haven’t watched Nosferatu, nor have I ever read Dracula despite having bought a copy years and years ago, but maybe now I will! And if I ever head back to Slovakia I’ll be sure to make some time for this. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Dec 17, 2016 Reply

      Thank you so much. I love Dracula, it’s a great book! And I have a welsh woman to thank for introducing me to Nosferatu, I watched it in a film studies class in Cardiff 😀

  5. posted by
    Misa
    Dec 18, 2016 Reply

    I NEED to see this castle and it’s not that far away from CZE so I really should. I love Dracula so this place and other places in Romania are on my travel list! 🙂

  6. posted by
    Katie
    Dec 18, 2016 Reply

    Wow what a haunting but incredible place to visit! I love visiting places like this 🙂

  7. posted by
    Katie
    Dec 18, 2016 Reply

    What an incredible place to visit! It is now on my bucketlist!

  8. posted by
    Charity Valenzuela Marces
    Dec 19, 2016 Reply

    The pictures look amazing! Despite this idea being logically silly, I think I like the idea of a ghostly venture on Christmas. Orava Castle is certainly a formidable fortress that I would love to see one day.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Dec 19, 2016 Reply

      I think it would be fun! Apparently, you can stay in Bran Castle (Romania) overnight on Halloween. I’m not sure I’m quite brave enough to do it though – I would be terrified!

  9. posted by
    Harsh Gupta
    Dec 19, 2016 Reply

    WOW, I love everything that has to do with scary and vampires. Have grown up watching such stuff. Would love to visit this castle and experience it firsthand.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Dec 19, 2016 Reply

      I am completely fascinated by vampires, but I’m not very good at watching scary movies – even Nosferatu scares me to death!

  10. posted by
    Our Seaside Baby
    Dec 19, 2016 Reply

    What a wonderful place to visit. I would definitely be spooked! I’ve heard so many great things about Slovakia, would love to visit one day! Love the snowflakes on your page too 🙂 Polly

  11. posted by
    chris
    Dec 20, 2016 Reply

    that looks super cool! Good idea going in the day time…

  12. posted by
    Jena mae
    Dec 21, 2016 Reply

    Ahh! What! Honestly, this is the first time Ive read about this castle and fact that I am obssessed with castles right now made me feel guilty that Ive overlooked this. Its interesting and now I want to go and visit it!;)

  13. posted by
    Julie
    Mar 22, 2017 Reply

    I’ve randomly been into Slovakia for a hot minute, would love to go back and check this out. I love places like this!!

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