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This morning I got up to fill out the postcards I got from Skalica which I will mail later.  Then Juraj and I jumped in the car and headed east from Žilina to nearly the southern border of Poland.  We made a quick stop to view the Praying Monk and Camel rocks near where we hiked yesterday, then continued our journey.  We were in the Orava region, home to the indigenous group of people called the Gorals.  The region was very mountainous and rural.

We pulled off first to tour the great castle called Oravský Hrad.  The castle was built before 1267, placed over the site of an old wooden fortification from the Mongol Invasion of Hungary of 1241.  The castle eventually grew in size over the years and as it changed hands in ownership.  Unlike most castles in the region, it was never destroyed by Turks or others with the single exception of a fire over 200 years ago which damaged much of one section.  That section has since been repaired and, in the last century, a lot of restoration efforts have been made to bring it back.  Even the chapel and included tomb is now open for visiting.  Unfortunately, the castle may be closed some of the next year due to another fairytale filming.  But it was by far the nicest castle I have visited or seen from afar in this country thusfar!

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We left the castle and headed even closer to the Polish border.  Just after entering the Tatra National Park, we stopped for lunch.  I had beer, of course, with garlic soup and a salad with some more of the region´s notorious Slovenská bryndza.  Right next door was our next stop, the Orava Village Museum in Zuberec.  The village is a series of moved buildings such as houses, barns, churches, etc.  Many are open so you can walk inside, some just have windows to peer through.  We walked around the village to get a feel for what life was like here over the last several centuries.  The rooms were decorated heavily with ethnic clothing, handmade tools, and drying herbs.  There were even real livestock and crops growing in well-kept gardens.  On the way out, I found a cat to pet and Juraj and I threw pebbles in the bell tower until we got the bell to ring.

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A storm was brewing, so we hurried in and left just before the museum closed.  The drive home faced intermittent rain.  By the time we were home for soup and tea, the thunder was roaring and the rain was coming down heavily.  I just keep thinking towards my plans for Prague and other regions and the realization that recent floods might be altering my route a bit.  Nonetheless, we will head back to Poland tomorrow to view the town where my great-grandfather grew up, Częstochowa.