Sprinkled across Slovakia are over 3.000 castles and ruins, but this one, tucked in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains is especially fascinating. Legend holds that the lady of the manor, Countess Elizabeth Bathory had a special beauty regime: she liked to bathe in the blood of village virgins, believing it to be her secret to youth. With the help of her assistants, and even a sadistic dwarf as one version holds, she lured young maidens up to the castle where they met their fate. Some say over 600 young girls were sacrificed; others, a mere 100. Whatever versions of the story you might believe all seemed real as two intrepid friends and I trekked the kilometer or so up the narrow and unimproved path to the ruins. “Whose idea was this?” 

2014 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Elizabeth of Bathory, and the little Slovakian hamlet of Cachtice, where the castle resides, has begun restoring portions of the ruins and preparing for tourism, with a brand-spanking new entry point (€2.50 to walk the ruins, but the WC, perched on the cliff, is free). This won’t be on the Carpathian Mountains Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus any time soon, though, so come prepared with hiking shoes and a bottle of water.

A dark band of clouds cast shadows over the ruins during our visit. Could that have been any more appropriate?

From the neighboring village of Visnove there is a second path to the ruins, for the more adventurous hikers.

The Czech Republic in the background.

 The tower where Elizabeth of Bathory was condemned to lifelong imprisonment.

From the makeshift souvenir table we could not resist purchasing “Bathoryckina Krv,” the full-bodied wine, and ruby-red, of course. 
The hamlet of Cachtice is small, and in the square stands a wood carving of Elizabeth of Bathory, complete with a screaming maiden at her feet. In the background is St. Ladislav, where it is believed her remains are buried, though no one has ever found them. We sat for a quick lunch in the square and watched plenty of visitors pose with the Bloody Countess. A little creepy, a little quirky.

Good weather, good friends, good road trip.”Whose idea was this?”