A village that is now officially a suburb of Bratislava
, but physically separated from the city by hills and woodlands. The location right on the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, with a castle right on a rocky outcrop, has always been a strategically important one. This was also the case during the Cold War
era, when both rivers used to form part of the border that was the Iron Curtain
It still is the border with Austria
, but no longer the heavily guarded line between the blocs that it used to be. A couple of memorials now commemorate that grim period in which several hundred people lost their lives trying to get across to the West.
What there is to see:
Devin is dominated by its big rock on top of which sits Devin castle – now largely a ruin. You can visit the castle and enjoy the grand views over the surrounding lands from up there. That's what most visitors come here for. But for the dark tourist the main attraction lies at the foot of the rock:
First and foremost there is the so-called Gate of Freedom Memorial
. This is the main memorial commemorating the Iron Curtain
that used to be right here running right in front of the Devin castle rock on the riverbanks of the Morava and Danube. The military installations, watchtowers and barbed wire that used to secure this extremely sensitive spot back then were quickly removed after 1989 and the Velvet Revolution
in the CSSR
that ended communist
But the monument aims to keep alive the memory of all those who were killed at this border during the Cold War
period. According to plaques on the side of the monument, there were as many as 400 who were shot dead at this part of the border on the CSSR side.
The monument as such consists of three large concrete blocks that form the shape of a gate (Stonehenge-style, i.e. with one block placed horizontally atop the two upright ones). In between the blocks there are bent rusty steel bars that look reminiscent of a pried-open prison window (or at least I guess that's the idea). But the most noticeable feature here are the many holes in the concrete that look like bullet holes or shrapnel scars. They are fake, obviously, but they still convey a grim atmosphere. The names of the victims of this border are engraved on the inside of the gate.
A short distance upriver on the banks of the Morava stands another Iron Curtain memorial
monument. This one is completely made from metal, and more abstract than its bigger counterpart. The only concrete shape in this cluster of rusty metal is what looks like a glove, forgotten and welded to the metal. But there are also two text panels. One offers two Winston Churchill
quotes for contemplation (in the original English and in Slovak translation): “The farther backwards you can look, the farther forward you can see” and the classic: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste
in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent”.
The other text panel notes the unveiling of this monument by the British
Queen Elizabeth II on 23 October 2008. So quite an unexpected double portion of Britishness at this spot!
If you walk in the other direction, i.e. round the front of the castle rock along the banks of the Danube, you come to a nondescript-looking building that my guide pointed out was originally built by Nazi Germany
and whose roof was later used during the communist era for staging propagandistic events. Our guide showed us a black-and-white photo in which the stage sported the over-sized portraits of Stalin
and Gottwald (the CSSR
's own Stalinist leader until 1953 – see also under Prague
All in all, there isn't that much of particularly dark interest here, but it may be worth the detour for the more determined dark tourist. And if you're visiting Devin castle anyway then checking out these monuments is an easy extra bonus to take in.
NOTE that Devin is part of one of the guided tours offered by the alternative operator "Authentic Slovakia"
– see their sponsored page here
! – namely their “Hike and Drink tour”, which also takes in Devinska Kobyla
. The tour I was on with them was specially tailored to my specifications and time constraints so we did not go up to the castle (or sample any currant wine, which is normally part of this tour). Hence I cannot say anything first hand about what the castle is like inside or if the views live up to what you might expect.
in the south-westernmost corner of Slovakia
right at the confluence of the two border rivers Danube and Morava, ca. 6 ½ miles (10 km) west of the centre of Bratislava
and less than 2 ½ miles (4 km) north of Hainburg in Austria
Access and costs:
quite a bit out of Bratislava
proper, but accessible by public transport from there; free (except the castle and for transport/tours).
To get to Devin from Bratislava you can take bus line 29 from the terminal under the northern end of Most SNP right on the western edge of Bratislava
's Old Town. The line terminates right by the castle, so is easy to use. The ride takes ca. 20 minutes and costs under a euro (90 cents at the time of writing). You have to buy a ticket from a kiosk before boarding the bus – the driver does not dispense any tickets nor is there a ticket machine on the bus.
Devin is also part of one of the guided tours offered by the alternative operator "Authentic Slovakia"
(see their sponsored page here
), namely the one called “Bratislava Hike and Drink”, which also includes Devinska Kobyla
and local currant wine tasting. These tours cost between 39 EUR (if in a group of 4-7 people) and 59 EUR (for 2 participants).
Time required: 15 minutes or so for just the two Iron Curtain memorials and a walk along the river(s). But add at least an extra hour or two if you also want to see the castle atop its rock.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Bratislava
The most obvious combination (other than back in Bratislava) is Devinska Kobyla
– the hill to the north of Devin where you can explore an abandoned former missile base from the Cold War
era. This is best done by guided tour (see above
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Devin castle is a major mainstream attraction in the area, much more so than the two little Iron Curtain memorials at the foot off the rock. So if old castle ruins and good views of the surrounding landscape are your kind of thing, then this is probably the best you can find in these parts. It is a popular spot – and the general advice is to come early in the day, before the masses arrive.
There's plenty of tourist infrastructure about as well, so you can, for instance, choose from a range of restaurants, especially in the summer when al fresco lunching and imbibing are virtually de rigueur here.
You can even get here as an excursion by pleasure boat from Hainburg over in Austria
For things back in the city see under Bratislava
- Devin 1 - castle
- Devin 2 - Maiden Tower
- Devin 3 - monument to the victims of the Iron Curtain
- Devin 4 - with mock bullet holes
- Devin 5 - another monument
- Devin 6 - Iron Curtain quote from Churchill
- Devin 7 - monument unveiled by QE2
- Devin 8 - building from the Nazi era
- Devin 9 - panoramic