Devinska Kobyla is the name of a hill to the north-west of Bratislava
, with the suburb/village Devin
at its foot. At the top there used to be a Cold-War
-era anti-aircraft missile base during the times of the CSSR
What there is to see:
Before you can see anything of note beyond the (pretty enough) forest, you have to hike up the old approach road leading to the summit of the hill, which is closed to regular car traffic. It's a paved road, though, so quite an easy walk, even if it's uphill for about a mile.
Eventually you get to the poles that once supported the fence around the military site, but now there is no longer any gate or any other form of security. You can just go in. To the side of the road you can already make out shapes of buildings and the odd partially overgrown entrance to underground tunnels. But we first carried on further uphill to get to the first set of former hangars in which the missiles used to be stored back in the day.
These missiles were Soviet
S-125 Neva surface-to-air missile (SAM) rockets, i.e. they formed part of the anti-aircraft defence system for the protection of Bratislava
– which due to its location right on the edge of the Iron Curtain
was the most exposed larger city in the whole Eastern Bloc
during the Cold-War
The missiles have long gone, of course, and most of the interior fixtures as well. You can see cut cables and looted switch cabinets, only parts of the air venting system is still in place. Needless to say, there is plenty of graffiti around now, most of it of the boring “tag” type, but also a few somewhat more imaginative ones.
But you really have to use your imagination a lot in order to picture what the place must have looked like when it was still in operation.
Look closely, though, and you can e.g. make out circular patches of concrete outside – these must have been the places where the rocket launchers would have been positioned when the missiles were out on alert and ready to fire.
We poked about in several ex-hangars. There were two basic types – with straight and with curved/vaulted ceilings. Some had hinges for steel doors, which however have also long gone, so the hangars are now exposed to the elements.
Deeper inside you need a torch (flashlight) to see where you're treading, and some ceilings were so low that I had to bend down to avoid scraping my head. There isn't an awful lot to see, but there is the general eerie atmosphere typical of abandoned military places.
In the middle of a larger clearing at the very summit of the hill stands a lone chimney-like tube of rusty metal with a kind of cage at the top. A watchtower. There's a ladder inside so you can climb to the top. From here you get a pretty good view of the surrounding area. In fact you can see the cityscape of Bratislava
sprawling to the south-east of the foot of the hill. And looking the other way you can see well into what used to be “enemy territory” back in the Cold-War
days (even though, strictly speaking, Austria
was/is a neutral country and as a non-NATO
member was at best a secondary enemy, but still part of the capitalist West).
Also part of the former military base are a couple of ancillary buildings, in particular a three-storey ex-administrative block. We had a good look around inside this one as well. Access via the ramp on the eastern wing of the building is a bit dicey as this has seriously crumbled away over the years, but once inside it's pretty safe. The staircase without any handrails may look a bit iffy but is wide enough and still stable so you can also explore upstairs.
The interior has been heavily looted. You'll find bathrooms smashed up to expose piping – of which very little is still in place. Even light fixtures have been ripped out. Graffiti is everywhere.
We could have explored even more, but as night was slowly falling we had to leave to make sure we got back to the bottom of the hill before dark.
The ex-military base, though mostly in ruins now, was certainly one of the coolest and most off-the-beaten-track treats during my whole-day guided tour “beyond the ordinary” – as the slogan of the tour operator rightly goes. This was "Authentic Slovakia"
, and the tour was a specially tailored and expanded combined version of their “post-socialist tour
” and “Hike and Drink” tour. Of the regular tours it is the latter that includes a hike up to Devinska Kobyla. See the sponsored page for Authentic Slovakia here
! Highly recommended!
a mile and a half (2.5 km) north of Devin castle (as the crow flies) and a bit over 6 miles (10 km) north-west from the city centre of Bratislava
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: best by guided tour; but in theory also freely explorable.
In theory you could just make your own way to the hilltop. If you come by car you can only get as far as a spot a third of the way up the hill from the Bratislava
suburb of Dubravka. The tarmac track up the hill is blocked by a barrier. But bicycles could carry on beyond this point. Otherwise you have to hike it. It's not too steep but a good mile (1.7 km) of uphill walking.
The ex-missile base is no longer guarded so you can in theory poke around at will. To get the most out of it, however, and to make sure you see all the best bits, it is better to go there on a guided tour
. This is part of one of the tours offered by the alternative operator "Authentic Slovakia"
(see their sponsored page here
!), namely their “Hike and Drink” tour, which also takes in Devin
and ends with tasting of local currant wine. Instead I had the visit to Devinska Kobyla worked into a tailored 7-8 hour tour that combined their longer “post-socialist tour
” and some elements of the “Hike and Drink tour” (minus the drink and Devin castle) and also included more extra relics of the Iron Curtain near Bratislava
Cost: The regular “Hike and Drink tour” costs from 39 EUR per person (in a group of 4-7 people) to 89 EUR (for 2 people) – a solo tour would roughly be the cost for 2 minus 10%.
The hill is theoretically accessible at all times but only daylight hours make sense. You don't want to be caught out in the dark here.
Time required: between one and two hours on average, I would say, but dedicated urban explorers will probably want to spend much longer than that up here.
Add to that the time for getting there and the hike up the hill and back.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
The Devinska Kobyla hike is part of Authentic Slovakia's “Hike and Drink” tour, which also takes in Devin
(see sponsored page here
), so these two places make the most natural combination.
From Devin you can also head north to explore more bits of the Iron Curtain relics
along the Morava River.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
From the top of Devinska Kobyla you get one of the best views of the surrounding countryside. If you climb that watchtower in the abandoned ex-missile base you can see as far as Vienna
, 30 miles (50 km) upriver on the Danube. In the other direction and closer by you get a good aerial view of Bratislava, especially the sprawling Petržalka prefab district.
There is a viewpoint a bit below the ex-missile base (and outside the ex-base's perimeter) that is said to provide a good unobstructed view west and south, but as nightfall was drawing closer at the time I was there we didn't have the time to check it out.
- Devinska Kobyla 01 - approach road
- Devinska Kobyla 02 - into the underground
- Devinska Kobyla 03 - ex-missile hangar
- Devinska Kobyla 04 - inside
- Devinska Kobyla 05 - another hangar
- Devinska Kobyla 06 - cables
- Devinska Kobyla 07 - looted electronics
- Devinska Kobyla 08 - back room
- Devinska Kobyla 09 - escape hatch
- Devinska Kobyla 10 - yet another hangar
- Devinska Kobyla 11 - looking out
- Devinska Kobyla 12 - evening light
- Devinska Kobyla 13 - administrative building
- Devinska Kobyla 14 - crumbling
- Devinska Kobyla 15 - inside
- Devinska Kobyla 16 - tiles
- Devinska Kobyla 17 - staircase
- Devinska Kobyla 18 - ex-watchtower at the summit of the hill
- Devinska Kobyla 19 - ladder to the top
- Devinska Kobyla 20 - view over Bratislava
- Devinska Kobyla 21 - view towards Vienna