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The spirit of Slovak Christmas: Branč castle
It happened seven years after the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley. Ebenezer Scrooge, an
ageing miser, who disdained Christmas, refused a dinner invitation from his nephew Fred. He also
turned away two men seeking a donation from him to provide food and heating for the poor. On this
evening he was sitting alone in front of his cold and dark fireplace when he was visited by Marley´s
ghost, who was doomed to wander the Earth wrapped in heavy chains and money boxes, forged
during his lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley told Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid
the same fate: he will be visited by three spirits and must listen, or be cursed to carry much heavier
chains of his own.
Does this story ring a bell? Something very similar could have happened many years ago on the Branč
castle hill. The cold-hearted construction workers refused to help a poor man. The workers were
stingy, started to laugh, and sent him away. The poor man cursed them: “The devil should take the
castle and every piece of bread should change to stone”!
And it really happened. What the workers built during a day, some invisible power destroyed at
night. The workers felt fear and despair. One day, another poor man advised them to scatter crumbs
from their Christmas dinner table over the castle construction. So they waited until Christmas,
hungry and hopeless. At Christmas time they did what the poor man advised and everything stopped.
Branč castle is one of eleven mysterious Small Carpathian castles, located on the easily discernible
cone-shaped hill, at the altitude of 475 m above the village of Podbranč. Once it protected the trade
routes heading from Moravia to the Carpathian passes. Branč castle had many famous owners, like
well-known oligarch Máté Csák of Trencsén, or King Matthias Corvinus.
The castle is a must for history lovers, and the gently rounded hills of the Myjavská pahorkatina, a
duty for hikers and cyclists.
And what about the Christmas miracle? The ungenerous workers of the Branč castle said no to
someone, weak and poor, needing help. Sadly, something which happens every day. But there is
always an another option. In the world where we can be anything, we can be kind. And we can listen
to the voice of Christmas. Or to be allured by its miracle.
As Scrooge did. He awoke on Christmas morning as a changed man.