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Grad Negova (Slovenia)

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Address: Grad Negova / Negova 13 / 9245 / Sp. Ivanjci

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      24.06.2013 21:16
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      Handsome castle but one you need not go inside

      I first became aware of Negova Castle(Grad Negova in Slovene) when I spotted it on a map I'd picked up at the Tourist Information Centre in Gornja Radgona. I mentally filed the information away for a future day trip itinerary. I knew nothing about the castle and whether it was open to the public but three years later when planning a day out with friends in the Slovenske Gorice I recalled this castle just to the west of Gornja Radgona and suggested we stop off there to have a look. A quick Google search confirmed that it was open to the public on the day our trip was proposed to take place.

      ~Where is it?~

      Negova is a small village in the hilly region of north east Slovenia known as the Slovenske Gorice (which translates as something like 'the little mountains of Slovenia'). This is a largely rural area know for its vineyards where the grapes are grown for Zlata and Srebra Penina (the two excellent sparkling wines for which Gornja Radgona is famous).

      We travelled by car coming from the direction of Maribor and I was in charge of directions, being the only person who had even a vague idea where the castle was. As we caught up with the latest news I spotted a sign for Negova long before I'd expected to but we were too late for the turning and so I suggested Chris take the next one which I hoped would hook up with the earlier road at some point. With hindsight I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened and that it was actually a case of there being no further signs rather than my hunch being wrong. A quick chat with an elderly lady confirmed the direction we should be heading in and we were soon on our way; my advice is to use a map and/or sat nav if you aren't familiar with the area because even when you are driving into Negova, there aren't any signs for the castle so you can't expect to see signs to get you there.

      ~Negova village~

      Negova is a really pretty little place which is actually dominated by its Gothic church rather than the castle. There's a small supermarket and a couple of bars, though the castle also has a cafe-restaurant should you require refreshment. You can walk round the village in a couple of minutes and a quick look at the church and the ancient pillory outside the church will detain you only a matter of minutes.

      There is space to park just outside the castle gates and there is no charge to do so. If you visit while there is an event taking place at the castle you will no doubt find parking spaces at hard to find but I expect there is probably some arrangement to use a nearby farmer's field in such circumstances.

      ~Negova Castle~

      It's possible that the history of Negova goes back as far as the Bronze Age but the first definite mention dates from the twelfth century and this castle belonged to the earliest counts of this region. Like so many similar castles it is variously been in the hands of the Hungarians, the Habsburgs and then the Trautmannsdorf counts who owned the castle until the end of the Second World War.

      Reflecting the changes in ownership and the evolving requirements of those owners the castle has been extensively re-modelled over the centuries. It had started as a largely defensive structure but a residential section was added in the sixteenth century. Today you can see the oldest part as a partial ruin nestled inside the recently renovated Baroque wings.

      There are many such castles in this region, as well as across the country as a whole and their upkeep is a real headache for the Slovenian government. Some have passed into private ownership; others are rented on long leases with the proviso that the tenants prevent further deterioration of the condition of the building. Some money has been invested in Negova Castle but the government is looking for a partner to operate the castle as part commercial business, part historical museum.

      ~Visiting Negova Castle~

      Had we known how little there is to see inside the castle we'd not have paid the Euro3 each to go inside. Entrance to the courtyard is free and gives a good idea of the structure of the castle and allows for some excellent photo opportunities.

      Guided tours are advertised as taking place at noon and 3.00pm but you can wander round unguided at anytime the castle is open. We arrived a shade after noon but no tour appeared to be taking place so in theory we might have expected to be enjoy our own tour but none was offered (which is highly unusual). Having bought our tickets and been issued with a printed card each which described the history of the building and the general area, a gentleman in work gear led us through the big wooden gates and into the inner courtyard, indicating which parts were out of bounds.

      Sadly most of the oldest part of the castle is in a state of extreme disrepair and therefore out of bounds. He left us to explore alone which would have taken no time at all if Una and I hadn't decided to look at every single one of the newly created bedrooms in the renovated wing. It seems that what they've done at Negova is to get some part of the castle renovated and ready for use as a conference centre and wedding venue (though sadly the old great hall has been renovated to within an inch of its life and looks sterile and sad and does not have the painted ceiling that many other castles in the area boast) and hope to use the income generated to restore the older part of the castle which will undoubtedly be a more expensive project.

      On the ground floor there's one room with a magnificent vaulted ceiling and a stone flagged floor. In this room there's a very small exhibition that really just reiterates the information on the card you've been given (and the potted history on the Grad Negova website). It's a shame there's not a whole lot to see at this castle because there is an interesting historical story attached to Negova. It relates to what have become known as the 'Negova helmets': in 1811 a local man was felling trees near the castle when he found 26 bronze helmets in one location. Today there is one in the National Museum in the capital, Ljubljana, but all of the others have been lost or destroyed. It is believed that the helmets date from the Hallstatt period - essentially the Iron Age - but what adds to the mystery is that one of the helmets bears an inscription in a language that appears to be Venetian. It's such a shame that one of those 26 helmets can't be seen today at Negova - it certainly would have made our visit seem more worthwhile.

      A small part of the courtyard is accessible but only so much as enables you to get to the stairs to the upper floor. This has been completely renovated and comprises a line of bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and various rooms suitable for meetings and conferences. As I mentioned earlier Negova does not have a painted Knights Hall like many other castles of the same era but the room that appears to be suitable for weddings is still quite handsome and overall with the backdrop of the castle and the scenic grounds this is a good location for a wedding.

      In the main courtyard we stopped for a drink at the cafe (with prices no more expensive than away from tourist attractions) while Una banged out a tune on an old (tuneless) piano disturbing the peaceful surroundings. We'd have liked to have visited the herb garden which I'd seen advertised as being part of the castle complex but there was no sign and no visible staff member to direct us by the time we were ready to leave.

      ~Recommended?~

      As there are so many great castles to visit in this part of the country I wouldn't suggest a special trip to visit Negova; however, if you are passing by you might want to stop off and at least have a walk round the courtyard. The Church of St. Mary Negova is on the Pilgrimage Route of Mary and as such attracts a fair few visitors; I expect many of them take a stroll round the castle grounds while they are there. I wouldn't bother to pay the entrance charge to go inside the inner courtyard and the buildings because there is so little to see that can't be enjoyed from the main courtyard.

      Grad Negova didn't turn out to be what I thought it would but we all agreed that it was worth the effort to see the pretty little village and to enjoy some stunning views from the defensive walls.

      Grad Negova is open Thursday - Sunday between April and October.

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