The mysterious 85-meter well, in which you can still hear the echo of devil howling; the bronze statue of a prince that’s believed to fulfill wishes; the historical figures of Sandor Petofi and the beautiful Ilona Zrinyi – these are just some of the legends surrounding the famous Palanok castle.
When planning your trip to Uzhgorod, make sure you’ll have a day dedicated solely to seeing the nearby town of Mukachevo. Take a walk down its ancient streets, drop by the St. Martin church, visit the monastery for women on the Chernecha hill, take a picture of the green City Hall. But whatever you do, make sure you don’t miss out on seeing the Palanok Castle, this true gem of the Zakarpattia Oblast.
I won’t bore you with the details on when the castle was built or where the name “Palanok” comes from. You’ll learn all that when visiting the castle or just by googling. But I will tell you a few stories about the castle so you’ll know what to look for once there
In the yard of the upper castle, there is a well.
The legend says that no matter how deep prince Fedir Koriatovych’s workers were digging the well, the water was still missing. The same phrase was heard by the Prince over and over: “Still no water, Your Majesty.” One day, the devil came to the prince and offered a deal: a sack of gold in exchange for filling the well with water. Prince had no choice – he had to supply the whole castle with water – and so he agreed. The devil kept his word, but when the time came to pay, the prince handed a small knapsack of gold to the devil and said that there was no agreement as to the size.
The devil realized that he got cheated but it was too late. Angry as hell, he jumped into the well and you if you listen carefully, you can still hear him swearing down in the bottom.
They also say that if you throw a coin into the well and make a wish, it will come true – sometimes sooner than you think. One day, a young family couple with the wife’s mother are said to have visited the castle. The wife went by the well and threw in a coin, then her husband went by and threw in a coin, too. And then, his mother-in-law came and… jumped into the well after the coin! That’s how fast the well is in fulfilling wishes
The Statue of Prince Fedir Koriatovych
This one is another wish-fulfilling artifact in the castle’s arsenal. The statue isn’t far away from the well, and you can tell it by the polished index finger that’s been hard at work all these years, fulfilling the tourists’ wishes. The ritual is as follows: You take prince by the finger, close your eyes and make a wish, after which it’s supposed to come true within a year. Oh, and don’t forget to throw a coin or two at the prince’s feet – just to speed up the process, you know.
Countess Ilona Zrinyi and the Power of Her Beauty
Ilona Zrinyi defended the Palanok Castle against the forces of Austrian Imperial army in 1685-1688, and her beauty was so powerful that it was capable of stopping the enemy.
One day, during yet another attack of the Austrians on the western slope, Ilona is said to come over to the upper castle’s bastion on coordinate the defense. Surrounded by her faithful officers and soldiers, she was still noticed by an Austrian general who lead the attack. The general was so impressed with Ilona’s stunning looks that he commanded to stop the battle and said: “I’m not fighting this kind of beauty.”
There are more stories to be told about the Palanok Castle, but nothing comes close to seeing it in person, walking those historic paths, feeling the power of the castle’s 5-meter walls… or making that wish, for God’s sake!
Palanok Castle in Mukachevo, 5 Kurutsiv St. Open 9 AM to 5 PM Monday to Sunday in summer, Monday to Saturday off-season. Price of admission: 10 UAH, guides can be hired separately.
Getting to Mukachevo (Mukacheve) from Uzhgorod: By bus (40 minutes) or by car/taxi. Once at Mukachevo’s bus station, take city bus No. 3 that will take you straight to the castle.