Palanok Castle - real pearl of Zakarpattia, Ukraine

Marusia Bilous | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Zakarpattia is an unforgettable land with beautiful scenery that attracts tourists all over the world. It is a land with world-famous mineral springs, the land of horticulture and viticulture. In this article, we will talk about the real pearl of Zakarpattia  - the Palanok Castle or Mukachevo Fortress, located in the city of Mukachevo in the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine.  

The legend of Mukachevo

The history of the name of Mukachevo city has an interesting legend related to the Palanok Castle.  Once upon a time, a foreign prince settled with his army at the place where the city of Mukachevo was located. He ordered the construction of an impregnable castle-fortress there. The construction of the castle was complex and lengthy, and people worked hard to build it. The prince was very cruel to the people who worked on the construction. For a thousand days, they poured the castle mountain until it reached the required height, which the prince desired. Then, at the top of the mountain, they built a castle - a strong, impregnable fortress. All these had cost people a lot of tears, bloody sweat, severe suffering, and agony. Because of this, people named the city Mukachevo (ref. Ukr. “muka”– suffering)

As mentioned before, the castle has two official names; Mukachevo Fortress and Palanok Castle. Every tourist is interested, what does "palanok" mean? In the distant 17th century, an oak palisade called «palanok» fortified the ditches around the legendary fortress.  This tale is very interesting because, if you add three dragons, you will have a story of the Red Castle of Kings Landing, from “The Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. Who knows, maybe that prince was also Targaryen. 

  A castle with a thousand years history

You can see the main tourist attraction of the city, Palanok Castle from a few kilometers before Mukachevo. The foundation of the fortress is a 68-meter-long inactive volcano and occupies a huge area of ​​nearly 14,000 square meters. The secret underground passages, still preserved under walls and towers, once served as a shelter for people and livestock. The fortress can be divided into three levels: upper, middle, and lower castles. The exact date of the foundation of the castle is still unknown, but it is mentioned in documents of the XI century. From the height of the Palanok Castle, you can see the whole city, and if you look to the north, you will see the beautiful volcanic Carpathian Mountains. From 1366 to 1414, the castle belonged to the Prince of Podolia, Fyodor Koriatovych. He greatly enlarged the complex and strengthened it, transforming it into his residence. Then, the castle passed into the hands of different rulers for several centuries. Each of the owners of the Palanok Castle expanded the territory and strengthened it, so by the time of the national liberation struggle in the early 1700s, the Mukachevo Castle became an important fortification. Interestingly, after losing their strategic function in 1782, they organized a political prison in the Austrian monarchy, in which over 20000 prisoners were kept during the 100 years.

© iStock /VladimirGerasimov

A castle that has its own economy

Today, the Mukachevo Fortress or Palanok Castle is a unique architectural monument that is essentially economically independent. It is called the economic miracle in the museum space of the country. Today, it is a historical museum, the most visited place in Zakarpattia, and the third most successful enterprise in the city of Mukachevo, which has an annual budget of over 13 million UAH. Last year alone, 284000 people have visited. 70% of tourists are Ukrainians themselves, and the rest are foreigners. You are welcome to visit the Palanok Castle - the real pearl of Zakarpattia and see firsthand the history of the fortress for almost a thousand years, among the picturesque land.

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