This is from a May 2002 letter.
Another specter is haunting Europe, at least central Slovakia. Every year between May 1 and VE Day the town of Bojnice hosts the “Scary ghost festival.” The town has a fine castle, re-built in the French Renaissance style in the 19th century on the foundations of a 13th century keep by a nobleman who had overly romantic notions of what a castle should look like. Every year the town haunts the castle, this year with vampires, not a normal Slovak feature, as well as scary ghosts. This is a Halloween in May type of festival. We didn’t go into the castle because the line ran from the drawbridge, around the upper moat, which was filled with carnival rides down to the main street of town. The lower moat is filled with water, and Swans, which can be good castle protectors.
There was enough at the festival to keep me happy without having to be scared in a language I don’t understand. I enjoyed the display of falconry and the demonstration of the metal workers. The falconers not only had falcons, but also trained owls and ravens. Raven was not completely obedient, which made me feel good. He decided to head out into the crowd, delighting or scaring, as he cackled for a handout.
There was live music including one band doing a Slovak version of “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucile.” I don’t know if this was supposed to be the scary part.
The Maypoles in Bojnice are a bit different from others. The bark is not completely stripped off the poles, but rather the poles have designs made by selective bark stripping. As we drove back to Bratislava we went through my favorite Slovak town (for its name)“Upper Wednesday.” There is no Wednesday, or lower Wednesday, although I’ve found a town named Thursday and one named Saturday.