Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia

This is from a letter written in June 1999.  I was musing on the Celtic revival in Central Europe.  Devin Castle was an old Celtic fortification that became Roman, then Slavic, than Austrian.  The Hungarians may also have been involved.  It is just outside Bratislava where the Morava River joins the Danube at the Austrian border.

According to some histories the Celts formed as a culture at the spot where the Danube cuts through the Small Carpathian Mountains, exposing veins of copper.  That would be at Bratislava.  The site of Devin Castle was occupied by Proto-Celts in the 5th millennium BC.  The Celts evolved when three earlier peoples met; pastoralists from the hills, agriculturists from the Danube plain and traders coming up the Danube from the Black Sea.  The presence of copper allowed the evolution of a Bronze Age culture.  This history-mythology suits the new Europe well because the Celts can’t claim any pure racial heritage.  They are a mix of different peoples who evolved into one by a combination of trade, easy access to resources and the use of new technologies.   From their base in Central Europe they spread both up and down the Danube founding the Gaul of Roman times and giving their name to the Galatians of Asia Minor, with whom St. Paul corresponded in the first century.

The Celtic myth is convenient because it works against the notion of ethnic cleansing.  It says that the Celts absorbed different peoples and technologies to help Europe develop its pre-Roman culture.  It mirrors the American myth of the melting pot.

So the Celts are enjoying a revival here, beyond the popularity of Enya and Guinness.  Some Slovak coins (note, before the introduction of the Euro) have Celtic designs on the obverse side.  The newest Austrian beer is Keltic and there is a new rival to the Irish Pub in Bratislava, the Keltic Bar just down the same street.

(At Devin there is a memorial arch, riddled with bullet holes, commemorating those who died trying to escape by crossing the Morava River to Austria and those sent to the gulags for wanting to get out.)

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