Zagorje Castles: Stone Bound Homes as the Keepers of an Interesting Part of Croatian History
When I was a small kid and didn't know much about history, before I started learning about it through my education process, I always fancied the things that reminded of past times. I was impressed by beautifully ornamented weapons such as swords, shields, and maces, and I always liked castles. The very notion of somebody living inside a stone bounded structure, sleeping, eating, etc. was something unimaginable by a ten-year-old me. Just recently we had the chance to witness such a life in one of the most popular TV series of all times. Yeah, I'm talking about Game of Thrones. Although the viewers were unimpressed with its last season, one must confess that the story about the people from Westeros left a large monument in the world of television for the years to come. If we move all the unsavory scenes aside, one thing is still bothering me. When Jon Snow was inside castle Black without anything on, how did he not freeze? And let alone him, how did others live inside such a place? They had to change or take a bath at least once in a while. My point is, although I could never imagine myself living in a castle, I'm still impressed with every castle out there. The territory of Croatia holds a rich history and because of that our land is filled with castles, forts, rooks, etc. There were around a thousand castles in the 18th century, and there's still around 180 of them. The Croatian region Zagorje holds some of the prettiest ones...
Castle Sveti Križ Začretje
Photo Credit: Jasenka Haleuš
If you want to reach a castle in Sveti Križ Začretje from Zagreb, just follow the highway A2 via Sv. Križ Začretje, and then, take the exit D35 toward Sv. Križ Začretje/Varaždin/Ivanec, and follow the signs for the castle. The castle itself is built on the west bank, not far from the Zagorje highway. It's an ancient settlement of Krapina-Zagorje County. Its core is made of a particularly harmonious baroque square with a church in the north and with the park and the castle in the south. The castle itself is opened to visitors every day of the week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. An interesting fact about the castle is that it's built in a stretched V-shape, and its ownership has been transferred almost a dozen times from when it was first built in the early 17th century. The castle was expanded, upgraded and finished during the 18th century. One begins to realize what a gem this castle really is when you look through its windows overlooking the backyard of the castle. But I suggest you look into this part for yourself. After all, I gave you the info about its whereabouts.
Castle Veliki Tabor
Photo Credit: Jasenka Haleuš
One of the most famous castles in Zagorje. Almost every kid from this part of continental Croatia has been on a field trip to the Veliki Tabor Castle. The name "Veliki Tabor" in literal translation stands for "Big Encampment." I guess it draws its name from the fact that Veliki Tabor was a strategical fortress during its history. Another vital thing to say about Veliki Tabor is that it's a zero category monument, because of its conservation. It's representing the entire Croatian fortification architecture of the late middle ages. Just like the castle Sveti Križ Začretje, it changed a lot of owners over the years. Some of which are ones of the most influential people in Croatia, for that historical period. Instead of just recommending you to go see it, I will write this: "It stands gloriously even today, from a distance it looks alive bringing the life of the past, it seems that the old noblemen are just preparing us a warm welcome..." (Gj. Szabo)
Photo Credit: Arhiva TZ Zagorje
Other amazing castles of Zagorje
There are so many castles in Croatian Zagorje; it would be simply impossible to name all of them. I will comment only on a few more. The first one is the Stubički Golubovec castle in Donja Stubica, which is one of the most valuable Croatian castles of the late Baroque period. It was proclaimed a cultural and national monument due to its architectural, environmental, and historical significance. An interesting fact about it is that Lady Regina Domjanić around 1800 built the castle, but her heirs sold the castle just a few years later to the bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac, the same person who did a great deal for the biggest Zagrebian park Maksimir, which we already wrote about. After the Second World War, and thanks to the society Kajkaviana, it opened its doors to visitors in 1996.
Photo Credit: Mihanović Castle/ Jasenka Haleuš
A castle worth visiting for those who enjoy tasty bites is the castle Mihanović. It's a perfect place to meet Croatian national cuisine, as well as royal dishes in one of the top hundred Croatian restaurants. Castle Mihanović is equipped with a rich wine cellar, and if you plan to organize a business meeting there, you will be provided with the top-notch equipment such as LCD projector, DVD, TV, stereo and projection screen.
Photo Credit: Castle Oršić/ Jasenka Haleuš
Another castle from the Baroque period holds a museum within its walls. The castle I'm talking about is called the Oršić castle, and it is offering the Peasants Revolt museum to its visitors. The Peasants Revolt is an important event in the Croatian history, which is considered as the start of the revolts against feudal oppression against Croatian people.
Photo Credit: Matija Gubec memorial/ Jasenka Haleuš
The last castle I couldn't miss mentioning is the castle Hellenbach. It's especially interesting because the family which castle got its name after still lives in the castle. Its interior is as beautiful as the exterior, with the complete authenticity it had in the past century.
The castles requiring a special visit notice
Photo Credit: Jasenka Haleuš
Now, it's becoming more apparent that it's almost impossible to tour all the castles Zagorje has to offer in one go, but if you decide on visiting the following, you should take notice to announce your visit, because you won't be able to come inside. The castles that require special visiting announcements are the castles Bežanec and Miljana. Miljana castle is most certainly the most picturesque of them all, and the castle Bežanec is unique for its interior. The thing they have in common? They both require an upfront visiting notice. If you happen to visit them spontaneously, you surely won't be disappointed by not entering because the scenery around them is simply breathtaking.
Photo Credit: Miljana castle/ Jasenka Haleuš
Header Image Credit: Jasenka Haleuš
Author: Tibor Trupec