Untold Stories

People Who Loved the Mountain

Have you ever been to the Zagreb mountain? If you have, how well do you know it? A lot of Zagreb locals have a custom of regularly hiking up there. But there are not many who know it by heart.

No wonder. It takes a lot of weekends to cover around 70 trails, for that’s how many are there throughout mount Medvednica.

There have been some people who knew mount Medvednica well. For example, there was Vanda Kochansky--Devidé, a distinguished Croatian paleontologist and an internationally acclaimed scientist. She was the first woman regular member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts in Croatia. Her doctoral thesis was about the Miocene fauna of Medvednica mountain. They say she knew every path, every stone, and every plant in those woods above Zagreb. 

Photo description: Mountain trails are still waiting to feel Vanda’s footsteps. Photo by J. Duval / Zagreb Tourist Board

Another woman must have loved this mountain - after all, she made it her home centuries ago. If you have already read some of my previous posts, you might guess who I’m talking about. It’s the intriguing ruler from the 1400s called Barbara Celjska. Over time, she shifted into one of the most famous Zagreb myths - the story about the mysterious Black Queen. Barbara lived in the Medvedgrad fortress on mount Medvednica for a while. 

Photo description: Medvedgrad fortress with a magnificent view worthy of Her Majesty. Photo by J. Duval / Zagreb Tourist Board

Living in the woods could sound a bit scary to most of us. Well, Barbara wasn’t the only one to choose such a life. Vladimir Horvat didn’t even need a home. All he needed was a shelter in the most inaccessible part of the woods where he could sleep over. As soon as the dawns broke, he would continue pursuing his vision. Vladimir spent several years of his life carving 500 steps into the mountain. This resulted in one of the most curious locations on mount Medvednica - Horvatove stube (the Horvat steps). 

Photo description: Are you ready for a 500-steps-long descent? Photo by Secret Zagreb

Albin Leustek loved the shade of trees above Zagreb so much, he wanted to be surrounded by them even in death. His wish wasn’t granted. He was buried at a cemetery under the mountain. The location he wanted for his eternal resting spot is still known as Šumarev grob (The forester’s grave). The spot feels almost primeval. It is close to the road and the commonly visited mountain trails, yet incredibly serene in the deep shade by a creek. A perfect place to spend your eternity in.

Photo description: It takes a special mindset to go for a solitary hike and immerse yourself in the woods of mount Medvednica. Photo by J. Duval / Zagreb Tourist Board

It is hard to fully understand those persons who created such an unbreakable connection with mount Medvednica. However, just knowing they existed, we can’t help but realize that our mountain is unique. I am one of those simple weekend-goers. But I did go on a hike all by myself a few times. It was a working day, and I didn't see anyone along my route. In those solitary moments, I, too, felt the forest was the living tissue. I felt like I was walking on the surface of a giant being. I felt the connection on those quiet hikes, and I got a bit closer to understanding the fascinating people who had fallen in love with Medvednica and never let go. 

Header image credit: J. Duval / Zagreb Tourist Board

Author: Iva Silla