Palaces, castles… but no wine

The crossing back into Croatia was straightforward, without any of the disputed identity problems we had coming back in after Bosnia – and we gently bimbled through a very pleasant landscape of gentle hills and woods. Eventually, we arrived at Varaždin. The town had the honour of being the capital of Croatia, albeit for only eleven years in the mid 18th century, between the Viceroy arriving to lust after the recently widowed (and reputedly gorgeous) wife of a local noble, and a pipe-smoking youth burning the entire place down after tripping whilst chasing a pig. No, seriously…

The centre of the town was, of course, heavily rebuilt from the ashes of the pig episode, leaving us a wonderful collection of Baroque palaces, interspersed with onion-domed and pastel-coloured churches. On one edge of the centre, there’s a castle, complete and in use to house a museum of weaponry and furniture. Our guide book assures us it’s the best museum in the region, but since it was – of course – closed when we arrived, we can’t comment.

Instead, we headed to the cemetery.

The local official responsible, back in the early 20th century, decided that cemeteries tended towards the morbid and sombre – and that he’d prefer much more of a “park for the living”. Row upon row of conifer was planted, and interspersed with headstones and memorials tending towards the dramatic and art deco.

Over time, the line between the two blurred and artistic tastes changed, with mossy sculptures looming out of greenery, next to modernist angular stonework emblazoned with the communist five-pointed star.

The road then took us through the Zagorje, an area renowned for vineyards and “chocolate box” castles. We stopped off at Trackošćan castle, the site of almost constant building and rebuilding from the mid 13th century through to the late 19th, with the end result sitting high on a small hill, overlooking a lake.

The area’s also renowned for vineyards, but they seemed to be avoiding us. We caught site of the odd vine-covered hillside, mostly in the distance, but trying to follow the signs to wineries just left us lost down tiny back lanes with no sign of any life or fermentation whatsoever…

We couldn’t really linger and hunt, as we were heading back to Samobor, to see our friends Louis and Ana again. They’d taken delivery of the van bits we’d managed to miss on our previous visit to them, so a few days in the workshop beckoned…

This entry was posted in Art & Culture stuff, By Country - Croatia, Travel stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

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