The heat is on! Varazdin’s festival of good emotions is in full swing and everyone is “spanziring” around. Huh? You don’t know what “spanziring” means? Well, that means you have not read our guide to Varazdin or our special report about Spanzirfest.
Varazdin’s streets look beautiful at the moment, and the only excuse not to be there is if you are swimming on the Adriatic shores. Or if you’re in Cakovec, a nearby town which makes a good resting spot from the crowds of Spanzirfest. Being only 14 kilometres away from the festival’s heart, it literally calls curious travellers from behind its walls. So if you can’t resist it – don’t. Here is what you might find in Varazdin’s closest neighbor.
Cakovec lies in the center of Medimurje, a region between the rivers of Mura and Drava. Its location was always valued by military leaders and tacticians and even the ancient Romans had a camp there, known as Aquama (“The Wet Town”).
In the 13th century, King Bela IV of Hungary commanded his personal judge, Count Dimitrus Chaky, to build a new fort in their defensive grid. The count listened, went to Medimurje, and constructed what was known as “Chak’s Tower.” People soon settled near the fort and a new town was founded.
As the centuries passed, the town changed governors, reaching the influential Zrinski family (one of them is known as a character in the Morcic Legend). These Croatian noblemen ornamented the settlement with parks and monuments, and the fort became their renaissance palace. Even today, it is called Stari Grad Zrinskih (“The Old Town of Zrinski”).
According to local legend, there was a hidden tunnel connecting the palace with, the now lost, Pauline Monastery outside the town walls. A good escape route for Stari Grad’s dwellers in case of a sudden assault on Cakovec.
Anybody who admires baroque architecture will value Cakovec’s center. The Franciscan Order constructed St. Nicholas Parish Church and rebuilt their monastery next to it in the 18th century. The town’s two main squares (Trg Republike and Franjevacki Trg) are connected with King Tomislav’s street, which features many houses from the late 18th and 19th centuries. The baroque building of Cakovec’s Savings Bank was constructed in 1884. In 1903, Cakovec’s merchant guild constructed their very own casino, a fine example of Hungarian secessionist architecture.
The Garden of Croatia
Or, in Latin, “Hortus Croatiae.” This is the name usually attributed to Medimurje, and Cakovec in general. This is because the town, despite its limited size, makes great investments in floral development. The main promenade, known as the green heart of Cakovec, has century-old trees surrounded by colorful plants. These living monuments are part of fantastic scenery for nice walks in the park or an hour with a book on the nearby cafe terraces.
Maybe this tranquillity was a blessing of St. Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin (known as “Vulgata”) who was born in the now non-existent settlement of Stridon. According to some experts, the lost village was somewhere in Medimurje. The statue of the saint can be seen in Stari Grad’s Park.
Cakovec takes such great care of its surroundings and urban beauty that it received in 2008 the title of “Croatia’s most regulated continental town.”
Museums, wine cellars and old-timers
Cakovec’s Museum of Medimurje will introduce you to regional history and craftsmanship. The Archaeological Department features items dating as far back as the antic era, while the Historical Department exhibits military ordeals and weapons. Needless to say, these are not the only things to see, especially when you know there is also an Ethnographic Department and Art gallery.
If you are mobile, chances are you will want to meet the local wine cellars. The tradition of wine cultivation is very long. Stories say that the ancient Romans planted their first yard in Medimurje. Several family-run facilities are located nearby, and you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy what they have to offer. Actually, Cakovec is very close to what is known as the Medimurje Wine Route, a network connecting various points of interest to dedicated wine lovers. Just remember that Croatia tolerates 0.5% alcohol in drivers.
And speaking of drivers, there is something they will value greatly in Cakovec. An Old-timer Sardi Museum, featuring dozens of preserved vehicles, from luxurious models, military transporters and family cars to mechanized, agricultural units and motor cycles. This exhibition alone is worth a trip to Cakovec.
Happy time with new friends
Dozens of small cafes and restaurants are at your disposal in Cakovec. The town also has a few pastry shops, where you should try Medimurska Gibanica, a multi-layered cake made of cow cheese, grated apples, ground nuts and poppy. If you are an older teen, or feel like one, you should visit night clubs Diana and Sampion. The former is known to offer free transportation to its entrance (call 091 484 94 14 for details), while the latter is loved by the youth due to its foam parties.
Cakovec is a small town, but there are people out there who will remember it in a big way. Maybe you are one of them.