Varazdin County is not only the oldest Croatian region, but one of the oldest counties in Europe as well. The City of Varazdin, after which the county got its name, was once the capital of Croatia. Today, the city is the cultural, educational, economic and tourist centre of northwest Croatia. This region is also home to ‘the centre of the world’ – the Town of Ludbreg. According to some researchers, when all important cities in the world are connected, they form a system of concentric circles, centered in this small town. There is a point at the main square in Ludbreg, representing the centre of the world.
There are more than 350 registered cultural monuments in Varazdin County dating back to various periods, from the Neolithic to the Baroque. The region’s capital, Varazdin, has a rich history of over 800 years and is one of the best preserved European medieval cores.
The Town of Lepoglava, which is most famous for its lace, is home to the first gymnasium and university in Croatia that date back to the period when Knights Hospitaller (Vitezovi Ivanovci) resided in Ivanec. Many castles were built in this region and can be visited today. The most famous is the Trakoscan Castle in Bednja, a region whose dialect (bednjanski govor) is a protected cultural heritage.
Apart from the rich tradition and culture, the oldest Croatian region is home to ancient Roman baths, today called Varazdinske Toplice. The Varazdin County has a well-developed cycling infrastructure and plenty of cycling paths and routes. In addition to culture, the region is also famous for its gastronomy – try the traditional pastries such as the Varazdin breadsticks (varazdinski klipici), filled pastry (strukli), sweet Croatian cornbread (zlevke), blood sausages (devenice), homemade plum rakia (zganica) and local wines.
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The castle in Bednja is known as the “Pearl of Hrvatsko zagorje”, and is today considered one of the most beautiful castles in Croatia. The Trakoscan Castle is a cultural monument and a protected historical complex whose construction began in the late 13th century.
The castle was owned by the Draskovic family for a long time, but it has been nationalized since 1944. A museum with a permanent exhibition was founded in 1954, and the original furniture has been kept in the castle to this day. Apart from the castle itself, Trakoscan also has a garden and a forest park with a lake.
Spancirfest is one of the most visited national festivals and the largest street festival in Croatia. During the 10 days of the festival, Varazdin goes back in time. The city streets are filled with old Baroque costumes, handicrafts and authentic food products. In the evening, Spancirfest turns into a real music spectacle. The most famous Croatian and foreign musicians perform on one of the three stages in the city, attracting guests from all over Croatia and abroad. Spancir is celebrating its 18th birthday this year, and will be taking place from 19th to 28th August. The organizers have prepared many novelties, including additional stages for the music program.
Relic of the Blood of Christ in Ludbreg
Vatican itself acknowledged the miracle of the holy blood of Christ and ordered that the Relic of the Blood of Christ be kept in the same Ludbreg church where it had been created. Legend has it that in 1411 in the chapel of the Batthyany Castle, a priest of a parish church doubted the words: “This is my blood”, while breaking the sacramental bread, after which blood started to flow. He stored the blood in an ampule and, out of fear, never told anyone about the relic until his deathbed. Word of the relic went out after the priest died, drawing believers to Ludbreg, and miraculous healing began occurring after the prayers of intercession to the Most Holy Blood. The blood was transported to Rome while an investigation was underway, but Pope Leo X decided to return the blood to Ludbreg and ordered in an ecclesiastical letter that the relic be shown to the people during mass on the eve of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Lepoglava lace is protected by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage and it is an authentic Croatian product. As the Pauline order influenced the Town of Lepoglava, they also had an impact on the lace. It is a white or beige bobbin lace for which a thin thread is used, mostly cotton or flax. The most common motives found on the Lepoglava lace are related to flora and fauna, Baroque and geometrical figures.
Zlata pl. Sufflay, who organized lace production, was responsible for the distribution of lace in the 19th century. After World War I, her work was continued by Danica Brossler, who not only held many lacemaking courses and workshops, but also opened a lacemaking school in Lepoglava.
As one can conclude, the oldest Croatian region has many unique features to offer. Don’t hesitate to explore its vast universe of culture, history and entertainment.
Lana Mindoljevic / THE ZAGREB TIMES