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The Great Stories Hidden in the Historical Castles of Zagorje

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Travelling the landscapes of Zagorje, you get overwhelmed by the mystic feeling. The hill-top baroque castles rise from the mist down in the valleys.
You lose the sense of orientation, find yourself wandering in all directions…

… and when you ask somebody for help, all they talk about are witches, villains, and sinners.

Legends of Witches in Zagorje
Legends of Witches in Zagorje

This is Zagorje, the northern part of Croatia, where the rural identity and the aristocrat lordship history, are equally glorified.

Peoples of Zagorje are passionately preserving their myths and legends. Those are often the stories of kind peasants and dreadful masters whose tragic destinies intertwine through a fantasy narrative.

Every castle in Zagorje has its own stories.

Here, we’ll just point out three of them, leaving enough room for you to discover the others yourself.

So, here it is – the myths and legends (and a true story) hidden in the castles of Zagorje:

Veliki Tabor: The Legend of Veronika Disinichka

Once upon a time, the mighty count Herman II. Celjski ruled over the lands of Zagorje. He had a son, a handsome and good-hearted Fridrik.
One day, Fridrik fell in love with a beautiful blonde village girl, named Veronika, and Veronika, as it soon turned out, felt the same about the young man.

Castle Veliki Tabor
Castle Veliki Tabor

But, confronted with disapproval from Fridrik’s father, a pair ran away and got married on their own, in a foreign land.

This maddened Fridrik’s father, who sent soldiers after them.

Fridrik was imprisoned in the Tower of Celjska, for no less than four years, while Veronica managed to escape at first, but was also arrested, and imprisoned inside the castle of Veliki Tabor.

The great trial was arranged.
Veronica was accused of being a witch, who bewitched Fridrik to fall in love with her.

The trial lasted two days, and in the evening of the second day, the judges declared:

Sir Count, this girl is not guilty. She is innocent. Her only guilt is in loving your son. And love has never been a sin, nor a crime. Therefore, our job here is done.

But, old count Herman was not satisfied with a verdict. He had Veronica killed and her body buried inside the walls of the castle.

Her creepy sobbing still resounds the halls of the castle. Especially during the long winter nights.

Trakošćan Castle – How an Old Woman Won the Battle

On their march to Vienna, the Turkish army went through Zagorje, leaving nothing but wasteland, widows, and orphans behind.

People hid inside the walls of Trakošćan castle. The siege lasted for days. And there was no hope of rescue.

Trakošćan Castle
Trakošćan Castle

But, not for an old peasant woman, named Jaga.

She ordered a stump, a straw, and an archer.

Don’t worry – she said to everybody – just wait and see what happens

On the amazement of Turkish soldiers, Jaga set in front of the castle. She spoke in tongues while beating straw with an archer.

From every thread of a straw, out flew a giant hornet. Soon, a hundred thousands of hornets were flying to the Turkish army. Soldiers scattered & crumbled under the attack. And the castle stayed unbeaten.

Was an old woman Jaga the witch? Was she using magic? Or did she simply know something no one else did? All this is open to your interpretation.

Castle Oršić – the story of Matija Gubec and The Peasants Revolt

Now, here is a true story. Not a myth.

The 16th century was hard for peasants of Zagorje.

Castle Oršić
Castle Oršić

Sieges of Turkish army strained the economy, so the feudal lords continually increased their demands on the peasantry.

In Zagorje, the whole thing culminated over the cruel treatment of peasants, by baron Franjo Tahi, the wicked and the mean feudal master.

Peasants complained to the emperor, but the complaints stayed unheard. So, the peasants dealt with it on their own.

Under the leadership of Matija Gubec, the organized rebellion broke out on 28 January 1573.

The revolt didn’t last long. Peasants were too weak to battle the baron army. They were brutally defeated, while Matija Gubec himself was publically tortured and executed.

As you see, this is not a story of triumph. It’s the story of the weak, fighting the unbeatable, only to draw attention to the suffering.

The torturing of Matija Gubec
The torturing of Matija Gubec

The torturing of Matija Gubec became a symbol of sovereignty, that no tyrant, whatsoever, can take away from the people.

It is presented, in great details, in The Museum of Peasant Revolt, inside the castle Oršić.

Your CTC Team, I.K.

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