Jun 13, 2012


                                    This amazing picture is taken from here http://www.index.hr/pticica/slike/dvorac-2/182279

I thought it would be fitting to start with my own country. So I present you Trakošćan, (pronounced Tra-ko-shchan) one of the most popular Croatian castles at the moment. It was visited by around 65 000 people last year, and I'd guess majority of them are domestic visitors. That means Croatia's castles, forts and palaces are, well... not in the main focus of our touristic offer. At least not this type. Since it's not located in a big city and is far away from the main reason tourists come in in our country- sea, that might not be surprising after all.
     However, Trakošćan shouldn't complain as it is one of very few castles in Croatia which gets sufficient money for its preservance, renovation, etc. Ten years ago, many rooms were closed. Maybe I was just unlucky, but the chances are the rooms were being renovated. The only thing I clearly remember is the small armoury collection. Now the whole castle is renovated and while small, I think the rooms are pretty nice, usually filled with furniture collection, dating mostly from the 19th century. But even now, I still think the best thing about the castle is its location- perched on a small hill, surrounded by forest, with a beautiful view of the lake. I am not going to give my detailed opinion since that was the only time I was there, but I think it looks a bit plain when you approach it: it just doesn't look historical enough IMO. It has a nice shape, beautiful location, but you don't get a feeling it's that old. The white exterior is to blame I think. Still, if you are in the area, I absolutely recommend it.

             Closer view of the castle

     I have to warn you that Trakošćan's role in Croatia's history is minimal, so don't expect some grand stories and legends about it. Its main purpose was defensive, but it didn't see much of a war, although only God knows how many were led on our land. So here is the history of the castle in short: it was built in the 13th century as an observation fortress. According to one legend, its name is derived from another fortification (arx Tracorum), which was stood in the same place in antiquity. Another, more probable theory suggests that it was named in the Middle Ages after the German knights of Drachenstein, who were one of its first owners. Drachensten? Does it have any connection with Dracula? LOL. Anyway, at the beginning of the 15th century Sigismund of Luxembourg, also known as Holy Roman Emperor, gave this whole region to the counts of Cilli (Celje, today's Slovenia), and in return he expected them to support the Austro-Hungarian crown in the future. However, the family soon became extinct and for some time it kept changing owners. Finally, in 1568 Maximilian II, another Holy Roman Emperor, gave the estate to Drašković family for services rendered. Trakošćan's most famous inhabitant is Juraj Drašković, a powerful Croatian viceroy and cardinal. Nice combo, huh? This family was in constant possession of the castle until Nikola Zrinski married Eusebia Drašković and got the castle as a dowry. However, he still paid some money to her father. Unfortunately, Eusebia died childless and Drašković family therefore wanted their castle back, but didn't want to give back the amount of money received. In the end it all resulted in a war. Capar III, Eusebia's father, sent an army of around 4000 which went on to rob Zrinski's land, occupy his residences and in the end captured Trakošćan. Zrinski fought back with the help of German army and recaptured the castle. In the end, Drašković paid him the money he had previously received and Zrinski gave back the castle.
     However, as Drašković family expanded its territory, they started to neglect Trakošćan. Another estate and castle, Klenovnik, became their new residence and thus the centre of nobility life. Luckily, in the middle of the 19th century, Juraj V Drašković decided to give back the castle its old shine (Does this expression exist in English?). In 1853 a renovation of old fortifications started. The work went on for three years and the renewal is commemorated in an inscription on a stone plaque set above the main entrance on the court side. To raise the necessary money, Count Juraj sold Klenovnik and his mansion in Varaždin. This was a period of romanticism in art and under its influence many manor houses were renewed or new ones built in the style of old medieval castles, more the fruit of imagination than a copy of what old castles really looked like. Many castles in the valley of the Rhine in Germany were renewed at that time, and Miramare Palace near Trieste was built then, too. Similar or identical architectural elements were used in all such renewals, like drawbridges, corner towers, pointed Gothic windows, loopholes etc. At that time it was called the Norman style. Today we call it neo-Gothic. He is also responsible for the design of the park and the creation of two kilometres long artificial lake, which was also used as a fishing pool. The generations that followed were staying at the castle from time to time all the way until 1944 when they were forced to emigrate to Austria and Trakošćan was nationalized. However, in 1953 it was turned into museum as it is still today.

       A few details around the entrance (taken from here http://www.pticica.com/slike/dvorac-trakoscan/157090)

Architecture Characteristics

The renewal of Trakošćan was one of the first major works of restoration in Croatia. The castle was remodeled in the neo-Gothic style after plans drawn up by as yet unidentified architects from Graz. The Romanticist renewal stressed the fortificational character of the castle and work centered around the square defense tower, the round 16th century towers and the 17th and 18th century residential and estate buildings. An entrance hall was added to the north-western front with a main staircase, high curtain walls and a representative neo-Gothic gatehouse with a drawbridge. The earlier small windows were replaced by large neo-Gothic stained-glass windows. On the steep southern hillside a high and long supporting wall was built with a terrace and small garden, which became the main entrance leading through a glass loggia. All the defense parts of the castle, both those that are original and those that are only scenery, end in crenelations with terraces.
     The park was also laid out, a new circular approach drive to the castle was made, and a lake dug. Today’s Trakošćan comprises14th Gothic architectural elements, Renaissance and baroque elements from the 16th to 18th centuries, and neo-Gothic elements from the middle of the 19th century. Its appearance has not changed greatly since the middle of the nineteenth century. There were small architectural reconstructions like, for example, the addition of a high shingle cupola to the top of the tower at the end of the nineteenth century, which was removed in 1961, the addition of the small tower with two stores at the north-western entrance, and an open vaulted porch on the site of the glass loggia after 1910.

                                                                                 Nice woodwork

     Like the exterior, the interior of the castle also has neo-Gothic characteristics from the time of its renewal in the middle of the 19th century. The furniture from that time has neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance and neo-baroque characteristics. The state rooms, like the Armoury Hall, Hunting Hall and Library, are in the ground floor. The first floor was residential, with a dining room, bedrooms and salons, and the second floor mostly contained guest rooms. The kitchen and various pantries are situated beside the small courtyard while a well and servants’ quarters took up part of the ground floor. Since 1953 the castle has been a museum showing the feudal way of life with furnishings and fittings dating from the end of the fifteenth to the end of the nineteenth century. It shows the past of the Drašković family and the past of Trakošćan. The part of the castle open to visitors has authentic interiors from the second half of the nineteenth century.

Btw, this paragraph about architectural characteristics was taken from this site:  http://onecroatia.info/en/turisticke_atrakcije/draskovic-castle-trakoscan/

I was there a long time ago to retell you this in a few sentences, so I decided to post all of it here. Someone might even read it. Who knows :)

                           Juliana's room (Juliana Erdody Draskovic was the first academically trained female 
                                           painter in Croatia and most of her works can be found today in the castle)

                      Neo-Renaissance. I am not sure why, but I love this room. I like the simplicity of the colors and the shapes; the  
                   the mirror and the chairs being in harmony with other objects. Notice the play of warm colors (the wall, the carpet)
                                                                 and cool colors of the objects in the room. Lovely!

How to reach Trakošćan: Unfortunately, it seems that reaching the castle by public transport is not really easy. Apparently, there are buses from Varaždin with AP Varaždin company, but I couldn't find any details or timetables, so I guess you'd have to call them. There is a Festival of motors and rock'n'roll each year at the beginning of July, so I know that they organize transport from Varaždin for sure. From the capital of Croatia (Zagreb), the easiest way is taking the highway north up to border crossing Macelj, and then you take the road (about 10kms) to reach the castle. There also some organized tours.

                                                         One of rare evidences of Trakošćan's defensive purpose 

Visitor info:

a) Working hours: 9-18 h from April 1 to October 31
                            9-16 h from November 1 to March 31

b) Admission:  30 kuna adults
                       15 kuna students and school children

If you want to take a professional guide, you'll have to pay 100 kuna, but one guide can take up to 50 people. Apparently, you are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle.

1€= approx. 7.5 HRK
1$= approx. 5.8 HRK

c) Contact : Official website http://www.trakoscan.hr/ (not much in English)
                   E-mail dvor@trakoscan.hr
                   Phone  +385(0)42 796 281, +385(0)42 796 422
                   Fax  +385(0)42 796 420

                                           Forest around the lake (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/5993)

d) What to do and see: According to their official site, you can fish there (although there are many restrictions), hunt, play tennis, basketball, football, archery, go hiking, swimming (!), paddling... You can eat in a restaurant, stay at the hotel or pray in the small chapel. Of course, you can visit the castle too ha ha...

P.S. I sent them a mail asking how many foreigners visited the castle last year, and the numbers were disappointing: Out of 68 054 visitors in 2011, only 11 648 were foreigners. So I guess there is a whole wide world left to discover this nice castle :)

                                                                                 Aerial view

                   Trakošćan in winter. This amazing picture is taken from here: http://www.pticica.com/slike/trakoscan/607821

So those of you who stumble upon this site, have you visited the castle yet? What do you think of it? Also, do you like what I am doing? Any suggestion would be appreciated Btw, the plan is to write about the castles I have visited more recently and of course to upload my own pictures, which will happen in my next post. I am not content with this background and the whole look, so I will try to work on that too. 

My next castle is probably going to be Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) from Avignon, France. Stay tuned!

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