In the morning on a day off, together with Nail and two friends, I got in the car in Zagreb. We were ready to make a decision – where to spend the day. As we are all proud members of the “wired generation”, we took our phones out, checked the weather in two or three locations we wish to visit, checked the traffic and the best roads to take. After 2 whole minutes of thorough thinking and weighing our options, we reached a consensus and we were on our way to Zagorje.
Even though it is the longer route, we took the road that leads over the Medvednica mountain as we wanted to enjoy the ride and the beautiful view of Zagreb from the south side, and Krapina from the northern side of the mountain.
Our first stop was the town of Gornja Stubica, with the beautiful Parish church of St. George. Right next to the church you can find the 400-years-old linden tree of Gubec, and many legends (we love legends!) about Gubec and the Peasant Rebellion of 1573 are connected to this tree and this spot.
Matija Gubec was a Croatian peasant and the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt in Croatia and Slovenia. The Peasants’ Revolt took place in 1573 when the peasants decided to stop paying their dues to the lords. The Croatian Parliament reacted by declaring the revolted peasants traitors, which led to the general uprising against their feudal lords. Unfortunately, the revolted peasants were defeated and their leader Matija Gubec, was taken to Zagreb, where he was punished for driving the peasants into the rebellion. To set an example, he was publicly tortured and executed on February 15th at St. Mark’s Square. According to the legend, he was forced to wear a red-hot iron crown and was quartered.
Legend has it, Gubec and the rebels had many meetings under this tree in Gornja Stubica. The heavy burden of time has fallen upon the tree, but it is still managing to resist.
Right next to the tree you can find the cutest coffee bar where you can relay and enjoy the view.
Our next stop was Marija Bistrica – Croatia’s largest pilgrimage centre. The most important landmark is the Marija Bistrica basilica which contains a wooden Gothic statue of the Black Madonna created in the 15th century. The Black Madonna’s alleged miraculous power dates back to the Turkish invasions in 16th century, when it was saved from destruction, and that power was once again proven when a disastrous fire in 1880 destroyed everything but the statue.
Inside the basilica you can find a wall paved with people’s gratefulness to the Black Madonna.
Behind the church is a beautiful open air church, and the Way of the Cross, a path with 14 stations marked with works by famous Croatian sculptors. As you climb up, you can enjoy amazing views of the basilica and Zagorje.
After Marija Bistrica we headed to Varaždin. Just an hour drive away from Zagreb, you can find this beautiful baroque city in northwestern Croatia, along the Drava River. Fun fact alert! Varaždin was the seat of many Croatian noblemen, and in 1756 it became the capital city of Croatia. However, that power lasted only for 20 years. A big fire in 1776 destroyed much of the town and the capital was moved back to Zagreb.
Today, Varaždin is famous for its most famous sights – the fortresses, beautiful churches, town hall, monasteries, many Baroque palaces in the Old Town, and Croatian National Theater.
We took a long walk around the town, enjoyed many beautiful sights and when we got hungry stopped for a lunch break in a beautiful restaurant in a park. I had a delicious baked veal with mlinci – traditional North Croatian pasta (I loove mlinci!). And, of course, for the dessert – apple štrudla!
After lunch, we took a walk to the breathtaking Varaždin Castle in the Old Town, the most important historical building in Varaždin. The medieval fortress was built in the 14th century. You can walk around the Castle, sit on a grass and enjoy the view, or sit on a bench and eat an ice cream..it is perfect place to relax.
A one day gateaway to Zagorje was a great idea, and I would recommend it to everyone! It was a fun, relaxing and very interesting day, full of new experiences.