Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 26, 2017

Varazdin, the city of angels and so much more!


Every year we celebrate our anniversary by spending a night…or two…at a different town in Croatia. This year we decided on Varazdin.

About an hour north of Zagreb, Varazdin is internationally known as a magnificent Baroque city. Smack in the center of the Old Town, still surrounded with earth berms  and moats (now dry) is a real castle and even a drawbridge that leads directly into the main square.

The town map, an aerial view, clearly shows the castle, surrounded with hilly fortifications and a one-time moat

The old town map, an aerial view, clearly shows the castle, surrounded with hilly fortifications and a one-time moat

An important bulwark against the Ottomans, the town grew rapidly and attracted the nobility as well as artisans and other folks who were drawn here by its natural beauty, access to the Drava River and its strategic position.   In 1756 it actually became the capital of all Croatia, only to suffer almost complete destruction 20 years later when a wildfire engulfed the city.

The city's famous castle high above the old town's main square--a perfect place for coffee!

The city’s famous castle perched above the old town’s main square–a perfect place for coffee!

Today the city, known as “Little Vienna” as well as the “city of Angels”, is a lively destination for lovers art, music, flowers and more.  The big events of the year, drawing people from around the planet, are Špancirfest – a 10 day street festival with concert stages, entertainment zones, street performers, musicians, all kinds of artists booths and places to eat and Varaždin Baroque Evenings which celebrates music with authentic instruments

A real drawbridge, alas, no moat, welcomes you into the town square

A real drawbridge, alas, no moat, welcomes you into the town square

Walking around the town is like being in a period movie–the architecture is so wonderful, the design of streets and walkways, artfully arranged to give you a real sense of space, beauty and purpose.  Practically everywhere you look, there is something fabulous to be seen and enjoyed:

Yes, a plain cast iron water main cover would do just fine, maybe in Zagreb, but here in Varazdin, it's all about celebrating the beautiful

Yes, a plain cast iron water main cover would do just fine, maybe in Zagreb, but here in Varazdin, it’s all about celebrating the beautiful

Walk along any street, look up, and what is that between two seemingly ordinary buildings is an amazing niche with beautiful carved figure…..saint? hero?

Look just to the left of the sheet-metal downspout between the two buildings

Look just to the left of the sheet-metal downspout between the two buildings

OK, here is it close up:

Well, at least we know it is religious!

Well, at least we know it is religious!

It’s a wonder I didn’t crack my skull walking into a light post from all my looking up.

I mean, have you ever seen a sundial as a CLOCK look so spectacular on the side of a town building ….and yes, it really tells the time quite accurately!

Hmmm, getting close to noon, time for lunch!

Hmmm, 11:15, time for another coffee!

The whole town is like an outdoor museum, but unlike so many museum-like towns, Varazdin has a real life to it so while you appreciate your unique surroundings, like I do here in Split, they’re not intimidating–you can run, jump, fly a kite, walk on the grass and be part of it all.  Not just file by, point and gawk.

A gorgeous sign over a chocolate shop

A gorgeous sign over a chocolate shop

I saw a big wooden door and pushed on it, and this is what it revealed

I saw a big wooden door and when I pushed, it swung open, and this is what it revealed–a garden museum secretly hiding out back!

If you like unusual doors, Varazdin is the place!

If you like unusual doors, Varazdin is the place–look at those hinges!

Boy would this look great on the house we are restoring!

Boy would this look great on the house we are restoring!

OK, so you know that Varazin is great.  Now a plug for where to stay.  Karolina’s place, an attic (3 rooms plus a sauna!!) that’s advertised on Airbnb. Young, bright, full of energy, she had maps, coffee and more ready and waiting when we arrived.  And she insisted that we couldn’t leave Varazdin without seeing its cemetery.

Now I know that around the world there are some very famous cemeteries, but to be honest, I never felt the urge to go to any of them–not even to the one in Paris where throngs to go hang out on famous graves and literally party. But I went…and I was glad I succumbed.  The dream of a park architect named Haller, the cemetery is a grand park, meticulously maintained, with thousands of trees, almost topiary like hedges and plantings, wide boulevards and some sumptuous crypts, carvings and even stained glass:

The cemetery's founder's grave is located in own beautiful. little walled garden

The cemetery’s founder’s grave is located in own beautiful,  little walled garden

Stained glass windows in a crypt

Stained glass windows in a crypt

A high wall surrounds part of the cemetery separating it from the outside world...

A high wall surrounds part of the cemetery separating it from the outside world..

A wonderful weekend discovering a marvelous new town!

To book Karolina’s place:

Cozy attic place

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