Crystal clear sea, beautiful beaches, Roman ruins… Croatia doesn’t sound like your typical Halloween trip destination, does it? Well, you would be wrong. The country is swarming with myths and legends, from witches to giants, to fairies and a black queen.
Yes, this is another on in the series of “Croatia is more than just beaches” posts.
I know Halloween is just around the corner and it might be late to plan a trip to Croatia, but how cool would it be to grab your bestie and surprise them with a spontaneous trip into the land of witches. You just need to get to Zagreb and your spooky trip can start.
Beware of the witches!
Witches, or coprnice as they are called in Zagreb and the surrounding area, are becoming a lot more mainstream in the capital with loads of guided tours focusing on the witches now being offered. Here I have to mention one of our most read authors Marija Jurić Zagorka who wrote The Witch of Grič, a series of seven books that focused on the witch hunt and the burning of women in Croatia.
The witch hunt came to Croatia quite late, after the Renaissance and the whole enlightenment period. Thank you Catholic Church and the Inquisition. Many women (and some men) were tortured and killed on the account of being witches or consorting with the devil.
As you probably know, before being executed for being a witch, they got a “fair trial” that came after hours or days of excruciating torture. During these tortures, the accused often shouted the names of “their accomplices” (first names that came to their mind) in hopes of the ordeal ending faster.
The tortured souls also mentioned their “meeting places”. The ones mentioned most of all were Medvednica, the mountain above Zagreb, and Klek.
Klek is a mountain next to Ogulin. The legend says that when gods and giants still ruled the world, the gods became greedy and hogged all the food and drinks for themselves, starving the giants. The giant Klek had had enough and went to war with the gods. That made god Volos angry and he petrified Klek with his sword. Before he turned completely to stone, the giant swore his revenge. Thus the mountain Klek came to be.
At the bottom of the mountain flows river Dobra. It is said this is the blood of giant Klek. The legend says this is the place where fairies and witches from all over the world congregate at midnight, in the midst of storms and try to wake up the giant with their shouting and screaming.
If you are more into haunted houses and ghost stories, fear not (or do?) Croatia has its own list of haunted buildings all over the country. We even have a haunted tunnel and a haunted stretch of a highway!
The haunted house in Škrinjari is actually close to my home town Bjelovar. I remember it from when I was little as we passed it every time we drove to Zagreb. My parents always said this was a house where evil spirits lurk.
The house has been empty for decades. People say you can hear screams and crying. Some claim they have seen a woman with a dark face an no eyes coming out of the house – the ghost of a killed woman buried in the concrete of the house. Other say they hear screaming coming from the well where a girl drowned.
It was offered for free to anyone who could to spend the whole night inside the house. Needless to say, no one endured and it is said some went crazy after trying.
This house allegedly brings bad luck to anyone who comes in contact with it. During the Austro Hungarian reign it was a hotel – it burned down in the 1920s. After, it was bought by a family who rebuilt it – a small tornado lifted the roof and smashed it. It was the only house damaged in the whole village. Then the owner got sick and died. The next owner died suddenly too, and the one after that died in a car accident.
Years later, a Czech family used the abandoned house to hide from the rain. They died. A local entrepreneur and his mistress once used the house for a rendezvous and claim they heard laughter and the clatter of plates and glasses, as if they had arrived to a party. When they ran out with fear, their car started sliding in the mud. Then a lightning struck the mountain ridge above the house and they managed to drive away.
Nowadays, you can actually stay at this house. It was once again turned into a hotel and the current owners claim it is a house haunted with nice ghosts.
A bit of romance never hurt anyone. Or did it?
What is more romantic than a forbidden love story that ends up in death (looking at you Romeo and Juliet)? Maybe the one that doesn’t end with death but continues with haunting the places where they took their last breath.
Behind Veliki Tabor, a castle up north almost on the Slovenian border, is a love story between Veronika and Fredrich, the son of count Herman II of Celje. While visiting his father’s estates, Fredrich saw Veronika and they fell madly in love. His father didn’t like it one bit and the young lovers eloped.
Of course, old Herman found out and in his rage sent out his army to find them and bring them to justice. They imprisoned Fredrich in a tower in the town of Celje, Slovenia. He spent four years there. This tower is now called Fredrich’s Tower.
Veronika was accused of being a witch (quelle surprise) and taken to Veliki Tabor for a trial. Funnily enough, she was actual acquitted by a judge but Herman would have none of it so, as soon as the judge left the estate, he ordered Veronika executed. She was drowned and her body bricked in the wall connecting the tower to the castle entrance.
It is said that, even now, when the wind cries around the castle, if you listen close enough, you’ll hear Veronika’s sobs.
Old Hospital Brestovac
This old sanatorium for patients suffering from respiratory diseases sits on the slopes of Medvednica (witches meeting place). It was built by a physician Milivoj Dežman for his secret love, Ljerka Sram who had tuberculosis. Alas, he did not manage to save her and she dies in his arms.
After being a state of the art tuberculosis centre, the building became a military hospital used during both World Wars and is now used as a paintball area.
It is said that a strange energy surrounds this old hospital. Not to mention the ghosts of people who died there.
This post is a small chunk of the spooky things you can get up to in Croatia. There are many legends and myths surrounding the towns and villages in the continent, but the coast has its own scary stories, for example Dubrovnik has many of them!.
Which destinations do you think are perfect to visit during cold autumn months? Let us know, we need to start planning some trips for next year.