Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A day trip to Varaždin

After taking Jill to the bus station for a 5am (!) bus to the airport, I took a day trip to Varaždin, the former capital of Croatia. It was rebuilt in the late 1700s after a fire, and is known as the Baroque Capital of Croatia reflecting the architecture of that time. It is 68 km north of Zagreb, a short trip by car but 2.5 hours by train. Fortunately it is a very scenic train ride at 35 mph through hilly countryside that looks a lot like Pennsylvania or Switzerland, very agricultural with well-kept villages and white hilltop churches.

The city was once the capital, in the 18th century. I think I read that it is the 2nd largest city, after Zagreb. Scenic town center area, the highlight is the Stari Grad "old town", a 12th century castle with some huge embankments to create a moat that were added later like in the 16th century. The castle is in pretty good shape, having had several restorations over the years most recently in the 1980s. 

The town cemetery is also unique with enormous hedges 12 feet tall around every plot, to create a very attractive gardens effect. The cemetery manager didn't want individual monuments to compete with each other, so the hedges dominate everything else in the cemetery.

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