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Through Varazdin,Croatia

Venture forth with me and see what I see
as we explore the imaginary

History that shaped today
Varazdin also known as “little Vienna” of Croatia is truly a special city. Located at the intersection of so many historical points of power, it served as a cultural and administrative center from which numerous noble families ruled. Written history first registers Varazdin in 1181 when King Bela III of Hungary mentioned it. From the beginning of the 13th century, various powers both of military and religious ideology ruled the city. The Hungarian king Andrew II declared it a free royal borough in 1209 thereby further empowering it. The Knights Hospitaller arrived in the 13th century providing care for poor, sick and injured, a noble vision that certainly left the imprints of awareness among the inhabitants.

The city was built defensively and around the fortress “Stari Grad (Old Town)” and whoever was the owner of the fortress was also the ruler of the city and the area. The families in charge of the Old Town changed several times until Count Thomas Erdody became owner in the 16th century. The fortress was thereafter in the possession of and the center of influence for the Erdody family until 1925.

As the position of Varazdin was very important for Hungarian and Habsburg rulers against the advancing Ottoman empire, there were many years of prosperity and aggregation of culture. As most of the nobility from neighbouring countries restive in utero of the Austrian Empire were gravitating towards Varazdin and it was favoured by the royal patronage of Empress Maria Theresa, the last of the House of Habsburg , it even became capital of Croatia for some time from 1756 until a horrendous city fire occurred in 1776 destroying most of the city.


Varazdin, Croatia
Date Summer 2017
Exploring history of Varazdin, King Bela III, Erdody, old town castle, Hospitallers, Empress Maria Theresa, Habsburg monarchy
Connecting Domenico Dell’Allio, water-town, Rococo style, art and culture, music created in Varazdin as a result of Erdody expressing an interest, Mestrovic

Imaginary supersonic bubble is exploring

Charlie and Earling landed in Varazdin in August 2017 and were spellbound extending their visit for several weeks. It was not only the charm and general feel of peace, constructive vibrations and orderly behavior of the citizens, predominantly using transportation by bicycles, but also impressive architecture and history and practically really favorable position making it a center for so many other sites, fortresses and castles to visit, that made them stay and explore.

Earling: The gravity of power, influence and safety starts with the “Old Town” the famous invincible medieval fortress. Dating back to the 13th century it had many transformations over the centuries and in 16th century, then owners Ungnad family hired the Italian Renaissance architect Domenico Dell’Allio (the same architect who was in charge for the Landhaus in Graz).
The focus of this fortress was in making it water-town/Wasserburg which was accomplished at that time with double moat, incredibly thick walls and cannons that bought many years of prosperity to the ruling families and also to the town itself.

Charlie: I am fascinated with the use of water as a barrier and the energy spent on safety in those medieval times. I guess that those are also driving innovation, category 4 civilization has no concern for safety but instead use time and obsession on crystallising visions that gives birth to the future.

Earling: We are looking here at the first stages of this civilization, awakening takes long long time, and the cost of clashing powers is high. That is why Varazdin was able to prosper as the combination of engineering ingenuity, spiritual vision and cultural vibrancy pumped it’s veins full of life.

Now we float over some really impressive architecture and let’s tell their stories. The first one we are to encounter after exiting the old town fortress is Sermage Palace a representative of the Rococo style. It changed owners several times and it was the French noble family Sermage that owned it among others, hence the name. Currently it holds art collection, paintings ranging from old to new. The most famous is the “Madonna of the Grain” that originates from Ruben’s school.

Charlie: Isn’t it interesting how the old masters had their own circles of pupils that grew out of their unique seeds, only a few developing their own. This system is a hallmark of the future when we will have small circles of pupils rather than the industialized education that mass produces common opinion.

Earling: I know that you are always critical and mocking this system which is going through change, but let’s explore the concept of power, riches and influence that only being born in, for example, the Erdody family enticed.

We are now at the Capuchin Square staring at the Erdody Palace, one of the most impressive buildings, Erdody built it in order to have a different type, more modern at the time architectural break from the Medieval “Old town” castle. Today it hosts many notes, music, beats, and architecture of sound as it belongs to the music school.

Charlie: Ah music, the most fundamental that the senses perceive and yet the most mysterious, existing only in time but made out of space. My sources tell me that Johann Baptist Vaňhal (1739 – 1813) visited Varazdin multiple times from 1773 to 1779 thanks to the support of Ladislaus Erdody and the cultural importance that was attributed to music.

Earling: You seem to be in the musing mood today, but I would rather focus our attention on the architecture. The times and space it took to create a city museum, let’s float a bit further to the core of it where one of the oldest City Halls in Europe was built. 1523 marks the beginning of the stone building owned and built by Juraj Brandenburg which became the home to ‘magistratus’ (Magistrate) and ‘rihtar’ (Judge), the merging of the two becoming today’s Mayoral office. Isn’t it interesting to observe the language influence in those two words?

Charlie: Let’s get out of the material and see the sculptures or paintings that were created in such an atmosphere

Earling: Let’s observe Ivan Mestrovic’s masterpiece Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski) whose toe even today grants wishes. A much larger model is standing in Split, but let’s explore the ideology of the bishop that inspired Ivan Mestrovic. He went against the dominant thinking within the Catholic church by insisting that Mass should be celebrated in local language; he supported the vision of uniting and equality. Bishop Gregory of Nin lived in the 10th century.

Charlie: What is this magnificent vision of architecture in front of us?

Earling: This is Varazdin’s Croatian National Theatre, dating back to 1873, it is the architectural child designed by the famous architects Herman Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner. There are many more buildings that they envisioned. During it’s construction Herman Helmer fell in love with a lady from Varazdin and it is said that the romance influenced the building itself in terms of aesthetics.

Charlie: Here we are back in circles just as the period of Romanticism was maturing, life on Earth in those times was greatly influenced by the emotions. They say: life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think, it seems that there is purpose and beauty in both options and we can certainly observe the polyphony of these two elements across the architectural planet called Varazdin.

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