Anyhow... on the way back we decided to stop off at Celje Grad (Celje Castle), with Ted's American PhD student in tow. The Counts of Celje rose to power during the medieval period. In an effort to free themselves from subordination to the Hapsburgs, they forged an alliance with Hungary, which propelled them onto the scene of medieval European politics and helped them rise to the rank of Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. Unfortunately, their line petered out soon after and ended with the assassination of the last heir in 1456. Their castle in Celje was abandoned in the 18th century.
|Photo credit: www.celje.si|
We visited a castle they owned in Croatia, Veliki Tabor, at the end of our Krapina holiday, but I never got around to writing about that visit. It was interesting to note that both castles claimed to be the site of the infamous, tragic legend of an heir to Celje, Frederick, and his low-born love, Veronika. I think that's worth a blog post in itself, but in summary, Frederick's father, Herman II, not too much of a nice guy by all accounts, forced his son to marry dynastically. Frederick fell in love with a non-noble woman,Veronika, and abandoned his wife. Herman demanded a reconciliation, but mysteriously (or not, ahem), Frederick's wife was found assassinated the morning after, and the two lovers went on the run. The irate father eventually captured them, had Veronika drowned, and threw Frederick into a tower for several years of solitary confinement.
|Barbara became Queen of Hungary, Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire|
|The infamous Herman|
The castle claims to be the largest (by area) in Slovenia. I don't know if that is true, but the visit was pretty much castle tour plus bonus thigh workout, climbing hills, ramparts and towers, surrounded by wonderful views. They seem to have rotating, often interactive, exhibits, so not everything was open (including, sadly, the virtual reality combat zone).
|Yes, I am looking red, a result of my "forest bathing" experience in Rogla|
A tour of our tour: The museum tower recreated castle rooms, complete with costumed mannequins: the armoury, a scribe's room, and a solar (lord and lady's living room). "Look," said our son, "there's a dead monk... and there's a dead princess."
|Dead monk hard at work|
"Frederick's Tower" was the supposed place of imprisonment for the disobedient son - where, according to accounts he almost starved to death and/or went insane. It posed a less serious dilemma for us: climb to the top first for the panoramic view, or down to the dungeon for the exhibition of torture instruments? We decided the tougher part was the climb, so that first, egged on our way by curiously computer-generated images of Veronika and Frederick. And then down to the torture chamber, which I went round swiftly, with the lightest of explanations to Alcuin. "Look at those funny hats people had to wear if they were bad!" Apparently this sort of torture was going on into the 18th century, which shocked me. I only took one photo, for the blog, because it turns my stomach if I think too much about what those devices actually inflicted on people (the wheel, the rack, the iron maiden... you get it).
In a grassy, thankfully shady, inner ward to the side of the castle gate, there was a small medieval encampment, part of their living history programme, where we enjoyed our picnic. Whereas the players at Kubed waited for us to step into their world, the people here were aggressively interactive, almost leaping on us to drag us into the medieval spirit. There was a chance to dress up, handle weapons and armour, practise archery, check out cooking and camping, play an outsize game of skittles, or experience the tamer punishments of the stocks.
|That's an unfortunate shaft of sunlight falling on Ted's head - not a bald spot|
A stop at the somewhat ironically-named Veronika cafe - feeling thirsty, anyone? - rounded out the visit (plus a visit to the toilets, which curiously looked more like a modern art installation than a loo). Apparently, the Counts of Celje owned more than twenty castles in Slovenia alone, so I suspect we will be bumping into them again.
Touristy stuff. Good value. The entrance price for all four of us was about the same as one ticket for a National Trust or English Heritage property, plus we got credit for the cafe, which had normal (i.e. not tourist) prices. Plus, there were detailed, free guidebooks. During the summer, there are various events such as tournaments and concerts (with a major medieval event towards the end of August), and you can also book extras such as guided tours or a medieval feast. The website is not very good, though. Here is some basic info via the Celje tourist site, and their facebook page. We would have explored downtown, too (Celje is the third largest city in Slovenia), but it was a very hot day, and we knew it would be miserable traipsing around surrounded by concrete. We definitely plan to go back.