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Ozalj

OzaljOzalj by Domagoj Novosel
Perhaps you know Karlovac as a town you bypass on the way to the sea. Perhaps you know it as the home of Karlovačko pivo – our favourite brewery. But maybe you haven't yet peeked into the town itself. Well, with its charming little medieval core, that's something you definitely should do one of these days, but this issue we're going to talk about Karlovac County. The reason why Karlovac has great beer is the immense amount of pure natural water around, since it lies where four rivers meet. These rivers which lend lushness and diversity to the natural landscape, and mean there's loads to do here if you're of a recreational bent – but more about that in spring. Right now, when it's cold enough to make brass monkeys fear for intimate parts of their anatomies, we think a little sightseeing would do very nicely. Along with a yummy lunch of local food. And perhaps some beer. Mmmm...

Let's hit the little town of Ozalj, lying close to the border with Slovenia, near the Dobra and Kupa rivers, close to lakes richly stocked with fish, protected by the serrated Žumberak mountains to the north, and surrounded by gentle hills and vineyards. At the centre of the little town stands, high on a limestone rock, Ozalj's castle, the symbol of the town. Founded in the 13th century and owned by successive Frankopan and Zrinski dukes, the castle grew into a small walled city. A newer part of town later grew up at the foot of the fort, but the overriding impression is a charming medieval one.

Since it acted as a seat for these noble families, the town once had a far greater importance than you would think now, including a rich cultural and literary life based on the Kajkavian dialect. Ozalj has both a Native Museum and an Ethno Park, which are excellent for giving you an insight into this cultural past and into local traditions. The museum is where you can find everything from prehistoric remains to artefacts from the time of the noble families; from the military to the religious and spiritual life of the area. There’s also a collection of landscapes by local painter Slava Raškaj. The Ethno Park (actually the ethnographic department of the museum) is where you can see the heartbreakingly pretty thatched cottages typical of the area, and the simple but pristine, whitewashed and wooden interiors brightened with flashes of colour of handmade textiles.

In the Ozalj area there are numerous stately homes and palaces dotted around. One of the most surprising looks rather like a miniature English castle, lying right by a weir on the Kupa riverbank. This “Stone Palace” is, in fact, a hydro-electric power plant, dating back to 1908, one of the first in Croatia. Although it really did work, serving Karlovac with electricity, this neo-renaissance building is nowadays a listed monument.

All in all, we vote Ozalj a great day out!

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  • Margot Callahan - Pittsburgh, USA/PA 07 December 2008
    My maternal grandfather is from Ozalj, and I am traveling there soon. Yours is the first information I have found about Ozalj and I am more optimistic about going there now.

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