Veliki Kalnik: Uncovering Croatia’s Medieval Mountain Fortress and Its Rich History

The Old Town Veliki Kalnik is a place I never knew existed, but when I first saw a photo of it on the internet, it immediately got on the top of my wishlist for visiting. As soon as I got the chance, I went there. When I came beneath the mountain, I just stood there for a few minutes and watched it. I don’t know you, but I like places like this, and it took my breath away! I climbed up there with my camera and took as many photos as possible. There were many people enjoying this place, which is a nice thing.

It is a bit sketchy climbing there and returning to the start, but it’s worth it. If you’re going there, you must be careful because it could end very bad very quickly.

So, the Old Town Veliki Kalnik… It quickly got to the top three places I’ve visited in 2023!

And now, what does the internet say about this cool place?

Old Town Veliki Kalnik, a captivating historical site, is a complex of fortresses that began to emerge from the 12th century. Located on Kalnik Mountain near the village of Kalnik, this site has been inhabited since prehistoric and Roman times.

The fortress first gained prominence in historical records in 1243, when King Bela IV highlighted its strategic importance in the battle against the Mongols. According to a legend, the king, while fleeing the Mongols, took refuge in Kalnik with his entourage. The locals, who fed them plums, were nicknamed “šljivari” (plum people), and their efforts helped repel the Mongol invasion. This event marked the Mongols’ first defeat on Croatian soil. This legend inspired writers like August Šenoa and Milutin Mayer, who wrote works like “Šljivari” and “Tatari u Hrvatskoj.”

The fortress of Veliki Kalnik has been associated with several notable historical figures, including the Hungarian-Croatian King Sigismund of Luxembourg and his wife Barbara of Celje, famously known as the “Black Queen.” Throughout its history, the fortress was owned by various nobility, bans, and bishops of Zagreb. Prominent noble families such as Erdödy, Drašković, Keglević, Orehovečki, and Kosače were among its owners.

In 1565, the fortress played a role in the defeat of the Turks at Obrež Kalnički, leading to increased settlement at the foot of Kalnik Mountain.

The fortress is situated on the elevation of St. Catherine on Kalnik. Much of its original structure, showcasing elements from different stylistic periods including Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque, is still preserved. The fortress was once dominated by a large square tower, with the lower parts featuring narrow windows, somewhere between windows and arrow slits, and the higher parts having larger window openings. A unique architectural feature in Croatia is the square towers with protrusions. The remains of St. Catherine’s Chapel can also be found within the fortress complex.

Today, Old Town Veliki Kalnik is a popular destination for hikers and visitors, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding areas. On Labor Day, it becomes a particularly favored spot. Not far from the main fortress, on a nearby ridge, lie the remnants of the smaller Old Town of Mali Kalnik. Old Town Veliki Kalnik is more than just a historical site; it’s a place for scenic hikes and a journey into the past. With its rich history and stunning natural setting, it is definitely a site worth exploring for those interested in history, nature, and adventure.

Check the Showcase page of the Old Town Veliki Kalnik by clicking HERE.


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