Have you already seen the latest Game of Thrones episode? No, no need to stop reading because we won’t share any spoilers in case you haven’t. But did you know that Croatia has its own kind of the Night King? Yes, that’s right. Stick around, we will tell you more.
If you are one of those who has no idea who the Night King is or what is GoT, don’t worry, this story will feed your imagination as well, especially if you love scary urban stories, legends and myths. The little Mediterranean country you can read about on our blog keeps a lot of secrets and has a long, intricate tradition of old tales, mythological creatures and peculiar characters that left their mark on the imagination of people for centuries to come.
And that’s another reason to Travel to Croatia.
The Black Queen
Many different tales are passed on by generations about the Black Queen, but no one quite knows what the truth is about this peculiar and mysterious figure. It is known that Barbara of Celj was born in 1392, as a daughter to a nobleman Hermann II of Celj. When she was young, she was promised to the much older King Sigismund of Luxembourg. It seems she was an intelligent and hypnotically beautiful woman who took over ruling Croatia when her husband was absent. And here’s where the stories don’t match anymore. Was she a merciless ruler, governing with a rod of iron and no pity in her heart? Or was she deeply misunderstood, unpopular for raising her voice just because she was a woman? On the one hand, they say she withheld water from her well to her fellow citizens during a drought. And then on the other, she is said to have summoned unearthly forces to create one of the most famous Croatia’s landmarks today, the magical Plitvice Lakes and bring water to her people. Now, it is up to the imagination of the people to portray her for those who listen.
Kameni svatovi is the name of a picturesque collection of rock pillars on the western slopes of Mount Medvednica near Zagreb, at about 400m above the level of the road over the village of Jablanovec. The name means “Stone Wedding”, and in a moment you’ll find out exactly why. According to legends, the pillars represent the wedding of a young miller and his love, a poor girl named Janja, turned to stone. The miller’s family was wealthy and his mother was set on a rich wife for her son, a suitable match for such a family. But as often happens when the heart prevails, he had fallen in love with Janja, the daughter of a penniless blind man. The miller’s mother was beside herself, but her husband stood by his son as he himself had started out without a penny to his name. He ordered his wife to cease her protests. On the day of the wedding, the mother was not among the wedding guests since she was at home cooking and preparing for their arrival. However, in a moment of rage, she swore that lightning would strike and turn the wedding party to stone before she let Janja into her home. And that is exactly what happened. The wedding turned to stone still stands today.
Europe’s first vampire
It is little known that Croatia has also its famous vampire whose story is chilling to everyone who hears it. The story dates back to 1672 and comes from a small town called Kringa which is located southwest of Pazin. The legend has it that in 1656, died Jure Grando who was buried on the local cemetery. There was an ordinary local resident until shortly after his burial that same deceased did not start to appear to the local population. They saw his character wandering through the village and even knocking on the door of some houses. The villagers did not realise that behind his appearance are some evil forces until the residents of the houses he knocked on died. His widow has also complained to the village governor that her husband visited her by night, mistreated her and even raped her. Jura quickly became a terrible entity for the entire village, and the poor residents needed 16 years to encourage themselves to do something. So one day the village mayor Miho Radetić gathered a group of brave-hearted men and led them to the cemetery to dig up the body and to puncture a hawthorn stake so they can end this period of fear and terror. Nine villagers carrying a crucifix and a torch came to the cemetery and opened the grave of Jura. What they saw shocked them. The dead body was intact, and his face flushed with a big smile. The brave nine men run fast seeing that scene, but the mayor once again collected them and brought back to the cemetery. The pastor then spoke into the open grave, keeping the crucifix in his hand and invoked the name of Jesus Christ to drive out the evil from beyond the grave. They say there were tears in his eyes. The brave man tried to stab him with the stake his stomach, but they couldn’t because the pole refused to price through the stomach. In the end, one of the brave men named Stephen Milašić, beheaded him with an axe. The dead man cried, and the entire grave filled in with blood. After that, the “honourable nine” closed up the grave. Since that day, the villagers live in peace and Jure Grando’s shadow never appeared again.
Writers have been ensuring all these stories live forever, making sure that kids and adults in Croatia, together with everyone who desires to learn more about the culture, will always have a story to tell to generations that will come after them. Many of the characters live on, feeding our imagination and making sure we always stay curious as we were when we were kids and when everything was possible. And well, who can say what really happened?