A walk through the Old Celje Castle
Many say, once you visit the Old Celje Castle, it will stay in your memories forever. Before getting to the city of Celje on a cold, but very sunny December day, the images of the mighty medieval walls, so close to the sky were flipping through my head. I was sure I was here before, in my childhood years. I was very intrigued to see it again.
Once upon a time …
Yes, once upon a time, there were counts and nobles and warriors walking here, living, dreaming, fighting through their lives, making a history …
The Celje Castle was built by the Counts of Heunberg in the second half of the 12th century. Then, the Lords of Sanneck (1333) who quickly climbed the ranks of the European elite, inherited the castle. They were elevated to the rank of the Counts of Celje soon after their move to Celje.
The first Count of Celje to move to the Celje Old Castle with his wife and four children was Frederick I. After moving in, he started to refurbish the castle into a more comfortable living place. In the following decades, they have built an almost 23-metre high defense tower on a nearby hill, referred today to as the Frederick’s Tower.
The Celje Castle was the seat of the Counts of Celje, whose reign and power in the 14th and 15th centuries had a long reach. They also had a substantial impact on the political fate of the Central European region.
The love sighs at the Celje Castle
What would a medieval castle be without a love story, right? And more tragic it is, more it gets to us, right?
Climbing up the stairs of the Frederick’s tower, I am thinking about the particular events that took place here. The count Hermann II had his own son – Frederick II locked up in the tower because of his love and marriage to Veronika of Desenice. The chronicles of the Counts of Celje suggest that Herman II also initiated a trial against Veronika accusing her of witchcraft. She was acquitted by the court and murdered by being drowned in 1425.
Veronika and Frederick’s tragic love story, some also refer to it as Romeo and Juliet’ of ancient Slovenia, has also marked the beginning of the end of the Counts of Celje (House of Cili). After the demise of the Counts of Celje, the Habsburg dynasty inherited the castle. It started to fall into disrepair shortly after losing its strategic importance.
With the loss of its strategic importance in the 15th century it started to deteriorate. The subsequent owners used the stone blocks to build other structures. A surprisingly large portion remains intact. However, they managed to restore it, including 23m-high Frederick’s Tower. Veronika of Desenice inspired numerous literary creations in Slovenia, as well as Croatia.
Up in the sky
We enjoyed being able to go around the walls and explore it on our own. Old castles make us forget about the present; only people and their stories come forward, good or bad, but still living on. Here the sky seems so close and the views into the valley are incredibly stunning. It is so quiet, one can hear own thoughts floating in the clouds.
During the most recent renovation they added a modern tourist info center and Café Veronika , making the castle an appealing tourist sight. After coffee, and a great walk, it is time for a proper meal. Luckily, there is a place very near that provides nice homemade food and a great atmosphere.
A fine Slovenian Inn called Pri Kmetec will put a crown on a beautiful day. A dinner in Frederick’s Room with the view of Celje Castle will definetely complete the trip!
Text: Marijana Podhraski
Photos: Samo Šmarčan