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 there before, in my childhood years. I was very intrigued to see it again …
Text: Marijana Podhraski Photos: SaMo
Welcome to Celje!
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 …
Built by the Counts of Heunberg in the second half of the 12th century, the Celje Castle was later inherited by the Lords of Sanneck (1333), who quickly climbed the ranks of the European elite and 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, an almost 23-metre high defense tower on a nearby hill was erected that was subsequently referred to as the Frederick’s Tower.
Let’s take a walk:
The Celje castle is known as the seat of the Counts of Celje, whose reign and power in the 14th and 15th centuries had a long reach and they had a substantial impact on the political fate of the Central European region.
Frederick and Veronika – as Romeo and Juliet
What would a medieval castle be without a love story? 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 have been remembered in Slovenia for centuries. 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 castle was inherited by the Habsburg dynasty. The castle began to fall into disrepair shortly after losing its strategic importance.
When the castle lost its strategic importance in the 15th century it was left to deteriorate, and subsequent owners used the stone blocks to build other structures. A surprisingly large portion remains intact, however, and has been restored, 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 castle 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.
A modern tourist info center and Café Veronika were added during the most recent renovation, 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 the castle 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!
Before you visit the Old Celje Castle, check their webpage for all the information.