Old Castle Celje built in the 12th century seems like it was taken right out of a Disney fairytale. Looks however can be deceiving. This castle’s macabre history is full of violent deaths, tragic romances and descend of a once powerful family. That’s reality. But just how much of it should you share with the kids?
After centuries of turbulent history the Old Castle Celje to this day stands tall and mighty, positioned as the guardian of the Slovenian town of Celje. From 1341 to 1456 the town was the seat of the once powerful Counts of Celje, who reigned from the castle. Celje acquired market-town status in the first half of the 14th century and town privileges from Count Frederick II on 11 April 1451. Both town and the castle interdependent and strong till 1456 when the Counts of Celje died out, which marks an era of even more troubles and eventually leading to the ruination of the castle.
The biggest Slovenian medieval castle harbors many myths and legends that are far from Disney material. I found most of them too horrid to share with kids. The brochure you get upon arrival is great and describes the most popular stories of that time. I frantically flipped through the pages to find one, I could actually read to the kids. Skipping the story about the omens of death, wounded man bleeding in a well, ghosts and predictions of resurrections, there was just one left to read. One that still resonates with us all – a story of a tragic romance:
Friderik II was the son of the mighty count Herman II and one night he killed his first and lawful wife and against his father’s will married a woman named Veronika Deseniska. His father had him locked in the main tower and had Veronika drowned (in our version she just waited). The legend says that Friderik was saved from certain death by his loyal servant, who dug a tunnel and brought Friderik food.
From parenting point of way count Herman certainly took time out to a whole new level when he punished his son by locking him up in a tower for disobeying him.
Perhaps Friderik’s plight inspired the story of Rapunzel because I could easily sell his tower as hers. Which also makes me realize, that with a bit of imagination you could possibly turn even the worst of stories into material worthy of Disney.
Despite the fact that the castle is empty, my imagination was running wild – due to reading so many legends, of course. But more than that I think we all love a good story of a once powerful clan descending into the abyss. That’s what gets us going. I tried to work through all the what ifs, while sipping drinks at the castle’s café and watching kids occupy the whole playground.
Cool Kidz Tip: Run around the castle’s main square and try out the old medieval swing with wooden baskets. You will never want to leave.
When planning a trip to the castle don’t miss out the chance to visit Celje as well. As of this Fall the town park also boasts a tree house.
We didn’t have enough time to visit it, but it’s on our agenda come Spring.