Living Castles

There is a project called Living Castles, building a network of 7 castles in Croatia and our neighbor country Slovenia. The project is mostly funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The project partners invested in the enhancement of their heritage presentation. It’s mostly through digital technology, such as virtual reality and 3D mapping. Without a doubt, it all adds to a more spectacular experience for a visitor. What I love most is the fact that together, they’re building a network. They’re creating a route that could trigger us to visit the seven castles.

The castles included in the Living Castles network are Veliki Tabor, Oršić castle in Stubica, Čakovec and Varaždin castle in Croatia. In Slovenia, it’s  Celje, Rakičan and Ptuj castle. Learn more by listening to the podcast or continue reading:

So far, I haven’t been to only one of them, and that’s Rakičan in Slovenia. As soon as I found out about it, I put the missing one on my bucket list. I think families will have a fun time “collecting castles.” You can receive a piece of a bigger puzzle in each one of them. That’s just one of the examples of various side-products and joint actions that are a part of the Living Castles project. Look them up and find out more at

I don’t know about you, but these things work for me. Sometimes, at home, we’re trying to figure out what to do on a weekend. On a few occasions, we discovered some kind of a route online, and all agreed – let’s go and follow that route. One of the examples is a route in Slovenia, that invites people to visit the castles of Posavje. That’s the region around the river Sava. Remember my podcast episode about the relation between Sava and Zagreb? Well, Sava springs in Slovenia so there are historical towns in Slovenia around Sava as well. Side note: following the river Sava would make for a wonderful and ever-changing route, too.

One day, as we discovered that idea, we were ready in the car in a few minutes and went to explore the Slovenian castles. It was very rewarding because it was a combination of unknown castles that we wouldn’t normally get an idea to visit.. and well-known ones. All rather close to Zagreb where we live. It also gave us an additional reason to visit the same places again, because we already knew a few.

Do similar projects of various cultural routes give you the inspiration to visit certain places? Have you ever done something like that. Would you? There is a lot of talk about cultural routes in tourism. It’s an omnipresent question: what is the secret ingredient of a route that would make it worth a visit?

In the case of the 7 Living Castles, the secret ingredients could be the vicinity, diversity, and uniqueness of each of their stories. The fact that seven castles from Slovenia and Croatia are united in a single route got me very excited and I can imagine this as a motivation for some visitors, especially the castlebusters, as I like to call them.. that is people like me,  who love to visit castles, manors, old forts, even ruins…

I’m writing this post as a result of a press study trip that I took part in. The project partners invited Slovenian and Croatian reporters to a study trip. They presented what they achieved through the Living Castles project in each of the castles. I wasn’t able to participate in the whole program and visit all of the castles on that particular occasion. Still, I had such a great time full of revelations in my short time with the group. I visited only two castles. It was the two that I believed I had known by heart prior to this visit. It’s the castles in the Croatian region of Hrvatsko Zagorje – Veliki Tabor and the Oršić castle in Stubica. I was amazed by some discoveries.

When it comes to the very project of Living Castles, I do like the advancement in technology. I think it’s wonderful that heritage is revived with the help of various tools, including digitalization of the experience. But to be perfectly frank, my main takeaway is the confirmation of my belief that nothing can replace a living guide with flesh and bones… and with a spark for their material. This was my first time after high school that I visited the two castles in the company of museum guides who knew how to relate to the history and translate it to the modern visitor. I enjoyed that. They pointed to some details I would have never noticed, they explained so vividly what makes them unique.

Technological additions to their exhibits that they added through the project make a great passage to the modernization of heritage presentation. I hope they will help the castle museums attract new audiences or give another reason to former visitors to come again. What do you think of new technologies in the presentation of heritage?

Personally, as a visitor and as a content creator myself, I have been much more involved in the analog presentation. I think that can be more reliable. Especially if you can’t count on the funds long-term. It can also be equally challenging and satisfying for the visitor. It can also be very motivating. In other words, I personally don’t get overexcited over digital technology on historical sites, no matter how impressive they get. That’s why I’m not going to pretend that I’m head over heels about these old castles getting pimped with some 21st century coolness. But even for people like me, this can be a great help to deepen the understanding of the past times, let alone for those who really adore it.

What makes me happy, is the fact that seven castles with their management and some other organizations got together and are eager to build new products for visitors. European Union, through the financing of cross-border projects, has really increased the quality of tourism offer. They gave people reason to work together, to find partners in various regions, and accomplish good things together. This is one of such examples and I wish them to fulfill their project goals in the future –  to increase the number of visitors, continue with the innovations in heritage presentation, to become as sustainable as cultural monuments can be…  

I am not going to go into details about each and every castle at the moment, although I plan to tell you more about some of them in future episodes. Let me just mention that, as far as I’m concerned, each and every one of them is worth a visit by themselves and always has been. Each and every one of them chose a certain story from their past as a highlight for this project. It’s the main theme for digitalization and for an illustrated book that’s available in their shops.

Visiting each of those castles enriches us. Collecting a necklace of all the seven pearls will give us a complete storytelling experience and seven fascinating histories.  I can’t wait to do another one of those road trips! See you in the seven castles!

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