Karlovac has a great importance due to a long history which makes it as unique as it is beautiful. This quaint little city hidden in west Croatia has many names, “the town on four rivers” and “the city of parks” because of its amount of green areas and its specific location at the confluence of four rivers.
As a city founded to protect the Austrian south line of defense, it was a fortress built as a protection against the Ottoman Empire, and originally designed as such, it was given its very distinctive six pointed star shape, which would later become the characteristic feature for this town.
From its original inauguration date in 1579 to today, Karlovac has had an interesting development, all of which has contributed to making the city even more culturally rich and a historic landmark in Europe.
Here are five interesting facts you have to know about this place:
1. It was attacked seven times by the Ottoman Empire
The Turks had their minds set to attack Karlovac, since it was a strategic town that stood in their way to conquer the Austrian territory. It laid this small city under siege seven times, the last being in 1672, but they could never occupy it.
After all, Karlovac was built specifically with the purpose of defending and not letting the ottomans go through. The six pointed star shape was followed by a grid around the central square, surrounded by shops and buildings, in case an army actually got pass their stronghold. This strategic layout had to be consolidated, and for this objective, it was surrounded by six bastions connected by high compacted dirt embankments and an outer network of excavated moats.
2. It was named capital of Croatia
In a brief period of time that spanned from the late 19th to the early 20th century, Napoleon conquered the areas that now represent Slovenia, Istria, the Karlovac-Lika region, and the Adriatic coast all the way to Dubrovnik. When he added this area to his empire, Napoleon called it the Illyrian Provinces which were divided into districts or departments, and he appointed Karlovac as the “capital” of the department of Croatia.
3. Duvobac castle
Now what is perhaps the well-known tourist sight to visit, has always been on dispute. It sits upon a hill overlooking the town and although there is no clear date to its construction, historians argue it was probably around the 13th century.
Across the centuries, it has had numerous noble owners, including the prestigious Zrinski and Frankopan families. Their dynasties are among the most famous Croatian noble families, who fought bravely to protect their nation and people against foreign invaders. They are hailed as Croatian national heroes, who selflessly gave their lives for the love of their country. Their castle also served for the Croatian army and was besieged but never conquered.
4. It played a key role in Croatia’s War of Independence
The war (1991-1995) began as a way to get freedom from the Socialistic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and become a sovereign country.
Karlovac, with a southern border in close proximity to the front lines between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Serbian Krajina, suffered damage during the Croatian War of Independence. Several neighbourhoods were destroyed and many buildings around the citty center and city hall also had a lot of damage.
Official figures on wartime damage published in Croatia in 1996 specify 180,000 destroyed housing units, 25% of the Croatian economy destroyed, and US$27 billion of material damage.
This damage can still be seen at the museums of war created in Croatia. For instance, the Karlovac City Museum transformed the old Austrian military barracks of Turanj into a museum exhibition dedicated to the military history of Karlovac and in particular, through the exhibited weapons, of the Croatian War of Independence.
The City Museum, Galerija Vjekoslave Karas and Dubovac Castel also show pieces of the story that unravelled during the war.
5. Karlovac has great scenery for movies
With beautiful landscapes of mountains, green open spaces and rivers, as well as it’s renaissance style of architecture, this town is a perfect location to shoot movies, TV series and music videos.
At first, Michael Jackson put it on the map with his music video “Earth Song”, which was released in 1995 and shot in four locations around the globe. It dealt with subjects of environment and animal welfare with scenes of illegal poaching, destruction of the rainforest and war. The war scenes were shot where the Karlovac City Museum currently lays, to show the destruction visible in the suburb of Turanj which was practically levelled over the four years of fighting.
Most recently, it was one of the locations for the movie Renegades (2017) and will soon be part of the film about Nikola Tesla (pre-production) , a character that actually attended school in Karlovac, and completed a four year course in three years with honours. It was there that young Tesla was inspired to follow the path of electrical engineer by the experiments and demonstrations of his physics professor; Martin Sekulić.
- Each of these pieces of Karlovac history make a remarkable picture of this city, making us want to go there and get lost between the star shaped streets, to feel a little of the history embedded in its walls and experience an adventure deserving to be part of Karlovac’s history books.