A massive Christmas tree stands decorated in front of an old castle. It is chilly but sunny, and the sun rays catch us through the naked branches of castle’s park. Lazy cat just finished stretching, wondering who the funny looking guys are. Here and there we hear cock crowing and we definitely saw at least one nun caring for the chickens. It is morning in Lužnica, peace on earth near town of Zaprešić in Zagreb county. It is our staring trip along the Sutla River, which makes the state border between Croatia and Slovenia. And it is good we began here, as Lužnica is indeed a very special place.
Lužnica is today owned by Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, and withing the castle and newly built monastery nearby works Spiritual-education centre Castle of Mary, led by the nuns. Beautiful castle is built in second half of 18th century, on a place of previous fort. It was built by noble family Čikulin, then Moscon, and finally baron Pavao Rauch, Croatian ban (viceroy) from 1908 until 1910, whose father was also very much involved in building the castle. Lužnica became main seat of the baron and his family amblem is seen in many places in the castle itself. In 1925 the castle became property of the Daughters of Charity and remains such until this day.
The place is near magical, as it offers stay, relaxation, spiritual rebuilding, conference halls, and standard programs run by nuns. The castle includes 8 hectares of English yard with a lake, woodlands, walking paths, banks and wooden tables, ideal for finding peace, relaxation, and meditation. Nuns are always busy with preparing spiritual and educational programs for every age and interest. Especially romantic feeling is when castle shuts down all electricity and makes light only with candles.
We were greeted with a bright smile of sister Tea and introductory talk went immediately to the Suggestions of Saint Hildegard. This saint from German Benedictine order was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, and lived from 1098 until 1179. She is also known as a Doctor of the Church because of her medicine writings. Based on the recipes of St. Hildegard, nuns recovered middle age cuisine, which tells what is good and healthy in both body and soul.
The recipes are taken from old books and mostly mix meat with vegetables and various natural spices such as cinnamon, mint, cumin, savoury, and clove. Sister Laura is true master of Hildegard’s cuisine and cares several times a year for the one-day event of Saint Hildegard. Advices for body and soul are then received by numerous guests. Among more pronounced dietary suggestion of St. Hildegard is use of spelt flour. Everything in the monastery is done with it, including coffee.
More elaborate meals include turkey or chicken, often with dill sauce. Sweets shouldn’t be too sweet, and you should very well take home two of the most famous souvenirs from Lužnica. One are anti-stress cookies, a complex mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, butter, sugar, and eggs; daily five cookies should be enough to feel well. With cookies you can also try Lužnica tea, sort of official souvenir, made from 15 various herbs.
Sixteen nuns care for vast castle, park, and monastery, pray and work for the benefit of all men. Always welcoming and always smiling, they bring happiness to every visitor. Many other products can be found in Lužnica, those caring for body and those for soul. Who would describe the beauty of long hallways, beautiful works of art, peace of the castle’s chapel, vistas from windows, blissfulness of spring, and comfort in winter?
For our part, we would strongly recommend everyone to visit Lužnica and take part on one of its programs. You can easily contact the castle and nuns here:
Duhovno-obrazovni centar Marijin dvor, Lužnica Lužnički odvojak 3, HR-10290 Zaprešić Telefon: +385(0)1-3350-944 Fax: +385(0)1-3311-487 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by: Andrea Seifert, www.mint-media.hr