You can always visit the Zagreb's Upper Town, which is beautiful in every season. But, this time I have decided to do it with „coprnice“, which is Zagreb's word for witches. Tour of the Upper Town organise girls that love the history of the town and they gave us a totally different idea of the town than usual.
The story begins at dusk. At 8pm, when street lights are lit on the main Zagreb square, begins a tour you have to book earlier. At the spot you get witch hats and symbol on your hand, which makes you part of the fellowship. Enthusiastic and developed, it is an introduction to the magical word of Upper Town's witches.
Historical witchcraft was tied to the springs, and thus we begin our tour from the famous Zagreb's well Manduševac. Spring water plays almost main role in the witch rituals; the tap water today is almost the same, as it comes mainly from the Zagreb's mountain Medvednica. The witches we talk about are mainly women who dealt with some form of healing, herbal medicine and magic, or simply those women who were different in any kind. Especially the beautiful women were accused to be witches, but also every other female could denounce its neighbours; stories of jealous neighbours abound.
As you already know, Taste of Adriatic writes about meals, so we though there is some direct connection of food and witches. Direct one is not immidiatelly visible, but indirect ones exist. Home and kitchen, as well as witchcraft were mainly in female's domain, at least until modern times. One of the understanding of magic and witchcraft was tied to their traditionl role of cooks, keeper of home and health, helping at births.
In Dalmatian and Littoral statutes, witchcraft is known as herbaria vel maleficium herbariae. It is usual name in these regions and taken from the Venice records, where witchcraft is connected to the herbal medicine. Persons who made herbal drinks were accused to conduct witchcraft. These interesting historical stories told us Martina Fidrik, a historian and organiser of this ingenious tour, and (by chance or not!) knowledgeable person in the witchcraft history. She is one of the girls that tie together the histories of Upper Town, and two separating hills of Gradec and Kaptol.
Another interesting legend is about the Black House (Črna kuća), situated just next to the city's famous cathedral. This house bears many stories, and one of them is very similar to the Harry Potter's Hogwarts. It was sort of school for herbarium and healing. Today at the same place is the Clarisse monastery on the address Kvaternikova ulica 167.
On no-men's-land between Kaptol and Gradec, we stopped in the Opatovina Park, where one of the most famous Zagreb witches awaited us. Illuminated by the candles, she told us the secrets of magic potens. These drinks were made from very unusual ingridients, just as we would expect from the witches. The unavoidable spring water is accomapnied with dried bat wings, ropes used in public hangings, and sometimes even human bones dig by the witches on the graveyards. Of course, the candles, show and magic environment of the Upper Town make a special atmosphere and we also looked for the black shadows around us.
Next we arrived to the legendary Stone Gate, one of the tourist marks of Zagreb, and meditative sancturary where many Zagreb inhabitants come to lit candles and pray. We have never before gave attention to the ŠILJCI on the roof of the sanctuary, though. They had a role in stopping witches liberate women taken in prison and tortured in a tower just next to the Stone Gate. Same ŠILJKE you can see from the inner side in the first and oldest Zagreb's pharmacy still opened today. It vividly reminds us on the long forgotten times and tales. Although mystical, this is also a tragic story, as many innocent women and some men were tortured, confessed their „sins“ and then were burned or hanged.
In times when witchcraft processes were less and less present in Europe, Croatia only experienced its arrival. Only Empress Mary Therese had the chance (and bravery) to stop these processes. After a woman was accused of transforming into a fly (common shape of witches), the Vienna's court was intrigued. The woman was summoned to the court and left free of charge. After this case, it was ordered that every woman under suspicion to be a witch should be first sent to Vienna. The trip had to be paid by the court, and thus the practice of catching and killing witches slowly but surely seized.
The whole tour finished with the descent on the „witch steps“ (today Capucins' steps) where the accused women were taken to Zvjezdišće, place where the witches were burned and hanged. Today, it is the place of the cinema Tuškanac. The sad story has its end by the recently opened tunnel under the Upper Town. Luckily, we go home safely, happy not to libe in such dark times.
If you'd like to take part in this remarkable tour, do join it every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It takes two hours, is very interesting, mystical and educational for every guest as well as for the Zagreb inhabitants.
Visit their site: http://zgc.hr/