Medvednica and people

Mount Medvednica is a very rare example of a nature park merging with a capital city. It is the area in which natural, cultural and historic values interlace and depend on each other. To the dwellers at its foot this great beneficial mountain has been presenting their wood and coal, salt and stone, silver and water and their mill – in general, the source of life and protection.

Cohabitation of Medvednica and humankind can be traced from Prehistoric Period down to the present times. The slopes of the mountain exposed to the sun with their many springs and streams, forests, mountain meadows, wildlife and fertile fields in the lower regions have been inviting humans to settle here from the earliest days.

The first human settlement on Medvednica dates earlier than some 45000 years, when the Neandertahl hunters of Musterian culture dwelled in the Veternica Cave, and the numerous relics of material heritage offer proof of continuous habitation on the mountain and at its foot ever since. There are 20 archaeological sites registered so far in the National Park, ranging from Prehistoric Period down to the late Middle Ages, and more than sixty registered cultural properties in the area of the Park testify to the abundance of its material cultural heritage.

Stories from enchanted forest

Not so long ago, people and nature lived in much closer coexistence than today. Ancient knowlegde and beliefs about nature and its marvellous creatures have been narated from one generation to another, and those stories were related to Medvednica landscapes where people lived. Although way of life has changed deeply nowdays, Medvednica and its stories remain undseparable part of modern men living near this area.

Older people still recount stories and legends, anecdotes that happened to either them or to thier relatives and friends. Usual are the stories about Medvednica witches, fairies and fairy caves, mysterious fires which show up in the middle of the mountain, enchanted herbs , all kinds of animals and snake holes, treasures built under ancient ruins , treasures belonging to known and unkonwn lords … those stories are inevitable part of our mountain identity so many of these legends remain interweaved in Medvednica toponyms and memories of villagers.

Dvorac Medvedgrad

Legend about Black Queen

The best known legend conected with Medvednica Mountain is the one about the Black Queen. Numerous myths and legends speak of how she was enchantingly beautiful, but cold and cruel-hearted. She always wore black, incited fear and trepidation and her name was rarely mentioned. The generations passed down the stories about how she threw her lovers from the walls and lowered down a cage with a wild boar, whilst her greatest pet, a large black raven, which stood on her shoulder, attacked and killed everyone who annoyed her with its claws and sharp beak. She had an insatiable hunger for power, led a debauched life and committed bloody atrocities, associated with magic, alchemy and witchcraft, and although only folklore tradition, the many stories connected with the controversial and cruel queen, still live on today among the people of Zagreb.

According to one, she died throwing herself in fear down the ramparts whilst running in front of some thirsty dogs, which wanted to drink from her well. However, she allowed that to no one. When every one of the wells in the surroundings, besides hers, dried up, the thirsty villagers pleaded her for refreshment. When she refused them, they travelled to the dangerous forest where a spring instantly was created, and at the same time the one in Medvedgrad dried up.

Curiously the newly-created well, was given the title ‘The Queen’s’.
Another story says how the mythical queen passed away from the plague, and a third, at the hands of the Devil, whom she wanted to cheat by asking for help in defending Medvedgrad. With a curse she was turned into a serpent queen and from then on she roams the underground corridors of the old town with her subjects and faithfully guards her valuable treasure.

However true this is, one thing is sure, this renowned character remained woven in Zagreb’s past as the most notorious mythical inhabitant of Zagreb. Her mysterious traces on Medvedgrad intrigue many historians, lovers of the past, as well as curious tourists, who between the walls of one of Croatia’s best-preserved fortresses, look for answers and try to verify the authenticity behind the interesting legends.

The alleged buried treasure which is hidden in the secret chambers under Medvedgrad has never been found. It is believed to be hidden in the underground world of Kaptol or Gradec, in corridors which connect Medvedgrad with the Church of St. Mark and St. Mark’s Square. He who dares to head into the unexplored and enchanted corridors, may perhaps come across the wandering queen. All that would need to be done is to kiss her, to remove the curse, change her from a snake back into a beauty and all the riches and treasures of Medvedgrad will belong to him…

Tour info

Meeting with Zagreb guide and transfer to Medvednica Park of Nature. Walking tour from a starting point in a company of a Medvednica licenced interpreter. Tour leads us to Zrinski Mines with stories about flora and fauna, geology and climate , ethnography and interesting story about sixth largest cave in Croatia – Medvednica’s Cave Veternica. Bones of many extict animals like cave lion, leopard, cave hyena, rhinos and giant deer were found in Cave Veternica. Thus follows tour of gorgeous and mysterious underground site – Zrinski Mines , protected cultural heritage site , lasting about 30 minutes. While decending through woods, short presentation of Medvednica ecology and nature protection projects . Way leads us to site Medvednica Castle , tour through old ruins and castle museum also a break to take photos of Zagreb from this beautiful lookout! Transfer back to Zagreb.

Suggestions for Medvednica Park of Nature visitors:

Wear warm clothes and sports footwear. While visiting Zrinski Mines all guests are provided with helmets. Temperature in the Mines  is around 12 degrees Celsius. Persons suffering claustrophobia are not recommended to go to the Mines.

Medvednica tour lasts: up to 4 hours