Yesterday evening we drove about 70km to the nearby city of Varaždin to visit Špancirfest. The name means “walking festival”, which basically means that it is spread all over town. Let me explain.
The city of Varaždin was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1776. When they rebuilt, the people of Varaždin elected to go for wide streets and large squares (I’d say “plazas”, but that would indicate a preference for the Austrian term, “plaz”, rather than the local word, “trg”, which might not go down well.) Mostly Špancirfest is like a Christmas Market, and many of the stalls use the same little wooden cabins, but it is spread out all over town with lots of different themed areas. Also there are concerts (Skunk Anansie are headlining), stand-up comedy, outdoor movies, street performers and so on. One of the few remaining mediaeval streets gets turned into an actual artists’ alley.
Mostly we just wandered around looking at stuff, though Mihaela plans to take Iggy back there later in the week because there are some amazing kids’ activity stalls. What amazed me most about the whole thing is that we didn’t arrive until after 8:00pm and the place was still hopping. Those stalls that were closed were ones that were taking the whole of Monday off after a busy weekend.
The majority of the stalls were of a craft nature: jewelry, herbal remedies, fine foods, local spirits and so on. I did, however, detect a familiar scent in the air, and sure enough it was a Lush stall.
Our local guide, Žarko, guided us to a food tent near the castle. Croatians are very fond of their meat. When you order a hamburger here it comes six inches across, and the only standard additions appear to be onion and the delicious local relish, Ajvar, both of which are served on the side. For preference I would have Ćevapi rather than a simple burger, but they weren’t on offer. We did have some splendid cakes, though.
Varaždin is famous for its baroque architecture, and the interior of the castle is apparently very splendid. Žarko tells me that the beds inside are very short because of a local myth that if you slept lying down you might die, so people slept sitting up.
All too soon it was time to head back to Zagreb. We left well after 10:00pm and the festival was still busy.