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petak, 29. srpnja 2016.

Croatian City Of Varaždin Celebrating 18th Year Of Špancirfest This August (+Video)

It's that time year again for the annual Špancirfest in the historic baroque town of Varaždin.

This is NOT a tourism post because I don't do tourism posts, just information for the benefit of the reader. Just basically to show the readership that it's not all just on the coast where all the summer entertainment, various events or interesting things take place, or the only place in the country that is worth checking out. Because there's more than enough talk and images from the coastal areas in the summer, but it's important to remember that there actually is life, existence and plenty interesting summer things going on and to see and do elsewhere in the rest of the country, including the small towns and cities like Varaždin in this case. There are actually quite a number of events that take place around the same time in the northen more continental areas of Croatia, for instance just on the other side of Zagreb the "Karlovac Dani Piva" (Karlovac Days of Beer) will simultaneously be going on as just one example. People do exist and truly live lives away from the coast in the summer (It may seem unbelievable to some but it's true). The truth must be told, this is the blog of truth after all.

What is Špancirfest exactly? (in Croatian pronounced as "shpawn-tseer-fest" and having the meaning of a stroll festival/strollingfest, the Croatian word špancir being a lexeme to the German word spazieren, some other similar common lexeme examples in the Croatian language here). Well, Špancirfest is a summer festival that takes place in the old town section of an historic city dating from the middle ages, in the Croatian alphabet spelled as Varaždin. And where is Varaždin exactly? Varaždin is located in the northwest region of Croatia just between the Slovenia and Hungary border about 85 km north of the capital city Zagreb. It's an old historic settlement from the times of the medieval Kingdom of Croatia and recorded for the first time by name in 1181 as an important newly elevated fortress town.

(As an interesting sidenote, (because so many readers keep begging for those spontaneous quirky math, science and history facts all the time), in 1756 as part of measures to cut administrative costs throughout the empire, Maria Theresa the Empress of the Habsburgs (and the Croatian crown lands within Austria-Hungary, this over 450 years after the Kingdom of Croatia entered into a political union with Hungary circa. 1102 and then officially elected to join the Habsburg monarchy in 1527), moved the Croatian Government from Zagreb to Varaždin and established the Royal Croatian Council overseeing the Croatian Triune Kingdom lands, (Headed by the Croatian Ban/Prime Minister [aka Viceroy pronounced like 'bahn'] and the Croatian nobilty), so Varaždin actually became the Croatian capital until it moved back 20 years later to the Croatian Parliament in Zagreb in 1776). Castles, palaces, mansions, fortresses, baroque buildings, classical theatre houses, classicist and secessionist homes and even cobbled roads are still found in the medieval-renaissance-baroque historic Old Town nucleus of Varaždin. Today, besides some other annual festivals here the old town quarter is for the most part a quiet and relaxing type of location throughout most of the year. (the nearby Varaždinske Toplice have been popular natural hot springs for many centuries also)

The Varaždinska Građanska Garda/Varaždin Civil Guards in the 1840's.

I should also mention that it's not generally known that Varaždin was under attack a number of times during the centuries of Ottoman Jihads into Europe, yet from the1530's onward every single Ottoman army and their Serb volunteers attacks from the Sanjak of Smederevo was repelled in their attempt to take the strategically important town. (As a matter of fact, from the Seige of Vienna in 1529 to the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the combined Ottoman armies and their Serb volunteers allies had to repeatedly circumvent around the Croatian defensive military positions, including Varaždin, to attain their goal of reaching Vienna. The bloodthirsty Ottoman Serb Grand Vizier and de facto ruler of the Ottoman empire, Мехмед-паша Соколовић (English: Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovich, aka Sokollu Mehmed Pasha) led numerous combined Turkish Ottoman and Serb jihad campaigns to try to break through Croatian positions but with no success)

Also worth noting of course is the still kept tradition of the Varaždinska građanska garda (Varaždin Civil Guards, who were grenadier soldiers and aka the "Purgari" seen above), which is a historic civil military unit formed in 1538 and then officially founded in a 1750 statute by imperial decree, they are still used for Varaždin county events and official ceremonial functions even today (example) as well as representatives of the historical units of Varaždin Hussars that existed in the vicinity until 1813. They were just some of the regiments and military units that over the centuries took part in the Croatian–Ottoman wars and within the overall Habsburg-Ottoman wars. (oh and trust me, I did some reading and they weren't just standing around in fancy uniforms back then either, just like the various Zrinski Guard military units they made lots of shit happen, were in the thick of the shit plenty times and caused a lot of fucking shit and fucked shit up for various invaders coming from the balkans over the centuries, but they are still cool uniforms today too). Varaždin and the surrounding county suburbs is of course also known for various local gastronomical choices (foods), wines, specialty liquors and pastries etc.

However, and getting back to the main point of this post, once a year for 10 days in August, Špancirfest comes along. A time of mixing the old with the new, bringing out the foods and drinks, old costumes, crafts, displays, historical reenactments and related events, and also more modern events, jugglers, theatre companies, costumes, street performers, concerts, workshop programs and other music and entertainment events, (It can seem sort of like medieval times in a way when you think about it, because there used to be court jesters, fools, musicians, magicians and various entertainers back then too, of course along with the local village wench and goblets of frothy mead, mutton and those big turkey and ham legs). In some of the photos and video footage it even almost looks like a scene out of some fantasy novel, like from Alice in Wonderland, an Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, Brothers Grim or Tolkien novel or something like that, all surreal and like a fantasy magicland full of magical characters and otherwordly weird beings with strange hair and clothes.

Varaždin was also a host city this past April during the Tour of Croatia cycling stage races.

There is something for one and all and a time to celebrate the town with food, entertainment, art and the arts. Even the cool 3D projection mapping visuals and neon drumming mimes will be there again this year. (see previous post festival-visualia-2014-3d-projection-pula for more about that). Maybe it's not as well known, long running or on the scale of festivals like the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and some other different themed ones, but Varaždin is not Dubrovnik and it isn't located on the coast, that's the way geography is and which also explains the lack of boats, rubber dinghies and shrimp and mussels in Lake Varaždin.

Cobbled roads still visible within the old town quarter paths and walkways. Instagram photo.

Varaždin from August 19-28 will once again feature over 1,000 well-known street performers, musicians, theatre performers, comedy acts and acrobats from all over the world. More than 40 concerts will also take place this year, during these days Varaždin regularly hosts over 100,000 visitors coming from all over Croatia and over the years even visitors from other Central European and other nearby surrounding countries, including musicians and artists from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Romania, Spain, Kosovo, Montenegro, Italy, Ukraine, France, Sweden and other countries.

I know what you'll be thinking, probably wondering where the pics of the the various Croatian kobasice, kremšnita, štrukli and pohano & pečeno meso is, but don't worry they're always there within reach and not too far away.

Here's some cool photos and a small sample of just some of the things to see and do during the 10 days of Špancirfest. (More images at and

Yep, you or your kids can even get their haircut, a new hairstyle or sideburns trimmed at an official Špancirfest barbershop booth, so you'll look really cool at the concerts and shindigs. (see related now-you-can-get-shave-haircut-tattoo-at)

Even important politicians, such as the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović seen above, have paid visits to the Varaždin Špancirfest, it's not one of the entertainment events but shows the growing popularity of this annual summer festival gets a 2 thumbs up from the country's leaders and politicians also, so that's good to know.

A few members of the Zagreb Bears (KHL Medveščak Zagreb) hockey club hanging out at Špancirfest. (more recent news about the Zagreb Bears at zagreb-bears-confirmed-ebel-2017)

Also good to know is that along with all the usual fun, members of the Croatian "Crveni Nosovi Klaunovidoktori" (Red Nosed Clown Doctors) also make an appearance during Špancirfest. They inform the passers-by on the street about their work and then make visits to the local Varaždin hospital. (more about them at croatian-red-nosed-clown-doctors)

Image: (more and better footage of these futuristic evil drumming mimes at festival-visualia-2014-3d-projection-pula)

This is an entertainment lounge area and as one can see the locally produced "Pan" beer has been a regular sponsor of Špancirfest events. (I tried Pan a few times (pronounced like "Pawn or Pon) and it's a good beer, more interesting information about Pan beer and other Croatian beers at croatians-world-lists-beers-alcohol)

Events also take place around the Old Town Varaždin Castle which dates from the 12th century. (see

It's still mainly Croatian music acts that perform at Špancirfest, but over the years it's become more eclectic in regards to entertainment and things to do and see. Practically unheard of to most, Varaždin is located in the northwest corner of Croatia just between Slovenia and Hungary, quite a ways from the Adriatic coast, and all the boats and beaches, (although there are even places to swim if you feel the need) and there are many similar events taking place all across Croatia during these summer months, but believe you me, Špancirfest will be a happening interesting place to be at this summer. Guaranteed. If you're in the area you should definitely check it out, and if not it's still good to know.

Varaždin is also twinned with the cities of Bad Radkersburg Austria, Koblenz Germany, Montale Italy, Ptuj Slovenia, Pula Croatia, Auxerre France, Ravensburg Germany, Trnava Slovakia and Zalaegerszeg Hungary. Below is some video footage from last year's Špancirfest 2015 and what to expect this year, so I don't have to add a bunch of photos.

More information at the official website

Related: spancirfest-2014_varazdin

A few video highlights from last year's Špancirfest 2015.

Some of the music entertainment for Špancirfest 2016.

More music entertainment for Špancirfest 2016.

One of the special circus acts showing up this year again.

A wide variety of music acts that performed in 2015.

Various foreign travelling televangelists and subversive cults over the years have tried to set up pools, crusades and sell books in Varaždin during Špancirfest, but luckily the heavenly clouds opened up and a great fire swallowed them up unto the lands of the Moabites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Edomites, Detroitites and a whole bunch of other -ites and some other places, they were then rebuked and denied permits and barred from the town by citizens with pitchforks and thrown bricks of cheese and various canned jams and pickles and all was well again. That's why every year there's a children's programs and activities center during Špancirfest instead.

...and interactive stuff also.

More than 40 concert performances over 7 days for 30 bucks during Špancirfest 2016, not a bad deal.

A few scenes of the various street performers and entertainment from 2015.

And lastly, some interesting views of the Old Town section of Varaždin during Non-Špancirfest time.

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