Friday, 4 September 2020

Celebrating Croatia's Only Miracle in a Pandemic: 100k People in a Normal Year in Ludbreg

September 4, 2020 - More than 100,000 pilgrims descend on Ludbreg in the first weekend of September each year to celebrate Croatia's only miracle. How many will come this year?

One of the things which is affecting all of us at the moment is uncertainty. Will schools be online, when will all this be over. It is almost impossible to plan for anything, which only adds to the anxiety of the current situation. 

Now imagine that you were organising an event which traditionally brings 100,000 people a year into a small town. How many will show up this year, and how do you prepare for such things as the right amount of catering?

The Eucharistic Miracle of Ludbreg is one of Croatia's most unusual stories for me. Apart from the story itself, which you can learn about here (or in the One Minute Ludbreg video below), very few people in Croatia seem to know  about the miracle or that it is indeed the only Vatican-certified miracle in Europe. While one million pilgrims a year visit Medjugorje, even though it has not been recognised by the Vatican, many driving through Central Europe close to Ludbreg without realising that they are passing an authentic miracle on the way. 

But then, every first weekend in September, around 100,000 pilgrims descend on Croatia's miracle town to commemorate the miracle with Holy Mass, a procession, and other events, during with the chalice which turned into blood following the doubting words of a priest in the private chapel of Count Batthyany way back in 1411. It was declared a miracle by Pope Leo X in 1513, and the Croatian government even built a church of thanks in Ludbreg in 1994, more than 250 years after promising to do so if God would stop the plague. 

The COVID-19 pandemic will necessarily reduce the number of pilgrims who will attend, although it is impossible to predict how many will come this year. As the event is primarily a religious one, it is organised not by the town, but by the Diocese of Varazdin and the local parish. 

Traditionally, the town of Ludbreg has put on lots of additional events for the weekend, but these have been scaled back considerably this year due to the virus.  

(Holy Sunday celebrations in a normal year).

The manifestation "Days of Ludbreg's Holy Sunday" this year will be held on a somewhat smaller scale, without accompanying programs (concerts, exhibitions, promotions, etc.) but with traditional religious and pilgrimage, ie. fair part. One of the novelties this year is that the amusement park will be located in a new location - in the area of ​​the Island of Youth.

- One of the main recommendations for us participants in this process is to wear masks outside during Holy Sunday to further prevent infection, especially during Mass or dispersal after Mass where a higher concentration of visitors to the city is expected. Within the Headquarters, we decided to organize an inspection, the relationship between the service that will control the sanitary conditions, the number of guests in the catering industry. There will be several inspection teams by the Civil Protection Headquarters, and we will engage our Civil Protection Headquarters and the intervention unit of our firefighters to ensure maximum implementation of all measures and recommendations - said Renata Potočnik, Deputy Mayor of Ludbreg and Chief of Civil Protection Headquarters of Ludbreg.


Due to the epidemiological situation, the city of Ludbreg has decided to cancel all accompanying facilities this year, and the entertainment part, ie the amusement park, has been moved to the Island of Youth. - We must not forget, Holy Sunday is primarily a religious event, people come to Ludbreg for Mass, they come to see the Relic that will be exhibited at the Shrine and it is actually the first and main point of Holy Sunday. This part is not organized by the City but by the Diocese of Varaždin and our Parish. The moment the diocese decided that Holy Sunday would be held like all major holiday masses, such as for the Assumption and other feasts, we decided to follow the organization of this second accompanying part. We also recommended not holding all indoor events such as concerts that we were all used to, so we tried to ensure the implementation of epidemiological measures and everything that will take place, will take place outside, outdoors and thus will actually reduce the possibility epidemiological breakthrough. - said Mayor Dubravko Bilić.

A change in the holding of the Ludbreg Fair was also introduced. - There will be no traditional trade fair in that form this year, but the square will be used for our permanent exhibitors who wanted to come to Ludbreg, considering that Holy Sunday itself is held. It will all start the same as in previous years on Thursday, slightly warming up for Friday, Saturday and Sunday - said Mayor Dubravko Bilic.

The Chief of Staff notes that all exhibitors as well as the organizers of the amusement park were warned to adhere to the measures and recommendations. - We have warned those who will run the facilities there to adhere to all epidemiological measures, from disinfection every time before a new ride to all other rules in the number of users that are allowed on a certain area. We also decided to reduce the number of stands that are already connected to the religious part by increasing the distance between the stands - said Deputy Renata Potočnik.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Monday, 31 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Meet the Winemakers - Strucic Winery

August 31, 2020 - Continuing our journey through the town of Ludbreg by video, meet the winemakers of the Ludbreg Wine Road, starting with the Strucic Winery. 

Wine tasting in Croatia is an eclectic experience. There are tastings underwater, in caves, in huge ancient cellars, and in modern industrialised complexes. 

For me, however, the thing that brings out the true personality of Croatia's incredible and diverse wine offer is the tasting experience offered by the small family grower. 

There are so many of them all over the country, producing anything from 10 - 50,000 bottles a year, each with their own style, passion and approach. Visiting these small growers is never dull, and each tasting produces its own memories. 

Some are getting more organised than others, offering proper tasting facilities, refreshments to compliment the wines, even accommodation. 

One such producer which is a very popular stop on the Ludbreg Wine Road is the Strucic Winery, where second-generation growers, Sanja and Tomislav Strucic, have carved out a nice little business through their combined hard work over the years, as well as a very pleasant tasting experience on their terrace overlooking the golden vineyards around them. 

Producers of the first sparkling wine in Ludbreg, their annual production is about 25,000 bottles a year, with main products coming from Chardonnay, Grasevina, Sauvignon and Portugiesac. 

Take a tour of the Strucic Winery in our latest One Minute Ludbreg video below - and then check out some of the other wonders of Croatia's only certified miracle town in the videos which follow. 

You can follow Vinarija Strucic on Facebook

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Ludbreg Holy Sunday Feast Prepares For 100, 000 Pilgrims

August 28, 2020 - The traditional Ludbreg Days of Holy Sunday usually attracts more than 100 000 pilgrims. The feast will be held from 3 - 7 September under special epidemiolocal measures.

So popular is the traditional visit of the faithful on Ludbreg's Holy Sunday that the event is usually stretched out over ten days. But not this year. The event duration has been reduced due to the ongoing pandemic. Under special epidemiolocal measures, the town is still prepared to welcome as many as want to come. "It's impossible to plan for an exact number of how many will come," Ludbreg Tourist Board director, Andreja Horvat tells TCN. "Some will not come out of fear; some will come because it is a church holiday. There are no organized buses this year, and we have reduced promotion to a bare minimum because we do not want to invite people to a large gathering. But, for however many who do come, we are prepared."

This year there will be no accompanying programs (concerts, exhibitions, promotions, etc.). All masses will be held outdoors, i,e in the sanctuary. Following the masses, pilgrims will be invited, as usual, to attend the outdoor market, which will still take place on the town streets and the central square. To afford everyone more room, this year the amusement park has been moved to Otok Mladosti (The Island of Youth).

The lack of knowing exact numbers has given some difficulties to local caterers. They don’t know exactly how they should prepare for these days; how many will come? Will they stay and eat after Mass, as they usually do? How much food should they order?.

"Given that the situation is changing from day to day, we hope that we already have plans for everything," says Andreja Horvat. "Still, we expect new civil protection measures against Coronavirus for Varaždin County on September 1. Whether they will relate to the reduction of the number of people at various gatherings, we do not yet know."

Ludbreg's Days of Holy Sunday is based on a long tradition of pilgrimage to a unique Croatian sanctuary. Pope Leo X in 1513 acknowledged and confirmed the miraculous appearance of the Blood of Christ that took place in 1411 in the chapel of today's Batthyany Castle, Ludbreg. Ever since, pilgrims from all over the world have been drawn to the town, its shrine, and the Holy relic.

Ludbreg is unique within Croatia and one of the few shrines in the Christian world confirmed by a written decree from the Pope. The miraculous event is said to have taken place when a priest doubted the words of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the true body and blood of Jesus. Shortly afterward, the actual Blood of Christ is said to have appeared. Word of the miracle soon spread around the Christian world and pilgrimages began, even before the confirmation by the Vatican.

The faithful have visited since then, especially gathering each year during the ten days of Ludbreg Holy Sunday. Today, the Holy relic can be visited in the parish church of the Holy Trinity, where it is held in a chalice and kept in a beautiful baroque display.

Take a look at TCN's video stories about Ludbreg to learn about the tallest statue of St. Vincent in the world or about Sara Kolak, the town's gold-winning javelin thrower who brought her gold medal back from the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

If you want to learn more about the miracle city, read our detailed travel guide: Discover The Croatian Road Less Travelled: Ludbreg.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.


Wednesday, 26 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Story of the Only Certified Miracle in Croatia

August 25, 2020 - While more than a million religious tourists flock to Medjugorje each year, no miracle has been authenticated there by The Vatican. Unlike in Ludbreg - meet the only authenticated miracle in Croatia. 

When I first went to Ludbreg, a small town in northern Croatia in Varazdin County back in 2016, the only thing I knew about it was its claim to be the centre of the world, and I took the obligatory selfie on the circle which marked the spot on the main square. 

I really hadn't expected to find anything else of special interest in the town, but I could not have been more wrong. For the secrets of Ludbreg are really quite unique. 

"We also have the Eucharistic Miracle of Ludbreg," explained my guide, as we entered the main church. "You can see it there on display in the chalice."

Wait, what? A real, bona fide Vatican-authenticaled miracle on display during Mass, while a million religious tourists head to Medjugorje each year to visit a destination which has not been authenticated by The Vatican. 

And, as I did my research, I realised that this was indeed the ONLY authenticated miracle in all Croatia. And one with quite a story, beginning with a doubting priest in one of Croatia's most picturesque chapels in 1411, and ending in 1994, just 26 years ago when the Croatian Government came good on a promise made way back in 1738. 

In the latest on our video series, One Minute Ludbreg, learn the story of the only miracle in Croatia recognised by the Vatican, and the three churches who play such a pivotal role. 

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Meet the Ludbreg Wine Road

August 22, 2020 - Although Croatia is a well-known wine-producing region, not every region has its own wine road. Meet one which has, the Ludbreg Wine Road. 

It is the land of 130 indigenous grape varieties and the birthplace of the original Zinfandel, whose unique wine offer is attracting more and more international attention. 

And yet not every wine-producing region in Croatia has its own wine road. Dalmatia, arguably the most famous Croatian wine region of all (although Istrians may dispute this) does not have an organised wine road that tourists can use to find the finest Plavac Mali or Posip. 

One small wine-producing region tucked away in northern Croatia has got itself organised, however, one more example of excellence in the unusual town of Ludbreg, which is better known in Croatia for its claim to fame as the Centre of the World. 

The Ludbreg Wine Road has been in existence since 2010 and this year celebrated its 10th anniversary. Local producers have come together to form the Association Trsek, whose mission is the promotion of the region's wines. 

All the wine producers and restaurants on the Ludbreg Wine Road are in close proximity, and each offers a different tasting experience of the local grape varieties. 

Although perhaps not the best known of wine roads in Croatia, Ludbreg plays an important role in the Croatian wine story. It has been the host to the biggest international wine festival in Croatia for young wines for almost 30 years, and its vineyards have been guarded by the world's largest statue of the Protect of Vineyards, St Vincent - or Sveti Vinko as he is known in Croatian. 

Take a tour of the Ludbreg Wine Road in our latest episode of One Minute Ludbreg, before continuing your tour of this fascinating little town in the other videos in the series published so far. 

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

Monday, 17 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Visit Traditional Croatian Life at Grandma's House, Bakina Hiza

August 17, 2020 - Continuing our One Minute Ludbreg series looking at the attractions of this pretty town in northern Croatia, a journey back in time to Grandma's House, Bakina Hiza. 

One of the things that I have noticed over the years in Croatia is how much private initiatives contribute to the colour of the country's tourism offer. There are some major - and very colourful - examples of this, such as the incredible SalajLand near Zagreb with its 4 million Christmas lights. 

But all over the country, there are private initiatives offering another aspect of tourism in Croatia. Most are labours of love, and some of them are very impressive indeed. 

Take a walk down a quiet residential street in Ludbreg, a short walk from the main square and the Centre of the World, and one low-level house stands out from its neighbours. But it is only when you enter inside that you understand its real magic and wealth of treasures. 

Back in 2007, Franciska Schubert founded the association 'Zene iz Centra Svijeta' (Women from the Centre of the World), assembling a group of retired teachers to collect traditional things from Ludbreg's past to preserve their heritage for future generations. 

Their achievements, while not publicly lauded too often, are really quite outstanding, and the house, garden and outbuildings have become a fascinating museum detailing so many aspects of life in Ludbreg in years gone by, from traditional clothing and a typical house, to agricultural tools and a wonderful collection of toys. 

It is a great family visit, allowing the older generation to reminisce among long-forgotten items from their distant childhood, while educating the younger generation on how things used to be. 

Check out Bakina Hiza in our latest edition of One Minute Ludbreg, and then explore the town in the rest of our videos below. 

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

Friday, 14 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Olympic Gold Javelin Throw from the Centre of the World

August 14, 2020 - What happens if you start from the centre of the world? Meet the Olympic Gold javelin throw from Ludbreg. 

It is almost 4 years to the day that the Croatian town which translates as Crazy Hill went absolutely crazy, as locals took to the streets to celebrate the success of their new local Olympic champion. 

For far, far away on the other side of the planet, local Ludbreg girl Sara Kolak, aged just 21, was crowned Olympic gold javelin champion after stunning the competition with a personal best of 66.18 metres. 

Kolak returned to Ludbreg to a great party, and the new local heroine had her fantastic achievement marked in a number of ways. Local winery Strucic produced a special Sara Kolak label in her honour, while a more permanent record of her incredible success was marked on the main square of the town, just a few metres from Ludbreg's most famous attraction - the centre of the world. 

Sara built on her Olympic success in Lausanne the following year, where she threw what is currently the 8th longest throw in history. All this is recorded on the main square in front of the statue built in her honour with those famous 66.18 metres. 

The milestone throws are recorded further down the square in front of Sara's statue, and you can stand behind her and dream that you too could one day be an Olympic champion. 

Learn more about Sara's achievement and the statue in her honour in the latest edition of the new TCN series One Minute Ludbreg, which is putting all the considerable secrets of this rather unusual town into one place. 

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

Saturday, 8 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: World's Largest St Vincent Statue Protects Wine Road

August 8, 2020 - St Vincent, or Sveti Vinko as he is known in Croatia is the holy protector of wine. Meet the world's tallest statue dedicated to him on the Ludbreg Wine Road. 

One of the things that I have noticed in Croatian tourism is that there is a lot more to each destination than reaches the English-language tourism brochures. Over the years, I have learned to ask a couple of questions to locals and to watch untold treasures appear before my very eyes. With tourism information mostly based on the coast until quite recently, this has also helped me to appear to be a better writer than I am by being the first to write about interesting destinations completely off the tourism radar. 

I can think of no better example in this regard than the pretty little town of Ludbreg in Varazdin County. Ask the majority of Croatians what they know about Ludbreg, and the answer will be the same - it is the centre of the world. And apart from that, little is known.

But the more I visited the town, the more I realised that it has some other rather unusual attractions, enough I decided to turn into a YouTube series, in partnership with the town of Ludbreg, called One Minute Ludbreg. A chance to explore the town and its 20+ attractions in one YouTube channel ahead of your visit. 

We have already seen learned of the Croatian Government promise delivered 250 years late in Ludbreg, as well as the reason why the chief restorer of the Sistine Chapel is a regular visitor (both of those videos are below). And Ludbreg also has a wine claim to fame. 

Unlike more famous wine regions in Croatia such as Dalmatia, Ludbreg has its very own wine road which was founded back in 2010 and this year celebrated its tenth anniversary. St Vincent is the protector of vineyards, and in October 2011, the Ludbreg Wine Association, Trsek, unveiled a new monument which would help ensure the protection of its vineyards - the largest statue of St Vincent in the world. The statue affords wonderful views of the vineyards and surrounding area, stretching into Hungary, and you can learn more about it in our third episode of One Minute Ludbreg below.  

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about Ludbreg beyond its stereotype as the centre of the world, read Marc Rowlands' Ludbreg, the Croatian Road Less Travelled

Monday, 3 August 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Why the Sistine Chapel's Chief Restorer is a Regular Visitor

August 3, 2020 - Continuing our One Minute Ludbreg series uncovering the secrets of the town, find out why the chief restorer of the Sistine Chapel in Rome is a regular visitor.

Driving through the pretty towns of northern Croatia, at first glance the town of Ludbreg looks like any other. Well-ordered streets, low-level housing, churches dominating the skyline, a central square, and plenty of greenery. 

But Ludbreg is no ordinary town. 

Best-known for its claim to be the centre of the world, it is also home to the only certified miracle in Croatia. 

And much, much more. 

In the second of our series, One Minute Ludbreg, which captures the town's many and varied attractions in one minute videos, today we enter one of the magical doors of Batthyany Palace, the most impressive building in the town. And a building which is home to many treasures, including the chapel where the 1411 Eucharistic Miracle of Ludbreg took place. 

Enter the main building of the palace, however, and you will witness miracles of a different kind, administered on a daily basis. For here you will find the Ludbreg Restoration Institute, whose dedicated artisans are painstakingly restoring many Croatian art and cultural treasures which have been damaged by war and decay. 

One of just three such centres in Croatia, the work of the centre has been internationally recognised, most notably for its stunning restoration of the wooden church of St Martin in Stari Brod, near Sisak (see lead photo), for which it won the 2017 Europa Nostra Award. 

And the centre has many leading international conservation experts as regular visitors to its workshops and conferences, including the chief restorer of the Sistine Chapel. Learn more about the Ludbreg Restoration Centre in the second in our series, One Minute Ludbreg.

You can subscribe to the One Minute Ludbreg YouTube channel here, where we will be adding two new videos a week over the next 10 weeks. 

Why not check it out before your next drive through the region, to see all the magical things you perhaps didn't know about the town which is anything but ordinary. 

Check out the first in our series, released last week - A Government Promise Delivered After 250 Years.

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

To learn more about this charming town, check out Marc Rowlands' Discover Ludbreg: the Croatian Road Less Travelled

Friday, 31 July 2020

One Minute Ludbreg: Croatian Government Delivers After 250 Years

July 31, 2020 - Meet One Minute Ludbreg, a new series highlighting the attractions of perhaps Croatia's most unusual town, each in a minute. 

It is more than 4 years since I first visited the town of Ludbreg in Varazdin County, which I named at the time the most fascinating, unusual little town in Croatia

And it really is.  

Best known in Croatia for being the centre of the world, its real claim to fame (unknown to many people in Croatia) is that it is home to the only certified miracle in all Croatia

And let's not forget the Ludbreg Restoration Centre, one of the leading restoration centres in Europe.

As well as... 


Ludbreg has a number of attractions, but they are hard to buttonhole into one place, as they are so diverse that they really need to be explained on their own. 

So we came up with the idea of showcasing the 20 or so things of interest in Ludbreg - quite enough for a full day's sightseeing and overnight relaxation in the form of a video series called One Minute Ludbreg. 

In an era of reduced budgets, but enhanced technology, perhaps this can become a working model for other destinations to showcase their points of interest for tourists. 

In the first of this 20+ part series, meet the promise made by the Croatian Government back in 1738, which was only finally fulfilled in 1994, at the height of the Homeland War. 

One Minute Ludbreg will be a regular TCN feature over the next ten weeks, with two videos a week. Next up, the reason with the chief restorer of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is a regular visitor to Ludbreg. 

We hope you find the series interesting and informative, allowing you to discover things that you perhaps did not know about certain destinations. I was much encouraged in Dubrovnik last week when a business colleague told me he was from Dubrovnik, and that there was nothing an Irishman could tell him about his home town. After watching the first four videos, he took his words back. 

Big thanks to Ludbreg Mayor Dubravko Bilic and Ludbreg Tourist Board Director Andrea Horvat for their full support and excellent assistance in arranging everything. 

The One Minute Ludbreg video series is a project in paid partnership with the Ludbreg Tourist Board.

You can follow the One Minute Ludbreg YouTube channel here

To learn more about Ludbreg, check out Marc Rowlands' piece on TCN - The Croatian Road Less Travelled: Ludbreg

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