The Varaždin Civil Guard ‘Purgari’
As befits the first capital of Croatia, Varaždin has for the past two and a half centuries been watched over by the Varaždin Civil Guard. They were recognized by the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in a statute of 1750. It is an honour to be a member of the Varaždin Civil Guard. A member can only be a man born in Varaždin who is proud of its honour and irreproachably honest. In their blue grenadier uniforms and tall fur hats, these handsome ‘Purgari’ play a part in many secular and religious events. However, the most attractive aspect of the ‘Purgari’ is the ceremonial changing of the guard, which is staged most Saturdays in front of the Varaždin City Hall.
The company had its own orchestra and flag, and the ‘Kume’ (‘Godmothers’) of the flags were prominent figures from the ranks of high nobility or the royal house. Therefore, the ‘Kuma’ of the last Purgar’s flag from 1998 was Francesca von Habsburg.
From 15th May to the 15th October, the Guard parade takes place every Saturday from 11.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. in front of the City Hall.
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The City Market
Fresh food and groceries which are prepared daily are becoming a more important part of everyday life, and in the Varaždin market this trend is confirmed. In the flurry of trading you can buy fruit and vegetables, as well as other culinary delights that arrive fresh every morning from family farms in Varaždin and its surroundings. The label ‘Made in Varaždin’ is a guarantee of the quality of the product. Produce legislation, faster lifestyles and a growing number of shopping centres are limiting the markets activities and breaking the habit of going to market. In Varaždin this kind of trading is still valued as a part of a healthy lifestyle. This popular Market place colloquially known as ‘Plac’ provides cottage cheeses, sour creams, vegetables, spices and even the occasional domestic turkey hidden from the inspectors. Even imported oranges look healthier ‘vu Varaždinu na placu’ (‘In the Market in Varaždin’). And when the ‘kumicas’ (‘Market ladies’) are angry and you feel they are cheating on the scales, you know you’ll be back because the smell of grandma’s kitchen starts right here: on the ‘Plac’.
The Traditional Crafts Square
Craftsmen are an indispensible part of the economic and cultural traditions of Varaždin. The inevitable course of history is difficult to stop, and therefore Varaždin has not been City of craftsmen for some time. Some are still active and can be found in the newest and smallest of Varaždin’s town squares; the Traditional Crafts Square. In the shadow of the Uršulinski Church tower, these hardworking people maintain the traditions of hand crafted items that are still used today, and also make items that have sentimental value for the people of the town and area.
Opening hours: Monday – closed, Thursdays – Saturdays -10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday – 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
‘Tales from Varaždin’s Courtyards’
The courtyards and gardens in the Historic Core of Varaždin are halfway between the hustle and bustle of the public streets and the intimacy of the adjoining houses, and they preserve Varaždin’s history, the destiny of its residents and their untold stories, anecdotes and secrets that are known only by the chosen few. The courtyards within the Historic Core of Varaždin are amongst the City’s most valuable tourist assets, and reflect the lifestyle of their inhabitants. The courtyards act as a terrace for residents and are the first place a visitor is welcomed. These once partially enclosed spaces are now priceless items of charm and human warmth under the open sky and surrounded by walls and fences.