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Croatia // ZG/Central Croatia // Međimurje


Međimurje County (pronounced [med͡ʑîːmuːrje]; Croatian: Međimurska županija, Kajkavian: Medžimurje; German: Murinsel; Hungarian: Muraköz megye), is a triangle-shaped county in the northernmost part of Croatia, roughly corresponding to the historical and geographical region of Međimurje. Despite being the smallest Croatian county by size, it is the most densely populated one (not including the City of Zagreb). The county seat is Čakovec, which is also the largest city of the county.

The county borders Slovenia in the north-west and Hungary in the east, with about 30 kilometers of Slovenian territory separating it from Austria. The south-eastern corner of the county is near the town of Legrad and the confluence of the Mura into the Drava. The closest cities include Varaždin, Koprivnica and Bjelovar in Croatia, Murska Sobota and Maribor in Slovenia, as well as Nagykanizsa in Hungary and Graz in Austria. The Croatian capital of Zagreb is about 90 kilometers south-west of Čakovec.

There are slopes of the Alpine foothills in the north-western part of the county, the Upper Međimurje, making it suitable for vineyards. The south-eastern part of the county, the Lower Međimurje, touches the flat Pannonian Plain. The flat parts of the region are also largely used for agriculture, which mostly includes fields of cereals, maize and potato, as well as orchards, which are mostly planted with apple trees. There are two major hydroelectric power plants along the southern border of the county, on the Drava River.

Name and symbols

Besides its Croatian name (Međimurska županija), the county is also known as Muraköz megye in Hungarian, Medžimurska županija in Slovene, and Murinsel in German.

Throughout the past, the historical region of Međimurje was referred to by several names. In Latin, it was called Insula intra Dravum et Muram, Insula Muro-Dravana and Hortus Slavoniae Superior (or Hortus Croatiae). The names Insula intra Dravum et Muram and Insula Muro-Dravana mean "island between the Mura and the Drava", referring to the two rivers bordering the region. The name Hortus Croatiae means "the [flower] garden of Croatia". In Hungarian, the region is known as Muraköz, and in German as Murinsel. In Croatian, it was referred to by several names as well, including Mejmorje, Međmorje and Međimorje (in Kajkavian), as well as Međumurje and Međimurje (in Shtokavian).

The Kajkavian toponym Međimorje is believed to have been the original name of the region. It originated in the 6th or 7th century, which makes it older than the Latin toponyms that were first mentioned in feudalism. The name Međimorje is derived from the Proto-Slavic preposition medji and the noun morje. It literally means "land surrounded by water", i.e. "island". Međimorje is also an archaic common noun that was used in Kajkavian Croatian, also meaning "island". However, the names Međimurje (Shtokavian Croatian), Muraköz (Hungarian), and Murinsel (German) all contain the hydronym Mura (or Mur). The name Murinsel means "island on the Mura". This led to some dilemmas in the usage of the Croatian names Međimorje and Međimurje. In Kajkavian Croatian the name is Medjimurje, or Medjimorje, while in Prekmurian it is Medmürje or Nedžimurje.

The region's unofficial symbols include the Eurasian collared dove (Croatian: grlica gugutka, but locally referred to just as grlica), which is one of the most common birds in the region, and the violet (ljubičica). The region is often called Međimurje malo, which is Croatian for "Little Međimurje".


Međimurje County covers the plains between two rivers – the Mura and the Drava. The Mura flows along the county's northern border with the Slovenian region of Prekmurje and its eastern border with Hungary's Zala County, while the Drava flows along the county's southern border with two other Croatian counties – Varaždin County and Koprivnica-Križevci County. In the middle of the county flows local river Trnava.

There are two reservoir lakes on the Drava – Lake Varaždin and Lake Dubrava – both built to serve the two hydroelectric power plants based in the county. Lake Dubrava, located near the city of Prelog, is the biggest artificial lake in Croatia and the second largest lake overall in the country. The power plant using Lake Varaždin is named after the county seat, Čakovec, while the one using Lake Dubrava is named Dubrava, taking its name from the nearby village of Donja Dubrava.

The county's elevation ranges between 120 and 344 metres above sea level, the latter being the elevation of its highest hill, Mohokos. Čakovec has an elevation of between 160 and 165 metres above sea level. Throughout the past, there were occasional earthquakes in the region. One of significant strength hit the region in 1880, while another in 1738 devastated Čakovec and particularly the nearby Šenkovec.

Of the county's total area of 729.5 km², around 360 km² are used in agriculture. Due to the high population density, agricultural land is divided into 21,000 units averaging 17,500 m2 (188,368.43 sq ft) each. 27.5 km² are covered with orchards. 11 km² is the hilly area, located in the north-western part of the county, with villages like Štrigova and numerous vineyards. Grasslands and forests cover an area of around 105 km². The biggest forest is Murščak, located between Domašinec and Donji Hrašćan.


Early history

The first organized human habitations here can be traced back to the Stone Age. There is a Neolithic site called Ferenčica near Prelog. There are archaeological sites that date from the Bronze Age, and 3rd century sites called Ciglišće and Varaščine .

During the Iron Age, the Indo-European tribes identified in the area were Celts, Serets and Pannons, and the region became part of the Roman empire. In the 1st century, the Romans knew the area as Insula intra Dravam et Muram ("island between the Drava and Mura rivers") according to the geographer Strabo. The region was part of the Roman province of Pannonia and later part of the Pannonia Superior.

Čakovec was originally called Aquama ("the wet city"), because the area was marshland. During the Migration Period, many different tribes, such as Huns, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths, passed through the region. The region was part of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths, the state of the Lombards, the Avar Khaganate, and the Frankish Kingdom. The Slavs, which settled this region in the 6th century, gained independence after destruction of the Avar Khaganate. In the 9th century, two Slavic states included this area - the Principality of Lower Pannonia and the Principality of Pannonian Croatia. According to some sources, the area was also part of the Great Moravia. Subsequently, the area was included into the medieval Kingdom of Croatia.

Hungarian administration (until 1526)

The Hungarians temporarily occupied the region in 896, up to the river Sava, but it was officially included into the Kingdom of Hungary in 1102, with the rest of Croatian Kingdom. Hungarian king Andrew II designated the border between the main part of the Kingdom of Hungary and Banovina of Slavonia at the Drava River in 1213. During that century, tradesmen and merchants (mostly ethnic Germans) started to arrive and began to develop the urban localities that are present today. Prelog was founded in 1264, shortly after the invasion of the Mongols in 1242. During Hungarian administration the area was firstly part of the Kolon County and then part of the Zala County. In the beginning of the 14th century, the area was ruled by powerful semi-independent oligarch Henrik Kőszegi.

Čakovec got its name from Count Dimitry Csáky, who at the beginning of the 13th century erected the timber fortification that eventually was "Csáky's tower", mentioned for the first time in 1328. Charles I of Hungary named Čakovec as the capitol in 1333. In 1350, King Louis I of Hungary gave the land to viceroy (Ban) Stjepan I Lacković, a member of the ruling Lacković family of Transylvania. It remained Lacković property until 1397, when King Sigismund executed Stjepan II Lacković, and took back the area to the Crown.

In 1405, the Celje family received Međimurje as a gift from the Crown, and the land was mortgaged. The monastery in Goričan managed the administration of the seat of the main territorial dominion as an attorney of the Celje family. King Matthias Corvinus bought the mortgage and donated the land to Johann Ernušt and his son, who were Jewish merchants from Sweden, living in Buda. The monastery in Goričan, which had managed the administration of the seat of the main territorial dominion, was dissolved. The seat of the administration of the main territorial dominion Goričan came under the administration of the Bishop of Ljubljana. It remained in the hands of the Ernušts until 1526, when the family died out without heir.

Habsburg administration (1526-1918)

Since 1526, the region was part of the Habsburg Monarchy. It was administratively part of both, the Habsburg Kingdom of Croatia and the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. It followed a succession and inheritance dispute between the Keglević family and the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand I. Since 1530 until 1790 Goričan was by interdictum under the administration of the Bishop of Zagreb as an attorney of both the Emperor and the Keglević family to prevent any violent confrontations between them both, but Čakovec became the seat of the administration of the main territorial dominion in 1546, because even the Bishop Simon Erdődy (1518–1543, Bishop of Zagreb) could not prevent a violent confrontation between the Emperor and Petar Keglević in 1542/43. In 1546 the Diet in Bratislava approved the transfer of Čakovec and Međimurje to Nikola Šubić Zrinski.

Rapid development began in 1547 under the ruling Zrinski family. In 1579 the craftsmen and merchants outside the walls of Čakovec Castle were granted the right to trade; this was the beginning of the formal and legal city structure. The area was of importance as a trade center with Habsburg Kingdom of Croatia and Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary positioned nearby on the main roads, facilitating the exchange of goods, crafts and ideas. The region was also a military buffer zone against the expanding Ottoman Empire.

Nikola Šubić Zrinski ruled as Nicholas IV (1508–1566). He was a hero of the Battle of Szigetvár of the Habsburg-Ottoman wars. Then followed his son, Juraj IV Zrinski (George IV), until 1603, and his grandson Nikola VI. Zrinski (Nicholas VI) until 1624. Next was another grandson, a brother of Nicholas VI, Juraj V Zrinski (George V). He was poisoned in 1626 by the general Albrecht Wallenstein in Bratislava and was buried in Pauline monastery of Sveta Jelena (St. Helen in English) near Čakovec, next to the graves of his ancestors. He was followed by his son Nikola VII Zrinski (Nicholas VII), (1620–1664), a famous Croatian Ban. At the coronation of Ferdinand IV, he carried the sword of state and was made Captain General of Croatia. He was killed while hunting in the forest near Kuršanec, apparently by a wounded wild boar, but there were rumors that he had been murdered by the order of the Habsburg court. His brother, Petar Zrinski (Peter IV), was noted for his role in the attempted Croatian-Hungarian rebellion of 1664-1670 which ultimately led to his execution for treason. His wife, Katarina Zrinska, died imprisoned for the same offence on November 16, 1673 in Graz. On August 19, 1691, the son of Nicholas VII, Adam Zrinski, fell at Battle of Slankamen while fighting against the Ottoman Empire. Parts of Međimurje remained in the hands of the Zrinski family until the end of the 17th century. The last male member of the family, Ivan Antun Zrinski (John IV), died in prison in 1703.

In 1715, during the period of Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, Count Michael Althan became the owner of Međimurje; he received the land for his loyal services.

In 1720, the region was detached from Croatia and was included into the main part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary.

In 1738, Čakovec Castle was hit by an earthquake, which caused tremendous damage. The owners of the city made some repairs, but in 1741, fire caused additional damage. The castle started to decay.

The Church of St. Jerome was rebuilt in 1749 in Štrigova by the famous artist Ivan Ranger following the demolition of the original 15th century-built chapel by an earthquake in 1738.

Ignacije Szentmartony, a Jesuit from Kotoriba, was a royal mathematician and astronomer in Lisbon and in 1754 an explorer of Brazil on behalf of the Portuguese government.

For a short time, between 1786 and 1790, Međimurje was under administration of the Zala County in the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. In 1791 Count Juraj I Feštetić (George I) bought Međimurje, including Čakovec Castle and Feštetić Castle in the neighboring village of Pribislavec, which remained in the property of Feštetić family until 1923.

On 19 April 1848 Josip Jelačić proclaimed a union of Croatian provinces, and their separation from the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. By 1868, Croatia was again included into the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. Within the years 1860 to 1889 the railroad was introduced, while in 1893 electric power started illuminating most of the city streets. According to the 1910 census, the population of Međimurje numbered 90,387 people, including 82,829 Croats and 6,766 Hungarians.

The magyarization propaganda between the 1870s-1910s introduced the concept of Međimurian language. According to this view, the spoken language in Međimurje was not Croatian or Kajkavian, but Međimurian Slavic, which is a separate Slavic language-family. József Margitai was the main propagandist of the Međimurian language and he published few Međimurian books. The propagandists exploited idea that the Croatians are dissatisfied with the new Serbo-Croatian language.[citation needed] Margitai propagated in Međimurian the usefulness of the assimilation in the Međimurje and the superiority of the Hungarian nation. The fake Međimurian literary language in fact was only little different from the Kajkavian literary language.

Požega native Dragutin Lerman was a member of the Henry Morton Stanley expedition to Africa in 1882. He discovered waterfalls on the Kouilou River in the Congo, and named them the Zrinski chutes.

Modern history (after 1918)

In 1918, after the collapse of the monarchic union of Austria-Hungary, and after the disarmament of the local police, the Međimurje region fell into civil disorder. The Croatian National Council sent hastily assembled troops, which crossed the river Mura and fought all the way to Dolni Lendava, where they met resistance. Troops commanded by Slavko Kvaternik finally forced the Hungarian troops to abandon Međimurje. On 9 January 1919, Međimurje officially seceded from Hungary, and it became part of the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later known as Yugoslavia).

In the Southern region, in the Slovene March) (today the Prekmurje and Raba March near Szentgotthárd) emerged independence-autonomy movements. József Klekl expressed the program of the autonomous (or independent) Slovene March. Oszkár Jászi, who is supported the Slovene and Croatian minority, completed the program in a proposal: the Slovene March and the Međimurje should be merged. The program did not materialize.

Until 1922 the region was part of the Varaždin County. From 1922 to 1929 the region was part of the Maribor Oblast, from 1929 to 1939 part of the Sava Banovina and from 1939 to 1941 part of the Banovina of Croatia.

Upon signing the Tripartite Pact on March 25, 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia became a member of the Axis powers. In spite of this, Yugoslavia was invaded by Axis forces on April 6, 1941 and was subsequently occupied and partitioned. Between 1941 and 1945, most of Međimurje was under Hungarian occupation, with some parts held by the Germans. At this time some re-settlement of ethnic Croats who were settled in the region after 1918 occurred. Since 1945, the region was part of the socialist Croatia within restored Yugoslavia.

Culture and cuisine


One notable traditional festival is the Fašnik, a carnival-like event held in February. The event's name is derived from the German word Fasching, describing similar events mostly held in Austria and Bavaria. The festival has been observed for centuries, with masked people participating in public parades and celebrations to drive off the demons of darkness and winter. The main festivities of the Fašnik period are usually held in the centre of Čakovec, with a parade of masked people from the entire region walking through the city's streets to reach its central square, where a hanged hay doll representing the Fašnik is traditionally burned down to signify victory over the demons of darkness and winter, as well as to mark the end of festivities.

Another notable and highly attended festival held in Čakovec is the Porcijunkulovo, an annual fair which takes place on the streets around the city's centre between 30 July and 5 August. At the fair, many of the region's traditional products, such as baskets, can be purchased and people can also see how some of the products are made. Many of the region's traditional foods are served during the festivities and there is a daily entertainment program at a temporary stage set up at the city's central square.


For many centuries, Međimurje was part of Hungary, whose influence is evident in its history and culture. Once, the only notable place where one could have experienced the local cuisine and culture was Međimurska hiža, a restaurant near the village of Mačkovec, about 5 kilometers north of Čakovec. The restaurant was heavily damaged by fire in the late 1990s and never reopened. However, a number of new restaurants serving the region's traditional food have opened over the years.

The traditional food during the Fašnik period are a type of doughnuts known in Croatian as krafne, although the local people also use several similar names for the food. As well as being the traditional food of the Fašnik period, krafne are also a popular everyday food in the region and are sold in local stores and bakeries throughout the year. The traditional food of the Porcijunkulovo festivities is lángos, whose name is spelled langoš in Croatian. Another notable sweet food is a type of nut roll called orehnjača, which is filled with walnut cream. Its name is derived from oreh, meaning "walnut" in the local Kajkavian dialect. A similar cake filled with poppy seed is called makovnjača, with its name derived from mak, the Croatian word for poppy.

There is also a type of corn mush called žganci, which is usually served with liquid sour cream, buttermilk or warm milk. Cottage cheese is also a popular food in the region. It can either be served with liquid sour cream to form a dish known in the local dialect as sir z vrhnjom, which translates as "cheese with cream", or used to make turoš, in which case it is cone-shaped and dried. Sir z vrhnjom is often spiced with red paprika, which is also one of the main ingredients in turoš. Cottage cheese is also used as one of the fillings in a pastry called štrukli.

Some of the other traditional foods of the region include a type of pasta called mlinci, white and black sausages, known as čurke, which is served with sour cabbage, as well as other dried or otherwise preserved meat, such as meso z tiblice, which is stored in a small, usually wooden barrel called tiblica. There are also some vegetable dishes, while the production of wine is ubiquitous in the hilly landscape of the region's northwest. The diet of the region is part of the Croatian cuisine, which is known for its diversity.
ZG/Central Croatia


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