Grad Grad.. so big they named it twice!!
Green Slovenia has a lot of castles.. a lot. But this is the daddy of them all with a whopping 365 rooms, a room for every day of the year.. except leap years of course!
It is imaginatively named Grad Grad, which means "Castle Castle" and you will find it in the far north eastern corner of this little country. We just had to go see what all the hype was about and as usual we were not disappointed.
But here is a question for you.. will you drag yourselves away from Bled or Skocjan cave or even Ljubljana castle to come and see this monster castle? Only you can answer that.. but we don't wanna hear any more jibber jabber about there not being much to see and do in the East of Slovenia as Grad Grad is just one of the many, many Slovenian secret treasures tucked away on this side of the most beautiful country in Europe and perfectly accessible, even if you are hanging out at places like Lipizzaner Lodge in the West!
The town you need to aim for is Murska Sobota (2hr 10 mins from the Lodge) and then find the castle from there, but when you reach this region you will be amazed at how different again it is to the rest of Slovenia! It is as flat as a pancake here and after the coast, caves and mountains it takes a little getting used to.
Slovenia is one of those magical places where you often arrive somewhere and have to pinch yourself to remember where you are.. yep you have that familiar European feeling, but every corner and pocket of this country is so different to the other you might struggle to believe where you are!
Here in the north east, tucked in close to Hungary and Austria they speak a funny kinda Slovenian that the rest of Slovenia think is hilarious! But the point to make is that even this completely different region is reachable if you want to just come here for a day's adventure as the motorways are so darn good.
You could easily combine a day out at this castle, with maybe a visit to the nearby Volcano park (yes of course Slovenia has a volcano!) and a stop off at numerous other locations on the way, depending on what you like to do or see!
The castle doesnt actually look so big from directly outside and Celje castle is probably the biggest castle in Slovenia as far as grounds are concerned as well as being a very different place to Grad Grad. But once you enter this magical place you will be surrounded by room after room after room.. all hugging the huge contours of the green courtyard.
We immediately loved this place and when you see so many doors and rooms and corridors you just wanna start exploring. Many of these rooms and facades have been restored, but some sections of this huge grand building are still being lovingly put back to their former glory by local people. This is yet another important point that we really want to make about so many Slovenian castles that have been nurtured and restored by the local population, who then make sure they are used and loved during the times when us tourists are nowhere to be seen.
Parts of Grad Grad are still a work in progress, but if you consider that so many western European castles have been already "been done", then Grad Grad is a really great example of the numerous works in progress around Green Slovenia that will eventually be fully restored and then wow.. Slovenia will be an even bigger European castle superpower!
You can see the locals use and love of this castle as you walk around. There is a real interesting mixed bag of stuff to see here from pieces of art, examples of traditional dress, culture and equipment and a fully restored cellar selling local wine. Also expect to find a quirky dragon hidden away in one of the rooms, (the dragon's legend is excellent and you can read all about it in the castle).. basically our message for Grad Grad is simply explore!
The restoration work has been done to a very high standard, there is even a modern glass staircase at the side of the castle, which fits in nicely and gives great views. We were very pleasantly surprised with our unique castle experience here and our only mistake was not to have enough time to properly explore all the rooms!