Turjak.. a proper castle!
Here is another amazing Slovenian castle that you probabubbly have never heard of, but is packed full of medieval surprises and should be a serious contender for your Slovenian shortlist!
Like so many other Slovenian castles, it has bags full of history and is far less crowded than the much visited Ljubljana castle and is without question a much better all round castle experience. We were completely blown away by how much there is to see here.. just half an hour south west from the centre of the capital city.
And like so many other Slovenian secret places, with almost zero marketing and budget available to them compared to the well known Ljub, Bled and Piran which are so well known to tourists in any case.. we really didn't know what to expect before we got here and that is all part of the excitement!
There was a wonderful welcoming smokey cooking smell as we walked through the main gate and into the castle shop/reception, just off the main castle courtyard with a lovely antique kids puppet theatre inside, (which is an important tradition in Slovenian culture). You go past the closed velvet curtains into the main castle and then wow, you realise how huge this place actually is.. it's massive!
The TURJAK lords were highly trusted by the Austrian empire to fight off the Ottomans in medieval times and they ruled over the Carniola region, a name that still survives today. The castle's heydays were in the 1500's when the swashbuckling Herbard was in charge and you will also find out about the tragic Romeo and Juliette story of the young knight Hanno in one of the towers.
A major reason for you visiting Turjak castle will be to see the absolutely amazing array of weaponary and armour as you explore.. everything seems to be real deal authentic and the number of exhibits here will blow you away! The nice man who sold us the tickets told us he makes a lot of this stuff and it really adds to your experience as you go through the next thick wooden door or turn a corner and stare directly into the eyes of another heavily armed medieval soldier.
We had our biggest surprise entering a large room upstairs to be faced with a really unique and special exhibit.. a fearsome Turkish knight in full battle cry.. this is something we have not seen at any other castle in Slovenia and it is really amazing as a tourist to see how the "enemy" looked. As far as we know you do not get to see this anywhere else and it is a wonderful idea.
So the attention to detail and range of exhibits at Turjak are truly breathtaking with so many shields, knights in armour, swords and pointy pikes everywhere!
We had another sharp intake of breath when we entered an extravagantly long banqueting hall with big tables, shields on the walls and a throne like chair bedecked with swords.. giving a bit of a "Games of Thrones" feel about it all!
This hall is a seriously impressive size and like everywhere in this castle, the presentation is first class. We can imagine this hall would be amazing for a wedding feast or a film.. (and is yet another Slovenian medieval masterpiece so far missed by Hollywood)!
You really get an excited medieval themepark feeling wandering around, not knowing what to expect in the next room or through the next door.. there are numerous stuffed hunted animals, an archery range, a ye olde Pub, a chapel with very spooky looking monks inside and fantastic dungeons stuffed with lots of medieval torture exhibits.. what more could you want!
These dungeons are really scary.. (partly as they are so dark you can hardly see where you are going)! But mainly due to the life (or death) like exhibits being tortured, with furry fake rats and skeletons all over the place.. wonderful!
And the pub is what a Welshman might consider a castle pub should look like.. (the highest praise).. and serves roasts & other food.. you can sit inside or outside in the fab courtyard.. this is a proper castle experience.
As you complete your castle circuit you get a better understanding of the importance of the Turjak family with the sheer size of the place. These guys were almost kinda royals and in Slovenian history there was only one other royal family at Celje castle in the middle eastern bit of Slovenia.
The castle is surrounded by beautiful green countryside and forest, but high up from a tower window you can also see the Alps and this is the tower where you can find out the castle's tragic love story.
We just cannot tell you enough how much love and care has gone into making this place a fab visit for the whole family and just imagine how amazing this place will be when the whole castle is completed! (Yep there is another huge wing on the other side of the courtyard by the wine cellar that is still to do)!
Pretty much the only comment we had was the car park was a bit small.. (a medieval oversight by the Turjak family)!! The toilets are huge and we joked there might be more urinals than parking spaces here! (really just a joke)!But we mention this point about the parking as when word gets out properly about this amazing castle, they should be expecting more visitors from abroad AND fully deserve to have you visit them!
So here is a tip if the car park is full.. the village of Turjak is very small and nowhere else to park, so if you just drive back up to the main road where there is a big car park and maybe walk the km or so back here to the castle.
We understand the castle is open most days in the summer, but only at weekends off season, so we recommend you give them a call before your visit to make sure they are open.. 00386 41 621 098.
We cannot recommend Turjak castle highly enough and thank & congratulate the friendly, enthusiastic castle team on the fantastic recent overall renovation and the exhibits on offer making this a proper Slovenian castle experience..
We decided to have a full day out from the Lodge so we drove the one hour route up and under Ljubljana to reach the castle first and then continued south via medieval Ribnica with another tower of torture and fantastic wooden handicrafts on offer and then popped in to see Lake Ceknica.. the biggest disappearing lake in Europe.. on the way back home to make a circle roundtrip.. this kinda variety and proximity is only available in Green Slovenia all in just one fantastic day folks, but what a day and what a castle!
As a more general footnote.. the main road that leads from Ljubljana to Turjak continues down direction Ribnica.. ALL ALONG this road there are cute little villages, some with mini museums, water wheels or restored houses where "famous" Slovenian poets or writers lived.
Slovenians say they get it, but actually they really don't get it that the Slovenian language is a complete mystery to us visitors.. if they got it.. then there would be some signs in English so you could at least have half a chance of stopping and learning a bit more about Slovenian history and culture at these kinda places. So we are telling you about this now here, particularly for this mini region and the road to Ribnica from Turjak, so you can be on the lookout for the brown unreadable signs and maybe explore a little or follow a few to find a cultural treat!.. best of luck!