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Article from Croatia Airlines' in-flight magazine featuring articles about Croatian cultural heritage

As opposed to many well-known cities and world centres, Croatia's Ludbreg (Crazy Hill) is the only town situated in the very centre of the world. Since ancient times, Earth's circles were delineated around Ludbreg, with European cities placed on their peripheries. According to old archives, the person who deserves most credit for the discovery of this fact and for promoting it internationally, was a great friend of Ludbreg, the Swiss philosopher Dr. Erasmus Weddingen. Moreover, being an enthusiast of the post-modern, he developed even further this miraculous story about Ludbreg as the centre of the world.

In the 18th century, the concentric circles also intrigued a native of Ludbreg of completely different fame, the philosopher, mathematician, physicist, theologian and writer, Kazimir Bedeković, a great promoter of Newton theories. A member of this highly interesting story is also Rudolf Fizir, an airplane constructor in the pioneering days of that means of transport. 

But, leaving history aside, a part of the Ludbreg tradition is also the temperament of its inhabitants. A distinctive, unique and inevitable combination in their characters is their ability to draw inspiration from different sources - the miraculous from the local religious tradition, legends, fantastic tales, as well as an irresistible inclination to humour - re-shaping well-known facts and presenting them in a way to make it impossible for life to be boring. When one finds out that, apart from all that, Ludbreg people are also broad-minded and generous...

The visitor to Ludbreg will be amazed by the town's mixture of scientific, religious, historical, expert and artistic material, with an ancient word-by-mouth tradition, whose traces are lost in the mists of primeval times. For interesting stories it becomes totally irrelevant whether, on their journey to the present, something was added or omitted. Some of the stories are founded on pseudo-scientific interpretations of the origin of the town's name (Ludbreg can be translated as crazy hill) whilst others are the fruit of the genius loci imagination. Some of them were even registered as oddities by historians. Very few of them needed solid proof of the stories' authenticity, because the Ludbreg playfulness exceeds, by far, the McLuhan thesis about the world being a global village - since for centuries Ludbreg has been and continues being a global town. The other famous thesis, that the medium is also the message, is firmly confirmed here. Ludbreg people do not send any messages of global importance - for those living in the centre of the Earth, there is no need to, having already a happy existence.

This year, Ludbreg is getting ready for the manifestation that will mark a great civilisation milestone, 2000 years of Christianity. As a traditional semi-millenary religious meeting place (since the year 1513), it is preparing to receive many visitors on 14th of May 2000. The local church feast grounds are unique in Croatia and amongst the few in the world to be recognized by the Papal bull. This year's meeting will be the venue of the continental gathering of Christians and the celebration of this jubilee is significant for the culture of the Christian world.

And it all began in 1411, with a miraculous event in the manorial chapel. What did actually happen?

In that bygone year, a priest was serving the Holy Mass in the chapel. For a moment, his faith vacillated as to whether, after pronouncing the words of Trans-substantiation Hoc est corpus meum and Hic est calix sanguinis mei, the bread and wine truly trasnformed into the body and blood of Christ. When he reached the part of the Holy Mass when the host is broken into three parts, and one of them dropped into the chalice, he noticed that fresh blood was streaming into the chalice. Very excited, the priest concluded serving the Mass, and put the chalice away. He never mentioned this to anyone, but on his deathbed he confessed the miraculous event. He passed the preserved chalice with the blood into the safekeeping of the parish church of the Holy Trinity. Shortly afterwards, the tidings about this miraculous event reached everyone's ears. Congregations from all over came on pilgrimages to Ludbreg to pay homage to the chalice and to the Blood of Christ. These pilgrims pray for recovery or the improvement of their health, for their own or other people's welfare, and they make vows. For centuries people have been coming, even from far-away places, because they wish to take part in the holy sacraments, whilst others are simply eager to be in good company. And all of them receive what they expected. Those who come to Ludbreg for the first time during the days proceeding Easter week, always leave the town feeling that they have experienced much more than they had expected.

The amusements and recreations which are part of these events have remained to this day such as they probably were at the time of the first round-about. Licitar (pastry) hearts, votive gifts, wax animals... and music, dance, chance games and an amusement park; buying gifts from crowded stands, barrels and other wooden ware, wicker furniture... All that provides a lively džcor of a church feast of which there are few, if any, left in their original form. Children wait impatiently for the church feast, and they remember it for the rest of their lives. One of the events that few people miss, be it child or adult, is the communal midday lunch of the not-to-be-missed fragrant kotlovina, sitting modestly - though comfortably - on benches under a tent canopy.

Parallel with the great celebration of the 2000th anniversary of Christianity on 5th of May the inauguration of the Ludbreg Restoration Centre - the cultural institution of international importance in Ludbreg - is also to take place during the same month. The refurbished baroque castle, Batthyäny, trans-formed into the main Euro-regional clinic for the restoration of works of art, will at last officially open its doors. This represents a longtime joint project of the Croatian Ministry of Culture, the State Administration for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage, the Croatian Restoration Institute, as well as the World Administration for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Bavaria, the MŸnchen-Freising and Bamberg Diocese, also the Hypo-Kulturstiftung and the Bayerische Staatskanzelei, who have provided vital support and been the driving force of the Centre's developments since its beginnings. 

The ancient Ludbreg legends can be accepted even without a touch of humour, simply enjoying the fantastic tales. Let us temporarily set apart those primordial times when on the Ludbreg soil there lived well-developed Neolithic cultures, the Illyrians and the Celts; the three-thousand-year old sod-houses found at the bottom of the parish church courtyard, even the Roman era when the settlement used to be an important military and commercial centre and the centre of the diocese. It was not at all by accident that the Ludbreg region, enchanting in its idyllic beauty, was chosen by the Burgundy nobleman Lodbring, during his first Crusades raid on the Holy Land, first as a military encampment, later as his own estate. Here, where the picturesque hills of the Kalnik Mountain level onto the tame Podravina Plain, on the banks of the clear, green Bednja river, along the road and the fortress, grew the town of Ludbreg. The legend describing as to how the town got its name is one of those true Ludbreg stories. The dust of oblivion was blown from it by the already mentioned Dr. Weddingen, on finding it in old Paulist registers. 

The monk Honorius described the life of Ludberga, the daughter of the count's estate administrator, born on 1 April 1141. Her carefree childhood was spent studying, praying and playing on the banks of the Bednja river. As a young woman she flowered into a rare beauty, but destiny had it that she succumbed to physical temptation, mislead by the Evil One, in the guise of the young knight Ulrik. Expiating this misfortune, Ludberga abandoned the estate with her son Theobald, and went to live far from the town in a small house in a vineyard. She dedicated her life to helping the poor and the sick, and to work in the vineyard. Soon her sweet and sparkling wine become famous everywhere. Living in a vine-dresser's hut with a straw roof, such as ever since the days of the Romans decorate the hills above the vineyards, and receive visitors all year round, particularly at grape-gathering times along with songs, flickering of lamps, crackling and creaking of wine-presses. Also in late Autumn, when the fire on which the chestnuts were roasted was crackling, or on St Martin's Day, when the young wine was blessed. Not even the cold winter wind, nor at times the high snow - and so it continues to this day - ever proved much of a hindrance to visit the vine-dresser's hut, light the fire in the stove, warm chilled hands and take home some bottles of wine. 

The Evil One tried to buy the vineyard from Ludberga and to seduce her once again, but she - realising his intentions - repelled him with a wooden cross, driving him into the ground with such force, that on the opposite side of the globe there was a mighty explosion in which Antipodravina almost disappeared. According to the legend, all that remained of it is the South Pacific volcanic islet called Antipodes, near New Zealand. 

The Ludbreg region abounds with this and many other stories and legends, which also elude the definitions of fiction and historically verifiable events and occurrences. All of them are woven into the structure, the foundations of an ambitious local project which has started to exist under the name of Ludbreg 2000. Already presented are the promotional messages, the characteristic typography, logos and other constants of the Ludbreg region identity. With its spirit, intonation, style and overall visual art, the interesting basic project forecasts the manner in which other Ludbreg attractions will be created. The SHM creation team is also working out in detail the overall project concerning the town's image, that is, the basic strategies of Ludbreg's development as a tourist destination, with many new interesting details for all types of visitors, especially as a comfortable resort for weekend tourists. The Ludbreg of today is still a destination for the tourist who will feel at home in an atmosphere where organised tourism has only slightly moved from pioneer times, something that many people may appreciate.

Ludbreg will try to preserve its present idyllic atmosphere, even in its great effort to become a global attraction. The town of miracles and legends has taken up development on the basis of new and very interesting products and services, everything being encompassed by the same idea: starting from the concept of street and project names, the revival of old and introduction of new customs, to the offer of interesting souvenirs that cannot be brought from other parts. Apart from several other very ambitious ideas, however, it may be too early to talk about them...

In conclusion, to Croatian television audiences it will be clear and quite logical how only this region could have given us the comedian, Mladen Kerstner, and his suite of characters: Dudek, Regica, Cinober, Imbro Grabarić-Presvetli, Gaber, Tuno and others. What else could he be, but a Ludbregian? During many years he collected stories and anecdotes from his region, something that others have done, too, but he was the only one to turn all that to gold, with the skill of a masked alchemist. The Podravina tradition, expressions like mejašenje (measuring a piece of land) and grunt (a piece of land), the crafty but harmless intrigues, the bitter history and the attractive dialect of this region, all that has recently been shown once more on the small screen, exactly when we were all in danger of becoming provincial, like the characters in Peyton.

By Mira Juvančić i SHM Photos SHM