“Why would anyone want to be here instead of Dubrovnik?” someone in our party asked, obviously disappointed with the sights, but Čakovec had a different effect on me. It had a rugged simplicity in its unassuming peaceful self, and as our bus drove down its narrow streets, I felt somehow at home.
“I don’t know,” I said out loud. “I kinda like it.”
Here a building reminded me of a Transylvanian house, there something looked familiarly German, and the Zrinski Park around the Međimurje County Museum looked refreshingly green for that hot August day.
The Međimurje County Museum was one of our too few stops in Čakovec that day. I went in with Liliana, and we left the children at the playground in the park nearby with the adults who were not in the mood to step inside. At the time, we had no idea that the building housing the museum was the largest medieval fortification in the county. To be honest, it didn’t look very medieval to us, but we were not necessarily thinking about architecture and tourist attractions. The stop was a whim – as many are when we are on the road, and as it often happens, our whim was a fortunate one: we were inside Čakovec Castle, the most important landmark of the city. The museum had quite an effect on both of us, and while the usual archaeological and ethnographic displays were fascinating, the Ladislav Kralj collection was the highlight of the visit.
Then, we spent a few relaxed moments sipping beer and soda under the shade on an umbrella at a cafe in the pedestrian area close to Ul. Tome Masaryka. I only remember the word TISAK in capital letter on the corner of a building and the comfortable seats on that sidewalk terrace: black armchairs. There was also an Erste Sparkasse bank with an Allianz ATM nearby, which seemed odd. But we didn’t give it much thought, rather admiring from the distance a superb building that was apparently the central headquarters of Međimurske novine – a local news media company.
Later, the bus drove down Vukovarska ul. and some blocks of flats reminded me of Soviet-type structures in Romania, but they were not clustered to make the most out of the plot they occupied. Instead, they rose gracefully across a green patch, the border side of a city park where some lady walked a terrier and a couple of kids were rollerblading. Further down the road, some blocks with rooftops covered in terracotta shingles looked oddly familiar too. But apart these few buildings that dared to rise higher than two stories, the city seemed to enjoy proximity to the soil better than reaching for the skies – and it was a refreshing sight.
Oddly enough, Čakovec is one of my fondest memories from that trip to Vučkovec. And Vučkovec is another story…