The Beginnings and the Development of Karlovac

This is a slightly different history of Karlovac.

A very, very long time ago, before the beginnings of the world, when fogs and mists ruled the Earth, and the wind and the sun ruled supreme high above, in the swampy depths along the Kupa, Korana, Mrežnica, and Dobra rivers, the heart of the future town pulsated. The Dark Forces, dense with the smell of eternity and sticky with the touch of heavy timeless shadows, ruled the waters. A small Star, wandering the night sky, saw its reflection in the glassy surface of a swamp and used its magic stardust to dispel the dense fogs, to stir the stagnant waters and give the town its countenance.

Karlovac, the town of stardust reflections and the smell of still eternity.

Today, while walking the streets of the star-shaped old town, you’ll feel the smells of all the ages, the fog sometimes still rules the town, while the four rivers guard the history of Karlovac, blessed with the forces of Light and Darkness.

Each detail, each drop of water, each stone of the town have been woven into the fairytale gossamer that constituted Karlovac. The town’s face has been changing through the centuries, depending on the light entering through the prism of human memories.

The oldest traces of human existence in the Karlovac area have been found on the location of the Dubovac castle and originate from 3500 B.C. At the beginning of the second millennium, the Karlovac area became interesting to the Romans due to the quality of the stone used for roads and the sarcophagi. You can still come across the forgotten sarcophagi in the surrounding woods.

The Dubovac Castle was built in the 13th century, and was named after a kind of oak (the dub) from the slopes of the hill. It was used as a defence against the Tatar armies. Turbulent times of the wars of conquest have left a deep mark on the history of this part of Croatia. That is why the construction of the Karlovac fort began on July 13, 1579 . It was built as a six-pointed star and is an example of an ideal Renaissance town. For the next three centuries it was a military town, afterwards attaining the status of a ‘free royal city’. At the beginning of the 19th century, thanks to various trades, it was the richest Croatian town.

Never conquered during all the wars, it survived and continued to grow even after the deadly bubonic plague epidemics, devastating fires and immense floods. The military fort turned into a town made to suit its citizens, a port with the navigable Kupa river, a town of tradesmen, artists, writers and scientists. The famous Josephina, Carolina and Louisiana roads were built, as well as the railway to Rijeka, and, later, a highway to Zagreb. The social and cultural life is reflected in the beginnings of the Illyrian movement, the opening of the Zorin dom theatre, and of the Edison cinema. Sports activities became a part of the Karlovac lifestyle. The town became an industrial hub, bustling and lively thanks to the daily migrations, commuting to and from work. The parks serve the citizens, providing spaces for relaxation, sports activities and pleasure. In its fifth century, Karlovac is still creating its history for the benefit of future generations.

More detailed snapshots of its history can be found in the Town Museum or the public library ‘Ivan Goran Kovačić’. Also, visit the Katzler Pavilion, take a look at the virtual photo-collection at or simply ask Karlovac citizens. They’ll proudly tell you all they know. And that is a lot.

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