The Bosnian and Herzegovinian city of Mostar is known for its cosmopolitan nature. Churches, mosques, and synagogues lay next to each other and diverse groups of peoples walked side by side for centuries under Ottoman, Austrian, and Yugoslav rule. The city developed a unique type of architecture that fused styles from the various traditions that came to Mostar, which still has elements of its Ottoman past in its bazaar and neighborhood layout. The city is dominated by the Ottoman-built bridge which gave Mostar its name, the Stari Most.
Yesterday, Americans celebrated Groundhog’s Day, an odd, but perhaps also endearing tradition to welcome the coming of spring. Although Punxsutawney Phil may be unique, traditions that say good-bye to winter and welcome spring are not. From Poland’s drowning of the Marzanna (a straw doll) to throwing colored powder at each other in India’s Holi, the celebration of spring after a long winter is important in cultures across the globe.
The Balkans has its fair share of spring traditions as well. Many of them share characteristics of their neighbors, no doubt from centuries of cross-cultural contact. From giant vats to scrambled eggs to red and white woven bracelets tied to trees, the coming of spring is a time for celebration across the Balkans.
Vampires, mummies, and Frankenstein may be Halloween favorites, but an even scarier option comes from Croatia. Born the daughter of a Slovenian count, Barbara Celjska (1392-1451, also known as Barbara of Cilli/Celje) would go on to be one of the most infamous women in Croatian history, the Black Queen.
She married Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia, becoming Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, as well as one of the most powerful women in Europe.
With her husband frequently moving between his kingdoms, she often held court at her castle on the top of Mount Medvednica, in the Croatian city of Medvedgrad. Tantalizingly beautiful but wickedly deadly, she was known for dressing in black robes (hence her nickname) and was associated with witchcraft, magic, alchemy, and possibly even vampirism. Continue reading “The Scariest Queen for Halloween: The Life and Legend of Barbara Celjska”