Today I think of roots. I think of Poklek, my ancestral home in the countryside of Croatia.
This hideaway is located in the pretty village of Zagorska Sela, an hour away from Zagreb, right on the border with Slovenia (a spitting distance from the EU – and yet still so far away). A couple of generations of my paternal family were born and raised in the house. My father spent much of his childhood here and now lies buried at the village cemetery just up the hill.
It’s not just any old house. I used to think of it as a derelict scary place but the more I travel around the world, the more I recognize its special beauty.
Protected by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture as a historical landmark, Poklek is a stunning estate that dates back to the 18th century (perhaps even earlier, according to some records).
It was a country retreat for a wealthy German family, who sold it to my great-grandparents Agata and Ivan for peanuts in the early 19th century. They ran a post office in one of the rooms; another room was used as the village dentist’s office.
In the sun-bathed salon on the second floor, which I’ve now appropriated as my bedroom, my great-grandmother’s family of renowned musicians from Zagreb used to hold musical sessions, with an old piano, a harp and Agata singing. She had left a promising opera career in Zagreb to move to the countryside, where she married my great-grandfather and raised four daughters, including my beloved grandmother Mira.
The kitchen was always the soul of the house. When my grandmother and her sisters were still alive, this is where life unrolled. I remember it always warm and filled with the smell of wood, coffee and cooking. The four sisters had four o’clock tea here, biscuits and all. I miss those afternoons…
My great-great-grandmother, Justina Eisen von Eisenthal, who spoke only German and now lies buried next to my father at the village cemetery, spent her old age on Poklek. She passed away in one of the upstairs rooms.
Poklek hides many treasures in its interior – antique furniture, old books, funky objects of family heirloom and an assortment of bizarre items. Every time I return, I spend time browsing through this random bric-a-brac. The collection of curios never ceases to amaze me.
The attic and the basement of the mansion always held the most appeal for me – mysterious, dark and spectacular – as did the old covered well outside.
As a little girl, I loved pulling water out of the well. For the longest time we didn’t have running water in the house – we used to wash out of buckets using rain water. I remember distinctly when running water came and the bathroom was built. It was a big deal.
The exterior of the house is just as beautiful. I love arriving along the dirt path, and seeing it appear through the trees. I love looking at it from the back, from the front and the sides. Such a crumbling beauty from whichever way you look.
The views from the house are quite stunning, too. The above is what we wake up to from the upstairs bedrooms.
My mom does spend time at the house during warm months of the year but come late fall, the house will need some company. On top of it all, there have been leaks up in the attic, which have started coming through to the upstairs rooms with hand-painted wall decorations. Sadly, we don’t have the means to fix the roof. The house needs two things: life=love and funds to restore it.
So, this post has a twofold mission. First, if anyone out there reading this happens to be Zagreb-bound any time in the future, I’d be happy to arrange a visit to the estate. It definitely needs friends and visitors.
Second, we have rented the house several times as a movie set. As these photos hopefully show, it is incredibly cinematic, both inside and out. So if you know of anyone seeking a location for a film, a fashion shoot, a commercial or anything of that sort, please spread the word. I’d be happy to supply more photos as well as info.
In the meantime, a huge thanks to Domagoj Blazevic for taking these amazing photos!