The Most Beautiful Rose on Papuk

The Most Beautiful Rose on Papuk

Croatia’s Papuk Nature Park, listed as one of UNESCO Geoparks, has a special effect on people. No, it has no particular magical powers or properties – it uses the ancient language of nature. The whisper of the stream brushing against the moss-covered stones quietly and delicately, the magical synchronised dance of leaves in the wind, birdsong announcing another pleasant evening... These sensory experiences make it easy to fall in love with the welcoming green soul of the forest and believe all of the legends told about this little slice of heaven.

Ivo Biočina

Among the many folk tales, two revolve around the town of Ružica ( Ružica grad), the largest preserved fortified town in the region of Slavonia, whose first historical mention dates back to 1357. This castle is located in the northeast part of the Nature Park, above the calm surface of the Orahovica Lake, and has guarded many secrets over the centuries.

One legend claims that the site where the town was built was once a meeting place for fairies, where the lovely forest beings held their nightly meetings, brewed potions, created new spells, sang and danced. However, one day, their fun was cut short by a powerful nobleman who decided to build his fortified town at that exact spot.

Good and Evil, Love and Malice in the Largest Fortified Town in Slavonia

Soon their little gathering place became a construction site; their favourite meadow was being walled in, and their favourite shade under the trees disappeared with the stroke of an axe. The fairies put their magical spells to use and destroyed everything under cover of darkness. When morning came, the angry nobleman searched for the culprits throughout the village, and the people only shrugged their shoulders. He ordered the workers to begin construction again, only for the fairies to destroy everything again during the night.

 

The cycle repeated several times until the nobleman posted guards around the site, who discovered what the fairies were up to at night. He decided to set an ambush and punish them severely. He used a net and caught the most beautiful among them, a fairy by the name of Ružica. The other fairies could only watch helplessly and cry as the cruel nobleman dragged her by her hair, which held all of her power, and walled her in the town’s foundations.

 

The fairies scattered, but he was struck with the fairies’ curse. At the exact moment that the troubadours in dress uniforms announced the completion of construction, a giant stone broke off from the highest tower and crushed the nobleman. His name was lost to history, but the town was named after the most beautiful fairy of the Papuk forest – Ružica Town.

Ivo Biočina

Folklore in the region of Slavonia tells another story about the origin of the name “Ružica Town”. A beautiful and noble princess named Ružica was left in command of the town after her father and brothers were killed in a battle with the Franks. She decided to pick a husband who would help her defend her people at a jousting tournament, where she invited all of the finest knights.

Among them was the unknown Black Knight (Crni vitez), who beat all of the local knights one after the other. When the time came to announce the winner, the mysterious stranger took off his visor and revealed that he was actually a Frankish knight who came to conquer another Croatian town. Princess Ružica couldn’t allow the town to fall into the hands of the man who killed her family, so she threw herself off the highest tower in town. Soon afterwards, the entire area was overgrown with beautiful rosebushes, as red as the princess’s blood, and the town came to be known as Ružica Town (from ružica, meaning “small rose”).