A visit to Kumrovec, Croatia – Tito’s hometown

The last day of the Croatia-Slovenia tour I took in Sept 2012 included an excursion to Kumrovec, Croatia. Located in northern Croatia about 40 miles from Zagreb, it sits practically on the border with Slovenia. There is a modern town with this name but we visited the older, restored part of the village which has been turned into an outdoor Ethnological Museum. This is the village where Marshall Tito, the long-time dictator of Yugoslavia, was born in 1892. According to Wikipedia, Tito’s house was the first one built with brick.

The house where Josip Broz Tito was born is the first building inside the gates. Even if you didn’t know this was his family’s home, the large statue in the front yard would give you a hint. Except for this memorial and the museum inside the house (which opened in 1953 and which Tito visited in 1961), the rest of the village is a fascinating look at life in this part of the world at the end of the 19th century. Very little has been added, mostly just extra lighting in the houses and around the grounds.

Some houses are barely larger than a typical American garage. These single story houses have low ceilings and a ladder leads to loft space above. The exteriors are either white washed stucco or plain stone. The houses are spaced widely; not sure if other houses had been removed to eliminate repetition or maybe they’d burned down ages ago. The large barns could have been designed for use by multiple families. The guide probably knew but didn’t say and I didn’t think to ask at the time. The larger houses have second stories, look more modern and sport steeply pitched roofs to help the snow slide off. Some are actual homes; there are more than 200 ‘regular’ people living here as opposed to reenactors. A few small gardens near some of the houses struggled to finish out the growing season.

A small stream meanders through the village, barns hold hay or corn or wheat. Old wagons, grape arbors, sleighs, thatch drying on poles, an old fire truck and a ladder truck showed just how self-sufficient these villages needed to be.

Some houses display the tools and products of the chandler, potter, weaver, cartwright, blacksmith and other trades. Bread ovens built into the brickwork above the fireplace look ready to go once a fire is laid. Other houses had more elaborate masonry fireplaces with enameled cast iron fireboxes.

One common feature that impressed me was the thick the walls; some of them a good two feet thick. Definitely warm in the winter and cool in the summer!

One house was decked out for a newly married couple. Super white linens for the table, bed and washstand and sturdy chests and cupboards that probably never looked as good as they did on the wedding day because these would need to last for a lifetime. A wedding banquet was laid on a trestle table with musicians ready to go.

In some ways, Kumrovec reminded me of Sturbridge Village or Plimoth Plantation in the US. Both of those places, however, are recreations; Kumrovec is billed as a restoration of homes and outbuildings that have always been there. Interestingly, Sturbridge depicts an American settlement from the late 1700s, a full century earlier than Tito’s village but they seem to come from the same time period.

We had a local guide who took us around the grounds but if you go and can’t get a personal tour, there is an audio tour available. From what I’ve read since going there, there may also be  re-enactors at times.

Our regular tour guide passed on a tidbit to show Tito’s cleverness and arguably a big reason Yugoslavia never became an Iron Curtain satellite of the USSR the way countries like Hungary and Poland did. During the Cold War, we were told, Tito essentially played both sides against one other. He told Moscow that he could get what he needed from the US and he told the US the same thing about the Russians. According to Wikipedia (see link above) Tito fought with the partisan guerrillas in Yugoslavia during WWII and had no interest in aligning his country with Stalin after the war. His ability to keep his country from being gobbled up by Russia or any of the other satellite countries meant that Yugoslavia achieved an incredible level of economic success in the 1960s and 70s. Even with his emphasis on Yugoslav national unity rather than ethnic identity and his ability to stand up to Russia, he was at least respected by world leaders even in the West and perhaps still loved in the country he kept cobbled together for so long.

Funny, though, I don’t remember much distinction made in my history classes  between the USSR’s power bloc in Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia’s independence. It now seems that “Iron Curtain” was the West’s convenient blanket description for eastern Europe that assumed a degree of political unity that never existed. Hmmm.

Here are my photos from Kumrovec.

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This entry was posted in All Suzanne's travels, Balkan Europe travel, Croatia travel, Eastern Europe and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A visit to Kumrovec, Croatia – Tito’s hometown

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