The Krka is one of our most interesting
karst rivers. Its waters are saturated with dissolved limestone,
which is precipitated as tufa. It is the only Slovenian tufa-forming
river forms characteristic several metres high tufa barriers
in its upper reaches. Mills and sawmills were frequently built
beside these barriers. Tufa is precipitated just below the surface
as extensive underwater shelves in the middle reaches.
The most extensive of these is found in the middle reaches of
the Krka, at Otočec, where the river valley cuts into a higher
Tufa shelves extend for a distance of almost two kilometres
between the village of Otočec and Struga castle, whilst the
river level falls for a height of four metres. The superstructures
of the tufa shelves are islands, which have been colonised by
a variety of waterside vegetation. Island formation is a dynamic
process, because high water is constantly eroding the banks,
whilst the luxuriant vegetation is washed away and forms fragile
dams. 30 islets can be counted between the village of Otočec
and Struga castle during the summer. Most of them are quite
small, although the largest is the castle island.
The natural conditions, which are created at Otočec
by the Krka with its numerous islelets, tufa shelves, river
channels and exuberant vegetation, represent one of the most
picturesque and attractive stretches of river. It has a great
variety of aquatic habitats, which are characterised by an exceptional
number of fish. The Krka is inhabited by 32 species of fish,
including many rare and endangered species. Huchen, Wels and
Danube Roach are the most highly valued species in angling.
The white Mute Swans are aparticular characteristic of Otočec.
The first pair was introduced here in 1968. The present population
now numbers over 50 individuals. Mallard Ducks and Gray Herons
are also common, whilst Great Bitterns and Moorhens occasionally
nest in the reed beds. Kingfishers nest in the eroded banks.
There is an even greater variety of bird species in winter,
when the large flocks of Common Coots, Little Grebe in Great
Cormorants, whilst the Mallards are joined by Garganey, Common
Pochard, Tufted Duck and other rare duck species.
Otočec Castle, built on one of the islands in the river
Krka, is the only castle surrounded by water in Slovenia.
A varied past is concealed behind it's walls. The castle entered
written history in the mid 13th century, when it was occupied
by the Knights of Otočec, vassals of the Bishops of Freising.
When the Knights of Otočec died out at the end of the 15th century,
their property came into the possession of other noble families.
Thus the castle was owned by the Tirolean Villanders family
at the beginning of the 16th century, but in 1560 it was acquired
by Baron Ivan Lenkovič, the captain of the Žumberak Uskoks and
later the General of the Military March. The castle was bought
in 1629 by Janez pl. Sonce, the hero of the tale of the same
name by Ivan Tavčar. The Schweiger von Lerchenfeld family acquired
Otočec in the mid 18th century, whose last male descendant Vinko
Schweiger was famous for his popularity and support for the
Slovenian language. In 1854 the castle was acquired by the Margheri
de Commadona family, who owned Otočec up to the end of the Second
World War and were well known for their vivacity.
The modern image of the castle architecture has been
formed over the centuries. It's fabric dates to the mid 13th
century, to the period marked by the stylistic transition from
Romanesque to Gothic. Otočec was a two-story, undefended rectangular
building at this time, typical of the medieval stone built mansion
type. The building was enlarged spatially in the mid 14th century
and acquired an L shaped ground plan. The archival sources also
bear witness to a castle rampart, whilst the security of the
castle was further increased by the excavation of a new southern
channel for the river Krka, which cut off the natural river
meander. This transformed the former riverside post into an
island, which was joined to the mainland by a wooden bridge.
The castle was further fortified after the fierce Turkish raiding
of Dolenjska in 1471. A new curtain wall was added, the corners
were defended by semicircular towers and the old curtain wall
took on the function of an internal curtain wall. The castle
began to acquire a renaissance image under the direction of
Master Manfredo del Costonello during the Lenkovič period. In
the first half of the 17th century, when the Otočec lordship
was acquired by Janez Sonce, the castle building was further
remodelled and acquired arcades on the ground floor and both
storeys of the southern wing. This concluded the more important
remodelling of the castle building, whose image has been preserved
down to the present day.
Otočec castle was burnt during the Second World War. The
castle furniture was destroyed or dispersed at this time
and both the wooden bridges were also damaged. The castle was
renovated under the supervision of the heritage protection service
in the 1950's and was given a tourist hotel function.
It is worth mentioning that this is the only renovated castle
of the many that were burnt during the war in Dolenjska.
It is worth noting certain rare, but extant architectural details
during a visit to the castle. The renaissance sandstone entrance
portal that dates to the 16th century is particularly fine.
It is decorated with two marble medallions, which bear renaissance
maiden profiles. Fragments of profane painting that show hunting
and fishing scenes can be admired on one of the piers of the
central castle building in the internal courtyard. Although
it is derived from the medieval tradition, it already heralds
progressive renaissance artistic appreciation.
The interior of the castle building has been thoroughly renovated
and adapted to a hotel function, which makes it difficult to
speak of its authenticity. It is only worth mentioning some
late Gothic stone portals and Gothic stone window frames with
a characteristic pilaster profile.
The Castle Park. The scant historical sources indicate
that the park was laid out during the period, when the castle
was in the possession of the Schweiger - Larchenfeld family
(1727 - 1850), probably at the turn of the 18th century. The
Franciscan Cadaster (circa 1825) shows a tree lined drive axis
along the length of the island, which links the castle entrance
with the extreme eastern part of the island. The tree lined
drive axis terminated in a garden pavilion, which is not otherwise
The modern Castle island is somewhat larger than it was in
the past, according the historical graphic depictions from 1679
(Valvasor), 1758 (Wiser), 1845 (Wagner), but there are no traces
of the 19th century park layout. The oldest trees in the park
are a good century in age, but the majority were planted after
the renovation of the castle the 1950's. In addition to the
native tree species, such as black alder, white willow, black
poplar, oak, etc., as well as the common introduced horse chestnut,
the park also contains examples of exotic tree species, such
as marsh cypress, tulip tree, cigar tree, gledičija and others.
The modern design form of the park is informal - organic, following
the English Park landscape style. The absence of original historical
park elements is replaced by the exceptionally picturesque image
of the park organisation of the island with the castle, which
is reflected in the depths of the Krka.
Hotel Castle Otočec*****
phone: ++386 (0)7/38 48 600, ++386 (0)7/38 48 900
Visitors can view the castle interior by prior arrangement.
The further information: