A CASTLE OF COUNTLESS STORIES
Strmol Castle is located at the foot of Dvorjanski hrib (“Mansion Hill”) near Češnjevek, Grad and Cerklje na Gorenjskem. Named after its builders, the knights of Strmol, it is notable as one of the few castles in Slovenia to retain a Slovenian name throughout its history. It currently serves as one of the protocol buildings of the Republic of Slovenia.
In 1936, the castle and the estate were bought by industrialist Rado Hribar (son of Dragotin Hribar). On 6 January 1944, both owners of the castle, Rado Hribar (*1901) and his wife Ksenija Gorup pl. Slavinjska (*1905), were murdered. The tragic events have been woven into novels by Tone Perčič (In ti boš meni ponoči trkal na vrata, 1998) and Drago Jančar (To noč sem jo videl, ‘I Saw Her That Night’, 2010), while the story also appears, in some form or another, in Cerkljanski zbornik 1964, Tone Perčič’s short story Kamniti gost (Nova revija 1992) and in Marija Cvetek’s Spomini na Strmol: Vilma Mlakar, roj. Urh – nekdanja strmolska sobarica, Kronika 2006. According to industrialist Jožek Zabret, Hribar and six other proprietors residing nearby formed the White Guard of Gorenjska under the guidance of Gestapo; VOS liquidated all of them, except for leader Janez Brodar, a landowner from Hrastje, who fled to Vienna.
After the war, the castle was run as a protocol facility by the communist party. Hribar’s nephew, who researched the events, claims that the true motivation behind the liquidation was the removal of pre-war landowners. In 2000, surviving relatives secured an annulment of the Partisan ruling, while the castle was returned to the heirs by the process of denationalisation in 2004. The heirs sold the castle back to the state, which renovated it in 2010-2012, to be used as a protocol facility. The castle can be rented out for small individual events, and it is also home to a boutique hotel.
The castle is surrounded by a park established in the late 17th century. It originally encompassed an orchard on the slope below the castle, and four fishponds on the plain below that, with a walking path with benches leading from the castle. The layout has not changed significantly, though only one of the ponds remains. The current arrangement includes an access path, which ascends the slope toward a square walled courtyard behind the castle. The wall is decorated with baroque female figures and putti by Angelo Putta Pozzi, originally from the garden of the defunct Zalog (Wartenberg) manor by Moravče but relocated here in the 1960s along with his Atlas statues at the northern entrance steps. On the opposite side of the courtyard, the path descends toward a nearby road. Between the access paths, there is an informal park with an artificial lake and non-native trees.
Another interesting bit of Strmol history is the crocodile, Ms Hribar’s pet, which bit the master while they bathed together. Today, he kindly welcomes visitors at the entrance.