I had passed through Brezice several times on the train to and from Zagreb but what I saw in photographs didn’t match what I remembered. I thought perhaps I was mistaken. The pictures of a handsome red-roofed town with a solid Renaissance castle at one end of the main street were tempting and a trip was planned. After a night in Zagreb we crossed the border into Slovenia and stepped off the train at the sleepy station at Brezice. The station building backs onto a leafy little square around which half a dozen pretty houses are clustered but this is not Brezice proper; that’s a couple of kilometres away from the line and fortunately for us the bus was waiting to take train passengers into town.
Brezice is a highly likeable town. The tourist office boasts of Brezice’s medieval credentials and there’s strong sense of history all along the main street as you look about the shop windows at the architectural details. Sadly the town centre no longer has a tourist office; business is now at the office at Catez which attracts more tourists because of the vast spa complex but there is a small outpost at the Mladinski center (youth centre and hostel) situated in the park opposite the castle. An excellent leaflet points put and describes some of the more notable buildings but if you can’t get hold of one, you’ll find the information boards dotted around the town centre very useful.
The castle is home to the Posavje museum collections and its open daily but only until 2.00pm so make it your first stop of the day. Guided tours are possible but information sheets in several languages are provided for each exhibition making a self-guided tour easy. The museum covers regional history with a particular emphasis on the local traditions of farming and viticulture. There are two fine art galleries; one is an exhibition of work by Franjo Stiplovšek while the other is a collection of portraits of noblemen and women. Be sure to get a look at the frescoes in the Knights’ Hall; it’s under renovation in 2012 but can be viewed from a gallery.
While the castle is undeniably handsome, the prize for Brezice most striking building must go to the water tower. The tower stands 46 metres tall and is no longer in use. This fairytale tower, painted pink and with a conical roof, looks like something from the Brothers Grimm, but was actually built in 1914. Until recently the ground floor housed a café but sadly it is not currently open and stands empty.
At the top end of the main street stands the German house, so called because it was built at the beginning of the twentieth century as a meeting place for Brezice’s then sizeable German population. I love this mish mash of a building because it takes elements from many architectural styles but somehow makes the combination work. Today the German House is used as the Brezice Courts. Also on the main street, the old pharmacy is notable because of its twisted chimney which is quite rare in Slovenia. Such chimneys are more common in Italy and they came about as a less ostentatious way of demonstrating ones wealth. Today the Santa Lucija restaurant occupies the building.
There are two churches in the centre of Brezice, of which the church of St. Lawrence is more notable because of the frescoes inside it. There was originally a church here dating from the 14th century but it was destroyed in the late 18th century in a powerful flood which also altered the course of the River Sava. It was rebuilt by the townspeople with the help of Cistercian monks from the nearby monastery of Konstanjevica.
On the edge of the town two iron bridges may look fairly ordinary today but at the time they were built, in 1906, they were regarded as two of the most important engineering achievements in Austro-Hungary. One bridge crosses the Sava, the other the Krka; the two rivers converge close by. The traffic runs one way and but the road has a wide path which is suitable for cyclists or walkers. However, on the other side there is no footpath and the traffic is fast moving. For a better view of the confluence go to the new bridge that leads to Catez.
Brezice is not a town that need detain you long but it is worth at least a day or a half day of your time. Throw in a visit to nearby Bizeljsko castle, the nature reserves at Dobova and some wine tasting at a traditional ‘repnica’ and you could enjoy two or three days of gentle relaxation.