The castle in Svibno has seen noble families come and go over the years, but its most famous residents were Ostrovrharji, a family of nobles and knights. During their rule, the castle became one of the most significant in the Slovenian Lands – in part because of nearby trade routes, which linked central and southern Europe.
Ostrovrharji eventually made a name for themselves as highly effective warriors and frequently took arms against the Ottoman Turks, who made frequent incursions into the Slovenian Lands.
According to local legend, the last of the Ostrovrharji died in battle against the Turks in the 15th century. In reality, the decline of the family had more to do with changes to the trade routes, but the legends about the knights lived on and inspired tales that captured the imaginations of thousands.
France Prešeren, widely regarded as Slovenia’s foremost poet, made one of the family as central character in one of his best-known works. In his poem, an Ostrovrhar knight was immortalized as a suitor of a wealthy noblewomen. Other Slovenian poets and others also portrayed the legendary family in their epics and novels.
The legendary Osterberg Castle did not survive; it was demolished in the 19th century and only a few scattered ruins remain. It is only thanks to sketches by the 18th century polymath Johannes Weichert von Valvasor that we know what the castle looked like. But the legend of Ostrovrharji lives on, in literature and in the local consciousness. Even the local tourist office bears the name of the famous nobles – and hopes that the historical connection will encourage visitors to explore this attractive but little-known part of Slovenia.