At the northernmost tip of Croatia, between the Drava River to the south and the Mura River to the north, the Međimurje region looks small on the map, but it possesses a distinctive character that makes it ripe for at least a day's worth of exploration. Long off the radar screens of Croatia-bound visitors, the Međimurje is also one of the country's newest up-and-coming inland tourist destinations: its largest town, Čakovec, is the most important cultural center between Varaždin and Hungary and Slovenia to the north (many Zagreb–Budapest trains stop there). Its many small villages are the home of rich wine-making and embroidery traditions, and there is even a locally cherished spa town, Toplice Sveti Martin, to the very north close to the Mura River. Back in the 13th century, Count Dimitrius Chaky, court magistrate of the Croatian-Hungarian king Bela IV, had a wooden defense tower erected in the central part of the Međimurje that eventually became known as Chaktornya (Chak's Tower). It was around this tower and other nearby fortifications that Čakovec saw a period of intense economic and cultural development under the influential Zrinski family, from the mid-16th century to the late 17th century. After a failed rebellion by the Zrinskis and the Frankopans against the Viennese court, the Viennese imperial army plundered the tower for building materials, and the last Zrinski died in 1691. A disastrous earthquake in 1738 saw the old, Gothic architecture give way to the baroque. Međimurje's last feudal proprietors were the Feštetić counts, who lived here from 1791 to 1923—a period during which the region came under the administrative control of Hungary, then Croatia, then Hungary once again (until 1918). Toward the close of the 19th century the region was linked inextricably to the railroad network of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, setting the stage for intense economic development.
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