Karlovac

Many tourists taste the beer, but few stop by for a taste of the city. Karlovac is much more than home to one of Croatia's most popular brews, Karlovačko. Founded by the Austrians in 1579 as a fortress intended to ward off the Turks, Karlovac is today that big dot on the map between Zagreb and the coast that visitors to the country, more often than not, simply pass by. Anyone intrigued by the question of how a onetime fortress—still much in evidence—can develop into an urban center will want to stop here for at least a half-day and, perhaps, spend a night on the way to or from the coast. Once you pass through the city's industrial-looking suburbs, there is an inviting historical center awaiting you, one rendered more romantic because it is wedged between two of Croatia's most important rivers, the Kupa and the Korana. The city's Renaissance-era urban nucleus is popularly known as the Zvijezda (Star), since its military planners were moved to shape it as a six-pointed star—evidenced in the surrounding moat, which is today a pleasant, if sunken, green space that is even home to a basketball court. Eventually, this center's military nature gave way to civilian life, and it took on the baroque look more visible today. Though the town walls were razed in the 19th century, their shape is still discernible.

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