Beneath the castles and at intersections of important trade routes, settlements were erected and slowly expanded into market towns (Kunšperk, Podsreda, Kozje, Pilštanj, Podčetrtek). Most came into existence in the 14th and 15th centuries. The position of those market towns beneath important road passes and slopes or on top of hills promoted the settlement of craftsmen that were important for travelling salesmen and people who transported cargo. Among those were blacksmiths, wheelwrights, belt manufacturers, saddle makers, rope makers and others. Road conditions called for a break, rest, repairs, reloading, and accommodation.
In market towns, trade at prestigious annual fairs, later joined by weekly markets played an important role. Market towns therefore have a location for markets and fairs where the trading took place. Also the judicial function was performed in market towns. As an external symbol of the judicial system, there are two pillories (in Podsreda and Pilštanj) intended for punishing offenders.
As a market town with the usual market rights and privileges it is first mentioned in 1377. Today, the pillory – “pranger” is still a reminder of that era.
The development of the Podsreda market town was centered around a narrow, oblong space on a somewhat elevated terrace. Since the town never grew past its edge, it was always protected from flooding. The biggest danger to urban settlements was fire since it was hard to keep under control due to numerous wooden structures, unsuitable chimneys, low-quality construction as well as due to the distance from water. Podsreda experienced the rage of fire having burned down twice. Therefore all the houses in the market town, including the church, were built after 1798, when the first fire ruined Podsreda.
The skyline of the town is distinctively dominated by the Church of St. John the Baptist, constructed at the beginning of the 19th century, which replaced an older building. Today, Podsreda is an interesting market town with a traditional market town parcellation. The ground plan of the settlement is funnel shaped. The main street is bordered by townhouses on both sides, their longer side facing the market space and thus forming the “facade” edge of the market. With its position, it belongs to the few areas with an extraordinary cultural landscape. The settlement is a cultural monument.
One of the townhouses, the Sotošek homestead, houses the administration of Kozjansko park.
The Podsreda footpath takes us through the immediate surroundings of the town, linking natural and cultural places of interest, and one branch of the footpath leads us through the forest to Podsreda castle.
Kunšperk, today a cultural monument, was established as a market village under the eponymous castle (Königsberg in German means Royal Hill). The original route between Podčetrtek and Brežice used to run through Kunšperk and the Zelenjak gorge along the Sotla. In the settlement, there used to be a toll house, a fortified tower, a cemetery, and the Church of St. James. Time has also erased all traces of the former Church of St. Catherine that used to stand on the slope above the village. Merely a stone console and the late-Gothic wooden statue of St. James Sr. have been preserved of all the church furnishings.
In 1573, one of the largest peasant revolts took place in this area – the Croatian-Slovene peasant revolt. When the rebellious peasants led by Ilija Gregorič were coming down the hill, they were attacked by Styrian nobles and people from the Kunšperk castle. After a hard battle, the peasants were defeated.
Numerous structures with the traditional architecture have been preserved in the village. Among them is the Kravarič homestead, which consists of three buildings: a 19th century thatched house, a pig sty, and an agricultural building with a basement and granary. Near the house, there is a chapel dedicated to Mary of the Divine Heart, which was built by Neža and Jožef Kravarič in 1909.
The owner of the farm is the Kravarič family, who lives nearby (contact: Marica Kravarič, +386 (0)3 580 4088, +386 (0)31 763 997).
Kozje belongs to the oldest market towns in the area in question and has also given the name to the region in the centre of which it is located.
Kozje is mentioned under the name Trachendorf as early as in 1130, however the market town was only established here in the 14th century.
The old town centre has preserved the precious architectural heritage of residential and commercial structures and also hosts the parish Church of the Virgin Mary. It features picturesque one- and two-story houses with interesting portals and facades. The most significant are the houses with the house numbers 34 dating from 1833 and 46 from around 1840.
Former market towns kept developing, exceeding their narrow defined medieval role. They started being the centre of new areas of life with schools, administrative offices, medical institutions, society headquarters, cultural centres, as well as shops. They became regional centres and many of them have by far surpassed the former confined medieval borders. The former centre of the market town now houses the seat of the Kozje municipality.
The market town of Pilštanj is one of the settlements in Kozjansko that has one of the most picturesque positions in the landscape, above the Bistrica valley.
It was first mentioned in 1404 and received market rights in 1432, thus also receiving the right to hold a fair on the day of the parish’s patron saint St. Michael. The pillory or “pranger” has also been preserved. It could date to the 17th century, i.e. the same as in Podsreda. It is a rare relic of the judicial system before the time of Maria Theresia of which only few have been preserved in Slovenia.
Pilštanj also features a silver town seal from the mid-15th century, which is one of the finest examples. It bears the inscription “Sigillium civitas Peilnstain” and the coat of arms of Pilštanj in the middle. Today, it is preserved in the Museum of Posavje in Brežice.
Directly below the market town is the solitary rock formation Ajdovska žena (Pagan Woman). The pagan woman legend still lives among the locals. The people from Pilštanj are proud of the European cornel (Cornus mas) overgrowing the surrounding thermophilous slopes.
The Pilštanj footpath will take you through the market town and its surroundings and is also linked to the Lesično Educational Water Trail.