Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Magical Medjimurje in March: a Major Surprise

March 7, 2023 - A business trip to Medjimurje in early March turned out to be a VERY pleasant tourism experience. 

It is the smallest of all the Croatian counties, and the northernmost, nestled next to now borderless Slovenia and Hungary. And despite the fact I lived just a few kilometres from its capital of Cakovec during my time in Varazdin, Medjimurje is the county that I know least well in this fair land. Apart from one quite extraordinary 24 hours there with the Gastronaut legendica Karin Mimica back in 2016 (Read more in Gastronaut Discovers the Mystical Tastes and Traditions of Medjimurje in Northern Croatia), an excellent lunch at Mala Hiza (that horseradish soup was awesome), and a meeting with a web developer, my knowledge of Medjimurje was zero.

My motives for visiting Cakovec had little to do with tourism and more on spending time with a new business partner and defining our relationship.  She suggested I come for a couple of days to chat and have a look around her native territory, a good chance to mix a little business and pleasure, and to see Medjimurje through local eyes. 

And there was a lot to see. As I left some 48 hours later, the dates of May 12-14 and the Urbanovo festival already in my diary, I kicked myself for ignoring this rather fabulous region for so long. 

Although, truth be told, understanding the local dialect took even more servings of gemist than in Varazdin. 


First up, and what a way to start, a business lunch at Mala Hiza, the pioneering restaurant in Medjimurje and the first in the county to make the Michelin Guide. A superbly rustic setting with a very innovative menu including dishes such as horse, there was no way I was missing out on my favourite horseradish soup to start, which lived up to its billing. 


Wandering through central Cakovec that evening was beautiful. A little lonely, as there was almost nobody about, but beautiful. I put some pictures on Facebook to see if there was anyone around who might be interested in showing me around or pointing me in the direction of some hidden gems. It was one of my most popular FB posts of the year, with some 266 likes and a barrage of messages (apologies if I have not got back to you all yet - I will). 


After the statutory Croatian coffee and 12 cigarettes ritual at our morning meeting, it was off to Krizovec to the 'Between Two Waters' visitor centre, a fascinating look at the nature, flora and fauna of this unique region. Medjimurje had once been almost all forest, and its heritage was well documented. The prime oak tree was called Adam, and it took quite a team to fell it - and we would meet Adam over breakfast.


Did you know that there was a protected park on Croatia's northern border which spans five countries? No, nor did I. 


And then I saw a familiar face, recorded for posterity. Mate Horvat, the last gold panner from the gold-panning era on the Drava. You can learn more about that in my 2016 article Aged 94, Meet Croatia's Last Surviving Gold Prospector on the River Drava

Do you have any video footage of Mate in action? I asked.

No unfortunately, I don't.

I did, from that amazing Gastronaut trip 7 years ago, which I will be forwarding. 


Medjimurje welcomes everyone. A 5-star hotel for bugs. 

 And I LOVED this. The Chapel of the Fallen Forest, a tribute to trees felled and what became of them. 

It was nice to see that even here, the art of Bench Tourism is alive and well.  


Time for breakfast at Beska in Cakovec, which had a very homey traditional feel - a nice spot to chill.  


And in the courtyard, remnants of Adam the Great Oak Tree, turned railway sleeper.  


I really enjoyed the tour of Cakovec Castle, which was of course dominated by the history of the Zrinski family, but there was SO much local culture and tradition on offer.  Among the many highlights was this extraordinary costume with a traditional mask called Pikac.


When they say that it takes a village, sometimes it really does... 


Time for some liquid refreshment, which came in the form of a recommendation from young Filip, the recently appointed Cakovec Tourist Board  Director, who was among those who contacted me on Facebook. A very cultured young man, we fell into earnest conversation about tourism over beer and cake - the legendary Medjimurksa gibanica, which sometimes is unfortunately translated as Middle Earth Moving Cake. Whatever the translation, it was delicious. 


Not gonna lie, I thought Mamas and Tapas was top, even more so when the owner came over to say hello. He insisted I try this dish on the house - fortune cookies stuffed with pork. 

As all fortune cookies should be. Croatia, why would you live anywhere else?


And rather a nice beer selection, if that is your thing. 


Enough beer had been consumed to take in the random facts of Cakovec. Did I know, for example, that the first Chinese restaurant in Croatia opened in Cakovec, and that David Bowie popped in for a bit to eat after a concert in Budapest en route to his next gig in Zagreb? There is a corner of a foreign field that is forever England...  


Breakfast in Upper Medjimurje looks like this, and if you have a hostess such as Tatjana Hazic, you know you are in trouble. One of the few female winemakers in Croatia, she is also one of the toughest, having completed an Ironman as well as running a rather excellent winery. 

 But how to make such a super overachiever nervous? Simple. Be the first person to ever try her first ever Pusipel, the pride of Medjimurje grape varieties. So special is it that it has its own individual bottle and wine glass. So how was it? See above. 


I loved everything about the Hazic winery - what a cool use of corks! 


And the first wine camp in Croatia! Bring your caravan and start drinking. Each pitch is named after a grape variety.  Please reserve Sauvignon for me - the Hazic Sauvignon is a Decanter medal winner and is awesome.  A small family winery, Tatjana sells all her wine locally. Why look for national distributors when you can open a wine camp and the drinkers come to you? Awesome lady.  


The vines dominate Upper Medjimurje, truly spectacular. 


And where better to take in the view of the whole of Medjimurje, as well as Slovenia and Hungary, than from the top of Madjerka Breg, fabulous out of season, and a cool rural party destination in season.  


If you were surprised that people were gold panning in Medjimurje, how about this for a claim to fame? While the first commercial oil drilling in the United States took place in Drake in 1859, meanwhile in Medjimurje in 1856... 

 I won't pretend it was an easy place to find, but there you are, another slice of Croatian history which is relatively undocumented. 


My two days over and a little food hamper with love from Medjimurje for the way back to Zagreb. 

Overall impressions? This is what I posted on Facebook:

Not gonna lie, my expectations of a trip to Medjimurje in Feb for business were not huge. But what a fab little gem it is. I always prefer to see destinations out of season to see how much substance there is. So grateful to the many locals who reached out, showed me around, and made the 48 hours so magical.

First impressions. This is a land of oil exploration and gold panning, but the real natural treasures it possesses are its nature, traditions and fine food and wine. It feels like a contented independent and self-sufficient country, where hard work and gemist power the daily grind. A land where the small family businesses spanning generations provide the economic wealth and unique stories. I loved it and wil be back soon. If only they could work on making their Croatian more intelligible. And now with Schengen, Slovenia Hungary and Austria on the borderless doorstep. And just over an hour from Zagreb. Why aren't you here?


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Thursday, 30 June 2022

Continental Croatian Tourism Blossoming This Tourist Season

June the 29th, 2022 - Continental Croatian tourism is blossoming this tourist season much like the rest of the country's tourism is, with returns to pre-pandemic levels being recorded across the board by this previously deeply hindered sector.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, continental Croatian tourism is waking up, and up in the north of Croatia, more precisely in gorgeous Medjimurje, things are almost at the level of the record year of 2019. Ivica Grudicek from HRT checked out the popular Terme Sveti Martin to see how they survived the global coronavirus pandemic, and also to see how they're managing to deal with the current problems - rising energy prices as a result of inflation and an ongoing lack of labour.

Nusa Korotaj, the general manager of Terme Sveti Martin, said that Terme Sveti Martin were a valuable asset back during the pandemic, and that now things are slowly returning to how they once were before that. As she explained, they have returned to the figures from back in 2019, and maybe the revenues will be even higher this year.

"We have to take into consideration that inflation is indeed high, so the cost side of things isn't even close to the period from back in 2019, it is a challenge for us and for all directors in the hotel industry," she emphasised, adding that before the global coronavirus pandemic, Croatian guests visiting Sveti Martin were the most numerous of all, with 60 percent of overnight stays being recorded by them, and all other overnight stays were guests from neighbouring countries. During the coronavirus pandemic and immediately afterwards, guests were mostly locals, but, as she now says, foreigners have started to return.

"We have a lot of guests from Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland," said Korotaj, which is a clear indication of continental Croatian tourism making a comeback.

The rise in energy prices is having a strong impact on business, and as Korotaj noted, this is currently the proverbial cancer wound of all of the country's hoteliers and managers, especially those with thermal capacities to boast of, because they are highly dependent on energy.

"As far as the workforce is concerned, our colleagues down on the coast are having some big problems, but the situation here at Sveti Martin it is different. The vast majority of employees are local people and they have been workinb here for many years. We also have several Indians and hard-working Ukrainian women employed here,'' she said, adding that they are ready and equipped to welcome the summer season.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Concern as Medjimurje Bees Dying in Huge Numbers, What's Happening?

April the 19th, 2022 - Medjimurje bees, as well as those living in Podravina and Slavonski Gorje, have been dying en masse and causing great concern as to the reason why.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, millions of dead Medjimurje bees, as well as bees from Podravina and Slavonski Gorje, are a massive cause for worry. For some reason, ten entire bee hives are full of dead inhabitants in the apiary near Prelog alone, where 700,000 bees flew away, presumed dead.

Bees dying in their millions across the Republic of Croatia are making many suspicious, as some farmers are either behind the times and treat their future crops with insecticide without realising the damage they're causing, or simply don't care that they're harming bees at all. Insecticides kill bees in great numbers and there are some farmers who have evidently been living under rocks and who are unaware that if there are no bees, there are no crops to be sold or a living to be made either.

''Bees don't die at home, they go away to die. A bee won't die at home if it can go somewhere else,'' one worried Croatian beekeeper told Dnevnik Nova TV.

Two years ago, 57 million bees were killed, and the culprit was never identified. Although an investigation by the State Inspectorate is currently underway, the exact cause of this is unknown. Nobody knows what went on exactly, and they won't until the situation is properly determined,'' said Nervin Grabant, a concerned beekeeper from Prelog.

"We've seen great damage from the death of Medjimurje bees, which still remained on the agricultural land," said Zdenko Radikovic from Sveti Kriz. “Some farmers are spraying the fields in broad daylight. They should be sprayed two weeks before flowering, but they're late and they just spray them when part of the rapeseed starts to bloom, which is when the bees are present and doing their jobs,'' he added.

Beekeepers have avoided public appearances in order not to lose any customers, but now, with the deaths of millions of Medjimurje bees, they unfortunately have nothing to lose now, as even having honey to sell in the first place is being called into question.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

HEP's Medjimurje Solar Power Plant to Become Croatia's Largest

February the 2nd, 2022 - The up and coming Medjimurje solar power plant is set to become the largest in all of the Republic of Croatia as HEP continues its investment cycle.

As Novac/Jutarnji writes, back in December 2021, the Kosora Jug solar power plant with a connection capacity of 2.1 MW began regular operation. This is the realisation of the first phase of the planned construction in the southern part of the Kosora Work Zone in the area of Vrlika. Almost 5,500 photovoltaic modules have been installed in the 2.6-hectare power plant, and the expected annual production of about 2.9 million kWh will be enough to meet the consumption of approximately one thousand households. HEP has invested around 11 million kuna in this power plant.

At the other end of Croatia, the construction of the largest solar power plant is starting. In January this year, HEP Proizvodnja and Koncar - Energy and Transport Engineering signed a contract for the design and construction of the Donja Dubrava Solar Power Plant, commonly referred to as the Medjimurje solar power plant. SE Donja Dubrava will be located on an area spanning around 17.6 hectares in the Municipality of Sveta Marija in Medjimurje County, next to the Dubrava Hydroelectric Power Plant.

The new Medjimurje solar power plant will have a maximum output power of 9.99 MW, or 12.35 MW of installed power, with the expected annual production of SE Donja Dubrava standing at around 14.8 GWh. Its production will avoid emissions of 167 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide during 30 years of operation.

The specificity of the location where the new Medjimurje solar power plant will be constructed is the fact that there is an existence of a significant amount of wood mass, with an approximate volume of 1,400 cubic metres. This wood mass will be converted into wood that will be used as fuel at the location of the BE-TO Sisak biomass cogeneration plant. The total value of the signed contract is almost 58 million kuna, and the deadline is eleven months.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Medjimurje County Enterprises Earn 864.2 Million Kuna in 2020

October the 15th, 2021 - Medjimurje County enterprises earned a fantastic net profit in 2020, despite the utterly dire economic circumstances which engulfed the entire world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Medjimurje County enterprises did excellently during the very challenging year of 2020, making a net profit of 864.2 million kuna, which is an increase of 25.8 percent when compared to pre-pandemic 2019, according to an analysis made by Fina.

In pandemic-dominated 2020, Medjimurje County had of 3,547 enterprises registered there, with 28,768 employees, which is an increase of 467 or 1.7 percent when compared to the previous year. Last year, Medjimurje County enterprises generated total revenues in the amount of 16.2 billion kuna, which is an increase of 0.6 percent when compared to 2019, and their total expenditures fell by 0.5 percent, down to 15.2 billion kuna.

The profit for the period of 1 billion kuna represented a significant increase of 19.7 percent compared to the previous year, while their loss for the same period fell by 5 percent, to 161.7 million kuna. As such, the consolidated financial result is a net profit of 864.2 million kuna in total for Medjimurje County enterprises.

Gross investments in new fixed assets alone increased by 8.3 percent and amounted to 481.5 million kuna, Back in 2020, the exports generated by companies headquartered in Medjimurje County increased by 23 percent, up to 2.6 billion kuna, and the trade surplus amounted to 1.3 billion kuna, marking a more than considerable increase of 66.1 percent.

The average monthly net salary of those working for Medjimurje County enterprises last year amounted to 5,264 kuna, which is 3.3 percent more in terms of take home pay than back in 2019 and 11.8 percent less than the average at the level of employees of such enterprises in the Republic of Croatia, which stood at 5,971 kuna in 2020. The leader in terms of revenue of all companies with their seats registered in this continental Croatian county is Mesna industrija Vajda with 568.5 million kuna.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Forestland Brightens Up Summer with Return of Electronic Music to Međimurje

July 13, 2021- 512 days have passed between the two Forestland festivals. This year’s IX edition makes Forestland one of the first events without restrictions, without borders, and completely open for all visitors. 

From 23 to 25 July, 45 artists, most of whom come from neighboring Slovenia, will perform on two stages across the 48 hours of the festival. Slovenian techno star UMEK, cult trap diva and hip hop singer-songwriter Senidah, Dutchman Mark Sixma, and Croatian stars Matroda, E-Base, Vedran Car, and Croatian-German duo Corti organ are among some of the many DJs performing. 

No limits, of course, means that all visitors will need to present a certificate that they have recovered from COVID, a negative test, or at least one dose of vaccine received, but this is a small price to pay for spending time in the woods. For all those interested, testing points will be organized at the entrance for 20 kuna.


"After the shocking 2020, nothing can surprise us anymore. In the organization of the Forestland Festival IX, we embarked with full hearts, encouraged by the opportunities to work, but also by the desire of many partners to continue, work, and sacrifice to continue this tradition of summer parties, music, and festivals," said Krešo Biškup on behalf of the festival.

"45 artists, 48 ​​hours, two stages, and over a hundred people in the organization and course of events mean only one thing - that Forestland will ignite the stage in 2021."

Along with the queen of trap Senidah, a musician whose performance will surely be remembered in Međimurje is Matroda, who returns to the stage after 5 years. The Zagreb DJ has had an enviable career abroad and was named the 25th best producer globally. Well-known to the Forest audience is also Mark Sixma, a Dutch big room/trance DJ who is returning to Croatia for the third time, this time on the main stage. Finally, Umek, the king of techno, will take over the Forestroom stage on Friday and show us why he has been one of the best tech DJs in the world for almost three decades.


"I am happy that we are finally returning to Međimurje. The Forestland Festival is a music story of which I have been a part for 8 years, and I want to invite you all to come to the forest and party with us," said Timo G, a Forestland resident from Slovenia. "We all can't wait to dance, play music and finally hug you all. So come to the Forest!"

Tickets can be bought at Entrio, while a limited portion will also be available at the entrance to the festival!

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Finoteka.com Aims to Become Central Point of Domestic Food Market

ZAGREB, 29 March, 2021 - The HR-Koncept company from Nedelišće, a town in the northern Međimurje County, on Monday presented its domestic food producer search engine which it wants to make the central point of the domestic food market in Croatia and neighbouring countries through a social entrepreneurship project.

The project is worth HRK 1.74 million, of which 85% is money from the European Social Fund, while the national share of the funding is provided by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the local action group (LAG) Vallis Colapis from Karlovac.

"This is a big step towards making the Finoteka.com search engine a system that is managed by the producers and buyers of domestic food," HR-Koncept director Hrvoje Kolman said.

Finoteka.com has become a social enterprise with the aim of reinvesting at least 75% of corporate profit in advertising domestic products and in the education and training of Croatian farmers.

Finoteka.com, which operates the food delivery website FinotekaDostava.com, has been active since 2008 and today around 3,000 producers sell their products, mostly fruit and vegetables, in Croatia as well as in Slovenia and Austria using this search engine.

Kolman said that the coronavirus pandemic had increased the online sale of farm produce, specifically by 50% for his company.

HR-Koncept plans, by implementing the project, to create conditions for domestic food producers to become co-owners of the central food market place in Croatia and to manage on their own the system for the sale of their products, offering only the select, best domestic products, and deliver them directly to end-users.

Kolman said that products were not stored but were delivered directly "from farm to table within 24 hours", with no need for intermediaries.

The project, to be implemented in three rural communities (Žumberak, Ribnik and Sveti Martin), will involve 120 people who have been unemployed for a long time.

This will help residents of rural communities use the untapped capacity for self-employment by joining in the activities of the new social enterprise, with the support of subsidies from the Rural Development Programme and the Operational programme for fisheries and sea, said Vallis Colllapis head Milan Medić.

Apart from helping producers, the Finoteka.com project will also help small and big retailers, buyers, restaurants, fruit shops and end-users find local food producers quickly.

For more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Medjimurje Second in Europe in Terms of Seven-Day Coronavirus Incidence

ZAGREB, November 22, 2020 - Medjimurje has 129 new coronavirus infections and one new related fatality and according to the World Health Organisation, since Saturday that northern Croatian county has had the second highest seven-day incidence in Europe, right after Varazdin County, local authorities have said.

The WHO has reported that Varazdin County, with 1,541 cases of the infection, has a seven-day incidence rate of 925 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while Medjimurje, with 944 cases, has a seven-day incidence of 862 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, which makes it the European region with the second-highest coronavirus incidence.

It is followed by the Slovenian region of Koruska, with 817 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days.

Friday, 6 November 2020

First in Croatia: Medjimurje is Named 2022 European Region of Sport

November 6, 2020 - Medjimurje has been named the 2022 European Region of Sport and is the first in Croatia to wear the prestigious title. 

Sportklub.hr reports that Medjimurje County is the first in Croatia to hold the title of European Region of Sport for 2022, said County Prefect Matija Posavec at a press conference on Friday.

Posavec pointed out that this is a big and important moment for Medjimurje, a region of 730 square kilometers in which more than 400 associations and more than 15,000 registered athletes operate.

“We are pleased to have been given the opportunity to present our county as a region that lives for sport, as a region that values the successes of its athletes,” the prefect said. He expressed gratitude and respect to all volunteers, athletes, and sports associations for their work and dedication, with the message that without them, they would not have won the title.

The prefect of Medjimurje also pointed out that Medjimurje has 6000 registered football players and more than 70 active football clubs. With all the refereeing and coaching organizations, he said, there is one football player for every 18th inhabitant of Medjimurje.

"Rarely anywhere in the world, and not only in Europe but also in football countries, do we have such data," Posavec pointed out.

Speaking about infrastructure, he reminded us that all municipalities and cities are committed and invest a lot in sports and sports infrastructure, which brings with it results.

The president of the Sports Associations and Federations of Medjimurje County, Mato Kljajić, said that sports in the county received great recognition.

"We managed to show and present to people in Europe that Medjimurje is a sports destination and that it lives for sports," Kljajić pointed out, adding that they are proud of that and are trying to keep it that way. He said the recognition was not the result of work “from yesterday and today,” but the work of all athletes and associations for decades. He added that almost one-third of the people of Medjimurje play some kind of sport.

A year has passed from the idea to its realization, added the vice president of the Association Mario Vukoja, and reminded that they applied thanks to the support of the County of Medjimurje, which recognized the idea as quality. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 19 October 2020

President Says People are Medjimurje's Resource

ZAGREB, October 19, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic on Monday visited the Knowledge Centre and the Centrometal company in Medjimurje County, saying his impressions were excellent and that Medjimurje "has no special resources other than people."

Asked by the press what he would highlight, he said "work, organisation and resources... there are no special resources (here) other than people."

"This should be a model to everyone in Croatia," he added.

Centrometal is one of the leading manufacturers in Medjimurje, primarily manufacutring central heating boilers and solar systems, and it is mainly focused on renewables.

Its director Davor Zidaric said the company managed to weather this year's crisis without asking for assistance despite a three-week closure during the spring lockdown. The company was established in 1965 and employs 245 workers.

He said the company exported 70% of its products, not just to Europe, and that last year's revenue was HRK 270 million, "an increase of some 10%."

In Cakovec, President Milanovic also visited the Knowledge Centre and the first mechanical engineering research institution in northwestern Croatia, the Development and Educational Centre
for the Metal Industry - Metal Centre.

After visiting the Knowledge Centre, housed in a former barracks, he said these facilities were built for an empire more than a century ago, after which they were taken over by the former Yugoslavia and then Croatia which, he added, did not need them so they were given to local government.

"This is just one small example of how to approach ideas responsibly, diligently and constructively," he said, adding that good organisation in order to obtain European money was also necessary.

"This Knowledge Centre has a dozen institutions in which more than HRK 95 million has been invested in the last decade, mostly absorbed from European funds," county prefect Matija Posavec said, adding that more than 1,500 people work or study there.

"We have two research centres, the Medjimurje College, three Technology and Innovation Centre buildings, a student dormitory, development agencies and institutions, and software used by Porsche is also maunfactured here," he said.

(€1 = HRK 7.57)

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