Sunday, 31 October 2021

Best Croatian Nature and National Parks For Autumn 2021

October 31, 2021 – With treetops turning orange, red, yellow, purple and brown, the Croatian landscape is at its most colourful right now. These are the best Nature and National Parks for Autumn 2021

Krka National Park

Krka_National_Park2.jpg© Krka National Park

Famous for waterfalls that crash down only a few kilometres from the beaches of Šibenik, there are in fact a series of 7 waterfalls in the park. Several are far from the shoreline. You'll find some deep in the hinterland of Šibenik-Knin County because Krka National Park extends over 100 square kilometres. The river valley and its surroundings are crossed by numerous cycling paths and hiking trails. Now is one of the best times to explore them.

Krka_National_Park.jpg© Krka National Park

If you want to read more about Krka National Park, then look here

Where to stay: The city of Šibenik is truly a year-round destination, with famous fortresses, restaurants, first-class accommodation and brilliant options for active recreation.

Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje Nature Park

Samobor_by_silvijabutkovic.photographer.jpg© Silvija Butković

Covering a vast 342 square kilometres, Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje Nature Park is an epic and varied landscape. Best explored on long hikes, you'll discover rolling hills, mountain meadows, water mills sitting by streams, historic churches and chapels and charming rural communities.

Samoborsko_Zumberak.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Where to stay: If you want the contrast of a big city stay, then Zagreb is just 30 minutes to the east. But, if you prefer perfect seclusion within similar rural splendour, why not try one of these amazing Zagreb County holiday homes.

Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve

Veliki_Pazut.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Although not classed as a national or nature park, this special zoological reserve really comes into its own during autumn. Within this season, the migration of birds has a great effect on the population of places like Veliki Pažut. From further north, residents who will spend all winter here are arriving to settle in. They are joined by temporary visitors who are just stopping off on their way further south. The thinner foliage in the autumn trees also makes it easier to spot deer who roam the forests on all sides of Veliki Pažut.

Goran_ŠafarekD__6321_DxO-1.jpg© Goran Šafarek

If you want to read more about Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve, then look here

Where to stay: Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve is located at the confluence of the rivers Mur and Drava in Legrad, Koprivnica-Križevci County. You could easily visit on a day trip from Zagreb. If you want to stay for the weekend, for an urban stay with lots of cultural options, try the stylish Apartmani Marbis (here) in Koprivnica, here. Or, if you want a secluded rural stay or you're on a weekend of wildlife photography and wish to remain very close to Veliki Pažut reserve, try Guest House Zajec in nearby Kuzminec (here).

251333204_10159958327839108_4607408917831515375_n.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Medvednica Nature Park

Park_prirode_Medvednica.jpg© Medvednica Nature Park

Sitting on the border of Zagreb, to its south and Zagorje, to its north, Medvednica is a protected area of mountains that is largely covered with thick forest. This makes for a wonderful natural habitat for birds and butterflies and others, which you can see while you walk, run or cycle through the park. The higher up the slopes you climb, the more rewarding the views. And, new to autumn 2021, the Medvedgrad Visitors Centre has just opened. It's a great time to go check it out.

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Where to stay: Medvednica Nature Park is on the doorstep of the Croatian capital, Zagreb, with some of the best city accommodation options in Southeast Europe.

Kopački rit Nature Park

Kopacki.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Kopački rit Nature Park © Mario Romulić

Truth be told, Kopački rit Nature Park is not at its best in summer. It's not just about the millions of warm weather mosquitoes. The waters of this marshland are at their lowest during summer and the wildlife population retracts. By autumn, rain has helped refill the Danube and Drava rivers, both of which feed Kopački rit.

Kopacki2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Kopački rit Nature Park © Mario Romulić

The deer have just finished their rut and can be seen freely making their way through the forests. And, the bird population is spreading further throughout the park in response to the rising waters. Without question, boat trips on Kopački rit are best taken when water levels are at their peak.

If you want to read more about Kopački rit Nature Park, then look here

Where to stay: Kopački rit Nature Park is on the doorstep of Slavonian capital Osijek, which has many great accommodation options. Try Guesthouse Maksimilian (here) in the heart of the old city fort, Tvrđa.

Northern Velebit National Park (Sjeverni Velebit National Park)

Nacionalni_park_Sjeverni_Velebit2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Northern Velebit National Park

The whole Velebit region is a protected Nature Park. And, within it lie two National Parks. As its name suggests, Northern Velebit National Park is the most northerly. The park is exploding in colours rights now as the forests and fields turn from green to brown, purple, yellow, orange and red.

Nacionalni_park_Sjeverni_Velebit.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Northern Velebit National Park

What's even more spectacular is the contrast between these colours and the unique geological anomalies that are protected within the park - Hajdučki kukovi and Rožanski kukovi. Mystifying and beautiful, these rock formations cover an area of around 22 square kilometres and contain no less than 40 summits that lie over 1600 metres. Between them, you’ll see Skrbina Draga and the Veliki Lubenovac field. Hiking in autumn and spring is hands down the best way to explore the extraordinary Northern Velebit National Park.

If you want to read more about Northern Velebit National Park, then look here

Where to stay: The Kvarner town of Crikvenica is a great place to base yourself for exploring the Nature and National Parks of northwest Croatia. Učka Nature Park, Risnjak National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Northern Velebit National Park are all within 60 to 90 minutes drive of the town. Jadran Hotels and Camps have several year-round hotel options in Crikvenica.

Paklenica National Park

PaklenicabyIvan_Coric_Photography2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Paklenica National Park © Ivan Čorić Photography

Paklenica National Park is the second National Park within Velebit Nature Park. Like its northerly cousin, Paklenica is a joy to explore on long hikes. But, these mountains have a wholly different landscape. Paklenica is dominated by two distinct and dramatic canyons - Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica. Following either, away from the coast and further into the park, will lead you to black pine forest and spectacular karst rock formations. Paklenica is also famous as a climbing location. Recreational and expert climbers from all over the world come here to tackle the rocks between spring and autumn.

PaklenicabyIvan_Coric_Photography.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Paklenica National Park © Ivan Čorić Photography

If you want to read more about Paklenica National Park, then look here

Where to stay: If you're looking for a city stay with many cultural, activity, event and restaurant options, the vibrant university town of Zadar lies on the shore just an hour from Paklenica National Park. But, if you're visiting solely to explore this wonderful National Park and want to stay close by, the much smaller seaside town of Starigrad is where you'll find the main entrance to the park.

Lonjsko polje Nature Park

Lonjsko_polje.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Covering a massive 505 square kilometres, Lonjsko polje is the largest protected wetland in Croatia and the Danube basin. It is also the third-largest Nature Park in Croatia, its floodplain fields and forests are habitats for more than two-thirds of all birds in Croatia.

247218663_4254117711377441_2820130146317535557_n.jpg© Lonjsko polje Nature Park

Like Kopački rit, Lonjsko polje is best enjoyed outside of peak summer and the 'mosquito months'. Bicycle and walking trails along with its flat landscape make this an incredibly accessible park to all. The park s also famous for its accommodation and food offer, the latter featuring river fish and wild meats like boar and deer which are traditionally common in autumn.

If you want to read more about Lonjsko polje Nature Park, then look here

Where to stay: Lonjsko polje is around 90 minutes drive from Zagreb and an easy day trip from the capital. But, if you want a more rural escape, as mentioned, the park is known for its accommodation offer. You can see more of it here.

Biokovo Nature Park

biokovo2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Biokovo Nature Park © Marc Rowlands

Offering some of the very best views in Dalmatia, Biokovo Nature Park is arguably at its best in autumn. Why? Well, the powerful Bura and Jugo winds are more common at this time of year. Visiting Biokovo the day after they've visited is incredibly rewarding. The winds clear the air and, as a result, the visibility is truly incredible. You can pick out tiny detail in the islands.

biokovo.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Biokovo Nature Park © Marc Rowlands

Turning away from the sea and islands, Biokovo has an incredible mountainous landscape of its own that is no less thrilling to the eye. You'll discover it best on long hikes. Autumn and spring are the very best times to hike on Biokovo.

If you want to learn more about Biokovo's hiking routes, then look here. And if you want to read more about Biokovo Nature Park in general, then look here.

Where to stay: Having experienced an explosion over recent years in the number of holiday homes available, the nearby city of Imotski is well equipped to welcome visitors. And, unlike some of the coastal options near Biokovo, the visitor offer in Imotski is not negatively impacted by the change in the seasons. Theirs is a year-round offer. Furthermore, the city's 11 lakes are due to join Biokovo within a new UNESCO Geopark from 2022. If you want to read more about Imotski, then look here.

Plitvice Lakes, most famous of the National Parks For Autumn 2021

Nacionalni_park_Plitvička_jezera_Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Plitvice Lakes National Park

The most famous of all Croatian National Parks is a treat in any season of the year. Plitvice's waters are full and more vibrant than ever at this time of year. And, the surrounding nature draws from an incredibly varied colour palette. Perhaps best of all, you have so much more of the park to yourself when you visit outside the warmest months.

Nacionalni_park_Plitvička_jezera_Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Plitvice Lakes National Park

If you want to read more about Plitvice Lakes National Park, then look here

Where to stay: There are many different kinds of rural accommodation options in the vicinity of Plitvice Lakes National Park. But, if you want to combine your stay with a city break, there's nowhere better than Karlovac. The city on four rivers has its own incredible nature to explore, plus amazing culture, heritage and excellent food options. Actually, the city is famous throughout Croatia for its recipes with autumnal chestnuts. And, it's only an hour by car to Plitvice Lakes. If you want to learn more about Karlovac, then look here.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to sincerely thank Ivan Čorić, Silvija Butković, Mario Romulić and Goran Šafarek for the kind permission to use their photography here.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Učka Nature Park Officially Opens Tourist Center

May 26, 2021 - As part of the EU co-financed project "Učka 360°", the Visitor Center, the new main destination for all future visitors to the Učka Nature Park officially opens. It is a capital project worth almost 26 million kunas, whose primary purpose is to raise visitors' awareness of the importance of nature and the need for its active protection.

HRTurizam reports, the center was built with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of an old, devastated, and abandoned farm building in the center of the Park and is located at 930 meters above sea level, making it unique on a local and global scale.

The primary purpose of the Poklon Center for Visitors is educational and interpretive, through raising visitors' awareness of the importance of nature and the need for its active protection, so the facility itself is designed to serve as a multipurpose. Thus, on about 1,200 m2 of space, interpretive, educational, tourist and office facilities found their place, namely: souvenir shop, reception hall, conference hall, space for occasional exhibitions, office space for the work of the Public Institution, cafe-bar, and economic facilities and garages. There is also a large classroom divided into four units that symbolize the four seasons, which is intended to conduct educational programs with the youngest visitors.

The centerpiece is certainly the permanent museum exhibition on the ground floor, which, in a modern and interactive way, teaches visitors about the natural and cultural values ​​of the Nature Park and the surrounding area and the need for its protection and preservation.

"During the design and construction of the center, the most modern technological solutions in terms of energy efficiency were applied. In addition to renovating the existing dilapidated building, we were guided by sustainable development and business guidelines through natural materials such as stone, glass, and wood. Museum content is even more complex and innovative. In the museum, we currently have a unique exhibition, Mountain, a kinetic table of the Učka model composed of about 30,000 pins that simultaneously make projections of different views, spatial and temporal changes on Učka, and our visitors can fly with bats, get to know the plant and animal species living in the Park or enjoy the 360 ​​views from the top of Vojak", said Egon Vasilić, director of the Public Institution Nature Park Učka.

The Visitor Center opening in the Učka Nature Park, which covers ​​Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, is also important for reducing seasonality, i.e., extending the tourist season in this important tourist area. Thus, in the future, the Center will be the starting point for further research of the nature of the Učka region, which many nature lovers will enjoy.

"With the opening of this facility, the Učka Nature Park moves to a completely new, year-round level of work and activities, especially in the field of interpretation, education, and organization of the system of visiting informed and educated visitors," concluded Vasilić.

The Center opens its doors to all nature lovers today (Wednesday, May 26, 2021), the working hours of the center will be every day from 9 am to 5 pm, and the ticket price is 50 kuna. 

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

Friday, 19 February 2021

People also ask Google: What is Croatia Famous For?

February 19, 2021 – What is Croatia Famous For?

People outside of the country really want to know more about Croatia. They search for answers online.

Here, we'll try to answer the popular search terms “What is Croatia famous for?” and “What is Croatia known for?”

Most of the people looking for answers to these questions have never been to Croatia. They may have been prompted to ask because they're planning to visit Croatia, they want to come to Croatia, or because they heard about Croatia on the news or from a friend.

What Croatia is known for depends on your perspective. People who live in the country sometimes have a very different view of what Croatia is famous for than the rest of the world. And, after visiting Croatia, people very often leave with a very different opinion of what Croatia is known for than before they came. That's because Croatia is a wonderful country, full of surprises and secrets to discover. And, it's because internet searches don't reveal everything. Luckily, you have Total Croatia News to do that for you.

What is Croatia known for?

1) Holidays


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Croatia is best known globally as a tourist destination. Catching sight of pictures of the country online is enough to make almost anyone want to come. If you've heard about it from a friend, seen the country used in a TV show like Game of Thrones or Succession, or watched a travel show, your mind will be made up. Following such prompts, it's common for Croatia to move to first place on your bucket list. If it's not already, it should be, There are lots of reasons why Croatia is best known for holidays (vacations).

a) Islands


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What is Croatia famous for? Islands © Mljet National Park

Within Croatia's tourist offer, its most famous aspect is its islands. Croatia has over a thousand islands - 1246 when you include islets. 48 Croatian islands are inhabited year-round, but many more come to life over the warmer months. Sailing in Croatia is one of the best ways to see the islands, and if you're looking for a place for sailing in the Mediterranean, Croatia is the best choice because of its wealth of islands. These days, existing images of Croatia's islands have been joined by a lot more aerial photography and, when people see these, they instantly fall in love.

b) Beaches


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What is Croatia famous for? Its holidays are famous for their beaches © Szabolcs Emich

Croatia has 5835 kilometres of coastline on the Adriatic Sea - 1,777.3 kilometres of coast on the mainland, and a further 4,058 kilometres of coast around its islands and islets. The Croatian coast is the most indented of the entire Mediterranean. This repeated advance and retreat into the Adriatic forms a landscape littered with exciting, spectacular peninsulas, quiet, hidden bays, and some of the best beaches in the world. There are so many beaches in Croatia, you can find a spot to suit everyone. On the island of Pag and in the Zadar region, you'll find beaches full of young people where the party never stops. Elsewhere, romantic and elegant seafood restaurants hug the shoreline. Beach bars can range from ultra-luxurious to basic and cheap. The beaches themselves can be popular and full of people, facilities, excitement and water sports, or they can be remote, idyllic, and near-deserted, accessible only by boat. Sand, pebble, and stone all line the perfectly crystal-clear seas which are the common feature shared by all.

c) Dubrovnik


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What is Croatia famous for? Dubrovnik © Ivan Ivanković

As a backdrop to Game Of Thrones and movies from franchises like Star Wars and James Bond, Dubrovnik is known all over the world. Everybody wants to see it in person, and that's why it's an essential stop-off for so many huge cruise ships in warmer months. But, Dubrovnik's fame did not begin with the invention of film and television. The city was an autonomous city-state for long periods of time in history, and Dubrovnik was known all over Europe – the famous walls which surround the city of Dubrovnik are a testament to a desire to maintain its independent standing for centuries while living in the shadow of expanding, ambitious empires.

d) Heritage


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What is Croatia famous for? Heritage. Pula amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world

The walled city of Dubrovnik is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Croatia's rich architectural and ancient heritage. Diocletian's Palace in Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still the living, breathing centre of life in the city (that people still live within it and it is not preserved in aspic is one of its most charming features and no small reason for its excellent preservation).

Having existed on the line of European defence against the Ottoman empire, Croatia also has many incredible fortresses and castles. The fortresses of Sibenik are well worth seeing if you're visiting Sibenik-Knin County and its excellent coast. A small number of Croatia's best castles exist on the coast, Rijeka's Trsat and Nova Kraljevica Castle is nearby Bakar being two of them. Most of Croatia's best and prettiest castles are actually located in its continental regions which, compared to the coast, remain largely undiscovered by most international tourists.

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Many spectacular castles in the country's continental regions are, for these parts, what is Croatia famous for

Pula amphitheatre (sometimes referred to as Pula Arena) is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. A spectacular sight year-round, like Diocletian's Palace, it remains a living part of the city's life, famously hosting an international film festival, concerts by orchestras, opera stars, and famous rock and pop musicians. Over recent years, it has also played a part in the city's music festivals.

e) Music Festivals


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What is Croatia famous for? Music festivals © Khris Cowley

There is a very good reason why the city of Pula leapt massively up the list of most-researched online Croatian destinations over the last decade. It played host to two of the country's most famous international music festivals. Though the music at some of these can be quite niche, the global attention they have brought to the country is simply massive. Clever modern branding and marketing by the experienced international operators who host their festivals in Croatia mean that millions of young people all over the world have seen videos, photos and reviews of Croatia music festivals, each of them set within a spectacular backdrop of seaside Croatia.

f) Plitvice Lakes and natural heritage


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What is Croatia Famous For? Plitvice Lakes, national parks and natural heritage

Known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes and gushing waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes is the oldest, biggest and most famous National Park in Croatia. Everybody wants to see it. And many do. But that's not the be-all and end-all of Croatia's stunning natural beauty. Within the country's diverse topography, you'll find 7 further National Parks and 12 Nature Parks which can be mountain terrain, an archipelago of islands, or vibrant wetlands.

2) Football


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What is Croatia famous for? Football. Seen here, Luka Modric at the 2018 World Cup © Светлана Бекетова

The glittering international careers of Croatian footballers Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, Mario Mandžukić, and others have in recent years advertised Croatia as a factory of top-flight footballing talent. They helped put Croatia football on the map with fans of European football. Football fans in Croatia have a very different perception of just how famous Croatian football is to everyone else in the world. If you talk to a Croatian fan about football, it's almost guaranteed that they will remind you of a time (perhaps before either of you were born) when their local or national team beat your local or national team in football. 99% of people will have no idea what they are talking about. The past occasions which prompt this parochial pride pale into insignificance against the Croatian National Football Team's achievement in reaching the World Cup Final of 2018. This monumental occasion brought the eyes of the world on Croatia, extending way beyond the vision of regular football fans. Subsequently, the internet exploded with people asking “Where is Croatia?”

Sports in general are what is Croatia known for

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Croatians are enthusiastic about sports and engage in a wide number of them. The difference in perception between how Croats view the fame this gets them and the reality within the rest of the world is simply huge. Rowing, basketball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, tennis, handball, boxing, waterpolo, ice hockey, skiing and volleyball are just some of the sports in which Croatia has enthusiastically supported individuals and local and national teams. Some of these are regarded as minority sports even in other countries that also pursue them. Croatians don't understand this part. If you say to a Croatian “What is handball? I never heard of that,” they will look at you like you are crazy or of below-average intelligence.

3) Zagreb


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What is Croatia famous for? Its capital city Zagreb is becoming increasingly better known

Over relatively recent years, the Croatian capital has skyrocketed in terms of fame and visitor numbers. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world now come to visit Zagreb each year. Its massive new success can be partly attributed to the rising popularity of international tourism in some areas of Asia (and Zagreb being used as a setting for some television programmes made in some Asian countries) and the massive success of Zagreb's Advent which, after consecutively attaining the title of Best European Christmas Market three times in a row, has become famous throughout the continent and further still. Zagreb's fame is not however restricted to tourism. Zagreb is known for its incredible Austro-Hungarian architecture, its Upper Town (Gornji Grad) and the buildings there, an array of museums and city centre parks and as home to world-famous education and scientific institutions, like to Ruder Boskovic Institute and the Faculty of Economics, University of Zagreb.

4) Olive oil


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What is Croatia famous for? Olive oil

Croatian olive oil is the best in the world. Don't just take out word for it! Even the experts say so. In 2020, leading guide Flos Olei voted Istria in northwest Croatia as the world's best olive oil growing region for a sixth consecutive year. Olive oil production is an ancient endeavour in Croatia, and over hundreds of years, the trees have matured, and the growers learned everything there is to know. Olive oil is made throughout a much wider area of Croatia than just Istria, and local differences in climate, variety, and soil all impact the flavour of the oils produced. Croatian has no less than five different olive oils protected at a European level under the designation of their place of origin. These and many other Croatian olive oils are distinct and are among the best you're ever likely to try.

5) There was a war here


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What is Croatia famous for? A relatively recent war left its mark on the country © Modzzak

Under rights granted to the republics of the former Yugoslavia and with a strong mandate from the Croatian people, gained across two national referendums, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic country, with each republic containing a mixture of different ethnicities and indeed many families which themselves were the product of mixed ethnicities. Ethnic tensions and the rise of strong nationalist political voices in each of the former republics and within certain regions of these countries lead to a situation where war became inevitable. The worst of the fighting was suffered within Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina and the part of southern Serbia which is now Kosovo. The Croatian War of Independence (known locally as the Homeland War) lasted from 1991 – 1995. The Yugoslav wars of which it was a major part is regarded as the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II. In many cases, this war pitted neighbouring houses or neighbouring villages against each other and sometimes members of the same family could be found on opposing sides. The war left huge damage on the country and its infrastructure, some of which is still visible. Worse still, it had a much greater physical and psychological impact on the population. Some people in Croatia today would rather not talk about the war and would prefer to instead talk about the country's present and future. For other people in Croatia, the war remains something of an obsession. If you are curious about the Croatian War of Independence, it is not advisable to bring it up in conversation when you visit the country unless you know the person you are speaking with extremely well. It is a sensitive subject for many and can unnecessarily provoke strong emotions and painful memories. There are many resources online where you can instead read all about the war, there are good documentary series about it on Youtube and there are several museums in Croatia where you can go and learn more, in Vukovar, Karlovac and in Zagreb.

6) Wine


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What is Croatia famous for? Its wine is some of the best you'll ever try © Plenković

Croatia is not really that famous for wine. Well, not as famous as it should be because Croatia makes some of the greatest wine on the planet. Croatian wine is only really famous to those who have tried it after visiting – you'll never forget it! A growing cabal of Croatian wine enthusiasts are trying their best internationally to spread the word about Croatian wine. However, there isn't really that much space in Croatia to make all the wine it needs to supply its homegrown demands and a greatly increased export market. Therefore, export prices of Croatian wine are quite high and even when it does reach foreign shores, these prices ensure its appreciation only by a select few. There's a popular saying locally that goes something like this “We have enough for ourselves and our guests”. Nevertheless, Croatian wine is frequently awarded at the most prestigious international competitions and expos. White wine, red wine, sparkling wine, cuvee (mixed) and rose wine are all made here and Croatia truly excels at making each. You can find different kinds of grape grown and wine produced in the different regions of Croatia. The best way to learn about Croatian wine is to ask someone who really knows about wine or simply come to Croatia to try it. Or, perhaps better still, don't do that and then there will be more for those of us who live here. Cheers!

7) Croatian produce


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Drniš prsut
is protected at a European level, one of 32 products currently protected in this way and therefore what is Croatia famous for © Tourist Board of Drniš

To date, 32 agricultural and food products from Croatia have attained protection at a European level. These range from different prosciuttos, olive oils and Dalmatian bacon, to pastries and pastas, honey, cheese, turkeys, lamb, cabbages, mandarins, salt, sausages, potatoes and something called Meso 'z tiblice (which took a friend from the region where it's made three days to fully research so he could explain it to me at the levels necessary to write an informed article about it – so, you can research that one online). While some prosciutto, bacon, sausages, olive oil and wine do make it out of Croatia, much of these are snaffled up by a discerning few of those-in-the-know. The rest, you will only really be able to try if you visit. And, there are many other items of Croatian produce which are known which you can also try while here

Truffles


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What is Croatia known for? Truffles © Donatella Paukovic

By weight, one of the most expensive delicacies in the world, truffles are a famous part of the cuisine within some regions of Croatia. They feature heavily in the menu of Istria, which is well known as a region in which both white and black truffles are found and then added to food, oils or other products. Truth be told, this isn't a black and white issue - there are a great number of different types of truffle and they can be found over many different regions in Croatia, including around Zagreb and in Zagreb County. But, you'll need to see a man about a dog if you want to find them yourself.

Vegeta


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What is Croatia known for? Vegeta

Having celebrated its 60th birthday in 2019, the cooking condiment Vegeta is exported and known in many other countries, particularly Croatia's close neighbours. It is popularly put into soups and stews to give them more flavour. Among its ingredients are small pieces of dehydrated vegetables like carrot, parsnip, onion, celery, plus spices, salt and herbs like parsley.

Chocolate


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What is Croatia known for? Chocolate is a big export© Alexander Stein

Though making chocolate is only around a century old in Croatia, Croatian chocolate has grown to become one of its leading manufactured food exports. Some of the most popular bars may be a little heavy on sugar and low on cocoa for more discerning tastes. But, lots of others really like it.

Beer


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What is Croatia famous for? Its beer is becoming more famous internationally © The Garden Brewery

The exploding growth of the Croatian craft ale scene over the last 10 years is something that is likely to have passed you by, unless you're a regular visitor to the country, a beer buff or both. Most of the producers are quite small and production not great enough to make a big splash on international markets. However, even within a craft-flooded current market, Croatian beer is becoming more widely known – in one poll, the Zagreb-based Garden Brewery was in 2020 voted Europe's Best Brewery for the second consecutive year

8) Innovation


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What is Croatia famous for? Pioneers, inventors and innovation. Nikola Tesla was born here

From the parachute, fingerprinting, the retractable pen and the tungsten filament electric light-bulb to the torpedo, modern seismology, the World Health Oganisation and the cravat (a necktie, and the precursor to the tie worn by many today), Croatia has gifted many innovations to the world. The list of pioneers - scientists, artists, researchers and inventors - who were born here throughout history is long. And, although innovation is not currently regarded as experiencing a golden period in Croatia, there are still some Croatian innovators whose impact is felt globally, such as electric hypercar maker Mate Rimac.

9) Being poor


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What is Croatia famous for? Being poor. Yikes!

The minimum wage in Croatia is among the lowest in Europe. Croatian language media is constantly filled with stories about corruption. There is a huge state apparatus in which key (if not most) positions are regarded to be politically or personally-motivated appointments. This leads to a lack of opportunity for Croatia's highly educated young people. Many emigrate for better pay and better opportunities. This leads to a brain drain and affects the country's demographics considerably (if it usually the best educated, the ablest and the youngest Croatian adults who emigrate). Many of those who stay are influenced by the stories of widespread corruption and lack of opportunity and are therefore lethargic in their work, leading to a lack of productivity. A considerable part of the Croatian economy is based on tourism which remains largely seasonal.

10) People want to live in Croatia


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What is Croatia famous for? People want to come and live here. No, really.

Yes, despite many younger Croatians leaving or dreaming of leaving and despite the low wages, many people who are not from Croatia dream about living here. Of course, it's an all too familiar scenario that you go on holiday somewhere and while sitting at a seafood restaurant in sight of a glorious sunset, having had a few too many glasses of the local wine, you fall in love with Miguel or however the waiter is called who served it and Miguel's homeland. But, with Croatia, this is actually no passing fancy, no idle holiday dream. People do decide to move here. And not just for the sunset and Miguel (nobody in Croatia is called Miguel - Ed).

Croatia may be known for being poor, but it also has one of the best lifestyles in Europe. That it's cafe terraces are usually full to capacity tells you something about the work to living ratio. Croatians are not just spectators of sport, many enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This informs everything from their pastimes to their diet. There are great facilities for exercise and sport, wonderful nature close by whichever part of the country you're in. You can escape into somewhere wonderful and unknown at a moment's notice. The country is well connected internally by brilliant roads and motorways, reliable intercity buses and an international train network. The tourism industry ensures that multiple airports across Croatia can connect you to almost anywhere you want to go, and major international airports in Belgrade and Budapest, just a couple of hours away, fly to some extremely exotic locations. There are a wealth of fascinating neighbour countries on your doorstep to explore on a day trip or weekend and superfast broadband is being rolled out over the entire country. This is perhaps one of the reasons Croatia has been heralded as one of the world's best options for Digital Nomads. In a few years, when we ask what is Croatia famous far, they could be one of the answers.

What is Croatia famous for, but only after you've visited

Some things you experience when you visit Croatia come as a complete surprise. Most would simply never be aware of them until they visit. They are usually top of the list of things you want to do when you come back to Croatia.

Gastronomy


fritaja_sparoge_1-maja-danica-pecanic_1600x900ntbbbbb.jpgGastronomy is only one of the things what is Croatia known for only after you've visited © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Despite a few famous TV chefs having visited and filmed in Croatia over the years, Croatian gastronomy remains largely unknown to almost everyone who's never been to Croatia. That's a shame because you can find some fine food here. Croatia has increased its Michelin-starred and Michelin-recommended restaurants tenfold over recent years. But, perhaps the bigger story is the traditional cuisine which varies greatly within the countries different regions. From the gut-busting barbecue grills and the classic Mediterranean fare of Dalmatia to the pasta, asparagus and truffles of Istria to the sausages and paprika-rich stews of Slavonia and the best smoked and preserved meats of the region, there's an untold amount of secret Croatian gastronomy to discover.

Coffee


restaurant-3815076_1280.jpgWhat is Croatia known for? Well, to locals, it's famous for coffee - not just a drink, it's a ritual

Croatians are passionate about coffee and about going for coffee. It's a beloved ritual here. Going for coffee in Croatia is often about much more than having coffee. It's an integral part of socialising, catching up and sometimes being seen. It doesn't always involve coffee either. Sometimes, you'll be invited for coffee, only to end up ordering beer. It's not about the coffee. Although, the standard of coffee in Croatia, and the places where you drink it, is usually really good.

The misapprehension: What is Croatia known for (if you are a Croatian living in Croatia)

Handball, music

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Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Ban On Operations Forces Beloved Rijeka Club Crkva To Close Forever

February 3, 2021 – With heavy hearts, Rijeka's only electronic and underground music club Crkva announced its permanent closure today. It was a huge supporter of arts, culture, music and minorities for both the city and the region and will be greatly missed

While independent business owners and entrepreneurs took to the main square of Zagreb in protest at the perceived inequality in Coronavirus measures and their enforcement, 160 kilometres away on the Kvarner coast, the ban on operations for catering and entertainment venues was forcing a very hard decision.

Beloved Rijeka club Crkva today announced its permanent closure. The news will be taken with great sadness by not only the young people of Rijeka and the students who live there for university but to clubbers across Croatia and the many visitors who have passed through its doors. Within the nightlife offer of the vibrant city of Rijeka, Club Crkva was unique.

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“Thank you for every dance, smile and happiness, thank you for every arrival and every morning we welcomed together. Thank you to all the artists who have performed here, thank you to those who have not, and yet they have filled our sacred chambers with their sound.” wrote club Crkva's Sasa Jovanovic in a clearly emotional Facebook post this afternoon.

Club Crkva was Rijeka's only dependable weekly club offering late-night electronic and underground dance music. Every major city in the world has at least one place like club Crkva, which puts it on the international music map. Now, Rijeka has none.

The club gave countless opportunities to young Croatian DJs and promoters, never dictating a style on the enthusiasm and ideas of the up-and-coming clubbing generations. It hosted house and techno, drum n' bass, breaks and any other style you might find in a big city's underground music club. After the closure of the irregular Hartera happenings, club Crkva was the only nightclub in Rijeka to regularly be visited by internationally-renowned DJs. It also played host to all of the biggest names of regional talent.

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Club Crkva proudly and actively supported arts and culture programmes born in the local community, many of whom were simply independents who had a great idea they were passionate about. The club was due to host several key happenings in the Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020 year until the pandemic put pay to much of the programme. Many will also remember club Crkva as a committed supporter of the city's gay and minority communities. It regularly opened its doors to members of the region's gay, lesbian and feminist movements who asked to throw parties there.

“Thanks to our stewards, all the staff and friends. We created beautiful memories and wrote a history of world-class Rijeka and regional clubbing, “ Mr Jovanovic continued. “What I regret the most is that we will not say goodbye at one last big party.”

“One thing is for sure, if this pandemic is a difficult path to a better, more honest and more advanced society, then let this Church of ours be sacrificed for it and let all the energy we have produced here for years be used for that purpose.”

All internal images © Club Crkva

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

PHOTOS: New Rijeka Urban Parks Just One Lasting Legacy of ECoC 2020

January 27, 2021 – Rising sharply up into the foothills, little space in the expansion of Rijeka was left for green and community recreation areas. New Rijeka urban parks address the issue and are just one lasting legacy of ECoC 2020

The preparations for Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020 were years in the making. Community consultations and contributions for every aspect of the arts, each venue and city institution put their enthusiasm behind the project. And that's without even mentioning all the international contributors whose work was commissioned. It really did feel like the whole city had come together to show the best of themselves in Rijeka's special year. Except, 2020 turned out to be special for all the wrong reasons.

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European authorities granted the European Capital of Culture status to Rijeka for extra months in order to allow them to complete some programs halted by the pandemic. Not that it much helped increase the footfall the vast project was meant to attract to the Kvarner capital's streets. Instead, the streets lay bereft of guests, visited only by Rijeka residents. But, that's not such a bad thing.

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The Capital of Culture has never been awarded solely to help a city attract visitors. Nor is it ever intended to make its mark over just one year. A lasting legacy for the city's current and future residents is perhaps the most essential element of the event. And, though crippled by Corona, Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020 is staying true to its promise to do so. New Rijeka urban parks and public recreation areas are just some of the benefits ECoC 2020 will leave behind.

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Rijeka is a great city. But, it's a weird place. An anomaly on the Croatian coast, it boasts none of the quaint olde worlde architecture you usually find around the Mediterranean, Croatia included. It's grand Austro-Hungarian facades and palaces are much more like the Croatian capital. Behind them the city rises sharply up into the foothills, modern residential blocks shooting skywards and peering over the centre below. As Rijeka has grown like moss up this hillside, little room has been left for greenery and areas of recreation. Goodness knows, the best spot you might find for a picnic in Rijeka is the cemetery! (Kozala – actually, as far as places full of dead people go, it's actually very nice)

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The new Rijeka urban parks try to address the imbalance of work to recreation space city residents have. While it may not be possible to create a vast landscape of lawns and a forest of trees in the city centre, the new Rijeka urban parks and public areas look to use modern solutions and the places they have, to create spaces where everyone can socialise, play, relax or meet up.

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Under several different programs within European Capital of Culture 2020, members of the Association for the Promotion of the Quality of Urban Life 'Urbani separe' worked on the new Rijeka urban parks in July 2020 and again between December 2020 and January 2021. In a relatively short space of time, we think they've done a great job.

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All images © Urbani separe / Rijeka 2020

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

FIRST PHOTOS: New Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa Complete

January 27, 2021 – They promised its arrival this spring and, true to their word, these first-look photos show the construction of the beautiful new Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa is complete

With an investment of €80 million and the keen co-operation of the city authorities, the arrival date of the new Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa was never in doubt. They said it would be ready for spring and due to open its doors in April. As these first look pictures show, they've been true to their word. Construction of the new Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa is complete.

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Its been at times difficult to fully visualise the completed project from the glossy, computer-generated builders' images of how they predict the finished product will look. Rijeka residents too have had their worries – would the new promenade in front of the complex (paid for with city money) place a section of their beloved coastline off-limits to those not staying at the Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa?

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They needn't have worried. As these new images show, the major construction work at the Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa is complete. It looks as though they could throw open the doors tomorrow. The worried-over promenade snakes between the main complex and the hotel residents' beach area. It allows pedestrians full access to the seafront – they can pass along the entire front facade of the Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa and enjoy the view from the shore just as much as hotel residents. When the Rijeka Hilton finally opens its doors, they'll also be able to take advantage of all of its spa facilities too, which will be opened up to local residents via a membership scheme.

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The Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa complex has been built across a considerable 18,000 square metres. The main building complex has 10 floors which hold 132 rooms. The site also has 66 villas separate to the main building, six restaurant/bar/food outlets, a private beach, and one of the largest wellness facilities in the region - the two-floored spa area covers more than 3,000 square metres.

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The new photos of the complete Rijeka Hilton Costabella Beach Resort & Spa, which are signed as Mr. Fly, were posted publicly to the Facebook group Riječka enciklopedija - Fluminensia by renowned Rijeka photographer Dario Matijević, whose breathtaking images of the nature, landscapes and cityscapes of the Kvarner region are often signed as Baredice Photo and can be enjoyed here. They were subsequently used by RiPortal in their coverage of this story.

Friday, 22 January 2021

22 January: Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia

January 22, 2021 – January 22 is Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia. Marked significantly in continental winemaking regions, its folk traditions pre-date Christianity and are celebrated with food, wine, music and merriment

Nearing the end of January, it's not uncommon to see snow on the fields of Croatia. The ground can be hard, brittle, frozen. There's little to be done in them right now. And yet, on 22 January in Croatia, winemakers traditionally head to their vineyards. They do this not to undertake a day's work – for today is a day of rest. Instead, they go there to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

Croatia_Baranja_Belje_Vineyard_0184_1.jpgSt. Vincent's Day in Baranja © Romulić & Stojčić

Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vinkovo, Vincelovo, Vinceće - St. Vincent's Day

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo is also known by several different names. For example, St. Vincents Day in Baranja is called Vinceška, in Erdut it's Vincekovo, in Ilok it's Vinkovo, but you can also hear it called Vincelovo and even Vinceće.

Vincekovo_GVT-2019-14a_1.jpgVincekovo marked with wine and meat in traditional folk costume in Varaždinske Toplice © Grad Varaždinske Toplice

Vincekovo is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire far east of Croatia - eastern Slavonia, Baranja and the Croatian part of Syrmia, around Ilok. In these places, it is a day inextricably linked with the production of wine. That people seem to associate St Vincent as 'the wine guy' seems reasonable – Vinko and vino (the Croatian word for wine) are almost the same, right? Well, not quite.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) actually gives us the best example of the meaning of the name. Vincent comes from the Latin word 'vincere' (to conquer or to be victorious). But, although it looks similar in Latin, the word for wine is much, much older. And it may have an entirely different root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Why we say 'wine'

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but its true origins have been lost in time. This provides an entertaining mystery for today. Fascinatingly, we find a common origin word for wine in several completely different language groups.

You can trace the historic use of the word 'wine' through a vast territory. In ancient times, the name was used in the area of what is today southern Russia and nearby in the Caucasus. Although they belong to a different non-Indo European language group, peoples in what is modern-day Georgia used the same word. In the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin) it is the same. In Mediterranean languages like Latin and Greek, it is also virtually the same word. Travelling back up to the territory of modern-day Russia, this time through regions where ancient Slavic and Germanic languages were spoken, the word is still the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, they have somehow all referred to the end product using the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, to make good wine, you do need to conquer the vines. DNA testing proves that the vines from which we grow grapes originally come from varieties that grew historically in the wild in an area that is today Russia and central Europe. Yet, the earliest traces of wine production are found in more southerly regions, where the climate is warmer. This journey itself is a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. Could the word wine be referring to human manipulation of the wild vines?

The earliest evidence of grapevine cultivation and wine production comes from the South Caucasus, present-day Georgia and dates back at least 8000 years.

1275px-Barry_capitaine._F._25._Grand_vase_pour_la_conservation_du_vin_en_Kacheti_Géorgie._Mission_scientifique_de_Mr_Ernest_Chantre._1881.jpgA Georgian man in traditional dress stands alongside a qvevri, a clay pot used for making Georgian wine in 1881. Once filled, the clay amphora are buried beneath the ground, which helps regulate the temperature of the fermenting wine. Evidence of winemaking in the region is the oldest in the world - it goes back 8000 years  © Public domain

Saint Vincent aka Vincent of Saragossa (Vinko iz Zaragoze)

Vicente_de_Zaragoza_by_Tomás_Giner_14621466_1.jpgVicente de Zaragoza by Tomás Giner

Although several saints share the name Vincent, the Saint Vincent we celebrate on 22 January is Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vincent devoted his life to the church and became deacon in the Church of Saragossa. He was tortured under the persecution of Christians demanded by Roman Emperor Diocletian. Vincent was asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do. Subsequently, he was martyred around the year 304. We mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia and the western Christian world on 22 January as this is presumed to be the actual day of his death. Vincent of Saragossa is not only the patron saint of winemakers but also of vinegar makers. This may come as a comfort to some less able wine producers.

Basilica_del_Pilar-sunset.jpgCathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Puente de Piedra bridge on the Ebro River in Saragossa, the birthplace of St Vincent © Paulo Brandao

Quite why the midwinter period of 22 January should be significant to winemakers poses some questions. “I have no idea!” one Dalmatian winemaker told TCN when asked to explain the significance of the day to his craft. “But, you know those Slavonians are all crazy, right?” And, on the surface, his unknowing is quite understandable. There is little happening in the frozen fields right now. But, it is possible that this celebration pre-dates not only St Vincent but also Christianity itself.

History of 22 January as Saint Vincent's Day (Vincekovo)

Vincekovo-slika-Likovna-Republika.jpgA Croatian painting tellingly shows how traditions of St Vincent's Day in Croatia have little changed over the years © Tourist Board Jestrebarsko

Everyone's favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus had a wide portfolio of fun stuff to look after. He was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. He was traditionally celebrated in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion - which in today's calendar corresponds to the period between late January - around now - and the start of February. On the wild feast of Dionysus (who is sometimes called Bacchus or Liber, as in liberty, freedom), barrels of new wine were broken open. The celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how people mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

1775px-Cornelis_de_Vos_-_El_triunfo_de_Baco.jpgThe Triumph of Bacchus, a 17th-century painting by Cornelis de Vos © Public domain

Several saints' days in Croatia and Europe correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar. This tellingly reveals their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia (which you can read about here). However, Martinje is traditionally a more proletarian festivity – it comes at the end of the harvest when there is no more hard work for all the manual labourers to do. Vincekovo is a day more traditionally associated with their boss - the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, perhaps. Well, you could say that, and in more ways than one.

Vinceška-Vina-Belje-2019-21-960x640meats.jpgKulen and other sausages, hung traditionally beside the vines on St Vincent's Day - the company that made these, Belje, is one of the best and most famous in Croatia. They trace their history in the Baranja region back to the year 1697. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Music, food, theatre and wine - traditions of Vincekovo, Saint Vincent's Day in Croatia

Around this time of year, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There are a limited amount of nutrients that can pass down a vine. This cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated and helps guarantee a limited but good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines. Whatever the weather, they will march into the fields and ceremoniously cut back a vine. Usually, it's one with at least three new buds on. Traditionally, this vine is then brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops. Many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo also serve the same purpose of 'predicting the crops'. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo are also regarded as predictors of a fine harvest. Although, some believe that water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo could mean the year will be wet.

Pavlomir_Novi_Vinodol_Primorsko-Goranska.jpgVincekovo celebrated in Pavlomir, Novi Vinodol, Primorsko-Goranska County © Youtube screenshot

Again following Dionysian traditions, Slavonian people are famously gregarious. They rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them and join in the blessing of the vines. In Croatia today, you can still see some people undertaking this ceremony in traditional folk costume.

Vinkovo_in_Ilok_2019.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2019. Brrrrrr! © Youtube screenshot

The vine that has been pruned is ritually sprinkled with old wine. Song and drinking accompany the ceremony. Both old and new wine may make an appearance. No Slavonia or Baranja party is complete without kulen, their king of sausages. And, on Vincekovo, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous portion of preserved pig product) from a post. Supposedly, this theatre is done in order to encourage the next season's crop to be as fertile and bountiful as these sizeable sausages.

1626px-Sacrificio_a_Baco_Massimo_Stanzione.jpgSacrifice to Bacchus by Massimo Stanzione c. 1634 © Public domain. Some of the folk traditions observed on St Vincent's Day in Croatia probably pre-date Christianity

Hearty snacks usually accompany the celebration in the fields. After the ceremonious part is taken care of, people now think to return indoors. Although, not necessarily to your own home. Because now is the traditional time to march around the locale to visit the wine cellars of your neighbouring growers. If you're a winemaker of a Dionysian bent, you'll probably take along some food with you like kulen, a roasted pig or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. Croatians rarely arrive at a party with empty hands. If such treats are not taken to the event, probably they'll already be waiting in your neighbour's cellar. Although, you might have to pace yourself. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, there could be quite a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit. Subsequently, celebrations on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia - can extend well into the night.

fishp.jpegFiš paprikaš is a spicy river fish stew, richly red from paprika. It is popular in Slavonia, Baranja and Syrmia. Along with the wild meats stew čobanac and whole šaran (carp), butterflied and cooked outside over an open flame, it is a warming and popular dish to eat in eastern Croatia on St Vincent's Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Sunday, 17 January 2021

17 January: Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia

January 17, 2021 – On the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia, horns named after the saint sound out in the village of Halubje, Kvarner, marking the start of the annual marches made by their masked bell ringers, the zvončari, and for the carnival season in their region. Over subsequent days, they will travel from village to village before descending on Rijeka

Following a long period of Advent, the extended celebrations of Christmas and the explosive culmination of the season on New Year's Eve, many in the northern hemisphere retreat and relax in January. This is a time to wait out the remaining cold days of winter, the signs of spring hopefully just around the corner. Just a few days after spring arrives, it's Easter, the next grand, annual occasion in their Christian calendar. But, not in Croatia.

In Croatia, January brings a strangeness to the air. The sound of bells carries on the chilly wind. As the discordant chimes draw nearer, bizarre figures in furs, strange fibres, masks or with painted faces perform a timeless dance in circles. January in Croatia is the start of the season for carnival, fašnik or maškare, an annual occurrence sometimes many months in the making. That the masked bell ringers - zvončari – should make their otherworldly entrance on 17 January, the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia is most befitting.

Luca_signorelli_santi_eligio_e_antonio_sansepolcro.jpgSaint Anthony the Great and John the Evangelist pictured on one side of The Crucifixion Standard (1502-1505) by Luca Signorelli © Public domain

The title of Saint Anthony is shared by several men, the most prominent being Anthony of Padua who lived between 1195 and 1231. Saint Anthony The Great, or Anthony of Egypt, lived much earlier - between 251 and 356. Although not the first Christian to forgo worldly pursuits in order to fully devote himself to religion, Anthony of Egypt is regarded as the Father of All Monks and of the monastic life. He gained this title by casting himself into the wilderness of the Eastern Desert in Egypt. It is fitting that the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia should signal the start of the mystical carnival season because, while in the wilderness, it is said Anthony of Egypt experienced a series of supernatural events – the appearance of mythical beats, of unnatural temptations.

1441px-The_Minotaur_by_Michael_Ayrton_03.jpgA centaur - one of the supernatural meetings St Anthony is said to have had in the wilderness. With the head of a bull and the body of a man, he does not look too dissimilar to some Croatian zvončari  © statue by Michael Ayrton, photo by 14GTR

The telling of Anthony's supernatural temptations became rich in metaphor, particularly from the Middle Ages. These tales - his meeting of a centaur and a satyr, of demons in a cave and a plate of silver coins - would go on to inspire artists and writers for centuries. Wild in fantastical detail, they lent themselves particularly well to the extravagant imaginations of painters like Hieronymus Bosch and surrealists like Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington and Salvador Dalí (main image).

Joos_van_Craesbeeck_-The_Temptation_of_St_Anthony_1.jpgThe Temptation of St. Anthony by Joos van Craesbeeck, c. 1650, inspired by earlier paintings of Saint Anthony by Hieronymus Bosch

Although maškare and the zvončari are an event and figures from pagan traditions, with the bells they carry you could almost be forgiven for thinking they were continuing the work of St Anthony the great in Croatia. The costumed bellringing of the zvončari - which was added to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009 – is an effort to ward off evil spirits. And who's to say if these are not the same one who plagued Anthony in the wilderness.

Just as they hold different names in different places, fešta, carnival, fašnik or maškare takes place on different days and at different times of year. Similarly, the zvončari associated strongly with the carnival season of Kvarner, all have different costumes, dances and traditions which vary from village to village. These traditions have been passed down through generations, indeed it is thanks to the zvončari themselves that the carnival in Rijeka was in 1982 revived. It has now grown to become what is traditionally the country's largest.

zvoncar_maska.jpgHalubajski Zvončari © Halubajski Zvončari.com

On 17 January, the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia, in Halubje, Kvarner, near Rijeka, carnival games, festivities and music fills the streets. The town's Halubajski Zvončari are one of the oldest groups who undertake the tradition and they are one of the zvončari groups responsible for bringing back Rijeka carnival. The sounding of St Anthony's horns in the town on the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia marks the official commencement of carnival season and of the marching of the Halubajski Zvončari. Over subsequent days, they will march, accompanied by music, through villages in the region, eventually descending into Rijeka on carnival day. This tradition was recorded in written records in 1860. Some say the bells are meant to ward off Ottomans or Tartars as much as they are evil spirits, which makes the tradition even earlier.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Kvarner Goes Green: Opatija and Rijeka Integrated Rail and Bus

January 7, 2021 – From the Bay of Bakar through the beaches of Rijeka to the opulence of Opatija and up, all the way to the border with Slovenia, Kvarner residents and visitors will be able to travel with just one ticket across the whole of the Rijeka integrated rail and bus network

An existing co-operation between rail and bus operators in Kvarner was today extended, allowing the Rijeka Integrated Rail and Bus network to continue for at least another year. This holds exciting implications for travel in the region for years to come.

Planned changes to the infrastructure of the coastal part of the north Kvarner Bay mean that within the Rijeka integrated rail and bus scheme, you will soon be able to travel from the Bay of Bakar, stop off at a series of Rijeka beaches, hop back on public transport to go to Opatija and even travel beyond the coast, all the way to the border with Slovenia, using just one ticket. Passengers will not be limited in their choice to travel by either aril or bus.

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An Autotrolej bus, longtime providers of local bus services in Rijeka © Grad Rijeka

The Rijeka integrated rail and bus scheme, organised through Kvarner County, Rijeka, Matulji and Bakar Town Halls, rail and local bus operators is an eco-friendly drive that seeks to encourage people to leave their cars at home and instead choose public transport. However, access to the Rijeka integrated rail and bus network is not limited to commuting workers and travelling students. Although the scheme is most cost-effective using a monthly ticket, day tickets are available for the network which may be of huge appeal to visitors wishing to explore a wider portion of Kvarner's northern coast.

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The train station of Opatija Matulji © Damir Covic 1939 / Matulji Tourist Board

Rijeka integrated rail and bus: International

What makes the extension of the Rijeka integrated rail and bus scheme even more welcome is the planned overhaul of infrastructure that will accompany it.

Fifteen extra stations will be added (or reactivated) on the route between Kantrida in the west of Rijeka, along the Rijeka seafront and on to the outskirts of Bakar. Furthermore, the entire train line from Bakar to Šapjane will be brought into the Rijeka integrated rail and bus scheme with the completion of a second train track along the route.

Šapjane_train_station_from_Regiojet_1047_Prague_to_Rijeka.jpgTrains along the line at Šapjane. Next stop Slovenia! © DiningCar_

Šapjane, in the municipality of Matulji, lies 20 kilometres inland, north of Opatija. It sits right on the border with Slovenia. The train line extends across this border, through the Slovenian town of Ilirska Bistrica, and then on to Postojna and Ljubljana, Italy or Austria. This means the Rijeka integrated rail and bus scheme will be directly linked to another green, international travel network.

These routes will all be linked to the incoming, double-tracked Pan-European fast train network, which, as TCN highlighted last year, will connect this part of Kvarner with France, Spain and Portugal in the west all the way to eastern Hungary via Zagreb and Budapest. Needless to say, it will require more than a single day ticket (cvikalica) from the Rijeka integrated rail and bus network to make such a journey!

Thursday, 18 November 2021

PHOTOS: The 21 Most Incredible Croatia Castles To See Year-Round

November 18, 2021 – Serving as Christian Europe's defensive front line for centuries, incredible Croatia castles can be found throughout the country. Whether on a summertime day trip, set next to the spectacular backdrop of autumn's colours or postcard-pretty covered in winter's snow, here are 21 of the best to visit year-round

Croatia Castles Mailáth and Prandau in Donji Miholjac

DM-DvoraMailathcZdenko_Brkanić.jpg© Zdenko Brkanić

Mailáth Castle is located in Donji Miholjac in Osijek-Baranja County. The town famously lies just next to the Hungarian border in the traditional region of Slavonia. It's well worth making the trip to see this wonderful building, not least because it sits right next door to an earlier manor. After being gifted lands for fighting the Ottomans, in 1818 the Prandau family built its first castle/manor in Miholjac in the Baroque style. But, in 1901 its grandeur was supplanted by Mailáth castle.

croatia_slavonija_donji_miholjac_004NTB.jpgDonji Miholjac in Slavonija gives you two adjoined Croatia castles, Mailáth (right) and Castle Prandau (left)  © Croatian National Tourist Board

Built over four floors, its decorative chimneys, spacious terraces with neoclassical balustrades and wrought iron fences identify its debt to the Tudor style. The building has some 50 rooms across roughly 3500 square meters. Its interior was decorated with hunting trophies from Count Mailáth's travels in Asia and Africa, set above oak paneling which lines every room. In recent times, the building was used to house city authorities. But, considerable effort has been made to restore the building and open it up to visitors. Its grand hall now hosts events such as classical music performances, as do the immediate grounds in warmer months. These grounds extend out into a 16-hectare public park which was curated by the family and bequeathed to the town inhabitants. This is now one of the few Croatia castles to have a nationally certified horticultural monument attached. It has been classed as such since 1961.

Maruševec Castle in Varaždin County

2880px-Dvorac_Marusevec3MaGa.jpeg© MaGa

During its lifetime, the extraordinary Maruševec castle in Varaždin County has passed through a confusingly long series of different owners, many of whom have left a significant mark on the building. The original structure dates back to 1547. Since then, it was privately owned up until 1945 when it was seized from the Pongratz family by Yugoslavian communist authorities. It was the Pongratz family who established splendid gardens that surround the building.

slika-dvoracOpćina_Maruševec.jpg© Općine Maruševec

In the first years after independence, the building was used by a section of the Protestant church in Croatia. However, over recent decades, Croatia's government has begun the process of trying to return many such Croatia castles to their rightful owners. Maruševec Castle now lies back in the hands of the Pongratz family and the grounds are once again superb.

Prandau Normann in Valpovo

dvorac-air1greenroom.jpeg© Greenroom Festival Valpovo

The pictures don't do it justice. Prandau Normann in Valpovo is one of the Croatia castles that has to be visited to get a true sense of its size. If you do, you'll maybe also come away having learned of its significance and history. One of the oldest and largest castles in Slavonia, it sits within a small area of greenery upon which the surrounding settlement closely encroaches. Some trees at the edges of these thin grounds partially obstruct the view. Stretching out from the southern ends of this green island is a glorious public park of 25 hectares.

Dvorac_Prandau-Normann_dvorac_iz_zrakaRoko_Poljak.jpg© Roko Poljak

Formerly part of the hunting grounds of the castle inhabitants, these grounds were designed as a grandiose garden in the English style. Subsequently, it has been declared a national monument of natural and horticultural architecture. The sections of the castle itself form a three-walled complex with an inner courtyard. The original triangular-shaped fortress and the shorter, round tower date back to the beginning of the 15th century at which time it was surrounded by defensive moats. During the first half of the 18th century, the Prandau family rebuilt one side of the medieval structure with the Baroque palace which now lies at the front. Its tower is 37 metres high. Badly damaged in a fire on New Year's Eve in 1801, its stylings were somewhat altered when reconstructed. A true giant, it has over 60 rooms and, together with the inner courtyard, has an impressive ground space of 4031 m2. The Museum of the Valpovo Region was established here in 1956. Its continuous running was halted by both war and reconstruction work. But, it is now open again. Although the building is of significant national importance, it is to the immense credit of its forward-thinking governance that the building and grounds have in recent years been utilised for public events, including very contemporary youth culture happenings such as the Reunited Festival (here) and Greenroom Festival

Ozalj Castle

ozalj-stari-grad-za-web-ivo-biocina_0NTBFULLON.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Around 60 kilometres from Zagreb, in Karlovac County, Ozalj is one of the most picturesque Croatia castles. It has simply everything you would want from a visit to a castle – an impressive approach, towers, defensive walls, surrounding waters, incredible views, a museum and a fascinating amalgam of different buildings. Sat spectacularly on a cliff above the Kupa river and the surrounding settlement of Ozalj, this castle was once the entire town.

RedZugang_Schloss_Ozalj1BernBartsch.jpeg© Bern Bartsch

First mentioned as a free royal city as far back as 1244, the walled medieval stronghold gradually become a castle structure, with significant additions taking place up until the 18th century. It is a building of great national significance. Ozalj is the site of the Zrinski–Frankopan conspiracy which, although unsuccessful, is regarded an important marker in Croatia's struggle for autonomy. Between them, the Croatian families of Zrinski and Frankopan owned the castle from 1398 until 1671. Thereafter, both family lines were severed when the Zrinski–Frankopan conspirators were executed by the ruling Habsburgs. There were further ramifications. An additional 2000 nobles of the region were also arrested and the Protestant church was suppressed, Habsburg troops attacked commoners in both Croatia and Hungary and the position of Ban of Croatia, formerly held by Nikola Zrinski, would be left completely vacant for the next 60 years. The conspirators were executed on April 30 which, in remembrance, became the city day of Ozalj.

Trakošćan Castle in Varaždin County

TURISTIČKA_ZAJEDNICA_OPCINA_BEDNJA.jpg© Turistička zajednica Trakošćan - Općina Bednja

One of the most-recognisable Croatia castles, from its surroundings Trakošćan looks like something out of a fairytale. Its position - on a hill near Krapina, Varaždin County, not far from the Slovenia border - was obviously decided upon for defensive reasons. But, today, this positioning serves only to bolster the romantic vista. Trakošćan dates back to the 13th century, although local legend says that it stands on the site of an even earlier fortress. Nobody really knows who commissioned it nor who originally lived here.

TrakoscanCroatiaTZ.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

In 1556 the castle came under state control. But, just 18 years later, it was gifted to the Drašković family. In the second half of the 18th century, the castle was abandoned. The Drašković family resumed interest in the building in the middle of the 19th century. They renovated the house and constructed the gardens. Today, the surrounding gardens are a significant highlight of any visit to Trakošćan. The family lived here until 1944. But, the Drašković's were forced to emigrate to Austria and the state assumed ownership. It is now owned by the Republic of Croatia and has been renovated considerably. Inside there is a permanent museum.

Trsat Castle in Rijeka

Domagoj_BlaževićTrsatKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

The city of Rijeka rises sharply from sea level into the nearby foothills. This abrupt ascent is the cause of Rijeka's above-average rainfall. But, there are some positives. Residential tower blocks have been built in these foothills and the cityscape vista is superb from their balconies. But, the best view of the city of Rijeka is from Trsat.

TRSAT_gradina-trsat01-pogled-domagoj-blazevic-19.07-724x500.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Rječina valley separates Trsat castle from the competing high-rise blocks. Looking down at the city from the castle, the river itself is immediately below you. It scores a path through an industrial landscape, then the old city. Eventually, it spills out into Kvarner Bay. Sitting 150 metres above the city, it's thought that Trsat castle lies on top of an earlier Illyrian or Roman fortress. Today, the castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rijeka. Inside there's a cafe bar. Throughout the year, the inner courtyard hosts cultural events like theatre and music concerts. Needless to say, the castle is a wonderful backdrop to these public events, as it is during Christmas when it becomes a highlight of Rijeka and Kvarner's Advent celebrations.

Stara Sušica Castle

DomagojBlaeviStaraKvarner.jpeg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

One of the most bewildering Croatia castles, the fantastical architecture of Stara Sušica is explained by a series of restorations and additions that have taken place over many generations. It's far from being the biggest of Croatia castles, but it's certainly one of the most intriguing.

Stara_Susica_0004Domagoj_BlaževićKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

By prior arrangement, you can actually stay in this castle. It has previously hosted groups such as those who engage in fantasy role-playing games. The mysterious-looking building must be the perfect backdrop to such wild imagination! This architectural gem of a castle is located 60 kilometres to the east of the city of Rijeka. It sits in the shadows of tall coniferous trees, just outside of the town of Stara Sušica, near Ravna Gora.

Veliki Tabor Castle in Zagorje

veliki-tabor-optimizirano-za-web-ivo-biocina_1600x900_0Croatia.jpeg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The sizeable Veliki Tabor is another of the Croatia castles that sits atop a hill for defensive purposes. It dominates a beautiful rural landscape of agricultural land, gently rising hills and vineyards near Desinić in Zagorje, less than an hour's drive from Zagreb.

veliki-tabor-web-ivo-biocina-1CROATIArfghbnjm.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Dating from the middle of 15th century, most of the castle was built by the Ráttkay family from Hungary, in whose ownership it remained until 1793. The castle is said to be haunted. Legend says a local woman was murdered upon false accusations of witchcraft and entombed within the actual castle walls. Although, the ulterior motive for the killing is said to have been the castle's owner didn't want his son to marry the woman. Her voice is said to still inhabit the building. Today owned by the state, Veliki Tabor now holds a permanent museum and is a popular tourist attraction. Events significant to local culture take place here, like food festivals. The castle also hosts some nationally recognised happenings, such as the famous Veliki Tabor short film festival.

Lužnica Castle near Zaprešić, Zagreb County

Luznica2ZCTY.png© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Set back from the main road and obscured by ancient trees, the immediate approach to Lužnica is incredibly impressive. The castle is surrounded by neatly trimmed lawns and you can reach it from several different directions. The pathways leading to the building are bordered by low-lying hedges. At the end of these paths sits the baroque castle. It shares its name with the nearby settlement of Lužnica, just a few kilometres to the west of Zaprešić in Zagreb County.

LuznicZaagrebCounty.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Lužnica castle was built in 1791 as a residence for a noble family. But, since 1925 the building has been owned by the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul. After acquiring the building, nuns used the castle as a residential and care home for elderly members of the sisterhood. From 1935 the building was used for the care of poor children, and then, afterwards, for educational classes organised by the nuns. In 2005, a purpose-built modern property was constructed nearby and this assumed the residential care of retired nuns. This facilitated much better public access to the castle. The nuns still hold spiritual and educational programs inside the castle and it also hosts secular conferences and seminars.

Krašić

KrasicZgC.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

So well suited to its contemporary purpose as a church does Krašić look that it's difficult to imagine that it was ever anything other. But, this complex of buildings originally dates back much further than the hundred or so years it has served as a place of worship.

krasic08RegionalDevelopment_agencyZagrebCounty.jpg© Regional Development Agency Zagreb County

It was first built in the Gothic style of the late 14th century and later reconstructed in the Baroque style. It only assumed its current religious role after reconstructions that took place between 1911 and 1913. Nowadays, villagers know it as the Parish church of the Holy Trinity. It serves the population of Krašić, near Jastrebarsko, about 50 km southwest of Zagreb. Enthusiastic hunters of Croatia castles who are visiting Zagreb and Zagreb County will also not want to miss the nearby Pribić. It is located just three kilometes east of Krašić. There you'll find an incredible triumvirate of spectacular neighbouring buildings - two castles and one Greek Catholic church.

Pejačević Castle in Našice

Dvorac_Pejačević._NašiceSamir_Budimčić.jpg© Samir Budimčić

Though they are most commonly associated with Slavonia, the Pejačević family extends back to at least the 14th century, during which time some of them settled in north-west Bulgaria. Alongside Bosnians and Germans attracted to that region by mining, these immigrants brought Catholicism to the area around Chiprovtsi. Subsequently, there was a famous uprising there against the Ottomans. The Pejačević family are thought to have been among the instigators of the failed rebellion. They fled to lands recently liberated from the Ottomans and eventually acquired significant titles and estates in Slavonia. For centuries they were very influential in the region's political, social, economic and cultural life.

Zavičajni_muzej_Našice_Našice_local_history_museum.jpg© Našice local history museum (Zavičajni muzej Našice)

Pejačević Castle in Našice today is the home of Našice local history museum / Zavičajni muzej Našice (here). The castle is actually one of two castles the family built in this town. They have two more castles elsewhere in traditional Slavonia - in Virovitica and Retfala, Osijek. If you want to read more about the Pejačević family and their castles in Našice, then look here.

Stari Grad Varaždin

VarazdinZup.jpg© Turistička Zajednica Varaždinske Županije

The city of Varaždin once served as the capital of Croatia and, as its focal point, Stari Grad fortress is therefore of significant national importance. In acknowledgment, an image of the fortress used to appear on the back of the old 5 kuna bank notes. Although, presumably due to some printer's error, the image appeared in reverse to how it sits in real life.

varazdin-ivo-biocina-NTZ.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The building is mentioned as far back as the 12th century. But, it was reconstructed as a Renaissance fortification in the 16th century. At the end of that century, it came into the hands of the Hungarian-Croatian family Erdödy. Today, Stari Grad holds a permanent museum. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in a city that's not short of great reasons to visit.

Bosiljevo Castle

Dvorac_Bosiljevo_-_panoramioKrittinskiy.jpg© Krittinskiy

Something of a bratić (cousin) to Ozalj Castle, Bosiljevo is in Karlovac County and was also owned by the Frankopan family. It is a sprawling set of structures, impressively situated on a hillside within forest land. The nature of the building and its remote location perhaps contribute to the fact that it is abandoned and unrestored. However, it is still one of the Croatia castles worth visiting year-round, not least because the surrounding trees grant a spectacular backdrop that changes throughout the year's seasons.

bosiljevoopcinacas.jpg© Općina Bosiljevo

Although access is limited, you can get up close to the fascinating buildings, the intricately decorated defensive walls and its towers. The earliest sections date back to at least 1344. Following its seizure by the Austrians in 1671, Bosiljevo passed through the hands of a series of private owners. They included Irish-born Laval Nugent von Westmeath, who started his career as a loyal soldier to Austria but finished his life in Bosiljevo as something closer to a Croatian patriot. The property was seized by Communist authorities after the Second World War. Its decline began when it was thereafter ill-purposed as a retirement home, restaurant and cheap motel. It was finally abandoned in the 1980s.

Čakovec Castle

stari_gradcakovectz.jpg© Čakovec City Tourist Board

Situated within a sizeable park, in the town centre of Čakovec, Međimurje, Čakovec Castle is a beast of a structure. Like some of the previous Croatia castles, it is actually several buildings. Access to the park is great from all sides. These grounds are a green space much-enjoyed by Čakovec residents and visitors. So too are the spectacular buildings which lie at their centre. The original 13th-century fortress was built by Count Dmitri Čak, hence the town's name. Its walls form the basis of the complex's front section, behind which the 16th Century Zrinski Castle sits detached.

MuseumMedimurjeCak.jpg© Museum of Međimurje, Čakovec

The Zrinski castle houses Croatia's biggest museum, the Međimurje County Museum. The courtyard hosts cultural happenings like music concerts, theatre and food events. Although this independent structure is known as the Zrinski Castle, the Zrinski family were not responsible for the building's construction. However, this is one of the most significant Croatia castles because it was their family seat during a time in which several family members served as Ban of Croatia.

Feštetić Castle, Pribislavec

dvorac_festetic_01visit_medimurje.jpg© Visit Međimurje

One of the most singular-looking of all Croatia castles, not least because of its unforgettable neogothic tower, Feštetić Castle in Međimurje actually pre-dates the Feštetić family who lends it their name. The original building dates back to at least the beginning of the 18th Century.

Feštetićvisitnorthcroatia.jpgGosh! The occasional darkened skies above Međimurje seem to suit the neogothic Feštetić Castle almost as much as do the clear blue! © Visit North Croatia

Throughout its life, the structure that lay here was ravaged by war, fire and natural disasters and therefore rebuilt several times. We can attribute its striking neogothic stylings to the Feštetić family, whose work on the castle began in 1870. The building has been in continuous use ever since, serving at times as a retirement home and a school. It is therefore in great condition and sits on grounds that are also enjoyable when you visit.

Nova Kraljevica Castle

Domagoj_BlaževićKraljevicaKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Located atop the start of a peninsula at the entrance to the Bay of Bakar, less than 20 kilometres east of Rijeka, Petar Zrinski started to build Nova Kraljevica in 1651. The castle has large towers at the corners of each of its four walls.

dvorac-nova-kraljevica07-atrij-domagoj-blazevic-11.07-1200x800.jpgThe ornate inner courtyard of Kraljevica Castle © Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

They surround an inner courtyard decorated with archways on two floors. Petar's wife, Katarina Frankopan, is said to have paid close attention to its interior design. The couple spent much time here. It is one of the few Croatia castles to sit directly on the Croatian mainland's shore. The castle's main salon was decorated with gilded leather wallpaper, had marble fireplaces, floors paved with a marble mosaic and doors made of black and white marble. This spectacular and well-preserved castle also once held one of Croatia's very first museums. It is not only great to visit on foot, but also a spectacular sight when approached from the Adriatic by boat.

Miljana Castle, near Kumrovec

DisscoSC_0248-visitZagorje.jpg© Visit Zagorje

Though not currently open to spontaneous visits like many of the Croatia castles on this list, you can go to the Baroque castle of Miljana near Kumrovec, Zagorje. You just have to arrange to do so in advance. That's because this picturesque building is undergoing a gradual restoration.

Miljana_Castle_near_KumroveKrapina_Zagorje_County_Tourism_Board.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Miljana is impossibly pretty, as are its grounds. Three wings surround a central courtyard. A striking black plaster covers the walls, periodically interspersed with white plaster ornamentation. Its construction began in the late 16th century under the Rattkay family. Although, it was expanded and adapted several times before its last substantial remodeling in the 18th century. Its first floor has eight salons, seven of which hold frescos on the walls. These are the basis of much of the current restoration work. It promises to be an unmissable treat once the painstaking work is complete.

Kutjevo Castle

dvorac-kutjevoTZK.jpeg© Tourism Board of Kutjevo

Built on the site of a much earlier monastery, Kutjevo castle still has the ancient wine cellar that belonged to its predecessor. This cellar dates back to the year 1232. The rest of the original monastery buildings were destroyed by the Ottomans. After they left, the land was gifted to Zagreb canon Ivan Josip Babić in 1689. He invited Jesuits to make a home for themselves here. They cleared the land and built the castle between 1704 and 1735.

Kutjevo-ParkCROATIA.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

One side of the castle is a church. The other three wings are less overtly religious in appearance. They surround an inner courtyard and, beyond them stretches a large park area. The park has a circular motif in its centre. Around it, pathways wind through the grounds passing the large trees which live here. Perhaps the most striking feature of the building is its polygonal tower on which sits a bulb-shaped roof. The building is privately owned and its interior is not open to spontaneous visits from the public.

Eltz Castle, Vukovar

Vukovar_Dvorac_Eltz_SKStjepkoKrehula.jpeg© Stjepko Krehula

One of the most famous, spectacular and oldest castles in Germany is called Eltz Castle. This one, located in the easterly Croatian city of Vukovar, is clearly something other. However, the two are connected by the same Eltz family, the descendants of which still inhabit the German castle, just as their ancestors did in the 12th Century. The family owned huge tracts of land around this section of the Danube. By far, this was their most significant territory outside Germany. Eltz Castle in Vukovar was their main residence until 1945 when the family was expelled by the Yugoslav communist regime.

GradskiMuzejVuko.jpg© Gradski muzej Vukovar

The front facade is a sea of ornate baroque windows, painstakingly (but speedily) reconstructed following the building's near-complete destruction by bombing during the 1990s. Since 1968, the castle has housed the Vukovar City Museum (here), one of the most significant in Pannonia. It charts the history of all the peoples who have inhabited this area of the Danube and contains valuable exhibits returned to it from Zagreb, Novi Sad and Belgrade.

Lukavec Castle, Turopolje

LukavecTZZC1.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Lukavec is built on the site of a wooden fort that was first mentioned in 1256. Could some of the wooden bridge that gives access to this castle be made of remnants of its ancestor? Maybe not, but it's nice to imagine the lineage being so palpable. This replacement structure dates from 1752 and is marked by outer walls covered in gold-coloured plaster. This colour contrasts beautifully against white borders, the red-tiled roof and the darkened top of the main tower.

The_Old_Town_of_Lukavec_6Zeljko.filipin.jpeg© Zeljko Filipin

In the building's courtyard sits an old cannon. This remnant reminds of a military past that is otherwise unapparent in the unblemished building. Lukavec is an integral part of the local community's cultural and social life and hosts many events.

Kerestinec Castle

kerestinec2-10svetaned.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

The Renaissance-Baroque building in Kerestinec, Sveta Nedelja, is one of the Croatia castles that has seen much better days. Its construction was commissioned in 1565 by Petar Erdödy, then Ban of Croatia. So, originally it would have been built to high standards and specifications. The castle was remodelled several times over the centuries and is today notable for circular towers that sit at two corners of its four wings.

dvorac_helikoptersvetanedelja.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

In recent memory, the castle's central courtyard has hosted events such as a dance music festival. This may be far from its original purpose, but such events continue to breathe life into a spectacular building that perhaps otherwise would be completely abandoned.

All of the photos of castles in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner) were taken by Domagoj Blažević for the Route Of The Frankopans website (here), which allows visitors to trace a path through all of the former Frankopan properties in the county and is recommended reading for castle hunters

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