Thursday, 13 May 2021

OPG Čudesna šuma: Paradise Reimagined in Beautiful, Traditional Baranja

May 13, 2021 – OPG Čudesna šuma: How an unexpected turn of events helped world-renowned photographer Mario Romulić realise his lifelong dream.

War and genocide and the aftermath. Famine. Disease. Death. In a former life, harrowing images filled the lens of internationally renowned photographer Mario Romulić. But thankfully, we're now far from such scenes.

In fact, at OPG Čudesna šuma - Mario Romulić's home and family farm - we're pretty much far from everything. One other eco-farm is his only neighbour. Well, unless you count the llamas the Romulić family keep out back. Occasionally, through the rich green of surrounding trees, you see birds flying above the branches. Probably they're toing and froing from Kopački rit. The nearby Nature Park is less than a kilometre from OPG Čudesna šuma. Famously, the wetlands are home to over 250 species of birds. They are also the reason why Mario Romulić is here.

ReeeeeMG_2366_DxO-GŠ-e1559901697596.jpgKopački rit Nature Park © Kopački rit Nature Park.

“Back then, I was very occupied with Kopački rit,” remembers Mario of the time, 21 years ago, when he moved to what is now OPG Čudesna šuma. “I was working as a cameraman for people like Reuters, all over the world. The assignments would last 7-10 days and I'd be in places like Afghanistan, Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, Bosnia. It was often quite dangerous. For the next 20 days, I would spend a lot of time in Kopački rit, trying to calm my nerves. It was something like a cure after seeing all these horrible scenes. Eventually, instead of travelling every day from my home in Osijek to Kopački rit, I decided to try and find something close by. And this is what I found.”

Just as this beautiful, natural landscape in Bilje, Baranja once served as a peaceful getaway for Mario Romulić, his OPG Čudesna šuma today does the same for others. Because, after dreaming for two decades of turning this blissful plot and homestead into a forest farm and eco-village, Mario Romulić is finally turning that vision into a reality.

REEEEE123849689_631301844230484_3242943399468051911_n.jpgThe impossibly pretty OPG Čudesna near Kopački rit Nature Park, Bilje Municipality, Baranja © OPG Čudesna šuma.

“Because of my job - first, travelling all around the world, then travelling Croatia - I did not even have much time to think about it, let alone do it,” says Mario. “But, then Corona came. Finally, I found myself at home. At last, I had time to work on my dream.”

OPG Čudesna šuma in the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje)

A group of 30 or so are Mario's guests today at OPG Čudesna šuma. They're here for a presentation of speciality cooking. It's the grand finale of the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje).

Over previous weeks, OPGs from all across the region have welcomed guests to try goulash, soups, stews, perklet and other traditional foods of the area. While visiting, they've been embraced by the beautiful landscape of Baranja. Not only have they discovered how this delightful, distinct cuisine tastes, but also they've learned exactly how it's prepared. However, they've evidently saved the best for last. On the menu today, river fish inventively cooked, accompanied by a riotous rainbow of seasonal vegetables.

reOPG_Čudesna_šuma181580000_726510768042924_6910637969151864081_n.jpgSeasonal vegetables of Baranja in springtime at the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje) © OPG Čudesna šuma.

It's a beautifully sunny day, right at the start of May. It depends on your preference, but looking across this happy vista in the glorious sunshine, it's difficult to imagine this not being the perfect time to be in Baranja. Young children are raised to chest height by their parents so they can meet Mario's free-roaming llamas face-to-face. The children's faces flit between surprise, curiosity and delight. The llamas return their stare. They're used to welcoming new guests.

re182218841_3395418300561357_8222892496436052806_n.jpgMeeting the Romulić family llamas at OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

Partially shaded by trees, the smiling adult guests sit casually on wooden benches around a central, outdoor cooking area. Several open fires display a range of traditional cooking methods. Steam rises from a cast-iron stove suspended over one. Beneath the vapours, you can make out the dish is fish paprikash. It's unmistakable because of the deeply red coloured bubbles, a result of generous amounts of paprika.

RErommy.jpgGuests enjoy a warm springtime day at OPG Čudesna šuma during the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje), as fish paprikas cooks over an open fire © OPG Čudesna šuma.

A huge bag of this paprika sits propped up, close by. It's from another organic OPG, just a kilometre or so from here. The colour is vivid, impossibly red, unrecognisable from anything store-bought. At the next fire, pike impaled on wooden sticks are placed far enough from the flickering flames so they cook slowly and do not burn.

RRRRRRMG_9076.jpgPike impaled on sticks, cooking by an open fire at OPG Čudesna šuma @ Marc Rowlands.

In the outdoor kitchen, Mario Romulić's co-chefs prepare an unending supply of fish dishes and vegetables. Carp, catfish, trout, bream. There's a bounty of fresh asparagus. It's that time of year. With the restraint of experience, they've cooked it perfectly. After the crunch of the bite, the flavour explodes. They're seasoned simply – delicious olive oil and sea salt.

RRRRRMG_9083.jpgSeasonal asparagus, perfectly cooked, served with smoked river fish © Marc Rowlands.

A group of peers – accomplished chefs from Osijek-Baranja restaurants – peak over the shoulders of Romulić's co-chefs. They're admiring the inventive techniques employed. Although, being chefs, they can't help themselves. They end up briefly forgetting their families in order to help out.

Mario Romulić, the host with the most

re181662505_3395417317228122_5675229268416633172_n.jpgMario Romulić © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

After all the guests arrive, Mario Romulić holds court. Cheerily he welcomes us all to OPG Čudesna šuma and the event. Without question, the success of rural, village tourism depends on the personalities of the hosts. It's no good plonking a group of visitors in a pretty place and throwing some food in front of them. We've all seen trees, grass and food before. Rural tourism is not just about the place, it's about the experience, the ambience. And, especially, it's about the people.

Hands down, the OPGs of Slavonia and Baranja are the best in Croatia at this. The folks here are famous for their friendliness, warm welcome and big personalities. And, Mario Romulić has one of the biggest of them all.

In the research for this reportage, looking back at archive pictures of Mario Romulić is startling. During his years spent as an international photographer, he himself has been photographed many times – on assignment in distant countries, at the opening of exhibitions that have showcased his celebrated work. In most, there's an intensity to his stare. It's sometimes difficult to look at. He looks like a man who has tales you never want to hear, like a man who has seen too much.

re181833835_3395419193894601_1580949382978993421_n.jpg(L- R) OPG Čudesna šuma co-chef at the event Mihael Tomić, renowned Osijek chef Ivan Đukić currently of Osijek's Lipov Hlad and a happy Mario Romulić © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

By comparison, the Mario Romulić that welcomes us at OPG Čudesna šuma today is unrecognisable. Sure, there's a little more grey to his long hair and beard but, otherwise, he looks incredibly healthy and happy. The intense stare is gone, replaced by a warm, wide smile that shows across his entire face. Even in early May, he has a darkened skin tone, the telltale signs of a man who spends much of the day outdoors. Romulić's enthusiasm for his guests and the event is palpable. After his sincere welcome, this enthusiasm is immediately transferred to each of his guests.

Mrs Romulić ensures everyone's glass is overflowing with wine or juice. One of Mario's teenage sons helps out with the food, while the other is taking photographs of the event. Well, someone has to do the photography now that dad wants to be a chef and host! Mario himself is engulfed in smoke. Among the other duties he's assumed today, Mario is tending a smoker. Without a doubt, this is the most revelatory cooking method we meet today.

RAFGGMG_9033.jpgMario Romulić tends to smoked river fish, a revelatory gastronomic experience at OPG Čudesna šuma © Marc Rowlands.

Smoked fish of Slavonia and Baranja at OPG Čudesna šuma

reOPG_Čudesna_šuma181569372_726510701376264_2349368327366088172_n.jpgAn American-style smoker, loaded with river fish. TOP TIP: A great way to stop fish sticking to the grill of your barbecue or smoker is to place them on top of a layer of lemon slices © OPG Čudesna šuma.

“We do have smoked fish here, but not in this way,” he says. “This is more like an American grill. I never heard of anyone trying Baranja cooking like this. Actually, I never heard of anyone nearby who has a smoker like this. The first time I tried stuka (pike) in the smoker, that was unbelievable. It's incomparable, really special.”

re182065042_3395417427228111_6987374227558501361_n.jpgExquisite presentation of river fish by the enthusiastic team of OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

“In Slavonia and Baranja, there are just a few ways we usually cook our river fish - carp on sticks, fish paprikash, perklet and fried fish. So, we tried something new, to expand the palette. For instance, almost nobody eats Babuška (a type of carp). They feed it instead to their pigs. It costs 5 kuna a kilo! But, if you cook it in this completely natural way, it's delicious.”

re181464507_3395417533894767_3887484501591319798_n.jpgMore river fish, cooked by the team of OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

He's not wrong. Today's mountain of different smoked fish is the talk on most of the adult lips. The rich flavours surprise. Compliments and returns for second helpings ensue. Mario stands to one side, happily watching as his smoked fish secret escapes. In the future, he plans similar events based on other regional foods - Black Slavonian pig, wild meats like deer or boar. Eventually, in the seven hectares of land he owns here, he would like to expand OPG Čudesna šuma as an eco-village, with beds for visitors, a natural swimming pool and then surround it with a food forest. Big plans. It looks as though the camera may stay more permanently in the hands of his son. Because it's difficult to imagine Mario Romulić leaving his happy place and the realisation of his long-held dream.

re60723980_10157204309393875_1954899380326629376_n.jpgMario Romulić in his happy place, with a friend © OPG Čudesna šuma.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to thank the following for their invaluable help in creating this article: Ivana Jurić and the Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County, OPG Čudesna šuma, Mario Romulić and family, Renata Forjan and Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit and Domagoj Butković of expert travel guides to Slavonia and Baranja, Kulen travel.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Srijem and Slavonia: A Taste of Happiness

April 3, 2021 - From small snacks to spicy dishes and the most delicate desserts, when it comes to food, Srijem and Slavonia are unsurpassed.

Slavonian small snacks and finger food are even tastier, for starters, if they are from the black Slavonian pig. Gingerbread, kulen, kulen cutlet, švargl, sausage, bacon, cheese, ajvar, and more. Then hearty soup, just removed from the heat, still smoked, then sarma and delicious cookies of all colors and sizes. First of all, brandy, and with every dish, the wine of the Srijem vineyards. A very ordinary day in Srijem and Slavonia will look like a real feast, so if you are a gourmet, be sure to stop by. The invitation is valid indefinitely.

It’s not that it won’t make your cheeks glow and your stomach warm. It has everything you need - a harmony of flavors: it is moderately salty, moderately thick, and somewhat spicy. The noodles melt in your mouth and red ground pepper does not cover the delicate taste of fish. It only lacks fish bones. That is why it was given an honest and straightforward name - boneless fish.

Vecernji List reports, this innovative version of one of the most popular dishes east of Zagreb was designed many years ago at the Dunav Hotel in Ilok and has since become their trademark. This hotel, otherwise a real avant-garde in the traditional Slavonian, Srijem, and Baranja cuisine, is not only known for its innovative fish, but it was also the first in this part of the country to receive a Michelin recommendation. Everyone who has eaten there at least once knows. Super price, top quality, everything is fine and fresh, and for a sweet finish, our recommendation is šnenokli. It may seem too simple to you, but that’s exactly where the charm lies. With an absolute explosion of flavors in such a traditional and everyday dish, you will want to immediately ask for a recipe from the head chef. 

Good wines accompany delicate dishes, and those from Ilok, the center of the Srijem vineyards, have seduced the most demanding palates for centuries and are drunk in European courts since the princely family Odescalchi filled them in unique packages in the Old Cellars 200 years before Bordeaux and Burgundy. They are protected from traders and resellers who often confused it with that of inferior quality.

True connoisseurs and wine lovers in Ilok will enjoy the fragrant Traminers, and there is still talk of that Ilok cellars that were drunk at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The grapes for the top Traminers of this most awarded Croatian winery are grown on Principovac, a famous wine-growing position and the country estate of the Odescalchi family, where his first vine was planted in 1710. Since then, this royal variety has not ceased to intrigue the wine world.

In Ilok, you have to walk through its beautiful historical core, visit the church of St. Ivana Kapistrana, the Museum of the City of Ilok in the Odescalchi Castle, the Old Cellars from the 15th and 18th centuries, and, with prior notice, at least two or three more wineries, about twenty of them on the Ilok Wine Road.

A homely, positive atmosphere, which can only be provided in Slavonia and a modern, refined interior, characteristic of fine dining restaurants in major world capitals, is how at first the new Vinkovci restaurant Lu could be described. The award-winning chef, Ana Marija Stanković, is a national champion and bronze medalist at the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart. Fire burger, homemade smoked sausage, pork fillet, glazed pork ribs, chicken fillet in an almond crunch, french lamb rack, beefsteak, rump steak, perch fillet; you will enjoy its interpretation of traditional Slavonian cuisine; especially if you follow modern trends and above all appreciate quality food.

lu.jpg

Restaurant Lu Vinkovci | Restraurant Lu Facebook

Although there are more and more modern restaurants and pubs, Srijem and Slavonia will wish you a warm welcome in traditional, proven good restaurants where dishes are simmered, long and slow, with a lot of heart and a few secret ingredients, just like the daughters-in-law used to do.

The final stop is Sotin, the popular Gondola restaurant, and the picnic area. It is cooked there according to traditional, carefully selected recipes. You will enjoy fragrant Slavonian sausages, the famous shepherd's pie or delicious Šokac steaks with špecli, and the greasy bread and the finest saltines homemade jam owned by Aunt Luca look so good and entice with the scents that even the most notable characters will not resist. And only when you take the first bite, that is the taste of happiness.

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

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

People also ask Google: What Type of Food does Croatia Eat?

February 23, 2021 – What type of food does Croatia eat? Well, it's a small country, only around 4 million people. The food must be pretty similar all over Croatia, right? Wrong

The type of food Croatia eats depends on which region you are in. The Croatian menu is wonderfully varied. Homegrown or domestic Croatian food is usually the product of the country's wonderful natural assets. The type of food Croatia eats is also influenced by its close neighbours. Some food Croatia eats comes historically from the menus of places quite far from Croatia.

Croatia is known for food that is often cooked simply, allowing the finest natural ingredients to sing. Food in Croatia often travels a very short distance from the field to the plate or from the sea to the plate. So, what Croatia eats very much depends on the land and assets in the area close by. For instance, in the mountainous region of Lika, potatoes grow well and appear regularly in the cookbook. In Karlovac, the city's wealth of rivers means that freshwater fish and frogs legs appear on the menu.

Sto_vidjetikarlooooo.jpgKarlovac, a city whose four rivers inform the local cuisine © Croatian National Tourist Board

What type of food does Croatia eat in the flatlands of Pannonia might be very different to the food Croatia eats in the coastal regions of Dalmatia or Istria. But, not always. Some kinds of food Croatia eats is ubiquitous – you can find some Croatian food that is popular in every region, like grah – an inexpensive, filling and delicious beans-based dish, popular at lunch or punjeni paprika (stuffed peppers). Sarma - meat-filled cabbage rolls cooked in a tomato sauce – is also popular throughout Croatia. Cabbage is a staple part of the Croatian diet, being used fresh in delicious crunchy side salads or in is fermented form, as sauerkraut.

picture_2sarmy.jpgSarma

Snack food or fast food in Croatia is available on almost every street corner, from the pekara (or pekarnica), the popular local bakeries. Here, you can grab a burek, pizza slice or pita, which is like a cross between a small pastry pie and a pasty (if you're British and know what a pasty is!)

Other fast food in Croatia includes burgers and kebabs, which range in quality from standard to super-premium. The Zagreb restaurant and fast food menu, in particular, has expanded massively over recent years. The choice of food in Zagreb is now varied and international. But that's not the only place. Want to eat Indian food in Dubrovnik? Can do. Fancy some sushi while staring out over beautiful Kvarner Bay in Opatija? Može (you may)!

navisssssssssssssssssssss.jpgNavis Hotel overlooking Kvarner Bay - Opatija's first sushi restaurant © Hotel Navis Opatija

Croatia now has many Michelin-recommended and several Michelin-starred restaurants. Their number grows each year. But, while the variety of international and top-flight continues to expand in Croatia, this does not tell the real story of what Croatia food is.

Pizza is not really Croatian food (although, like that other Italian import ice cream, Croatians do make it very well). Burgers are not Croatian food, even if pljeskavica is. Pekara might be ubiquitous, but that is not real Croatian food. No. To find out truly what type of food does Croatia eat, you'll have to find a seat in a traditional restaurant or tavern (a konoba, if you're on the coast, krčma, klet or gostiona, gostionica or restoran elsewhere). There you can soak up the wonderful vibes and sometimes spectacular scenery. But, more important that that, you might find a meal you'll never forget.

The only thing in Croatia that truly beats traditional food from a great tavern, is food in Croatia that is made by mom or grandma in the home. If you're lucky enough to be invited to try traditional Croatian food in someone's home, you simply must go. It's the best!

What type of food does Croatia eat?

What food is Croatia known for in the region of Istria?
103990514_2766842676932885_8553088344150944332_ofdzsgabdfbagtfbafgbnasfg.jpgWhat type of food do they eat in Istria? © Draguč, Istria by Romulic and Stojcic

The most northwesterly region of Croatia, food in Istria is often distinctly different to that found in the other areas of Croatia. The region's close proximity to Italy can be tasted within much traditional Istrian food. Homemade pastas take centre stage on meat, fish and vegetable dishes and also find their way into Istrian soups and stews. Many small fishing villages exist on the Istrian coast and the catch of the day is not only popular with those who live on the coast – seafood makes its way into the interior of Istria too. Familiar Mediterranean meals featuring seabass, bream, sardine, sole, squid, scallops, crab, scampi, mussels and oysters can be found on the Istrian food menu. Black cuttlefish risotto and the stews Brodet and Buzara are also a favourite here, like elsewhere on the Croatian coast.

sea-food-1840001_1920_1.jpg

The Istrian interior is a beautiful landscape, with rolling hills covered in vineyards, long stretches of olive groves and fruit trees, picturesque hilltop towns and river valleys which cut through unblemished nature and forest. It is within these forests that one of Istria's most famous ingredients can be found.

truffle-203031_1920_1.jpg

Istria is famous for truffles. The rare and costly delicacy makes its way generously into Istrian food, shaved over pasta dishes or added to oils, cheese or even chocolate. You can take a guided tour to hunt for truffles in Istria. Truffles aren't the only things hunted in the region's woods – game makes its way into some delicious Istrian food dishes.

tartufi_pljukanci_1-maja-danica-pecanicdgfadsgadfvbgdz.jpgHomemade pasta with truffles - classic Istria! © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Other produce the region is famous for include honey, Istrian prosciutto (prsut) and Istrian olive oil. In 2020, Istria was voted the world's best olive oil region for a sixth consecutive year. You can find it in most Istrian pasta dishes, salads and on almost every dining table. Delicious.

olive-oil-1596639_1920_1.jpg

You can find different local specialities in villages all over Istria, usually informed by the crops most grown nearby or the produce popularly made there. These are celebrated at food and drink festivals which regularly occur in villages and towns throughout the region. Go to any of these if you can. They're a brilliant opportunity to try some of the best traditional foods of Istria, and you'll be able to wash it down with excellent Istrian wine varieties like Malvasia or Teran.

imagefrittty.jpgAsparagus is just one of many ingredients for which the Croatian region of Istria is famous, seen here made into a frittata or omelette © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Some famous Istrian food dishes include Manestra, a minestrone-type soup made with vegetables (and sometimes meat or bones are used to flavour), Istrian žgvacet, a more meaty stew, asparagus (which is often eaten with eggs or made into an omelette or frittata) and speciality beef dishes which come from the region's rare, indigenous Boskarin cow.

What do they eat in Croatia in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast?
split-3712767_1920_1.jpgThe city of Split on the Dalmatian coast

The food eaten in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast is classic Mediterranean food. Croatian waters of the Adriatic sea are very clean and offer up a stunning range of seafood. Fish like sardines, tuna, seabass and bream are incredibly popular and are often served simply grilled, sometimes flavoured with olive oil, salt, garlic and nothing more. A popular – if not ubiquitous – side dish to accompany grilled fish is blitva, which is a hardy green chard that thrives even in the extreme heat and nutrient-weak soil of the region. It is traditionally cooked with potatoes and flavoured with olive oil and salt.

fish-3684985_1920_1.jpgWhat do they eat in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast? Sea bass grilled and served simply is an unforgettable meal of any holiday in this part of Croatia

Other seafood such as squid, octopus, crab, scampi and prawns are popular in Dalmation cooking. Many get the same simple treatment as the fine fish – they are grilled simply, black bars of mild charring from the grill scarring their surface upon serving. Octopus also makes its way into a delicious salad, often served as a starter. Dalmatian seafood is also used in risottos, with prawn risotto and black cuttlefish risotto particular favourites.

fish-725955_1920_1.jpgOctopus salad is a popular starter in Dalmatia

Many more varieties of fish than the famous ones mentioned can be found in coastal fish markets (there are great ones in Rijeka, Kvarner and in Split). You'll find various varieties of fish used in delicious stews and soups served in Dalmatia. Brudet and Buzara are also a favourite here, like in Istria.

4_gastro-stew-optimized-for-print-maja-danica-pecanicyfkufjf.jpgDalmatian food found on the coast often relies heavily on the gifts of the Adriatic sea. This dish, known as Brudet (Brodet in some places) is a fish stew/soup popular all through Croatia's coastal regions © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

A popular traditional method of cooking in Dalmatia is 'ispod peka' – food cooked under a metal bell-shaped covering upon which hot coals and embers are placed. These long and slow-cooked dishes often contain a mixture of meat and vegetables and could be comparable perhaps to a Moroccan tagine – but without north African spices. This method of cooking holds a theatre that matches its great taste, but many places ask you order a day in advance if you want to try it because the cooking time can be long. Octopus, lamb, pork and beef are the most popular choices to be found cooked 'under the bell'

Pekazaton.jpgWhat do they eat in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast? A dish of great theatre is 'peka' - food cooked 'under the bell'. Try the one with octopus! © Zaton holiday resort

Dalmatia is famous for smoked prosciutto (prsut), smoked, dry-cured bacon (pancetta) and lamb. You'll see both whole sucking pig and whole roasted lamb cooking on spits above flickering flames all across Dalmatia. Dalmatian lamb is full of flavour. Unlike elsewhere, where it is flavoured with garlic, rosemary, other spices or even anchovy, Dalmatian lamb is seasoned only with salt and a little olive oil. It needs nothing more and this is the absolute truth. A highlight not to miss.

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Elsewhere, Dalmatia is famous for its cheese. The cheeses from island Pag are particularly famous – usually hard in texture, full of flavour and not inexpensive. You'll find them served alongside prsut and olives on the buffets of any parties or official functions and are best enjoyed with local wines. Croatia's most powerful red wines come from Dalmatia. If that's your kind of wine, this is one of the best regions in the world.

e0210f36257c3dffb45491df5f1ba0c8asfjpaioshfGAILSDHGFLsdfsadhgasjd.jpgWhat food do they eat in Dalmatia in Croatia? The cheese from the Dalmatian island of Pag is extremely famous © Croatian National Tourist Board

Apart from peka, another famous Dalmatian coastal dish is Pašticada. Like peka, an authentic Pašticada requires pre-ordering – it takes a minimum 24 hours of preparation time to make a good one, as the beef used within it is marinated. Finding a truly great Pašticada is difficult. The best are cooked with care, love and attention within the home and are served for special occasions. If you're lucky enough to try one of those, recapturing that distinct fruity taste will be difficult and many restaurant-ready versions will disappoint.

1440px-Pasticada_1.jpgWhat type of food do they eat in Dalmatia on special occasions? Pašticada. If you try the best, it will likely be homecooked © Popo le Chien

A lot of Dalmatian coastal food is comparable to that found all along the Mediterranean shoreline. One distinct anomaly is the city of Omiš, whose cuisine is supplemented by its position at the mouth of the huge Cetina river. You can read a detailed article about the cuisine of Omis here.

What kind of food do they eat in Croatia within inland Dalmatia / the Dalmatian hinterland?
gorchf.jpgWhat kind of food do they eat in Dalmatia in the hinterland? It varies. In the city of Drniš, they are famous for making a distinct prosciutto (prsut) © gorchfin

The Dalmatian hinterland is one of the great gastronomic regions of Croatia, yet it remains largely undiscovered by the crowds visiting the coast. It can be tough to leave the beautiful beaches, but a trip behind the mountains is worth it for multiple reasons, not least the food.

It really is the shortest of journeys to make. For that reason, the cuisine of inland Dalmatia contains all the treats you'll find on restaurant menus by the coast (but probably at half the price!) In addition, they have their own specialities you're unlikely to find by the sea.

drnyyyyyyy.jpgWhat kind of food do they eat in Dalmatia in the hinterland? Drniški Pršut © Tourist Board of Drniš

In the city of Drniš, they are famous for their cheese and distinct pršut, in Imotski they're known for a delicious almond cake. In the hinterland behind Omiš, you'll find Poljicki Soparnik – a truly authentic Croatian dish. In the villages around the Neretva valley, close to Metkovic, you'll find frogs and eels used in local cuisine.

soppy.jpegWhat type of food does Croatia eat? The hinterland behind the city of Omis in Dalmatia is one of the few places you'll find Poljički Soparnik, a truly authentic Croatian food © Marc Rowlands

Continental Croatian cuisine and traditional Mediterranean cooking collide in the Dalmatian hinterland – it really is the best of both. Much of the lamb Dalmatia is famous for comes from the foothills on either side of the Dinaric Alps and meat plays a perhaps bigger role in Dalmatian cuisine than it does on the coast.

What food is Croatia known for in Zagreb?
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Compared to just ten years ago, the Zagreb food offer has exploded in its number of options. You can find Japanese sushi, Chinese food, Levantine food, Mexican food, Indian food, food from Sri Lanka, Lebanese and Arabic food, Thai food and Turkish food in authentic Zagreb restaurants and other food outlets. You'll also find some of Croatia's best burger joints and pizza restaurants in the capital. These excellent imports now rival the classic Balkan grill/barbecue joints for the attentions of restaurant-goers and those who order takeaway.

fallyfffs.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In Zagreb, these days you can eat food from all over the world - including delicious falafel © Falafel etc.

If you're only in Zagreb for a short amount of time, please don't miss the grill experience. The Croatian capital really does have some of the best in the country and it's a much more authentic experience than a burrito or sweet and sour pork with fried rice.

turkeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Foods like burek, kebab and baklava can be found all over the Balkans, a remnant of the time the Ottomans were here. But, the best baklava in Croatia is available in Zagreb, made by Turkish guys at La Turka © Mateo Henec

Alongside the pljeskavica, cevapi, sausages and pork steaks on the Balkan grill menus, you'll often find stuffed meat options. Some of these are very popular in Zagreb. It could be a burger, with bacon included or one filled with cheese. Or, it could be a chicken, turkeys, pork or veal portion, tenderised and flattened with a cooking mallet so that it can be rolled around cheese and ham and cooked in breadcrumbs, like the famous Zagrebački odrezak.

magazinnnnn.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? DO NOT miss the grill restaurants in Zagreb. Magazinska Klet, just behind Autobusni kolodvor (intercity bus station) is a really good one © Magazinska Klet

Zagreb food is much more influenced by continental European cooking than the menu found near Croatia's coast. Austrian influences can be seen not only in the city's rich architecture – its cakes and pastries are comparable to some found on just the other side of neighbouring Slovenia.

Strukli is a Zagreb speciality – a baked or boiled pastry dish which can have different fillings and accompanying sauces, cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, sour cream and cream being among them. Another distinct element of the Zagreb food offer is gablets – small dishes of food, served in restaurants at lunchtime, for a below-normal restaurant price. These are a great way to sample traditional Croatian food inexpensively. Ask a local for a recommendation of where does the best.

1440px-Štrukli_iz_Okrugljaka_1.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In Zagreb, they are very proud of the dish known as štrukli © Bonč

A modern European city of almost a million people – approaching a quarter of the country's population – it goes without saying that not a large percentage of Zagreb's land space is devoted to farming and agriculture. So, when we are discussing the food, plus much of the produce and menu of Zagreb, in many cases what we are actually talking about is the food of a much wider region surrounding the city. Zagreb County produce plays a big part in the cuisine of Croatia's capital. So too does that of the agricultural area which lies on the other side of the mountain Medvednica, which dominates Zagreb's skyline. That area is traditionally known as Zagorje.

sommy.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In much of the capital of Zagreb, the food and cuisine is actually informed by the areas surrounding, like Zagreb County. The pretty hills of Samobor in Zagreb County © Samobor Tourist Board

What food do they eat in Croatia in Zagorje and northern Croatia?
zgrrlksfh2.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? The unspoiled rural landscape of Zagorje 'over the mountain' of Medvednica, informs much of what we class as Zagreb cuisine  © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Zagorje produce forms the basis of much that you'll find on the menu of Zagreb. This traditional region today stretches across several Croatian counties, each containing rolling hills, with vineyards rising above agricultural fields. It is very often a very pretty landscape.

dsjkafjgfJGVK1111.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Pffft! Forget the food, I want to eat this impossibly pretty landscape! This is Zagorje © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The food of Zagorje is traditionally the food of an agricultural region – simple, hearty fare, using the freshest produce that grows in the fields surrounding. Soups (in particular, a famous creamy potato soup), stews and bean-based dishes sit alongside sausages, filled pastries and fowl on the Zagorje menu.

militin11111111111111.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Zagorje mlinci © Mlin Jertovec doo

The region's cuisine is famous for some distinct inclusions. Polenta is used more in the Zagorje kitchen than in other regions. You'll likely find a greater choice of fowl here than anywhere else in Croatia. Duck, geese, guinea fowl, pheasant, chicken and turkey can be found on the Croatian food menu and many of these are commonly found being farmed in Zagorje. Such birds can be found in the diet of Croatians right the way through Zagorje and up to the most northern part of Croatia, Medimurje.

majaturk.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In Zagorje, turkey and other birds are usually served with pasta sheets called mlinci. Both Zagorje turkey and Zagorje mlinci are protected at their place of origin at an EU level © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Zagorje turkey is Croatia's most famous. Like other bird dishes cooked all across Croatia, it is frequently served alongside distinct pasta sheets called Zagorski Mlinci, which is cooked in the bird's roasting juices and fat. In Zagorje, they are known for their baking – excellent pastries, both savoury and sweet, and their speciality grain breads, make their way across the mountain and into the hungry capital. Look out too for a savoury strudel they make with a mushroom filling. Yum! And, if you venture as far up as Medimurje, look out for one of their specialities called Meso 'z tiblice. Like much of continental Croatia, in Zagorje, locally made cheeses are an important part of traditional food, as are preserved meats and sausages.

What food does Croatia eat in Slavonia?
donjion1111.jpg What type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia eat fresh food from their gardens or fields © Croatian National Tourist Board

As a rule, Croatians don't really like their food too hot and spicy. In an unpublished section of an interview with a Croatian Michelin restaurant chef, TCN was told that this appreciation of more milder flavours even extends to a reticence to eat older, aged and fully flavoured game and other meat. This conservative palette and minimal appreciation of strong spicing can be seen throughout the Croatian menu. And, in many cases, it's understandable. When produce is so fresh and full of flavour, it only impedes a dish to mask the taste of these ingredients with spices. The one region in Croatia that absolutely loves bold flavours within its traditional food is Slavonia.

slavvuy.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia have a much more spicy menu than the rest of Croatia © Romulić & Stojčić

A huge traditional region running east of Zagreb, across the flatlands of the Pannonian basin, right up to the border with Serbia, Slavonia is today divided up into several different counties. Also, within the history of this traditional region, two distinct regions share space alongside Slavonia in the Pannonian basin – Syrmia and Baranja. It perhaps does a disservice to these two small regions that they are often just swept under the broader title of Slavonia. Each makes its own incredible contribution to the Croatian menu.

Slawonien-850x491jdkssfADS.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia have two huge rivers bookending the north and south of their traditional region - the Drava and the Sava © Croatian National Tourist Board

In Croatian Syrmia (the other half of this traditional region lies across the border, in Vojvodina, present-day Serbia), you'll find some of the best white wines produced in continental Croatia. In Baranja, they are masters of preserved meats. The smoked, dry-cured bacon here may not be as famous as Dalmatian pancetta, but you'd be hard pushed to decide which was better. One of Croatia's oldest and best-regarded meat producers, Belje, is from Baranja.

Baranja is also famous for kulen, a sausage made only from premium cuts of pig and coloured red by a generous spicing of paprika. But, like so many parts of this region's menu, kulen is also made in Slavonia proper. The land is the same meaning much of the menu is the same so, please consider the following inclusions to be common in all.

MK4_5082rommyslav.jpegWhat type of food does Croatia eat? A selection of Slavonia and Baranja cold meats. Baranja kulen is the irregular-shaped sausage in the top left of the platter © Romulić & Stojčić

Slavonia's close proximity to Hungary is responsible for much of the strong spicing and flavours of the region's food. Paprika, in sweet and mild and more hot and piquant styles, can be found in many dishes of the Slavonian cookbook. Indeed, although the condiment ajvar is popular as an accompaniment to grilled meat everywhere and therefore made all over Croatia, it is in Slavonia that you'll regularly find the spiciest (although even theirs is milder than some brilliant, more brutal versions made elsewhere in the Balkans). Paprika makes its way not only into preserved sausages like kulen but also into Slavonian soups and stews.

Kulen_Maja_Danica_Pečanić.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Slavonian kulen. Slavonian kulen does not have the same irregular shape as Baranja kulen © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Two great rivers border the north and south of Slavonia – the Drava and the Sava, with smaller ones running off or into them through the entire region. These produce a wealth of river fish which are popular in the Slavonian diet.

Throughout almost all the year in Slavonia, it is common to see large Šaran (carp), gutted and butterflied, then impaled outside on branches bored deep into the earth. This allows them to be suspended next to open fires which impart an incredible smoky flavour in the cooking of the fish. These Šaran frequently grow to incredible sizes in the big two rivers. The sight of this al fresco, traditional cooking method, known as u rašljama, is impressive, unforgettable and mouth-watering.

Šaran_Ivo_Biocina.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Šaran (carp) u rašljama © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Šaran also can be found among other river fish in the favourite Slavonian stew of fish paprikas. Richly red from paprika, you can again see this impressively cooked outdoors in Slavonia. Traditional heavy pots are suspended over open fires by the riverside, the dish bubbling and steaming above an intense heat. You would traditionally eat its liquid part first, as a soup, before delving into the fish parts that remain in the bottom (it's advisable to eat it only in this way as it's the best way of avoiding the many bones so typical of the river catch).

fishpap.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Fish paprikash (fiš paprikaš, sometimes shortened to simply fiš) © Romulić and Stojčić

Comparable to fish paprikash but made with meat is the Slavonian favourite of Cobanac. Again, boldly flavoured with paprika, this stew is bolstered in its punch by the use of hunted meats such as venison and wild boar. It is hands down one of Croatia's best dishes. You can find similar game meat used in Slavonian hunters stew and perklet, another thick and tasty dish informed by Hungarian neighbours.

cobanac81269598126589.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Cobanac, a hearty, spicy stew made in Slavonia using wild meats © Youtube screenshot 

Slavonia and neighbouring Vojvodina was once the breadbasket of much of the former Yugoslav federation. Here, this land that was once underwater is incredibly rich in nutrients. Indeed, in harder times, many people from all over the region came to live here, assured of finding work in the region's thriving agricultural industry. Slavonia today is not nearly so integral to the supply of the whole domestic nation's food, but agriculture still thrives here. And, the land is still rich.

areal05donji.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia eat river fish and fresh fruit and vegetables grown in their own, often large back gardens © Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board

In Slavonia, many live a rural life and even in some towns and large villages, Slavonian houses have huge gardens behind them which are traditionally used for growing vegetables, fruits and nuts or rearing chickens and pigs. Some Slavonian households engage in all of these and others too keep beehives (Slavonian honey is famous and comes in a variety of exciting, different flavours). The products of their labour ensure the freshest ingredients end up in Slavonian home cooking (although, some of their fruits are diverted from the dining table to the pursuit of making rakija). The personal rearing of animals for food also produces a culture in which none of the animal goes to waste.

Krvavica_Maja_Danica_Pečanić.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Krvavica © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Alongside standard or garlic and paprika flavoured sausages like kobasice, or the aforementioned kulen, in Slavonia you can find Švargl, a terrine made from offal, Čvarci, deep-fried rind (pork scratchings) and krvavica, a Croatian blood sausage. Although perhaps straying far from Italian traditions, Slavonia is also responsible for what is arguably Croatia's greatest style of pizza. Slavonska pizza is a hefty festival of different types of pork meats, loaded with onions and cheese too. It's already a gut-buster but, order it with an egg on top and when you burst the yolk to run across your forkful, you'll forget that pizza was ever Italian in the first place.

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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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Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Pozega-Slavonia Hunters Send Two Tons of Game to Earthquake Area

February 2, 2021 – In an admirably understated manner, Pozega-Slavonia hunters humbly pitched in to the relief efforts and sent two tons of game to those in the earthquake-affected area of Sisak-Moslavina

It's fair to say that in this day and age, hunters often get a bad rep. There are far more people in the world today who abstain from eating any meat – vegetarians and vegans – than those who go hunting. Changing times. For sure, it wasn't always this way.

In Croatia, hunting associations play a vital role in maintaining the beauty and accessibility of the country's rural landscape. Not that you much hear about this aspect of their undertakings. Perhaps they are typically just rather understated people?

You might easily come to that conclusion when considering the recent humanitarian action undertaken by Pozega-Slavonia hunters. Organised by the county hunting association and county officials, Pozega-Slavonia hunters from each of the region's district societies contributed in an effort to send the game taken by each – mostly deer and wild boar - to the earthquake-hit areas in Sisak-Moslavina County. They so far managed to send a whole two tons!

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At the same time, Pozega-Slavonia hunters from the county association began collecting funds for the families of those tragically killed in the 29 December earthquake. They have so far collected some 50,000 kunas that will be directed to the intended recipients through the Croatian Hunting Association.

“This is a small help, but undertaken with an open heart,” said a representative from the County, who jointly organised the effort.

“We go to visit friends,” he said, in reference to the delivery of the Pozega-Slavonia hunters game, “and a Slavonian does not go empty-handed. We have loaded more than a ton of meat here (in this shipment), but there will be more because in co-operation with Croatian Forestry, Brod-Posavina County and the Radinje hunting ground, today we will take (in total) about three to four tons of game.”

“(Perhaps) the people of Moslavina will remember Slavonia next time they eat Slavonian čobanac (a local specialty stew, made from game) because she (Slavonia) is always thinking of her (Moslavina),” he concluded.

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“Lovački savez Požeško – slavonske županije (Hunting alliance of Pozega Slavonia County) was the main organiser,” Mateja Tomasevic, Head of the County office told TCN. “Within it, there are 28 separate societies of Pozega-Slavonia hunters. They all participated in the humanitarian action.”

Among the 28 contributing societies were Hunting Associations 'Fazan' and 'Košuta' from Pakrac, 'Psunj' from Orljavac, 'Šljuka' from Brestovac, 'Jelen', 'Šijak', 'Sokolovac' and 'Sveti Hubert' from Požega, 'Dilj' from Buk, 'Vidra' from Sapna, Čaglin, 'Slavonac' from Kutjevo, 'Strijela' from Bektež, 'Papuk' from Biškupci, 'Sokol' from Bučje, 'Seljak' from Jakšić, 'Vepar' from Kaptol, 'Krndija' from Našice, 'Vranovac' from Vetovo, 'Šljuka' from Pleternica, 'Fazan' from Ruševo, 'Vražjak' from Sesvete, 'Sjeverni Dilj' from Seoce, 'Slavuj Gaj' from Poljana and 'Kuna' from Paka. Over 1300 residents of the county belong to one of the Pozega-Slavonia hunters associations.

Bravo!

AnyConv.com__BZENICA_LOVNO-STRELJASTVO_POZESKA-ZUPANIJA-1.jpgSome of the members of the Hunting Associations of Pozega-Slavonia County © Hrvatski Lovački Savez

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Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Deer Killed By Train, Stolen By Train Driver, Later Caught Drunk Driving

January 26, 2021 – Road kill we've heard of. But rail kill? One Slavonia deer killed by train was due to end up on the dining table of a train driver, who stopped his train to stuff the dead deer into his cab, before later being caught drunk driving with the decapitated animal in his trunk

Road kill we've heard of. But rail kill? One Slavonia deer killed by train was due to end up on the dining table of a train driver, who stopped his train to stuff the dead animal into his cab. Alas, the čobanac (a spicy, wild meat stew, popular in Slavonia) was not meant to be. He was caught drunk-driving the next day by police at a traffic stop in Vinkovci and arrested.

It's perhaps easy to understand the train driver not wanting to look such a gift horse, or deer, in the mouth. This is not the first deer killed by train or car within the wild rural landscape of Slavonia. With the unfortunate collision having offered the opportunity for fine dining, the train driver apparently had a one track mind.

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However, with the benefit of hindsight, it was perhaps not the best i-deer to retrieve the sizeable body of the deer killed by train to save for a later feast. Less easy to forgive is that he was caught with the deer while driving his car under the influence of alcohol. Such foolhardiness is no way to go about covering your tracks.

Police halted the man around 5pm on January 12 at a regular traffic roe-d stop and breathalysed him, as they correctly suspected he had been drinking. The 56-year-old man, who had Vinkovci license plates was found to be under the influence of alcohol (1.22 g / kg). However, that was just the first of the finds on the stop.

Upon searching the car trunk, police discovered the decapitated corpse of a sizeable deer. It turned out the train driver had stopped his train the day before to retrieve the animal and placed it in the driver's cab for consumption at a later date. The animal was presumably being transported home – or to a local butcher – by car the next day. But, the traffic stop put an end to any notions of a free meal.

cobanac.jpgCobanac, a hearty, spicy stew made in Slavonia using deer and other wild meats. Alas, it was not meant to be © Youtube screenshot

The deer corpse was confiscated and handed over to the hunting society of Stari Mikanovac for safekeeping until a warrant for an autopsy was obtained in order to determine the cause of death. Pursuant to the order of the Vinkovci Municipal State Attorney's Office, the examination of the deer carcass was performed by the Vinkovci Veterinary Institute.

For the appropriation of the deer, the police filed a complaint at the Municipal State Attorney's Office in Vinkovci against the 56-year-old for the criminal offence of theft. For his inebriated driving, the man was issued a misdemeanour order, imposing a fine of HRK 5,000 and was banned from driving a "B" category vehicle for two months. Having been charged for both excess beer and excess deer, at the time of the police road stop you could say the game was well and truly up.

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

Thursday, 1 October 2020

19 Incredible Dishes: The Best Vegetarian Food In Croatia

October 1, 2020 - Happy International Vegetarian Day! To celebrate, we bring you a list of 19 meat-free snacks and meals that make up the best vegetarian food in Croatia


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Starting a feature of the best vegetarian food in Croatia with a picture that has what looks suspiciously like meat in it comes at the top of a long list of dumb moves made by this writer - vegetarians, please forgive me. It was an impossible picture to find and this Youtube screenshot of a non-vegetarian option was the only one available on open license

Krpice sa zeljem

A lowly peasant dish made from cabbage and pasta, krpice sa zeljem neither sounds too appetising on paper nor looks inviting in its rather bland appearance. But, when you've no money left and need to fill your stomach, this is a great option. It's seasoned simply with salt, pepper and oil. Although most Croatians wouldn't do it, it's nice with butter or a butter and oil mix instead. Always use white pepper, not black, to accompany the salt in this. Some people make it with bits of pork too, like the one we have unfortunately pictured.

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Youtube screenshot © Andreina kuhinja

Granatir / Pašta s krumpirom

Also known as grenadir marš (grenadier march) or pašta s krumpirom (pasta with potatoes), this is a simple dish from Slavonia and is popular in other parts of northern continental Croatia. Onions and potatoes are the exciting ingredients, but the flavour comes from the ground paprika powder so prevalent in Slavonian food. Further away from Slavonia, you might find spring onions added and it seasoned instead with white pepper. You can really imagine the Austro-Hungarian troops of old marching on full stomachs of this cheap dish. Vegetarians fond of this meal might try exchanging the spring onions for leek (poriluk), for a change.

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Vanjkuši are probably the most obscure of all vegetarian food in Croatia so, again, we couldn't find a picture. Their name can be translated as pillows © Jay Mantri

Vanjkuši

Some in Croatia might not have heard of vanjkuši (also known as vankuši or jastuci). They are a distinct speciality of the old region of Moslavina, located to the east of Zagreb. Vanjkuši are not wildly exciting in colour, but these baked pastry rolls filled with egg, cornmeal and cottage cheese are a tasty snack or extravagant side dish, seasoned with salt, white pepper and sometimes butter and/or cream.

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© Nenad Damjanović / Croatian National Tourist Board

Pera

This little-known snack from Vrbovec is a much more authentically-Croatian take on pizza. The thin crust is topped with fresh cow’s cheese, sour cream and egg (sometimes cornmeal too), cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven and then cut into triangles for sharing.

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© Rainbow Pizza

Pizza

Yes, it's Italian. But most of the food on the Croatian menu either comes directly from other nations - Turkey, Bosnia, Hungary, Austria, Greece - or is inspired by them. Pizza is included because it's on sale everywhere in Croatia and almost everyone eats it. Like that other Italian favourite, ice cream/gelato, Croatians are brilliant at making pizza. It is possible to buy inferior pizza in Croatia, but you're not wise to do so - just look a bit harder. There is a great pizza available almost every place you go in Croatia.

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© Bonč

Štrukli

Sometimes štrukli is claimed by Zagreb. But, it's suspiciously close to dishes prepared in both Slovenia and Austria. We prefer to allocate this boiled or baked pie-type dish to Zagorje, the agricultural region over the mountain, north of Zagreb. The land, agriculture, food and recipes of Zagorje inform the capital's cuisine more than anywhere else. Štrukli comes with all manner of fillings, although the most popular (and the best we've tried) comes filled with cheese.

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© BiHVolim

Zeljanica

Zeljanica is burek made with spinach. Except in Bosnia, where burek je samo s' mesom! (burek is only with meat!) There, it is only called zeljanica. Nobody in Zagreb is going to shout at you if you ask for burek with spinach. The spinach is wrapped in rolls of pastry before being cooked, the outside layers baking, the inside layers being steamed. Fans who cook this at home should really try a combination of spinach and feta-like or fresh cheese - it's delicious, but almost never on sale to the public.

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© Kokini recepti

Ćoravi gulaš

A peasant stew translated as blind goulash, this thick and tasty soup-like dish boasts potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, parsley and sometimes peas. It is flavoured with ground paprika, salt, pepper, bay leaves and garlic. Best eaten with artisan or homemade crusty bread, this is a brilliant light lunch or inexpensive evening meal.

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© Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Fritaja sa šparogama

Asparagus is one of those foods, like sprouts, which you probably avoid as a kid, but can't get enough of when you grow up (after you've lost your extra taste buds). They certainly can't get enough of it in some parts of Istria, where there are festivals dedicated to the delicacy. You're sure to find fritaja sa šparogama on the menu of the best traditional Istrian restaurants during the vegetable's growing season. This egg-based dish also contains onions, olive oil, simple seasoning and often herbs. It's great for breakfast, brunch or lunch, eaten with crusty bread and it's a super treat when served with goats cheese and cold Istrian white wine like malvasia. Yum.

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© V Cirillo

Maneštra

Another dish from Istria, these days this stew-like soup is sometimes flavoured with meats. But in its traditional peasant serving it is a vegetarian favourite, comprised of beans, potatoes and sweet corn and flavoured with garlic and parsley.

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Burek is the most common vegetarian food in Croatia © Nikola Škorić

Sirnica

This is burek with a cheese filling, except in Bosnia where... you know the rest.

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Stews like Đuveđ make up a large percentage of the vegetarian food in Croatia © Rainer Zenz

Đuveđ

Đuveđ, sometimes called Đuvec, is a stew of Turkish descent. Its ingredients vary depending on who's cooking and what's in season, but it's not uncommon to find all of the following in this inviting dish - tomatoes, onions, carrot, courgette, aubergine and rice. Flavour can come from a variety of herbs, including oregano, thyme, rosemary and/or marjoram, depending on the chef and region, also salt, pepper and paprika powder.

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Of all the burek / pies in the list of best vegetarian food in Croatia, Bučnica is perhaps the most extravagant © Bučnica fest

Bučnica

Bučnica is arguably the most extravagant of all the burek/pies as its filling has the greatest number of ingredients. Inside its layers of pastry, you will find pumpkin, fresh cheese, sour cream, eggs, butter, salt and pepper. It's seen more frequently in autumn after pumpkins are harvested.

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© zeevveez

Sataraš

Though small in ingredients and simple to prepare, it's really easy to make a mess of sataraš. For the best results, always cook the ingredients in this order - onions, then peppers, tomatoes towards the end. This light vegetable stew is from Hungary and their best version uses the lightest of fresh peppers and the freshest tomatoes. Garlic is often added. Similar to French ratatouille, in other regions, they add courgettes and chilli powder to the dish. This is essentially simple, inexpensive, peasant food. To ramp it up to gastro-levels, try cooking one or all elements separately and then combining together at the end, like a salad. This works especially well with the peppers. Approaching sataraš in this non-traditional way preserves the individual flavours of each vegetable and stops it turning into a uniformly tasting mush.

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Pasta with truffles, one of the most opulent offerings of vegetarian food in Croatia © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Fuži s tartufom

This Istrian pasta dish shines its spotlight on locally-sourced truffles. You can find it made with both the more common black truffles or the rarer (and more expensive) white truffles. If it's made with truffle oil, give it a miss - it's not the real deal. Unusually for a pasta dish, this one often makes use of butter. It adds to the luxuriousness of the taste.

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© Чакаровска

Krumpiruša

You might hear one or two people insist that Croatians don't usually eat meals that include more than one carbohydrate. This small number of people are usually from Zagreb and presumably forgot about krumpiruša (or indeed that many ask for bread to accompany their sarma - which contains rice - and is served atop mashed potato). Krumpiruša is lowly in ingredients, but one of the most satisfying pastries in Croatia. For the best results, again, use white pepper to season if you're making it at home.

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Youtube screenshot © Sašina Kuhinja

Zlevanka

To an outsider, zlevanka sounds like the name of the charming lady who rents you a holiday home in Montenegro. It's actually a speciality sweet pie from northern Croatia (particularly Međimurje), a peasant dish made with eggs, sugar, salt, cornflour, milk, fresh cheese or sour cream, yeast and oil. The cornflour is essential to give it the snack its distinct yellow colour. You might also see it called bazlamača, zlevka or kukuruznjača. Even sweeter versions are available which include apple or poppy seeds.

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© Cyrus Roepers

Gibanica

Popular all over the Balkans, in Turkey, Syria and in German-speaking nations, the origin of gibanica is a fight for some other writer. We're only concerned with the delicious taste of this strudel, which stars egg and cottage cheese. It can be served as a sweet or savoury snack.

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Soparnik is the undisputed king of vegetarian food in Croatia © Marc Rowlands

Soparnik

Profiled recently in a popular TCN feature, soparnik is the king of Croatian snacks. It is the rarest, usually only found in the Dalmatian hinterland behind Omiš. It is also the most authentically-Croatian item of food on this list. Blitva (a hardy, green chard), a little onion and salt are the filling inside this delicate, thin pastry, which is cooked in huge rounds on a traditional wood-fired oven. Delicious olive oil and tiny pieces of garlic are placed on top while it is still warm.

If you want to try some of the best vegetarian food in Croatia, check out this list of vegetarian restaurants

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Saturday, 12 September 2020

Visit Osijek on the Croatian Road Less Travelled

July 8, 2020 - TCN travel series The Croatian Road Less Travelled with Marc Rowlands. In this edition, we visit Osijek in eastern Croatia, on the banks of the Drava river and look at things to do in Osijek 

Situated in the far east of Croatia, the city of Osijek is a sizeable distance from the regular coastal or capital city footfall of visiting tourists. Indeed, considering its history, importance and its vast, unique appeal, its surprising just how many Croatians you meet who have also never been to Osijek. Sitting on the banks of the Drava river, the city is the de facto capital of Slavonia and the administrative centre for Osijek-Baranja county and served as a strategically important outpost in the Roman, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Osijek was the first city in Croatia to have a tramway and, after Rijeka, the first Croatian city to be serviced by an international train route (running to Pécs in Hungary via Beli Manastir, this very line was re-opened in 2018).

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Osijek's Old Town, Tvrđa, is the largest and best-preserved ensemble of Baroque buildings in Croatia. It sits spectacularly by the Drava river, separated by the defensive walls of its Hapsburg-era fort © Romulić & Stojčić

Why visit Osijek?


Osijek is an incredibly beautiful place and perhaps Croatia's only option which simultaneously offers all the thrills of a genuine city coupled with incredible nature. It's possible to walk from one end of the city to the other passing only through statue-littered parks, the air is constantly fresh and, being Slavonia, the ground is entirely flat, making it a great place for bicycle enthusiasts. It's also a great place for swimming and other water activities such as fishing, rowing and boating. Osijek has a range of great nightlife options; three catering to fans of turbo-folk, two for those who prefer tamburica and Croatian folk music, one for students, one for the alternative crowd and several bars which host live music including jazz. Specialist monthly club nights offer drum n' bass, hip hop, house music and the techno night, Traum, is well known across Croatia and fronted by two of the country's finest DJs in the genre - Insolate and Volster.

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Cooling off in the Drava river, right in the heart of the city - just one of Osijek's great swimming options © Romulić & Stojčić

Osijek has, by far, the longest waterfront promenade in Croatia. Both banks of the Drava are pedestrianised. On the side of the city, the prom is lined with parks, cafes, bars and restaurants built within converted river-cruising boats. This side also holds the impressive Osijek city walls, behind which lies the Old Town centre, Tvrđa. On the opposite banks, you'll be walking alongside wild nature, with the vast open-air swimming complex Copacabana at one end and Osijek Zoo at the other. Osijek's pedestrianised bridge links both sides in the middle; it's is one of the city's most iconic sights and looks particularly special at night when colourfully lit.

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Osijek pedestrian bridge by night © Romulić & Stojčić

Osijek and wider Slavonia are Croatia's least-heralded gastronomic powerhouses. The cuisine here is as unforgettable as the warm Slavonian welcome. Paprika-rich stews such as čobanac (made with locally caught wild boar and deer), fish paprikaš and perklet are a clear influence of nearby Hungary and most attempts to faithfully reproduce them outside the region fall extremely short. Although all you'll ever hear about is pršut from Dalmatia and Istria, Slavonians are masters of curing pork and even have their own high-quality breed, Slavonian black. Authentic kulen from Baranja is unquestionably the highest quality sausage from Croatia and you'd have to look hard to top Slavonia's paprika or garlic-flavoured kobasice too. In Osijek, as in its wider region, you can go to a restaurant and order one of the best pizzas you'll ever try and pay the same as you would for a starter course on the coast.

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A selection of Slavonian meats. Kulen is a speciality of Slavonia and Baranja, the best quality sausage made in Croatia. It is preserved, made from top cuts of pork, richly red from paprika and versions from both Slavonia and Baranja are protected at an EU level. You can spot the one from Baranja by its irregular shape © Romulić & Stojčić

If you're a fishing or hunting enthusiast, this is also the place for you – days floating down the Drava along the 15 kilometre stretch before its confluence with the Danube can be as unforgettable as the monster-sized fish you can catch here. Osijek also makes a great permanent base for travel in the wider region, with trips across the nearby Serbian and Hungarian border offering different cuisines and culture again. The Slavonian white wine industry can also be explored from here. Equidistant between Zagreb, Budapest and Zagreb international airports, it's conveniently placed on the intrepid backpacker's route too.

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Rowing on the Drava river in Osijek. The city has produced several champions in the sport © Romulić & Stojčić

How to get to Osijek


Osijek has its own airport. With established internal and international routes, this holds huge potential for the city. However, it is not without its problems. That no public transport service runs between the airport and the city is shameful. Unless you know a local, your only option is a taxi, whose fixed rates are substantially higher than the 25 kuna maximum it will cost you to travel between any two points in the city itself. Conflict between budget airlines and authorities has resulted in some international routes being cancelled. Bargaining budget airlines demand lower landing fees in return for the tourists they can deliver into the local economy. But, largely, those using the routes are not tourists; they are locals from Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia and, in particular, Serbs from Vojvodina, for whom Osijek is the most convenient airport to fly to on their way back from work in Germany or Ireland. Why should Osijek subsidise their travel? One solution may be to implement a passenger landing fee which can be fully recouped by tourists via vouchers for any accommodation they take in the city or wider Slavonia.

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Osijek train station, one way to arrive when you visit Osijek © Romulić & Stojčić

Osijek is well connected by bus; you can travel there from Belgrade and Novi Sad in Serbia, from Zagreb, direct from coastal regions Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia and even from Montenegro, via Dubrovnik and Imotski. It is accessible by train from all of northern Croatia and Zagreb although the lines and stock have not been updated in so long that, shamefully, it's actually quicker to take the fast train from Zagreb to Vinkovci, disembark and take a local bus to Osijek than it is to travel on the direct train there from the Croatian capital.

Where to eat: Slavonska Kuća, Kod Ruže, Vrata Baranje or Čarda kod Baranjca are brilliant, informal places to try traditional Slavonian cuisine, including all dishes mentioned previously. Further out of the city, Ugostiteljski Obrt Varga in Bilje, Citadela and Darócz in Vardarac and Didin Konak in Kopačevo are really special versions of the same. Rustika is the best sit-down pizza restaurant in the city, has a lovely summer courtyard for dining and is extremely affordable.

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The courtyard at Rustika, a great, casual place to dine and try Slavonska pizza when you visit Osijek © Grill pizzeria Rustika

Food to go / home delivery
: Lipov Hlad and Pizzeria Novi Saloon do the best home delivery pizza in the city (Rustika deliver too). Other choices are thin on the ground, save for the standard fast-food chains and pekara (the El Pan bakery on the edge of Sjenjak hood does the best burek with meat).

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Get to know Slavonian wine when you visit Osijek © Vinoteka Vinita

Where to drink
: The simple but extremely passionate Vinoteka Vinita is one of the best places to try Slavonian and Croatian wines, with many top and rarer titles sold by the glass. If you're more into beer, Beertija in the modern city centre has a great range. General Von Beckers on Tvrđa is the best place to try the leading local craft ale, Beckers, but all of the bars on Tvrđa are worth investigating and during the summer their terraces stretch far into the historic square creating a unique atmosphere.

What's new? Osijek's football club is undergoing a renaissance following its purchase by new investors. An impressive new stadium is reaching completion and you shouldn't be surprised to see this team challenging for the top domestic titles, or reaching European competitions, in the near future.

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Fiš paprikaš is a Slavonian speciality. Spicy from paprika, it is made from river fish and can often be seen being cooked in a large pot over a blazing open fire if you visit Osijek in warmer months © Romulić & Stojčić

What not to miss:
The protected nature park Kopački rit is wonderful to visit at any time of year, a sanctuary for all manner of wildlife, particularly rare species of birds. On Tvrđa, Slama Land Art hosts workshops, art and music events and you'll meet great creative types there. There's an extreme sports event, Pannonian Challenge, which sees international competitors visit Osijek and an annual Osijek Beer Festival which feels more like a street party. There's also a music festival called UFO. Osijek Wine Days and the celebrations celebrating the end of term at the city's sizeable university are each year accompanied by great partying and music performances. Look up the art deco Cinema Urania. At over 100 years old, it's Croatia's best independent cinema outside Zagreb. If you're looking for something a little more upmarket than the aforementioned Copacabana outdoor pools, or if you're visiting in cooler months, the renowned Bizovac Toplice is close by and there are free bus shuttle services from the city. It's a sprawling spa complex with multiple pools, offering fun and wellness therapies. But, whatever you do, don't miss the extraordinary and varied architecture of Tvrđa or Slavonian cuisine.

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Kopački rit. The nature reserve is a must all year round when you visit Osijek © Misalalic

What to buy:
If you're heading somewhere else in Croatia after you visit Osijek, take some Baranja kulen with you for posh sandwiches. Slavonia is famous for its honey, which is protected at an EU level. Take some back home with you. Local designers Lega Lega make cool t-shirts and accessories emblazoned with words exclusively used in the local dialect. Pick up some Slavonian white wine when you visit Osijek. Graševina is the most commonly made white wine in Croatia and the most popular. They make the best Graševina in Slavonia, but also look out for Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminac too. There are countless excellent wine producers in Slavonia to look out for, including Kutjevo Graševina, Krauthaker, Galić, Trs, Adžić, Kolar, Enjingi, Antunović, Erdut and Iločki Podrumi.

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'Lega' in local dialect is short for colleague. It is a term affectionately (and exclusively) used when speaking to someone from Osijek. Try using it when you visit Osijek © Lega-Lega

On these links you can read about the other destinations in our The Croatian Road Less Travelled series:

Ludbreg - a site of Holy pilgrimage where the historic meets the contemporary

Donji Miholjac - a hidden gem in the heart of the Pannonian basin

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Made in Croatia: Slavonski Kulen

February 11, 2019 — In this article of the Made in Croatia series, learn more about Slavonski kulen, the protected pork sausage from Slavonia.

Slavonian kulen or kulin is by far the best-known delicacy of eastern Croatian cuisine. Also, not only in Slavonia but all across Croatia, kulen is the most prestigious as well as most expensive sausage-type product.

This cured sausage made with premium pork cuts is heavily flavored with red paprika and garlic; it exudes a strong smoky aroma and has a rather piquant flavor. According to strict production rules, Slavonian kulen must be produced using the meat of pigs that have been raised in Slavonia whereas the most sought-after breeds include the black Slavonian pig and Mangulica. The animals are raised free-range and fed organically on corn, barley, and oats.

Kulen sausages are produced every year between the beginning of November and the end of March. Once they're made, the sausages are traditionally cured and smoked over beechwood for at least several months which is followed by a longstanding Slavonian tradition of enjoying kulen at Easter. However, kulen is also an essential part of other festive holiday spreads.

Kulen pairs well with mildly flavored cheeses and lighter red wines. If you happen to find yourself near Požega in June, don't miss the annual Požega kulenijada which is the oldest Slavonian festival and kulen makers' competition. As of November 2017, Slavonski kulen has been registered as a food product with a Protected Geographical Indication.

If you'd like to know more about protected Croatian food products, make sure you're following TCN's dedicated gourmet page.

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