Saturday, 14 November 2020

PHOTOS: Around Zagreb Dolac Market with a Michelin-starred Chef

ZAGREB November 14, 2020 - Autumn's wild colours are exploding at Zagreb Dolac market, the largest outdoor tržnica in Croatia. Who better to guide us on our photo tour of this iconic institution than Bruno Vokal, head chef at Noel, Zagreb's only Michelin-starred restaurant?

_III4230.jpegBruno Vokal © Šime Lugarov, used by kind permission of Šime Lugarov and Varionica Craft Brewery

My name is Bruno Vokal and I'm from Zagreb. I trained to be a chef here. I spent three years at the culinary school in Novi Zagreb and I started to work straight afterward. Both of my grandmothers were chefs and my mother was a pastry chef. I worked first here in Zagreb, then on the Croatian coast, then in Austria. I came to work at Noel for the first time in 2017, as a sous chef. After a year, I wanted to progress. I went to work in a restaurant called 360 in Dubrovnik and at the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester Hotel in London. I've been back at Noel as head chef for six months now.

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It is my responsibility to every day maintain the standard of the food here so that the restaurant retains its Michelin star or attains a higher recognition. More important to me is the concept. I am constantly asking what kind of lifestyle do people want to live.

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Of everywhere I previously cooked, the place that had the most impact was Alain Ducasse in London. There, it was classical French cooking, but with so much style. It was style based on taste. It wasn't so important how the plate looked. It was all-natural cooking, from the ingredients to the way it looked on the plate. It had the biggest impact on me. It defined for me many things that I had already been thinking about.

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Every day I go to the market with my sous chef, Antonio. Sometimes it's Zagreb Dolac market, sometimes it's Kvatrić. It depends what we're looking for. Zagreb Dolac market is much bigger, with a much bigger offer. I'm not directly orientated to any specific ingredients, I'm oriented to seasons. When I see seasonal produce, that's when I get my ideas. Every new dish, every statement I make, it all comes from following the seasons, its produce and asking myself what the people want to eat.

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Today at the market I found chestnuts and cep mushrooms (Boletus edulis) which both ended up on the menu. I was inspired to make a dessert using mushrooms, hazelnuts and chocolate. I found some great langoustines (scampi) and I made a pasta dish using those and a cappuccino made from the shells. If you see a good ingredient, use it, make the dish. It's like this always. There is never anything on the menu that is out of season.

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At this time of year, I particularly like seeing on Zagreb Dolac market things like pumpkin, chestnuts, kale, beetroot, all kinds of radishes - white, black, red. With the radish, I made a dish with cuttlefish, kale, a preserved sea fennel that we preserved when it was young and a pesto of pistachios. Also in the dish was a meat essence and a ravioli using limes. When you put it in your mouth it had a kind of taste like bean salad, ha! I wanted to make something with a lot of vegetables. Usually, people just make one on the side. Here, there were five, all cooked individually, but designed to be eaten in the same mouthful. This is the kind of cooking I'm really proud of.

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We have several ingredients here in Croatia that are quite unique. Of course, Croatian truffles. Also, many different cheeses. We have one which is a mixture of cottage cheese and fresh cream (sir i vrhnje), which I like to use. It has to be homemade, you cannot buy it from a regular store because the taste will be lost. We have a national dish called štrukli. How do I make the one at Noel? I make small pasta buttons and fill them with cheese, so there is the perfect balance of cheese and pastry in the bite. We reduce fresh cream so that we get a naturally intense sweetness and we make a milk powder, which we caramelise, that gives the taste of the browned top of a štrukli cooked in the oven. We serve it with chips of dried milk, which give a crunchy texture and finish with a sauce.

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Winter is the next season. I can't say yet what will be on the menu, but we will begin our preparations now. We will preserve some of autumn's food, like cabbage, salt meat, start making sausages. Winter for me means maybe less vegetables and more carbohydrates than autumn. We will rely on pastries like mlinci and pasta.

DSCF6620.jpeg© Mateo Henec

This time for me is one of the best of the year for food from Zagreb Dolac market. From the end of the summer to the start of winter is the harvest time. Earlier, you get cucumbers, then all kinds of paprika, aubergine, all of which can be preserved. Right now we have amazing onions and pumpkins. With pumpkin, I recently made a tart, a dessert. It had three different kinds of pumpkin served on the side. At this time of year, you can get a wide variety of mushrooms, but the supply can be small and irregular. You can't rely on it. Today I saw black trumpets on Zagreb Dolac market, but the seller only had two boxes. That's not enough for the restaurant, maybe five portions. That's more something I'd buy to enjoy at home or to feed the staff here in the kitchen.

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When I go to the market, of course, I have my favourite sellers who I go to see every time. This relationship is key. It can only happen with time. I make requests, we talk about the produce. They see more of me, we talk more. It's a very important bond to build, especially if you're going to get to the stage where they will maybe change their growing habits the next season in order to satisfy what you want. You need that trust because sometimes you're thinking about a specific item on the menu one week in advance. Sometimes, it's one year in advance. If I convince a grower to plant salsify for me and then I am next year the only guy with salsify, I am a happy chef. This is not only a relationship between a head chef and a supplier, everyone should do this when they go to Zagreb Dolac market or any market in Croatia. You will get your food at the best price and you will get the best produce. But, it's not the kind of thing you can do over only one or two weeks. It takes time. I'm at the market every day. Some days I might only buy two things, but I'm there.

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It's not only vegetables that I buy from Zagreb Dolac market. Some of the best meat suppliers can also be found there. I have a butcher on Kvatrić who I use all the time. I buy pork from him - pork shoulder to make a terrine. He's been there a long time. He has two shops and very good produce. We talk a lot. I get beef from him to make tartare. I know the calves he has are really good. Some of the best ones come from Slavonia. Others come from the islands. The meat available from the different kinds of cows we have in Croatia is also dependent on the season. I take bones and ribs from him for my stocks. Stocks are very important in a restaurant like ours. For these bones, he charges me nothing. I always start with veal stock. It's mild. If I make a duck stock, I start with the carcass and build it up using the veal stock. I start all my other stocks using veal stock, so I have to make quite a lot of it. All stocks taste better when you begin with this base. The veal stock is the only one that begins using fresh water.

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For seafood, I have a main supplier from Rijeka, then others who are on call. They are from all over the coast and the islands. Sometimes, though, I see something at the market and just take it, like I did with the langoustines. For wild meats, I buy directly from hunters. Again, it's very seasonal. They go hunting over a large area. Sometimes they bring me hare, deer, wild duck or boar. Other times I buy deer from the island of Cres. They are small and have very mild meat, not game-y at all. It suits the palette of the clientele here in Zagreb.

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On these links you can check out the other features in our Around Zagreb series:

AROUND ZAGREB VIDEO: Zagreb to Zagorje in a Yugo Car

Around Zagreb: Meet Zagreb Statues, Dressed for Tie Day

Around Zagreb Mirogoj Cemetery on All Saints

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All photos © Marc Rowlands unless otherwise accredited

Friday, 13 November 2020

AROUND ZAGREB VIDEO: Zagreb to Zagorje in a Yugo Car

ZAGREB November 13, 2020 - Continuing our series on things to see and do Around Zagreb, in this video we took a tour in a Yugo car from Zagreb to Zagorje to see some of the sights and sample some Zagorje cuisine

The Yugo is a car that was made in the former Yugoslavia. Zagreb tour guide Antonija Buntak loves these classic old-timers. She now takes people on trips around her home city, Zagreb, and Croatia in a Yugo. We took her Yugocar Adventure tour from Zagreb to Zagorje.

Lying north of Croatia's capital - just 45 minutes from Zagreb to Zagorje by car - in Zagorje you escape into a picturesque landscape of vineyards, traditional agriculture, gently rolling hills, pretty houses, and historic castles like Veliki Tabor. We visited the Old Village Museum of Kumrovec to see how the people of Zagorje used to live. And we tried traditional, homemade Zagorje food at Grešna Gorica. This restaurant specializes in the famous gastronomy of Zagorje and sits atop one of the region's small hills. It is surrounded by nature and has a great view.

“Almost everyone here above the age of 32 drove a Yugo at some point in their lives,” says Antonija. “When I turned 18, it was my first car. My dad gave it to me.”

A professional tour guide for 15 years, Antonija decided two years ago to combine her enthusiasm for these classic cars and her career. She launched Yugocar Adventure and now gives people an informed tour experience from the perspective of these classic cars.

Antonija currently has two different tours of Zagreb available on her website, where she writes a great blog about the trips. She also makes hand-tailored tours upon request and recently took one group on a two-day trip around the waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes and the huge abandoned Željava Air Base near the Bosnian border.

118274293_2796918510543230_474001840566622371_n.jpgYou can take a Yugocar Adventure tour around the city of Zagreb, to Pltvice Lakes or to Kumrovec and Zagorje. Experienced tour guide Antonija also designs tailor-made trips in a Yugo upon request.© Yugocar Adventure

“After the Zagreb city tours, I think my second most popular tour is going from Zagreb to Zagorje, to Kumrovec, which is where Tito was born,” says Antonija. “It is not a Yugonostalgic trip. Kumrovec has been turned into an Ethno village, so you find out a lot about farmers lives in continental Croatia, you find out about crafts and traditions, which has nothing to do with communism. Basically, I'm always trying to cover Croatian culture and history. I'm just not focussing on the previous (communist) system. Although, I did get a few requests for a tour of socialist Zagreb, looking at places like the tower blocks in Novi Zagreb, so I'm thinking of writing a blog about that and offering it as another tour.”

People from many different countries have taken tours with Antonija in her Yugo car. She says she is frequently stopped at traffic lights by people with fond memories of the Yugo car, “I had the same one back in 1985!” is the type of comment she regularly gets. Indeed, on our trip from Zagreb to Zagorje a driving instructor in the next car at the traffic lights asked Antonija where he could buy a Yugo from - they're apparently good cars in which to learn driving.

Production of the Yugo car commenced in 1980. Its interiors were made in Split, Croatia and its brakes were made in Varaždin, also Croatia. Originally titled the Jugo, it was renamed Yugo in a bid to sell the car outside Yugoslavia. An affordable family car, the Yugo has sometimes been derided as slow and unreliable, but people who look after their vehicles claim that with the proper maintenance, this is not true. On our trip from Zagreb to Zagorje, we certainly had no problems with our Yugo.

Yugo's production ended on 11 November 2008 with 794,428 cars having been made, of which around 250,000 were exported to other countries.


On these links you can check out the other features in our Around Zagreb series:

Around Zagreb: Meet Zagreb Statues, Dressed for Tie Day

Around Zagreb Mirogoj Cemetery on All Saints

PHOTOS: Around Zagreb Dolac Market with a Michelin-starred Chef

Monday, 2 November 2020

PHOTOS: Around Zagreb Mirogoj Cemetery On All Saints

November 2, 2020 - The city cemetery park is one of the Croatian capital's most spectacular landmarks. Take a look around Zagreb Mirogoj cemetery on All Saints.

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It feels like there are as many candles around Zagreb Mirogoj cemetery on All Saints Day as there are graves. There are over 300, 000 people resting here. On 1st November, Catholics all over Croatia visit cemeteries to lay flowers, light candles and remember loved ones. As the largest burial ground in the capital, this is effectively the national cemetery. Walking around Zagreb Mirogoj on All Saints is a profoundly moving and spectacular occasion.

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The great and the good of Croatia's last 150 years rest here, the first president of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman, among them. There are thousands of family plots. On All Saints, graves are cleaned, fresh flowers laid and Mirogoj burns brightly as those left behind light flames that are intended to pass not only through the darkened, autumn night.

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Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians are among those resting finally around Zagreb Mirogoj. The cemetery covers a vast area that stretches up almost as far as the start of the Medvednica mountain. At the main entrance, domed arcades set an imposing tone, the cupolas' copper turned green from oxidization. This makes them all the more striking next to the yellow structure which carries them. Vines hang from the vaulted walkways beneath.
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Mirogoj was built on land owned by linguist Ljudevit Gaj, co-founder of the Illyrian Movement. It was purchased by the city in 1872, after his death. Gaj is buried here. Architect Hermann Bollé, who is responsible for how Zagreb cathedral looks today, was also the designer of Mirogoj's main building. He too is buried here.

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Among the many incredible monuments that stand here, you can find around Zagreb Mirogoj works by some of Croatia's most famous sculptors including Ivan Meštrović and Ivan Rendić. The cemetery is a place where anyone can come for peaceful contemplation, to appreciate architecture and nature, and to sense the history of Zagreb over the last century and a half.

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All daytime shots by Mateo Henec, all nighttime shots by Marc Rowlands

On these links you can check out the other features in our Around Zagreb series:

Around Zagreb: Meet Zagreb Statues, Dressed for Tie Day

AROUND ZAGREB VIDEO: Zagreb to Zagorje in a Yugo Car


PHOTOS: Around Zagreb Dolac Market with a Michelin-starred Chef




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.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Around Zagreb: Meet Zagreb Statues, Dressed for Tie Day

ZAGREB October 18, 2020 - Happy Tie Day! Worn today by millions across the world, the tie is a Croatian invention. In celebration of its Croatian origin, some of the most prominent monuments in Zagreb are each year dressed temporarily in red cravats. In these photos, we meet Zagreb statues on Tie Day

Croatia is today celebrating Tie Day. The country is the birthplace of the necktie or cravat - the forerunner of the tie worn by millions across the world. In the Croatian capital, Zagreb statues have been fitted with red cravats to mark the occasion. They are instantly noticeable to all of the city's visitors and residents, reminding us of the tie's Croatian origin.

IMG_6805.jpegJosip Jelačić, the most famous and most prominently placed of all Zagreb statues

The cravat originated in the 1630s and was worn by members of the Croatian military. Renowned for their ferocious fighting and bravery, Croatian soldiers fought in the army of King Louis XIII of France. Ever holding a sharp eye for the aesthetic, the French admired the Croats' red neckties and took them back to France where they were popularised. The French word cravat describes how the tie should be worn – a la Croat.

Tie Day is 18 October and to mark the occasion, over 40 city monuments are today wearing red cravats. These figures are scattered across the city, though some of the most famous are located in the heart of the Croatian capital. They can be visited on an untaxing stroll around beautiful Zagreb city centre. In this photos series, join us as we meet Zagreb statues on Tie Day.

IMG_6745.jpegKing Tomislav, facing the main train station - one of the most-striking Zagreb statues

King Tomislav of Croatia

The 10th-century first king of Croatia, Tomislav fended off encroaching influences from all sides in order to hold his kingdom together. That it fell apart after his death perhaps tells us something about the man's singular abilities. He stands impressively at the entrance to the three incredible parks in the heart of Zagreb, facing the main train station. It is thanks to him that Tomislav has remained such a popular boy's name in Croatia.


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August Šenoa

Born to an ethnic German and Slovak family, it is for his contributions to Croatian literature, language and identity that August Šenoa is remembered. Although he passed away aged just 43, so influential are his books and writings that he is regarded as the father of the Croatian novel and of modern national literature. 'I have never seen more horrible images, nor deeper sorrow in my life,' he wrote of the destruction visited upon his home city Zagreb in the earthquake of 1880. He died of an illness caught while assisting others in the earthquake's aftermath.

IMG_6800.jpegOne of the more contemporary Zagreb statues, Antun Gustav Matoš sits overlooking Zagreb on Strossmayer Promenade

Antun Gustav Matoš

A giant of Croatian modernist literature, Antun Gustav Matoš's wide-ranging legacy contains poetry, journalism, essays, art critique, short stories and beautifully emotive travel writing. He was separated from his home country of Croatia for 13 years of his 41-year existence, at first, as he was studying overseas, later, because he had deserted from the army. However, his home was never far from his thoughts. Croatian landscapes, Zagorje and the city of Zagreb are common locations depicted in his work (although he was actually born in Tovarnik, Vukovar-Srijem, eastern Croatia).

IMG_6755.jpegAndrija Medulić has two Zagreb statues. You can find this one at the southern entrance to Zrinjevac park, where no less than five Zagreb statues are wearing red cravats.

Andrija Medulić

Born in Zadar in 1510, Andrija Medulić was an artist who worked in fresco, painting and etching. Born to Italian parents and active as a painter in Venice, it's doubtful he ever heard the Croatian version of his family name. He certainly didn't use it. His works are kept in some of the most famous European museums including the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Uffizi and Pitti galleries in Venice and also in the Graphic Collection of the National and University Library in Zagreb.

IMG_6737.jpegAndrija Medulić has two Zagreb statues

IMG_6749.jpegIvan Mažuranić is one of several Zagreb statues you can find in Zrinjevac park

Ivan Mažuranić

Born into a regular, non-aristocratic household in Novi Vinodolski in 1814, Ivan Mažuranić nevertheless rose to the status of Ban of Croatia. He was the first commoner to do so. A poet, linguist, lawyer and politician, he is considered to be one of the most important figures in Croatia's political and cultural life in the mid-19th century thanks to his contributions to the development of the Croatian law system, economics, linguistics, and poetry.

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St George

A saint of both the Christian and Islamic religions, George of Lydda was the Christian son of an ethnically-Greek member of the Roman army. He followed in his father's footsteps and was popularised during the Crusades for his refusal to renounce his faith. He is often referenced as a slayer of dragons, as he is here on Radićeva - his horse stands on top of the slain beast. Despite this clear depiction, and St George being the patron saint of England (he is also claimed in the same role by Ethiopia, Georgia, and Catalonia and Aragon in Spain), this English writer still had to ask the tour guide on a Segway in the background who was depicted in this Zagreb statues.

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Tin Ujević

One of the more contemporary Croatians to have a statue in Zagreb, Tin Ujević was a Croatian poet, considered by many to be the greatest poet in 20th century Croatian literature. Born in Vrgorac in the Dalmatian hinterland, his continued studies brought him to Zagreb where he studied under Antun Gustav Matoš. In addition to his poetry, Ujević also wrote essays, short stories, literature critique, and worked as a translator on many documents of a philosophical nature from many foreign languages. He lived in many major cities throughout his life including Paris, Split and Belgrade as is remembered as a bit of a bohemian. He is known to have frequented cafe bars in the area around Kino Europa, where his statue now stands.

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Marija Juric Zagorka

One of the most widely-read and popular Croatian writers of all time, Marija Juric Zagorka was a trailblazer for women's standing in Croatian society and for liberalism. Highly educated and intelligent, she was forced into an abusive marriage to a Hungarian man 17 years her elder by her own mother. Who could imagine a close Croatian family member meddling so woefully in the affairs of another? She broke free of this disastrous relationship and started life afresh in Zagreb, where she became the country's first female journalist in the 1890s. She died aged 84 and left behind a colossal written legacy, so it's perhaps fitting that her statue now rests in the small, peaceful park area aside Tkalčićeva.

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Giorgio Giulio Clovio aka Juraj Julije Klović

Regarded as the last very notable artist in the tradition of the illuminated manuscript's long, original era, Giorgio Giulio Clovio was a painter associated with the Italian High Renaissance. Born in the Kotor village of Grižane in 1498, his works are today among the best preserved and most cherished within his chosen mediums.

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Fran Krsto Frankopan

The last male descendant of the Croatian noble house of Frankopan, Fran Krsto is best remembered as the co-founder of a failed attempt (alongside his brother-in-law Ban Petar Zrinski) to rebel against Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary Leopold 1st. He was also a writer of poetry.

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Nikola Tesla

An inventor and hugely innovative engineer, Nikola Tesla is best known for pioneering the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. AC enables electricity to be provided safely to every home, street and business today. He was born in 1856 in the village of Smiljan, in Lika, present-day Croatia. He spent most of his adult life working in America and mystique continues to surround him because many of his wondrous ideas remain unrealised. He also worked within the fields of early x-rays, wireless power supply, electromagnetic radiation and radio waves, before his death in 1943. He sits in a pondering position on a street that also bears his name.

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August Cesarec

A native of Zagreb, August Cesarec was a Croatian left-wing intellectual, writer and politician. As a youing man, he was a patriotic idealist. This lead him into trouble when he and cohorts were discovered to be plotting an assassination on Croatia's then-Ban. He was imprisoned and while in captivity, discovered and turned to socialist politics. He wrote poems, plays, short stories and novels and participated in literary magazines run by Miroslav Krleža. Alongside most of the left-wing intelligentsia of Croatia, he was arrested and imprisoned by the fascist Ustasha regime at the start of the Second World War. Following a failed escape attempt, he and others were shot by the Ustasha in Maksimir woods.

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Ruđer Bošković

A polymath who operated as a physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, diplomat, poet, theologian and Jesuit priest, Dubrovnik-born Ruđer Bošković is remembered for many groundbreaking discoveries, not least he absence of atmosphere on the Moon, a precursor of atomic theory and many contributions to astronomy. He lends his name to the largest Croatian research institute working in the fields of natural sciences and technology. The Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb has been responsible for countless scientific discoveries and is famous all over the world.

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Josip Jelačić

Former Ban of Croatia and commander of all Habsburg troops within the country, Josip Jelačić's reputation can be difficult to understand. He sought autonomy for Croatia while remaining loyal to the Habsburgs, helping to put down similar moves towards independence in neighbouring Hungary. He was born in Novi Sad, Vojvodina (present-day Serbia) in 1801 and the very house where he was born was bought from private owners by the Serbian state and gifted the country's Croatian minority in 2020. The most famous statue in Zagreb because of its location on the main square (also named after Josip Jelačić), he used to face north, signifying the Ban's struggle for autonomy from Hungary. Communists removed the statue. Following Croatia's independence, it was put back facing south, as though warding off invaders from the direction of Bosnia. That doesn't seem to have worked so well (joke!) 'Beneath the horse' is a popular place to arrange meeting a friend.

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Josip Juraj Strossmayer

Osijek-born Josip Juraj Strossmayer was a Croatian politician and Catholic bishop. His desire was simultaneously the unification of all south Slavic peoples and the unification of lands that strongly resemble modern-day Croatia into a single autonomous region. He used church money to build schools, libraries, galleries and churches and to help the poor. This incredible statue of Strossmayer was made by Croatia's greatest ever sculptor, the internationally renowned Ivan Meštrović. It sits inside a park also named after the bishop.

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On these links you can check out the other features in our Around Zagreb series:

AROUND ZAGREB VIDEO: Zagreb to Zagorje in a Yugo Car

Around Zagreb Mirogoj Cemetery on All Saints


PHOTOS: Around Zagreb Dolac Market with a Michelin-starred Chef





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.

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