Wednesday, 10 November 2021

First Talking Bench Placed in Veliko Trgovišće, Franjo Tuđman’s Birthplace

November 10, 2021 - As part of the project Great Croatians of Zagorje, the first talking bench has been installed in Veliko Trgovišće, where locals and tourists can learn more about the history of the birthplace of the first Croatian president.

Only thirty kilometers away from our dear Zagreb in Veliko Trgovišće, better known as the birthplace of the first Croatian president, the first in a row was set up: a bench that talks as part of the project Croatian Greats of Zagorje, writes Jelena Holenko for Turističke Priče.

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Photo: Jelena Holenko/Turističke Priče

The Tourist Board of the Tuhelj, Klanjec, and Trgovišće areas has launched an initiative to mark sites related to Croatian greats from this area that have left great significance in Croatian history. These are the initiator of the Peasant Revolt back in 1573, Ambroz Broz, better known as Matija Gubec, Antun Mihanović - creator of the Croatian anthem Lijepa naša who spent the last years of his life in Klanjec, the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, sculptor Antun Augustinčić, Josip Broz Tito, Veronika Desinička and others.

In honor of the first Croatian president, a rest area with a tourist map and an interactive talking bench has been arranged in the immediate vicinity of his birthplace. The first talking bench is of an educational character and by pressing a button, you can choose and listen to the story of Veliko Trgovišće and its history, or the story of Croatian greats and Dr. Franjo Tuđman who grew up in this place "among the green hills of Zagorje".

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Bust of President Dr. Franjo Tuđman erected in his hometown of Veliko Trgovišće. (Photo: Marin Tironi/PIXSELL)

Other such interactive benches will be set up next to the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Memorial School also in Veliko Trgovišće, in Tuheljske Toplice, in Dubrovnik… and maybe the story of Zagorje and the greats of this region inspires you to get to know the Zagorje region and the benefits it provides!

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

Friday, 21 May 2021

Goran Vrabec Best Young Farmer in Croatia

ZAGREB, 21 May 2021 - Goran Vrabec has been named Croatia's best young farmer in 2021, a farmer who owns a family farm in the northwestern region of Zagorje growing chili peppers, and he was presented with the prize by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Friday.

Vrabec was chosen from among 21 finalists and along with the first prize, he also won a reward of HRK 25,000, donated by Zagrebačka Banka.

Brankica Borović, whose family-run farm business produces natural, dermatologically tested cosmetics based on immortelle and almond oil, won second prize and HRK 15,000, while wine maker Ivan Gerštajmer Zelember won third prize and HRK 10,000.

The competition for the best Croatian young farmer was organised by Croatian member of the European Parliament Sunčana Glavak, the Agriculture Ministry and the Jutarnji List daily.

The finalists will travel to Brussels for a ceremony at which the best EU farmer will be awarded.

Zagrebačka Banka has secured financial education for the young farmers and will assist them in filling out forms for EU funds, while the Konzum retail chain, which is a sponsor of the competition, will sell their products.

Glavak said that the record high number of applicants showed that young people were very interested in staying in Croatia and its rural areas.

She said that it was encouraging that Croatia would have a record-funds amount of funds from the EU at its disposal, which it will be able to use to improve farm production.

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that Croatia was slightly above the EU average in terms of the number of young farmers, who number 23,228, which is 13.6% of the total number of farmers.

"That is not enough, but the trend is positive and has been rising and we want the share of young farmers to reach 20% with the share of farmers aged above 55 simultaneously going down," she said.

The minister said she was glad that young farmers were increasingly using measures from the Rural Development Programme because it brought structural transformation to rural areas. She noted that agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture could be the real engines of development of Croatia's economy.

Parliament Speaker Jandroković said that he was glad Croatia was above the EU average in terms of the number of young farmers and that he saw hope for development of villages and rural areas in that.

Ample EU funding has evidently helped young people recognise opportunities and realise that country life is often better than life in a city, and that it is possible to make a living from farming, he said.

For more on made 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Thursday, 4 February 2021

PHOTOS: Amazing Zagorje Wooden House, One Family's Low-Energy Dream

February 4, 2021 – With beautiful views and blended into its surrounding natural landscape, the Zagorje wooden house was built with super-strength, seismic-resistant wood. Environmentally friendly and low energy, its ultra-modern interior will leave you gasping.

It doesn't take much to get yourself a wonderful view in Zagorje. The area 'behind the mountain' has a beyond-pretty topography of rolling agricultural fields, wild countryside, gently sloping vineyards and minor inclines that gift this vista to all. And it is upon these minor inclines that many of the people of Zagorje choose to build their houses. They wake in the morning and take in the view from bedroom windows, balconies, or terraces, connected each day to the land that surrounds them, at one with nature.

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That is exactly the lifestyle one family wanted when they purchased an unfinished building project, sat on the soft slopes of Zagorje. Begun in the 80s, the approved build didn't exactly fit the specifications of their dream. So, they sought a solution from architect Marina Zajec of Arhitektura E.L.I. She kept the volume and ground space from the existing building permit but radically altered the construction materials by using cross-laminated timber (CLT). This beautiful Zagorje Wooden House is the end result.

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Cross-laminated timber is an engineered by all-natural building material that has the same strength as concrete. It is made by gluing together different layers of single-sawn beams and arranging them so they are perpendicular to adjacent layers. The result is that all the beams face the same way on any visible, outer layer and that the building material is extremely strong. It can easily be used to make load-bearing walls within a classic two-story house, as was done here, and can withstand any seismic activity it might experience in this region.

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Though this natural exterior helps the Zagorje wooden house blend into the rural and rustic environment where it sits, no cliched olde worlde concessions ruin the interior – it is thoroughly modern. Exposed wooden walls surround laminated floors, on which cool and contemporary furniture is placed. Lighting is bold and basic, granted an industrial feel by exposed cables. The interior design is minimal and modern, airy, open and full of light. Large windows help the family connect to nature as they intended.

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The house has three bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a library, a space specified for working from home, a dining room, kitchen, laundry and a living room that leads out directly to a covered outside area, which can be used for hosting and dining in the warmer months.

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All images of the house © Lara Žitko. Architectural and design details were taken from an article by Jutarnji List home and design correspondent Jelena Cvetko

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

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Large Zagorje Landslide Buries Road Blocking Traffic

January 12, 2021 – The surprise Zagorje landslide has left people wondering if the groundwater has triggered the fall of ground or if the region's earthquakes may have played a part

Flattening trees and completely covering a main thoroughfare through the village of Gornji Jesenje, a surprise Zagorje landslide that occurred last week has left locals wondering if the shift of wintertime groundwater was to blame or if seismic disturbances in Croatia may have also played their part.

The Zagorje landslide occurred at the end of last week. So far, the road remains blocked. The landslide took place over four days ago. The village of Gornji Jesenje, where the Zagorje landslide took place, is just a couple of kilometres from the main thoroughfare which runs from Zagreb, through Zapresic and Zabok, and on to Maribor in Slovenia. Travel between the two major European cities remains unaffected by the landslide (although a strike by Slovenian police may currently stall passage between the countries on the border).

Thousands of cubic meters of earth were shifted in the Zagorje landslide, as the main picture (a screenshot) shows. Trees that run alongside the road were flattened with the force of the earth fall. The Zagorje landslide started under the Gorjak quarry near Gornji Jesenje. It has buried the state road DC74 in Krapina-Zagorje County. The Gorjak quarry has been in operation for about 40 years. The national institution, Hrvatske ceste, responsible for the maintenance of such routes is aware of the situation following the Zagorje landslide. Their response is pending and being planned. Their first responsibility will be to clear the road for traffic to be able to pass along the route. Further study of the area's susceptibility to further landslides is also pending. The winter groundwater, the quarry and the three large earthquakes, plus many aftershocks experienced in the region over the last 11 months will all each need to be taken into account

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

PHOTOS: Ivanscica – Northern Croatia's First Nature Park?

January 6, 2021 – The spectacular backdrop to photographs taken at some of Zagorje's most famous landmarks, Ivanscica is the highest mountain in the country's north. Richly ringed by castles and fortresses that draw investigating hikers, could it become Northern Croatia's first-ever Nature Park?

Northern Croatia is renowned for many reasons. It has the highest concentration of castles and stately homes in the whole of Croatia, including many of the country's most spectacular. It has fantastic museums, some of which are even situated inside these castles. Rivers, water parks and ancient spa waters dot the landscape and the rustic, classic cuisine is often so great you know exactly why the capital city claims much of it as its own. In regular years, northern Croatia also has a full calendar of exciting events that take in all manner of music, folklore, arts & crafts, film festivals and much more besides.

Yet, anyone who has visited the land 'over the mountain' will tell you that one of its most remarkable attributes is its scenery. Historic settlements, comprised of architecture varying between the grandiose, the modern and the functional, amalgamated over hundreds of years, sat on gently rolling slopes. Away from the houses and other buildings, vineyards and farmland stretch along similarly undulating land, gifting a view that must have looked much the same 100 years ago. You can see this amazing topography when you fly into Zagreb from western Europe – it's the magical-looking land below you that looks like something JRR Tolkien might have imagined for The Lord Of The Rings.

zagorje-vinogradi--ivo-biocina_1.jpgZagorje © Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Despite its wondrous natural assets, northern Croatia (which is nowadays split into three, vast counties – Medimurje, Krapinska-Zagorje and Varazdin county), is the only region in Croatia that surprisingly does not have a dedicated nature park. That may be changed with the launching of an initiative to make Ivanscica the first nature park in Hrvatsko Zagorje.

Belecgrad.jpgBabin Zub on the south-west slopes of Ivanscica offers incredible views of Zagorje. Mount Medvednica can be seen in the distance © Croatian Mountaineering Association Belecgrad

Ivanscica is the highest mountain in northern Croatia. It is 30 kilometres long and nine kilometres wide, rising to 1060 metres at its highest point. Situated less than 30 kilometres south-west of the city of Varazdin, it runs along the border between Krapinska-Zagorje and Varazdin counties in a long stretch of mountainous ground that starts near the westerly-lying Strahinjčica (near Krapina_. These mountains hug the horizon within photographs taken at many of northern Croatia's most famous landmarks. They are also rich in geodiversity and biodiversity.

ivanscicahpd.jpg© Zoran Stanko / Croatian Mountaineering Association Ivancica

The nature and geological make-up of Ivanscica has long been drawing visitors. A much-loved site for walking, hiking and climbing, its topography varies between bare rock and lower areas covered with trees like beech, oak and hornbeam. Ivanscica is particularly popular as a traditional excursion on May Day. The numbers of walkers and hikers around this time can reach into the thousands and the event extends over several days.

snowy12333.jpg© Croatian Mountaineering Association Belecgrad

At the peak of Ivanscica is a mountain lodge, Pasarić's house and two lookouts with incredible views, the lodge's original construction date of 1929 attesting to the mountain's long popularity as a place for recreation. It was named after Josip Pasarić (1860 - 1937), a teacher, journalist, sometime politician and a former president of the Croatian Mountaineering Association. Nearly a century old, it is far from being the oldest structure to have taken advantage of this raised ground and the views they provide.

kucaIvan.jpgPasarić's house © Croatian Mountaineering Association Ivancica

On the southern slopes of Ivanscica, two particularly impressive ruins invite exploration. Less than two kilometres south of Ivanscica's peak, Belecgrad Fortress, sits on a secluded and steep rocky peak that is 540m high. It can be reached by approaching from the west. Although now a ruin, this strategically important fortress was once a royal estate, over time belonging to a series of owners including Frederick of Celje Peter Gising and the families Celjski, Szekely, Frankopan, Keglević, Erdody and Rattkay.

hpd-belecgrad-dron.jpgBelecgrad Fortress, seen from above © Croatian Mountaineering Association Belecgrad

Three or four kilometres to the east of Belecgrad Fortress, the medieval castle of Milengrad dates back around 775 years and served as a residence and defensive fortress for a good 400 years before succumbing to either the Ottomans or an earthquake (Ivanscica has been the site of several considerable earthquakes – the most recent being a 6.2 level quake in 1983).

MilengradEmaBabić.jpgMilengrad, one of many castles and fortifications that can be found on the slopes of Ivanscica © Ema Babić

These ruins are impressive enough, but they are only two of a series of defensive structures to ring the mountain, others including the castles and fortresses Pokojec, Oštrcgrad, Loborgrad, Židovina (a Jewish fortification), Gradišče, Ivanec, Bela, Gotalovec, Cukovec, Lepoglava and Grebengrad. Some of these (Grebengrad, Bela and Cukovec) were rebuilt on the site of forts that extend further back than the 12th century.

BelecgradonthesouthsideofIvanscica.jpgBelecgrad on the south side of Ivanscica © Branko Barlović / Croatian Mountaineering Association

There are currently eight National Parks within Croatia - Krka, Plitvice Lakes, Mljet, Brijuni Islands, Kornati, Paklenica, Risnjak and Northern Velebit – each closely guarded to protect and preserve their nature and beauty for future generations. In addition, there are a series of eleven Nature Parks - Žumberak / Samoborsko gorje. Biokovo, Kopački rit, Lastovo archipelago, Lonjsko polje, Medvednica, Papuk, Telašćica, Učka, Velebit and Vrana lake, with Dinara well on its way to becoming number twelve. Their status differs from National Parks in that, although they are protected areas, their standing does not impede on recreation and other activities within them that do not damage their distinct assets. As a site rich for exploration, walking, hiking and climbing, the destination of Nature Park status would perfectly suit Ivanscica and it could well become Croatia's thirteenth Nature Park, the first within Northern Croatia.

Ivanscica Croatian Mountaineering Association Belecgrad.jpg

Friday, 25 December 2020

Sretan Božić! Christmas Day in Croatia, December 25

December 25, 2020 – Sretan Božić! It's Christmas Day in Croatia, a time spent cherishing your immediate family. Gifts are exchanged and the fasting of recent days is forgotten - today you'll feast on a variety of favourite, mouth-watering foods. Also, in Croatia, the true meaning of Christmas is always close at hand...

There may be a chill in the air outside, but Croatian homes are today aglow with light and warmth. Christmas tree illuminations shine their colours into the corners of the living room. Beneath the tree, freshly unwrapped gifts are held in the small hands of children. The smiles on their faces shine even brighter than the lights of the tree. Christmas wreaths are hung inside windows or candles are lit. The latter represents that, at last, Jesus Christ is born – the ultimate light of the world.

Worship_of_the_shepherds_by_bronzino.jpgWorship of the shepherds by Bronzino © Bronzino / Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Today, radiators and flickering fires brace us from the winter outside. But, Christmas Day in Croatia is not only a time for physical warmth. It is also a time for spiritual warmth. Elsewhere in the world, images such as Santa Claus, flying reindeer, wrapped presents and Christmas crackers challenge as symbols of the season. In Croatia, you also sometimes see those modern emblems of Christmas. But, it is almost unthinkable that the true meaning of Christmas is forgotten. Here, even the decorations of the house and the tree still come in the traditional colours of red, green and gold. Red symbolises the blood of Jesus. Green (as seen in the holly, rosemary and Christmas tree) symbolises eternal life. Gold - one of the gifts of the Three Kings - symbolises royalty.

The Nativity at Christmas in Croatia - Jaslice

Just short of 800 years ago, Francis of Assisi was busying himself with organising a reenactment of the birth of Jesus Christ. Widely considered to be the first performance of a nativity play, it was so successful that it was decided it should become an annual event. Its popularity grew so great that the event attracted huge crowds. The popular nativity play eventually spread through Christian Europe as a Christmastime tradition. It is popular for children to take part in a nativity play in the Christmas period, even sometimes on Christmas Day in Croatia. If you don't have a family member taking part in one of the plays, Christmas Day in Croatia is still linked to the birth of Jesus Christ by the prominent placing of the miniature nativity scene - jaslice – in the Christmas home.

stfrancisnativity.jpgSt Francis, painted in a nativity scene. He is credited with founding the now traditional re-enactments of the birth of Jesus Christ

Aside from attending a nativity play, going to church might be the other reason for leaving the home on Christmas Day in Croatia. However, midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is enough for many. The focal point of Christmas Day in Croatia is the home and the family.

Christmas Day in Croatia - a time for family

Christmas Day in Croatia is reserved for immediate family. Tomorrow - St Stephens Day – is traditionally the time when members of the wider family and friends will be visited. However, it's not uncommon to find someone from outside the close family seated at the table for Christmas Day in Croatia. In fact, it is quite common for Croats to be mindful of family members and friends who may be alone at Christmas. If there is any danger of someone you know spending Christmas Day alone - the widowed relative, the stranger or the single person - it's not unusual for a Croatian family to invite them into their home for Christmas Day in Croatia. If you're invited to a Croatian home on Christmas Day, it's an invitation that you should definitely accept.

The birth of Jesus Christ is a cause for celebration throughout the Christian world and though not officially a feast day, you'd never guess that from the mountains of food you will be served on Christmas Day in Croatia. After the fasting of Advent or that of Christmas Eve at least, Croatians like to go all-out on Christmas Day. However, there are no hard and fast rules for what you might see on the menu nor how it will be served.

christmas-table-1909796_1920.jpgRed, green and gold are the traditional colours of Christmas decorations

Food of Christmas Day in Croatia

In some homes on Christmas Day in Croatia, there will be a hearty breakfast. Often it'll contain meat, because you just abstained from eating any on Christmas Eve. “Right now I will eat breakfast - some eggs, bacon, prosciutto, and kulen, a few types of cheese and dessert,” a friend from Rijeka informed TCN on a Christmas Day past. “For lunch, my family will meet and my father will make a barbecue because it's the easiest way to make a large amount of meat. We'll have a few different kinds, with some vegetables and some cake and that's it. We are not complicated for Christmas.” In other households, the dining table will look very different on Christmas Day in Croatia.

Slavoniabrekky.jpegA selection of Slavonian meats including kulen. Preserved meats such as these are a common feature on tables during Christmas in Croatia - you might even have them for breakfast on Christmas Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Some may have a more regular breakfast to start the day and some may not have breakfast at all. It is quite normal for Christmas Day in Croatia to revolve around the main dining table and for the food to be placed there for many hours and indulged in whenever you feel the urge. As one course is finished, the empty serving plate is taken away and, before you can blink, something else has been put on the table to take its place.

Bird is the word - Zagorje turkey / Zagorski puran

The eating of turkey at Christmas is a tradition popularised by Americans. The bird actually comes from northern Mexico, an area that is now in the south-eastern United States, where wild examples of this bird can still fly, albeit quite short distances. Native Americans hunted and ate the bird at least 1000 years ago. They used turkey feathers to stabilize their arrows and to be worn, as part of ceremonial headdresses or other adornments. The hard spurs on the turkeys' legs were often crafted into arrowheads. The bird was domesticated in Mexico, then traded by Native Americans with Europeans who brought it back to their continent in the 16th century. It arrived in Croatia not long after.

purica_4-maja-danica-pecanicwithmlinci.jpgRoasted turkey, a popular Christmas favourite across Croatia, particularly in Zagorje and nearby Zagreb. The white dish in the bottom left of the picture is mlinci © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

The only breed of turkey in Croatia regarded as native is farmed in the traditional Zagorje area, north of Zagreb (although, there's a distinct cousin from Bednje - purek z bednje - that's prized highly in Varaždin County). Truth be told, the Zagorje kitchen is the kitchen of Zagreb. Therefore, the eating of Zagorje turkey has been widely adopted as a tradition in the capital city. The Zagorje turkey is protected by its point of origin at an EU-level, as are the pasta sheets – Zagorje mlinci – which are the usual accompaniment. Although you can now buy mlinci from the store, it is said that the handmade ones are still the best. The pasta sheets are cooked in the fat and roasting juices of the turkey. They are also used to accompany any other bird you might eat on Christmas Day in Croatia – chicken, goose or duck. It is quite rare to see goose eaten on Christmas Day in Croatia. Although some families do treat themselves to goose – the meat is less dry than turkey and the bird is easier to cook. Duck is more common as an alternative to turkey, but mostly in the northern parts of Croatia - Slavonia and Baranja, near the border with Hungary (where there is substantial duck farming) and in the area around Međimurje.

Regional differences? Perhaps. But always, always French salad / Francuska salata

Frenchyat_Nga_corrected (1).jpgFrench salad, a ubiquitous accompaniment to the main meal on Christmas Day in Croatia © Viethavvh

“On the menu today is turkey and Francuska salata (French salad), with some leftover fish soup from yesterday,” one friend from Zagreb told TCN. French salad is a popular and ubiquitous accompaniment to meals, not only on Christmas Day in Croatia but at all parties and large gatherings. An almost identical salad is eaten in Slavic households across the world. Elsewhere, you'll often see it called Russian salad.

“Our family also makes Christmas turkey, which my dad smokes one day before,” one friend from Slavonia told TCN. Smoked turkey is a popular dish in Croatia – you can even buy local, pre-smoked turkey legs from most supermarkets. “We'll have guineafowl soup with vegetables such as carrot, cauliflower, kohlrabi (a type of turnip) and parsley. After the soup, we eat the guineafowl meat with a cooked tomato sauce. The smoked turkey is baked and served with potatoes and mlinci. For dessert, we have chocolate cake and all kinds of different types of cookies, biscuits. There will be cakes, cookies and biscuits on the table all day.”

konavle-zelena menestra TZ KonavleDubrov.jpgZelena Menestra, a favourite of Dubrovnik families at Christmas © TZ Konavle

“For our Christmas lunch we've prepared Zelena Menestra,” one Croatian friend from north Montenegro told TCN. His family originally come from the Dubrovnik area, where Zelena Menestra (green stew) is a favourite. The green of the stew comes from cabbage and kale. Potatoes are added and its rich flavour comes from the smoked ham hock, bacon and sausages that are cooked inside the pot. This dish has been eaten in the Dubrovnik area for at least 600 years. It's not uncommon for families to turn to their absolute favourite dishes on Christmas Day in Croatia, regardless of traditions elsewhere. For instance, the incredibly time-intensive preparation of Pašticada (at least one day in preparation time to do it correctly) is undertaken in some Dalmatian households on Christmas Day in Croatia. Elsewhere, family favourites like whole, roast suckling pig, lamb, pork or sarma will be made. “After the Zelena Menestra, mum has prepared a walnut cake for dessert,” concluded the writer from Montenegro. Walnut and poppy seeds are extremely common flavourings of Christmas desserts in Croatia.

pasticada_1-maja-danica-pecaniccronat.jpgPasticada, a favourite of Dalmatian households at Christmas. It takes at least 24 hours to prepare a good one. The sauce is so rich, with onion, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip, bacon, red wine vinegar, red wine, tomato puree, prunes and cloves, the usual accompaniment is simple shapes of pasta © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

With any hunger more than satisfied, at the end of the feasting on Christmas Day in Croatia, it's a time to relax and enjoy the company of those around you. Although it's not unusual for adults to drink alcohol moderately throughout the whole of Christmas Day, it is rarely a night for wild revelry. Because you may have a journey to make to relatives or friends tomorrow. Or you may have to wake and clean the house because they are visiting you. In fact, it's not uncommon for people to retire to bed early on Christmas Day in Croatia. And, with their appetites and families satisfied, most will sleep very well.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

VIDEO: PlayStation 5 Release in Croatia Marked by Klapa and Traditional Instruments

December 13, 2020 - The PlayStation 5 release in Croatia has been marked by the traditional music of Croatian regions. 

The PlayStation 5 is one of the most anticipated releases in the gaming world, so much so that it achieved the highest launch month sales for a video game console in United States History since its debut there on November 12. 

Thus, to mark the release of the PlayStation 5 console, PlayStation Croatia, in partnership with musicians from several Croatian regions, recorded the opening sound of the new console authentically, and characteristic for each Croatian region using traditional instruments and song, reports HRTurizam.

It has been 25 years since the arrival of the first PlayStation console on the European market and during those years the sound reproduced when launching the PlayStation console is one of the features by which every PlayStation generation is remembered and recognized.

Thus, a music tour of Croatia was recorded, from Slavonia, Istria, Dalmatia, and Zagorje to Petrinja, in which the opening sound of the PlayStation 5 console was recorded on the Slavonian tamburitza, Istrian sopila, Zagorje bass, brass instruments, and Dalmatian klapa.

“With the opening sound of the PlayStation 5 console, we made a music tour all over Croatia! With the Slavonian sound of the tamburitza, the Dalmatian performance of the klapa, the Zagorje version on the bass, the sounds of Istria on the flutes, and a touch of Petrinja with brass instruments, the sounds of the PlayStation 5 console received new life with traditional Croatian instruments. The tamburitza ensemble Rubato, KUD Zlatela Kršan, Marko Horvat, Klapa Sebenico and Gradska limena glazba Petrinja took part in the recording," said PlayStation Croatia.

Videos were released with recognizable locations around Croatia, like Rovinj and Petrinja, an authentic Slavonian village near Slavonski Brod, the fortress of St. Mihovil in Šibenik and the Veliki Tabor castle, which you can find below. 

 

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

Thursday, 18 November 2021

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

December 02, 2021 – Serving as Christian Europe's defensive front line for centuries, incredible Croatia castles can be found throughout the country. Whether on a summertime day trip, set next to the spectacular backdrop of autumn's colours or postcard-pretty covered in winter's snow, here are 21 of the best to visit year-round

Croatia Castles Mailáth and Prandau in Donji Miholjac

DM-DvoraMailathcZdenko_Brkanić.jpg© Zdenko Brkanić

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

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

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

Maruševec Castle in Varaždin County

2880px-Dvorac_Marusevec3MaGa.jpeg© MaGa

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

slika-dvoracOpćina_Maruševec.jpg© Općine Maruševec

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

Prandau Normann in Valpovo

dvorac-air1greenroom.jpeg© Greenroom Festival Valpovo

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

Dvorac_Prandau-Normann_dvorac_iz_zrakaRoko_Poljak.jpg© Roko Poljak

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

Ozalj Castle

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

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

RedZugang_Schloss_Ozalj1BernBartsch.jpeg© Bern Bartsch

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

Trakošćan Castle in Varaždin County

TURISTIČKA_ZAJEDNICA_OPCINA_BEDNJA.jpg© Turistička zajednica Trakošćan - Općina Bednja

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

TrakoscanCroatiaTZ.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

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

Trsat Castle in Rijeka

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

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

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

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

Stara Sušica Castle

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

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

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

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

Veliki Tabor Castle in Zagorje

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

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

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

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

Lužnica Castle near Zaprešić, Zagreb County

Luznica2ZCTY.png© Zagreb County Tourist Board

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

LuznicZaagrebCounty.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

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

Krašić

KrasicZgC.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

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

krasic08RegionalDevelopment_agencyZagrebCounty.jpg© Regional Development Agency Zagreb County

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

Pejačević Castle in Našice

Dvorac_Pejačević._NašiceSamir_Budimčić.jpg© Samir Budimčić

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

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

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

Stari Grad Varaždin

VarazdinZup.jpg© Turistička Zajednica Varaždinske Županije

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

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

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

Bosiljevo Castle

Dvorac_Bosiljevo_-_panoramioKrittinskiy.jpg© Krittinskiy

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

bosiljevoopcinacas.jpg© Općina Bosiljevo

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

Čakovec Castle

stari_gradcakovectz.jpg© Čakovec City Tourist Board

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

MuseumMedimurjeCak.jpg© Museum of Međimurje, Čakovec

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

Feštetić Castle, Pribislavec

dvorac_festetic_01visit_medimurje.jpg© Visit Međimurje

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

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

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

Nova Kraljevica Castle

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

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

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

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

Miljana Castle, near Kumrovec

DisscoSC_0248-visitZagorje.jpg© Visit Zagorje

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

Miljana_Castle_near_KumroveKrapina_Zagorje_County_Tourism_Board.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

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

Kutjevo Castle

dvorac-kutjevoTZK.jpeg© Tourism Board of Kutjevo

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

Kutjevo-ParkCROATIA.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

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

Eltz Castle, Vukovar

Vukovar_Dvorac_Eltz_SKStjepkoKrehula.jpeg© Stjepko Krehula

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

GradskiMuzejVuko.jpg© Gradski muzej Vukovar

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

Lukavec Castle, Turopolje

LukavecTZZC1.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

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

The_Old_Town_of_Lukavec_6Zeljko.filipin.jpeg© Zeljko Filipin

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

Kerestinec Castle

kerestinec2-10svetaned.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

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

dvorac_helikoptersvetanedelja.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

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

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

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