Thursday, 4 November 2021

Discovering Authentic Croatia's Secrets With Seoski Tourism

November 4, 2021 – Village tourism or countryside tourism - Seoski tourism in Croatia - offers authentic, traditional experiences. Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske (Croatian Rural Tourism Association) tells us more about it, and their work to help facilitate it

Croatia's visitor offer is evolving and expanding. There are exciting aspects of authentic Croatia to be discovered. Away from the beach, villages inland often look remarkably similar to how they did one hundred years ago. There, crops are grown and produce made in ways passed down through generations of families. And, in some lucky instances, these family farmers are willing to open their doors, invite you inside and show you how they live.

25_-_Pelje_ac_-_Bread_under_bell_at_Agroturizam_Antunovi_.jpgBread from the peka at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

Seoski Tourism – translated as either village tourism or countryside tourism – is just that. Family farms that offer hospitality. These are some of the most homely and most welcoming accommodation experiences you can have in Croatia. Offering sights and sounds, tastes and flavours that you can't find anywhere else, visits or stays in Seoski Tourism places have long been loved by locals for weekend breaks or holidays outside peak summer. But, increasingly, these authentic Croatia experiences are being discovered by international visitors.

14_-_Moslavina_-_Goats_at_Kezele_family_farm.jpgMoslavina goats at Kezele family farm © Davor Konjikušić

One institution trying to facilitate the growth in interest is Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske - Croatian Rural Tourism Association. Since it was formed in 2016, they have tried to bring together Croatia's family farm hosts, to promote them and educate them, and to build bridges between these independents and tourist boards, tourist agencies, educators and even the wider world outside Croatia.

16_-_Moslavina_-_renewed_traditional_house_at_Kezelefamily_farm.jpgSeoski turizam Kezele in Šumećani, on the border of Zagreb County and Bjelovar Bilogora County © Davor Konjikušić

Based in Ivanić-Grad, Zagreb County, the Croatian Rural Tourism Association is currently touring the length and breadth of the country, holding workshops with as many Seoski Tourism family farms that will come. And if the farmwork doesn't allow them free time, then they can attend Croatian Rural Tourism Association workshops online.

On the eve of the association's online Seoski Tourism workshops for Central Croatia and Slavonia, TCN interviewed Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske, to find out more about Seoski Tourism in Croatia.

18_-_Prigorje_-_Local_specialties_at_Raki__family_farm.jpgPrigorje specialties at Rakić family farm

My name is Aleksandra Kuratko and I am secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske. As an association, we are 5 years old.

We have 35 members, most of whom are service providers in what we call Seoski Tourism. We also have several tourist boards and two educational institutions as members.

19_-_Bilogora_-_Horses_in_autumn_at_Agroturizam_Na_malenom_brijegu.jpgBilogora horses in autumn at Agroturizam Na malenom brijegu © Vladimir Vlajinić

Seoski tourism is not quite the same as rural tourism, because rural tourism is many different types of tourism that happen in rural areas. Seoski tourism - which you might translate as village tourism - is quite specific. We assemble people who work in agriculture and who, at the same time, are also offering hospitality. In English, you might call them Farm Stays. Or Agro-tourism – a merging of agriculture and tourism.

28_-_Pelje_ac_-_fresh_vegetables_from_Agroturizam_Antunovi_.jpgFresh vegetables at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

People who work on agricultural estates often take care of local cultural heritage. For example, they might maintain and renew traditional wooden or stone houses. Many also have etno collections, in which they preserve different objects from their region. Some of these objects might have been used in agriculture and households hundreds of years ago. So, they are preserving the cultural heritage of Croatian villages. This is what we call material cultural heritage. But, there's another kind.

Ethno0017.jpgCultural heritage preserved in one Slavonian village © Mario Romulić

Non-material cultural heritage is also a part. That might be preserving old recipes of traditional, regionally-specific dishes. Or, it might be showcasing the songs and dance of local music.

We are currently running a project which is supported by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports in which we hold 37 Seoski Tourism workshops in the field all over Croatia. There will also be around 15 online workshops. The workshops are aimed at colleagues who currently operate in Seoski Tourism – they work in agriculture and offer hospitality. Also invited are local tourist boards and local action groups.

31_-_Photo_from_URTH_workshop_at_Slatina.jpgPhoto from URTH workshop in Slatina

So far, we conducted 20 workshops in the regions of Central Croatia, Slavonia and Baranja, and Podunavlje. From next week until the end of the year, we will conduct the workshops in Istria, Kvarner, Lika and Dalmatia. Some service providers were not able to attend earlier workshops, because of work commitments of Covid. So, we decided to also offer access to the workshops online. Tomorrow is our first online workshop for Central Croatia and on Friday it's the online workshop for Slavonia.

These workshops are interactive discussions between our association, service providers and all other stakeholders. We discuss the legislative framework, which can be extremely complex. We talk about new trends in tourism for the post-pandemic era. We also discuss the importance of integrating cultural heritage in digital promotion.

26_-_Pelješac_-_Donkey_farm_at_Agroturizam_Antunović.jpgDonkey farm at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

For the legislative framework, we have initiated the formation of a working group for the development of Seoski Tourism, which is now operating in the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports. So, at the workshops, we ask if anyone is having issues. We collect the responses and address them in the working group.

Part of the workshop is the presentation of a new web application of Seoski Tourism, which we have developed with Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports. It has two purposes. One is to create a digital catalogue of Croatian Seoski Tourism. You can see region by region some of the Seoski Tourism options – currently around 40, those who have already enrolled.

30_-_Podravina_-_Etno_rooms_at_Zlatni_klas_Otrovanec.jpgPodravina Etno rooms at Zlatni klas Otrovanec

A version of the app is currently available on the website of the National Tourist Board. But, they are building a new website. The forthcoming version of the catalogue will likely be more user-friendly with many more functions and options. On the new website, Croatia's Seoski Tourism options will be detailed in many different languages. It should be a great resource not only for tourists but for travel agencies, journalists like you and for educational institutions. That's the reason we are devoting time in our workshops to encourage Seoski Tourism providers to enroll. We are just at the beginning of the process.

11_-_Hrvatsko_zagorje_-_Grešna_pilnica.jpgGrešna pilnica in Zagorje © Jasna Podboj

The second purpose of the app is to collect information about the service providers. This info will be used by our working group when defining a Croatian model of Seoski Tourism. So far, we have taken examples from Slovenia, Italy and other countries that are successful with Seoski Tourism. But, these models were entered into our legislative system without fully considering our distinct business and cultural environments. That is now about to change.

We are very happy that, following many years of partially successful advocacy, there is now political will at a ministerial level to really shape things up, to change the laws and regulations in order to facilitate Seoski Tourism. We want to encourage more Seoski Tourism, not to have people from agriculture being turned away because of the difficulty of the process and bureaucracy.

22_-_Istria_-_Medieval_theme_park_San_Michael.jpgMedieval Theme Park San Michael © Silvia Otočan

You said part of the workshops will focus on new trends. What are some of these?

Research has been done by a working group that is developing a new tourism strategy for Croatia. It's called Strategy for Sustainable Tourism to 2030. Under the auspices of this group, a number of research fields have been analysed.

The collected data shows that a huge percentage of tourists are now more inclined to eat locally grown and healthy food. They want to spend their time on estates that are run in accordance with ecological principles. So, they really care about issues like how waste is disposed of etc. They also pay a lot of attention to culture. They are curious to learn exactly how we are living, how we are working and how we produce things. They want to learn about our society and culture. And, importantly, they really care about how they spend their money. Above all, they want to spend money in areas that can help support local communities.

17_-_Prigorje_-_Breakfast_at_Rakić_Family_Farm.jpgPrigorje Breakfast at Rakić Family Farm

For us, this is really important. Because Seoski Tourism answers these demands to an incredibly high level. We do produce local, healthy food. Not only on the agricultural estates where you can experience Seoski Tourism, but also from their neighbours who just do agriculture. We are concerned with ecology, we protect cultural heritage and the money spent in Seoski Tourism stays in local communities, where it has very beneficial effects.

In the digital promotion part of the workshops we are trying to persuade people about the importance of their online presence. Basically, these days, if you're not online, it's almost like you don't exist. So, we try to explain the importance of having good-quality photos, short videos and a regular online presence.

1_-_Baranja_-_Kulen__varci_nd_other_specialties_at_Baranjska_ku_a.jpgKulen, čvarci and other specialties at Baranjska kuća © Denis Despot

That's interesting. In some cases, it might be like two different worlds colliding - people who work in a traditional industry and a traditional environment having to adapt to a very modern way of operating. There's also another potential collision when providers learn of the expectations within modern tourism. Because these people can no longer just work in agriculture. To operate in Seoski Tourism, you're also very much expected to also be a host.

Yes. All of our current service providers who are successful within Seoski Tourism are also great hosts. It's essential. You can see it in almost all of the reviews for this kind of tourism. Guests come for the food and drinks and surroundings, yes. But, what they value the most, what they remember the most, is the host part of the experience. On the estates of Croatian Seoski Tourism, guests are welcomed like family. Across all of Croatian tourism we are expected to be good hosts. It's part of our reputation and the reason why many people come here from all over the world. In Seoski Tourism, it is vital we live up to those expectations.

13_-_Moslavina_-_Bread_from_bread_owen_at_Kezele_family_farm.jpgKezele family farm © Davor Konjikušić

Another aspect of this, which is a more recently-observed element, is that visitors often want an insight into the actual lives, even the personalities of their hosts. They want not only to taste the homemade sausages you make, but they also want to know how you do it, where you do it, how you learned to do that. When they go to Spain, they want to know how the people there make their wine. And, when they come to Croatia, they want to learn how we do it here.

So, all in all, those of us in Seoski Tourism are really busy. We are in agriculture, yes, but we are also in tourism and we are also online. With this more recently-observed aspect, we will need to try and devote even more time to our hosting. It can be difficult to balance the demands on your time. But, in our workshops, we are trying to persuade people to talk more about themselves, their lives, their cultural heritage. And, if there isn't time to do everything themselves, then to involve different and often younger generations of the family. Sometimes within the hosting or alternatively just with the online promotion and presence.

15_-_Moslavina_-_Kezele_family_farm_ethno_collection.jpgKezele family farm ethno collection © Davor Konjikušić

I've visited some family farms that were right at the start of their journey with Seoski Tourism and they seemed surprised that I was at all interested in what they do and how they do it. I think maybe they thought I was a bit crazy.

Yes, that is a response we sometimes also see at first. I think it's because our generation takes a lot of things for granted. We sometimes think that what we do is just what we do. We are not so good at showcasing it. “Why would I show someone how I make my cheese? I make my cheese like my grandmother used to make it” But, for those who open their doors to Seoski Tourism, inquiries about how they do what they do are only increasing. So, they seem to appreciate how we advise them in the workshops.

5_-_Me_imurje_-_Picnic_by_Me_imurski_dvori_restaurant.jpgPicnic by Restaurant Međimurski dvori © Igor Nobilo

We are trying to let our producers know that Seoski Tourism is not just a platform to sell their produce and an overnight stay, but it's a full experience they can sell. There are agricultural farms in Austria that are established in tourism that you must pay only to visit. Of course, that doesn't happen currently anywhere in Croatia, even though some of our Seoski Tourism estates have sections that look like museums.

Some of these aspects are very new. And the feedback is great. I truly believe there are hidden treasures to be discovered in some Croatian villages. We are here to tell that story.

IMG_0239fghj.jpgSelection of food from a Slavonian village © Mario Romulić

What is so rewarding about Croatian Seoski Tourism that international visitors would want to go to a traditional farm in some inland village instead of lying on the beach in Dalmatia for 14 days?

People come because they really want to see a different side of Croatia. And, there are many different aspects of Croatia to discover – not just Seoski Tourism, but also National Parks and Nature Parks. All of our current trends show us that more and more tourists are willing to come inland from the coast or to explore a different part of Croatia – inland Istria, for example, or continental Croatia.

20_-_Karlovac_-_Kamačnik_river_canyon.jpgKamačnik river canyon © Aleksandra Kuratko Pani

They really want to try authentic, local food. They want to eat healthy, to know what they are eating and how it is made. And, they want to experience flavours that are different from the usual ones they get from the supermarket.

6_-_Me_imurje_-_Traditional_Me_imurje_table_at_etno_restaurant_Me_imurski_dvori.jpgTraditional Međimurje table at Etno restaurant Međimurski dvori

Also, I would say that with Seoski Tourism, people get to know better an authentic version of Croatia and its culture. It's a story we hear very often from our members. Some of them are visited by large groups from cruisers. These are people who might be on a cruise on the Adriatic and who journey inland for a day trip. Or, it might be a group who are cruising the Danube and disembark to visit a family farm in Slavonia, Baranja or Srijem.

24_-__ibenik_-_Drnis_prosciutto_Ivana_Kalpi__Agroturizam_Kalpi_.jpgProsciutto from Drniš at Agrotourism Kalpić © Ivana Kalpić

When they visit farming estates on day trips, it's very often a huge 'wow' moment for them. For many, in their minds, Croatia is simply sun and sea. And that's not entirely their fault. We, as a country, have done very little until now to promote alternative sides of Croatia. The visitors experience these wow moments because of the hospitality they receive and because of the tangible aspect of the visit. This is a modern aspect – people want to touch things, know how things feel, taste, smell. They want to ride on horses or feed them. Or take part in cultural activities. These parts of a visit to Seoski Tourism are very difficult to experience anywhere else.

img_0261.jpg__648x432_q85_subsampling-2.jpg(left) Ivana Alilović, director of Zagreb County Tourist Board (right) Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske (Croatian Rural Tourism Association) © Zagreb County

Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske's online Seoski Tourism workshops begin today and their physical workshops continue next week in Istria.

If you'd like to read more about rural tourism in Croatia, then look here

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Best Croatian Nature and National Parks For Autumn 2021

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

Krka National Park

Krka_National_Park2.jpg© Krka National Park

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

Krka_National_Park.jpg© Krka National Park

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

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

Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje Nature Park

Samobor_by_silvijabutkovic.photographer.jpg© Silvija Butković

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

Samoborsko_Zumberak.jpg© Goran Šafarek

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

Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve

Veliki_Pazut.jpg© Goran Šafarek

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

Goran_ŠafarekD__6321_DxO-1.jpg© Goran Šafarek

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

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

251333204_10159958327839108_4607408917831515375_n.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Medvednica Nature Park

Park_prirode_Medvednica.jpg© Medvednica Nature Park

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

zagreb_zagorje_julien_duval.jpg© Julien Duval

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

Kopački rit Nature Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern Velebit National Park (Sjeverni Velebit National Park)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paklenica National Park

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

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

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

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

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

Lonjsko polje Nature Park

Lonjsko_polje.jpg© Goran Šafarek

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

247218663_4254117711377441_2820130146317535557_n.jpg© Lonjsko polje Nature Park

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

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

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

Biokovo Nature Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 22 October 2021

Interview: Wild Mushroom Hunting in Zagreb County in Autumn

October 22, 2021 – There's a riot of colour in the branches of trees right now. What better time to go mushroom hunting in Zagreb County?

Autumn in Croatia is the perfect time to explore nature. The country's mountainous regions are currently being enjoyed by walkers and hikers. In less hilly regions, people take to walking the forests and riversides. There, an eruption of colour as the trees respond to the season – red, orange, yellow, purple, brown. Autumn's colours are epic. But, they're not around forever. Catch them while you can.

One resident who is sure to take in the full range of autumn's splendor is Hrvoje Banaj. An outdoor enthusiast from near Zagreb, at weekends, he can be found exploring the forests and mountain of Medvednica, or somewhere else around Zagreb County. He's been walking the woods since he was a child, accompanied by his father, who taught Hrvoje about mushrooms.

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You can collect wild mushrooms across much of Croatia. But, Hrvoje thinks mushroom hunting in Zagreb County is particularly good. Certainly, you can find a surprising bounty in the woods of Zagreb County, as TCN found out last year on a truffle hunting trip.

There are groups of wild mushroom enthusiasts in Croatia. Also, you can find some expert forest guides who know about identifying edible mushrooms in the wild. However, it's not incredibly common to come across someone in Croatia who has that knowledge and who speaks English. Therefore, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to speak with Hrvoje to ask him a little about his experience of mushroom hunting in Zagreb County.

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My name is Hrvoje. I grew up in Zaprešić and I still live there. I attended university in Zagreb, where I studied German language and literature and phonetics. Also, my first course was organ playing. I'm a concert organist.

I've been hunting mushrooms since I was 5 or 6 years old. A very early age. My father was a lifelong forest engineer. So, it was a normal part of his work to go into the woods at all times of year, and discover what was there. For him too, mushrooms were a focus of interest.

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He'd been going into the woods since he was 13 or 14 and learned about the different kinds of mushrooms from several older, experienced people. As an adult, he bought two detailed books about mushrooms which he learned from additionally. Of course, I read them too. There was no internet back then. We still have those books.

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My dad's work was all around Zagreb and Zagreb County. Often, he would take me with him. He has been retired for a few years now. He no longer has the passion for it as he had had back in the years when he worked. But, I still go mushroom hunting in Zagreb County and I love it.

You can find lots of different kinds of mushrooms all over Croatia. I've explored the woods and picked mushrooms across much of the inland of the country.

In Zagreb County, the edible mushrooms I've personally seen are; Morels, Chicken of the Woods and all kinds of Porcini mushrooms. Also, Hedgehog mushroom – one of my favourites to eat - and all kinds of Puffballs. I saw a Giant Polypore recently too, while I was walking on Sljeme.

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You find Chanterelles and Parasol mushrooms here, sometimes in large numbers. Horn of Plenty and Horse mushroom you also see a lot. Several types of Russula mushrooms grow here. I've never seen a St George's mushroom here. But, I saw and ate them in Slavonia. My father has roots there, so I've visited a lot.

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Although autumn is usually associated with mushroom picking, that's actually a widespread misperception. It's true that some of the more popular and well-known wild mushrooms are most common in autumn. That's probably where this thinking comes from.

Actually, mushrooms grow all year round in Croatia. Some kinds you only usually see in the springtime. Similarly, many people believe that you have to go into forests to find mushrooms. But, some edible mushrooms in Croatia actually prefer to live in direct sunlight and you can find them at the sides of fields.

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If you want to go truffle or wild mushroom hunting in Zagreb County, it's best to go with a guide. You can find out more about guides and groups from Zagreb County Tourist Board here.

You can see all the different types of edible mushrooms that grow in the wild in Croatia here.

All photos used were taken in Zagreb County and come from the private collection of Hrvoje Banaj, unless otherwise accredited

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

16 Super Reasons to Visit Croatia Now: September October 2021

September 22, 2021 – The sun is shining and we'll still be swimming in the sea for some time yet, although the weather and warm Adriatic are far from the only reasons to visit Croatia now

Here are a full 16 reasons to visit Croatia now, in September and October 2021
The weather is fantastic and the forecast is great!

Screenshot_205.pngVisit Croatia now: screenshot © Marc Rowlands

Screenshot_204.pngVisit Croatia now: screenshot

The sea is still warm enough for swimming

242336077_6243047692432629_2508322542701942610_n.jpgSwimming in very late September 2021 on the Omiš riviera, one of the best reasons to visit Croatia now © Marc Rowlands

The very best Croatian food

241480915_6170941186309947_1327304007351009063_n.jpgDomestic bacon and prosciutto, a classic Croatian 'tapas' served at the last surviving inn on Biokovo mountain, Vrata Biokovo © Marc Rowlands

There's no shortage of the finest fresh fish and seafood now the rush have tourists have gone. Want to cook them for yourself? Buy straight from the fishermen on the beach. You can't do that in peak season – it all goes to the restaurants. Also, Croatia's fruit and vegetables are ripe and at their best right now.

241126505_6138144742922925_8968400606881277475_n.jpgUnique, miniature squid, served in ink, with a medley of fresh, roasted vegetables at the restaurant of Camping Labadusa on the island of Čiovo, 2021. Yes, this is how amazing food is at some campsites in Croatia © Marc Rowlands

From figs, melons, mushrooms and truffles to salad greens, pumpkins and mandarins, Croatia is currently the land of plenty. And, the lunchtime specials – Marenda (Dalmatia), Gablets (Zagreb) are outstanding and super cheap right now. Looking for an amazing 50 kuna lunch in Dalmatia right now? Try Konoba Marenda in Šibenik, Konoba Joskan in Omiš or Gastro Diva or Konoba Kalalarga in Makarska?

242356626_6243046882432710_3401854122891850972_n.jpgRoast beef and beetroot risotto with sour cream, pomegranate and apple. Marenda of Konoba Joskan in Omiš © Marc Rowlands

Sports, activity and recreation

242223445_6222414447829287_952918838844562246_n.jpgCycling in Šibenik © Marc Rowlands

Now the temperature have grown more gentle, it's the perfect time to get sporty or active in Croatia. Why not try cycling and hiking in and around Šibenik? Or how about golfing in Zagreb? Inland Dalmatia is a great place for quad biking. Try it in Drniš, Knin, near Vrlika or in Imotski. If you want to try a range of activities and sports, then maybe head for Omiš. You can try canyoning, white water rafting, diving, mountain biking, hiking and a thrilling zip line in Omiš.

Peace, quiet, relaxation

IMG_3328defcvbnjuhgfcv.JPGThe peaceful beach at Kamp Adria Village Baško Polje, pictured in late September 2021 © Marc Rowlands

The kids are mostly back at school, the students have finished partying and are returned to university. Right now, Croatia's campsites, beaches and lunchtime restaurants are quiet and chilled. Romantic couples walk undisturbed across the sands or sip wine as they watch the sunset. The only sound you often hear is the lapping of the waves against the shore.

Idyllic camping

IMG_3321edrfghjnk.JPGRelaxing and peaceful, individual terraces of each glamping unit in Kamp Adria Village Baško Polje © Marc Rowlands

If you want to get up close to nature, camping in Croatia is one of the best ways to do this. And, right now, the country's campsites are at their best. Incredibly peaceful and way under full capacity, there are no more children, families or teenagers. You can bring your own mobile home or even tent – it's cool enough to sleep under canvas now (tents are too hot during the height of a Croatian summer).

241130404_6149405168463549_8737034291319710149_n.jpgUnforgettable sunset views at Camping Rožac, Trogir © Marc Rowlands

Looking for a brilliant Croatian campsite for late September / early October 2021? Camping Rožac, Trogir here has incredible sunset views, whereas the beach at nearby Camping Labadusa here on Čiovo island's other side is a faultless slice of paradise. Further south, the glamping offer of Kamp Adria Village Baško Polje here is also among the finest in Croatia. All three sites are nestled under strongly scented pine trees, just metres from the shore.

IMG_2401dfvgbhnjkiuyhgb.JPGIncredible paradise beach at Camping Labadusa on the island of Čiovo © Marc Rowlands

Discover some of Europe's greatest white and sparkling wine in continental Croatia

AnyConv.com__IMG_2044fgvbnmjnhg.jpgVineyards of Koprivnica-Križevci County winemakers © Marc Rowlands

Been to the Croatian coast before? Then no doubt you've tried some of Dalmatia's famous red wines. Unlike other places, where white wines usually accompany the lighter seafood, pasta and fish dishes of the seaside and summer, on the Croatian coast it's the red wines that rule. Big, gutsy red wines like Plavac mali and Syrah are found by the Croatian Adriatic.

IMG_1802wsdfgh.JPGWinemakers of Koprivnica-Križevci County © Marc Rowlands

Less well known are Croatian white wines Even more hidden are Croatia's sparkling wines. Because, if you want to find them, you have to move away from the sea and come inland. For the best sparkling wines, look to Zagreb County.

IMG_2122.JPGWinemakers of south Koprivnica-Križevci County © Marc Rowlands

For brilliant white wines, there's a thick strip of continental Croatia you simply must get to know. Its north is the Drava river and the sandy soil runs along its length from Koprivnica and Đurđevac to the start of Baranja. Up into the hills of Baranja and to the border with Hungary the vineyards stretch. To the east, Aljmas and Erdut, to the south Ilok, then west through Kutjevo and back to Zagreb County. Now is the time of the newest wines, of harvest celebrations. Now is the best time to walk the wine roads and trails of this massive white wine super-region.

It's the perfect time for a city break

AnyConv.com__ETugIXoWoAA2NmI_1.jpgVisit Croatia now: Zagreb © Alan Grubelić

Nobody wants to be trapped in a bustling city in summertime's 40-degree heat. The high temperatures never subside. The concrete retains it. When things really heat up in Croatia, you need the cooler mountain air or the sea, which at night absorbs the heat of the day. But, right now is the perfect time to go exploring Croatia's bigger cities.

Why not try Osijek, with its kilometres of cycle routes and parks, epic riverside promenades and the best-preserved complex of baroque buildings in Croatia? Certainly, Osijek's Tvrda and its Secession architecture should be seen by everyone once.

croatia_slavonija_osijek_0001.jpgVisit Croatia now: Osijek © Romulić & Stojcic

Or, how about Zagreb, the country's social, cultural and economic capital? There are different happenings in Zagreb streets and parks almost every day. And the atmosphere is second to none.

In Istria, you can linger for much longer on the Roman Forum at this time of year. No need now for running urgently between shadows. You can instead afford to take your time as you wander around the epic Roman architecture here. You'll find more unmissable Roman architecture in Croatia's second city of Split, by way of Diocletian's Palace.

A packed events calendar

_MG_9181fgvbnh.JPGEvents of Zagreb parks 2021, captured by © Marc Rowlands

Croatia's event calendar explodes at this time of year. In Zagreb and Dubrovnik, famous music festivals fill the parks and streets. Elsewhere, this is one of the most important times of the year for food and drink festivals...

Harvest time

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It's harvest time, and when the local produce is collected from the trees or fields, usually there's an accompanying celebration. The party always extends well beyond championing the local produce. These are some of the best events in Croatia – accessible to all ages and appealing especially to gastro fans.

For example, Ivanić-Grad's pumpkin festival - Bučijada - always has a great music and entertainment programme attached. Held on October 1, 2 and 3 in 2021, it draws folks from far and wide to the pretty Zagreb County town. You won't have to look hard to find fun events like this all across Croatia at this time of year, celebrating everything from walnuts and almonds to grapes, olives and mushrooms.

Budget flights are still available

d75218b48e994601038e90bf5fc21f51_XL.jpgVisit Croatia now: Budget flights from Ryanair

Not only are budget flights still available, but the summertime routes to all Croatian airports are also still in play. Everywhere in Croatia is easily accessible right now. And for very little cost.

Last minute deals and inexpensive accommodation

AnyConv.com__IMG_3340edrfghjnmkjhgfd.jpgPrivate pool of the 4-star Boutique Hotel Noemia, Baška Voda © Marc Rowlands

It's no secret that prices plummet on Croatia's coast at this time of year. Smart operators do their best to extend the season by dropping prices. You can pick up incredible deals at this time of year everywhere from restaurant dining to luxury resorts, villas, apartments and hotels with full or half board.

Sailing in Croatia

AnyConv.com__IMG_3354ertyhujhgfd.jpgA regular visitor to Brela, Baska Voda and Split returned again in September 2021 © Marc Rowlands

The season for sailing Croatia is nowhere near as short as that enjoyed by most sunbathers. You only need look at the daily newspapers to read about the latest luxury yacht to sail into Croatian Adriatic waters. But, you don't need to be a Russian oligarch to enjoy the beautiful bays, beaches and islands of Croatia. Charter yachts in Croatia can be found at reasonable rates – especially in late September and early October!

Volunteering

IMG_20210915_165305139_HDR.jpg2021 volunteer divers at Calypso Diving in Omiš © Marc Rowlands

Late summer, early autumn and spring are the best time to come volunteer in Croatia. In late summer and early autumn, it's the Adriatic that needs a little love. Volunteer divers undertake ecological missions to clean the seabed around the coast. It's surprising just how much trash falls into the seas after a summer season.

IMG_2818edcvbnhgf.JPGExperienced divers, pictured in 2021 at Trogir Diving Centre © Marc Rowlands

If you're a qualified diver, why not come and help out? Try Trogir Diving Centre here, the oldest diving school in Croatia. Or try Calypso Diving in Omiš here. There, you don't even need to be qualified - beginners can learn from scratch and earn their first diving certificates in return for their volunteering!

242151424_6227553893982009_4396189167021449696_n.jpgVolunteer divers at Calypso Diving in Omiš, 2021 © Marc Rowlands

It's the best time to explore Croatia's National Parks and Nature Parks

241316764_6170947642975968_6841343418900551668_n.jpgThe famous Skywalk of Biokovo Nature Park on the Makarska riviera in Dalmatia, 2021 © Marc Rowlands

In the preserved and protected wilderness of Croatian National Parks and Nature Parks, there's sometimes very little shelter from the sun. They can be tough to explore at the height of summer. Mountainous parks like Paklenica, Velebit and Biokovo have incredible hiking trails that are best enjoyed at this time.

241631995_6170951239642275_3522302139938915487_n.jpgBiokovo Nature Park peaks in 2021 © Marc Rowlands

Elsewhere, you can trace the waterways and waterfalls of Krka National Park, Kopački rit, Plitvice lakes and Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje in relative calm right now. No long lines of queueing tourists spoiling your photos. The island parks like Mljet, Kornati and Brijuni are all the more idyllic when there's nobody else around.

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There are much worse places you could be working remotely

Working.JPGVisit Croatia now: September October 2021 © Marc Rowlands

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Žumberak Samobor Protected by Zagreb County TZ via Sustainable Tourism

September 5, 2021 – In a series of spectacular new photos, we see this vast, beautiful park and learn of Zagreb County Tourist Board's efforts to balance preserving nature, improving the park's visitor offer and implementing development necessary for the quality of life of the local population, via sustainable tourism and the EU-sponsored Pronacul project.

Žumberačka_polja.jpg© J. Škof

For residents of Zagreb County, City of Zagreb and their visitors, the most convenient thing about Žumberak Samobor Mountains Nature Park is that it's right on your doorstep. Less than 90 minutes drive to the west of the Croatian capital, it's an easy escape into a spectacular natural landscape; epic, rolling hills, gushing waterfalls and streams beside which historic water mills lie.

Mlin.jpg© J. Škof

It's the perfect place to go to free yourself of the noise, pressure and stress of life in the city. Particularly if you love hiking or cycling. There are 300 kilometres of cycling routes and 350 kilometres of hiking trails through Žumberak Samobor Mountains Nature Park. That's plenty to explore.

Miroslav2.JPG© Miroslav Vajdić

In total, a vast 342m2 of beautiful rural landscape is protected as a Nature Park. Partly, what makes Žumberak Samobor Mountains area so charming is that it is a topography that has been moulded by its inhabitants. Their agricultural efforts can be traced in the lines of fields, the dry stone walls, the crops, animals and produce found here. Their piety is the reason for the rich wealth of historic sacral buildings you can visit in the park.

Miroslav3.JPG© Miroslav Vajdić

But, this is an area that has undergone extreme population decline over recent decades. In fact, the park area is one of the least densely populated places in Croatia. The agricultural endeavours that helped shaped this pretty place are nowhere near as popular as they once were. However, the park is still inhabited. Traditional life can still be seen in Žumberak Samobor Mountains.

Miroslav.JPG© Miroslav Vajdić

One of the best ways to preserve this beautiful Nature Park, the lifestyles and endeavours of those who live there, is to receive visitors. Visiting such thrilling epic nature is so rewarding in itself, its strange to think that just be being there you're helping to preserve it.

Pronacul: Balancing Tourism, Development and Preservation of Nature

Staza_na_Žumberku.jpg© J. Škof

Žumberak Samobor Mountains Nature Park and Zagreb County Tourist Board have long been working to balance 1) the preservation of the protected area, 2) increasing and improving the park's visitor offer and 3) implementing development necessary for the quality of life of the local population.

It is to that end that Zagreb County Tourism Board have submitted Žumberak Samobor Mountains Nature Park to join the EU-sponsored Pronacul project. Joining partners in Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Serbia and Bosnia in the scheme, Pronacul's key aim is the promotion of natural and cultural heritage and the development of sustainable tourism in protected areas. The total value of the project is 1.770.348,98 EUR.

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For more ideas of great places to visit and great things to do in Zagreb County, be sure to read our dedicated pages here

Saturday, 14 August 2021

PHOTOS: 45 Incredible Zagreb County Holiday Homes, Perfect Year-Round

August 14, 2021 – Close enough that the capital city is on your doorstep, but secluded within beautiful countryside or timeless rural communities, you'll be amazed by these simply stunning Zagreb County holiday homes

Sometimes only the city will do. An international sports fixture, the concert of a megastar musician, the culture, the options. But, sometimes you can do without it; the traffic and congestion, the heat, the fast tempers, the noise.

That's one of the best things about Zagreb County. Encircling the Croatian capital, it's a region of traditional villages, rural landscapes and beautiful countryside. And yet, Zagreb is so close by. You can dip into the excitement any time you feel like.

Peaceful mornings on the terrace or in the garden, filled with bird song and fresh air. Zagreb County holiday homes have the benefit of being very close to Croatia's largest and busiest international airport. In fact, almost all of the county's holiday homes are within around one hour's drive of Franjo Tudman airport.

This makes Zagreb County holiday homes perfect for a spring or autumn break, for a long weekend or as a base for visiting a special Zagreb event like the Christmas Markets (Advent). After all, who wouldn't want to spend a few days in some of these incredible beauties?

45 Incredible Zagreb County holiday homes

holiday_house_mamil_010.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Mamil

Holiday house Mamil sits secluded within 10,000 m2 of its own grounds, overlooking the beautiful Jastrebarsko countryside. It comfortable houses 10 across its two properties. More here

Repro_Eko_Farm.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Repro Eko Farm

Repro Eko Farm in Jastrebarsko is a family-run endeavour specializing in producing, processing and cooking organic vegetarian and vegan foods. More here

Villa_Sunrise_Beauty.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Vila Sunrise Beauty

Sunrise Beauty Villa sits on the hillside, just 10 minutes walk from Samobor centre and is well placed for exploring Žumberak Nature Park. More here

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The rustic Klet Padež has epic views of the countryside around Samobor. Also, not in this shot, an outdoor pool and traditional barbecue. More here

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Sitting in a quiet park of the city, surrounded by the Mojmir forest park, just 10 minutes walk from Samobor center, someone knew what they were doing when they designed Holiday Home Laganini. Its pool is in the sun all day, its terrace in the shade. More here

Sky_High_Villa.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Sky High Villa

With breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, you could easily fall in love with Sveta Nedelja while staying at the ultra-modern Sky High Villa. More here

Kuća_za_odmor_David.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: David

With a pool and terrace overlooking the Donja Zelina vineyards in Sveti Ivan Zelina, Holiday Home David is perfect for secluded family vacations and exploring five separate Croatian counties, all with borders extremely close to this location. More here

Juras_Country_House.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Jura's County House

With two separate lodgings surrounded by forests and vineyards, Jura's Country House offers perfect seclusion amidst the greenery of the Croatian Prigorje, just outside Sv. Ivan Zelina. There's a pool for warmer months, although the jacuzzi option is year-round. More here

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Kuća za odmor Trumbetaš is a festival of wood, surrounded by trees and vines, gently sloping down a rural plot just 15 km south of Zagreb airport. The property is equipped for traditional cooking methods like peka and razanj. More here

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Mini resort Katulić has an outdoor pool, outdoor and indoor hydro-massage pool (jacuzzi) for 5 people and sauna. The property is located 20 minutes by highway from the centre of Zagreb and 15 minutes from Dr. Franjo Tuđman airport and the city of Velika Gorica. More here

Seoski_turizam_Kezele.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Kezele

Seoski turizam Kezele is a small-scale producer of fine wines. Their property features five rustic, wooden holiday homes, surrounded by nature, forests and their vineyards. Come and try the wine or the best local cuisine. More here

Zumba.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Žumba

Holiday cottage Žumba sits on the River Kupčina within Zumberak Nature Park. It is a place where you can feel at one with nature. There are waterfalls to find and just five kilometres away, the Ozalj castle to explore. More here

Greenwood_Cottage.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Greenwood Cottage

Overlooking forestland rich in wild deer, in a secluded part of Jamnica Pisarovinska, Greenwood Cottage is just 30km from Zagreb. The property comes with its own bicycles, so you can explore the nearby paths, ponds and river. More here

Marlenes_Residence.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Marlene's Residence

The ultra-modern Marlene's Residence in Pisarovina has two large terraces, lots of lawns for games like badminton and a pool for warmer months. Year-round, there's a Finnish sauna and hot tub in the basement, three or four small lakes and a huge stretch of the Kupa river to explore on foot or by bike. More here

Vikendica_Bobica.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Bobica

Vikendica Bobica is a real bolt back-to-nature, a rustic cottage located right in the heart of the forest beside the Kupa river. Perfect for a weekend of mushroom or chestnut picking, or fishing on the river. More here

vila_dora_5_49084889_JFtC3.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Dora

Secluded in quiet Pokupsko, not far from the Kupa river, Vila Dora's interior is a beautiful display of traditional woodwork and exposed brickwork. Perfect if you want to access the nearby forests for mushrooms picking, hunting or wildlife photography. More here

Sunčani_brijeg.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Sunčani brijeg

Traditional oak house Sunčani brijeg in Pokupsko sits in an idyllic spot, right on the Kupa river – there's a bench at the bottom of the garden where you can sit for hours and watch this beautiful scenery. A covered outdoor terrace and barbecue invite alfresco dining, and there are bicycles, a kayak and a fishing boat too. More here

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The Sremić Estate in Kravarsko, sits secluded in the gently rolling hills of Vukomeričke gorice, overlooking the incredible scenery of Turopolje. The property has a luxurious, modern interior, sauna and tennis court. More here

Kućica.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Kućica

Kućica is a 100-year-old traditional wooden weekend house in Krajska Ves, 30 minutes north-northwest of Zagreb, just above Zaprešić. Nearby, you can explore rural Zagorje, its great food and wine, ethno-villages and thermal spas. More here

Zahra.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Zahra

Villa Zahra in Pušćanska Dubrava, near the town of Zaprešić, is a 5-star luxury escape complete with outdoor pool and tennis court. Not shown in the above photo, one wing of the property is a large conservatory, walled completely in glass on three side. It offers spectacular panoramic views. More here

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The outdoor pool, indoor billiards and jacuzzi are slightly misleading; Rural House M & M in Vrbovec, 42 km from Zagreb, is a truly rustic and traditional countryside house. Guests can relax in front of completely natural views on the terrace or go exploring by bike. More here

Green_Silence.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Green Silence

So named because only natural sounds surround, Green Silence sits in the beautiful forested hills of Bedenica, not for from Mount Medvednica or the border with Varazdin County. Vineyards run down neighbouring slopes and you might well spot deer emerging from the forest around sunrise or sunset. More here

naokic.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Na Okić

Traditional rural weekend house Na Okić sits on a hiking trail between Old town Okić and Plešivica mountain, on the forested slopes of Žumberak Nature Park. Have a meal under the vine pergola while the kids are learning how to walk on the slackline. There's an organic fruit and veg garden at your disposal and pets are welcome. More here

Klet_Tuković.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Tuković

Surrounded by greenery, hills, and encircled by vineyards, Klet Tuković offers a relaxed break far from the bustle of the city, although it genuinely isn't that far from Zagreb. Out front, a covered terrace and a grill for alfresco dining. More here

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You'll find Holiday Home Šime Miliša in the calm village of Krašić, within easy reach of Žumberak Nature Park, the Samobor hills and the Kupa river. For those who like to explore, it's a wonderful landscape of preserved nature, forests, streams, waterfalls and gentle slopes. More here

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In the otherwise uninhabited settlement of Kladešćica near Sveti Ivan Zelina, two small stone houses, Tomas Hill, with uninterrupted views of rolling meadows and forest. Well, uninterrupted except for the generous outdoor pool. More here

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You'll find the small settlement of Zadrkovec (Komin), just a few minutes from Sv. Ivan Zelina, which is lovely to explore. That's if you can tear yourself away from all the amenities at Holiday Home Bilić, which include outdoor pool, generous garden, trampoline and a covered with outdoor grill. More here

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Ethno House and Camp Under Okić is located around twenty kilometers southwest of Zagreb, in the village of Klake, 8 kilometers away from Samobor. in the foothills of Old Town Okić. From the small campsite or small attic apartment here, visitors can explore Žumberak Nature Park or the Samobor hills. More here

Samobor_Holiday_Villa.jpgZagreb County holiday homes: Samobor Holiday Villa

As you might expect, Samobor Holiday Villa is located in the beautiful and historic town of the same name. It's one of the best day trips or weekend breaks from Zagreb, and this villa – which accommodates up to 10 over three floors – is one of the be3st ways to experience it as a group. More here

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330 metres up the hills of Žumberak Nature Park, Holiday House Jela comes complete with a basketball court, mini football, treehouse and incredible views. More here

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Old Hiža Vlašić is a vintage oak house, set on a hillside within Žumberak Nature Park. The dwelling is completely at one with its natural surroundings – pristine rolling hills peppered with tiny, traditional villages. More here

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With two separate balconies and a generous ground floor terrace, there's plenty of places at traditional Alpine House Matichka to enjoy the view. And what a view it is. Tree-lined hillsides, the slopes of the Jaska side of Plešivica, the fringes of Žumberak Nature Park - Samoborsko gorje. More here

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Brandy House Hedonic on Family Farm Mahović is a self-contained unit within the grounds of a small-scale family farm that specialises in making high-quality rakija (local brandies). While the overall experience is steeped in tradition, the interior furnishings of the guest house are modern and very comfortable. More here

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The uncommonly pretty views from the comfortable terrace of Casa Jana in Jastrebarsko will make you want to spend much of the day outside. Although the inside of the house is just as comfortably furnished, the terrace's hot tub means you can actually remain outside for some of the night too. More here

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A large holiday home with lots of air and space, Tilija sits within 3000m² of its own grounds in the gentle hills of Bedenica near Zagreb. Its best features are the private pool, wonderful interior design and incredible views, which are enjoyed not only from the terrace but also from the generously windowed bedrooms. More here

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You're not going to be disturbed by neighbours at this woodland retreat, Bella, in Bistra, Medvednica Nature Park. Not detailed in the above photo, the orchard garden, jaw-dropping views to the front of the property and an all-new outdoor pool. More here

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A patchwork of hillsides textured with descending rows of vines, the Kalnik mountain and the town of Vrbovec form the incredible view from holiday house Hrupec in Sveti Ivan Zelina. The house itself is over 125 years old but has all modern provisions and it sits within 4,000 m2 of its own land. More here

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Family restaurant and boarding house Milenij may not offer the privacy and seclusion of a stand-alone holiday home, but their mountainous location in Filipovići, not far from Sv. Ivan Zeline, makes this the perfect base for hiking. Its restaurant also means you don't need to work about cooking after a day of exertion. More here

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Sitting on the slopes of Medvednica Nature Park, Holiday Home Gec, near Zaprešić, has furnishings that are just as beautiful as its natural surroundings. More here

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Traditionally-built wooden vikendica 'Rural house Na brijegu' is surrounded by vineyards, orchards and nature in Kloštar Ivanić. To the front, the terrace provides a spectacular view of Zagreb (Medvednica), Dugo Selo and Vrbovec. More here

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The modern refurbishment of traditional Zagorje cottage Hižica Krijesnica belies its true age. It's actually over 100 years old, not that you could tell from the lush modern pool and exquisite outdoor dining area. More here

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A modern 4-bedroom cottage in Bedenica, Seoski Turizam Prigora boasts an outdoor pool, well facilities and, inside, a hot tub and sauna. More here

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While outside is all about the masses of surrounding greenery, the open-plan terraces and stone arches that encircle, inside the Titanic in Bratina is an all-wood interior that looks perfectly suited to accommodate a larger family or group. More here

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Spectacular modern design coupled with beautiful natural views create an escape that can be enjoyed year-round at the 3 bedroomed Wee Resort Penezici in Bratina. Although, the terrace and outdoor pool make warmer months more inviting for some. More here

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Small Eco Home Lavender sits away from the main village of Bratina, on the edge of a small forest. The house is wholly independent; its electricity all comes from solar panels on the roof, its water from collected and purified rain. More here

All images courtesy Zagreb County Tourist Board or the named holiday homes

You can read more about (and see more pictures of) Zagreb County holiday homes here.

For all the latest news about Zagreb County, please see TCN's dedicated pages here

Monday, 24 May 2021

Zagreb County Bistra Community Becomes Living Ecomuseum

May 24, 2021 – Preserving the traditions, crafts and heritage of a fascinating corner of Zagreb County, the entire Bistra community has dedicated itself to becoming a living, breathing ecomuseum.

One of the best ways Croatia preserves its heritage is to keep it in use. Diocletian's Palace in Split and the multiple Roman remains in Pula are not preserved behind glass. People live in and among these monuments. They are very much part of the social fabric of today.

Now, one municipality in Zagreb County is about to embrace such notions across its whole territory. The entire Bistra community, located less than 5 km north of the edges of Zagreb City, will become a living, breathing ecomuseum.

reScreenshot_136.png© Udruga Ekomuzej Bistra

What is an ecomusem?

While sustainability is an aspect of the ecomuseum concept, an ecomuseum is not strictly about ecological strategies. Instead, it is more about designating a territory - in this case, the Bistra community - as an ever-evolving social and cultural museum.

Whereas a normal museum might be a building, exhibits and guides, an ecomuseum is a place, its heritage, the people who live there … and the skills and memory they have which define the area.

reUdruga_Ekomuzej_Bistra.jpg© Lovro Bauer (Fabrika arhitekti d.o.o.)

Old school building in Poljanica Bistranska

Central to the Bistra community ecomuseum project is the renovation of a special old school building in Poljanica Bistranska. It is a significant and nationally protected work of industrial architecture from 1878. Within Zagreb County, it is one of the few preserved school buildings from that period. Back in the days when it was a school, it held a garden and orchard where school children grew fruits and vegetables to eat and distribute to the poor.

reEkomuzej_Bistra_-_photoby_Lina_Malek_4.jpg© Lina Malek / Udruga Ekomuzej Bistra.

The building is in the process of undergoing a HRK 11,979,150 renovation, largely funded by the European Union from the European Structural and Investment Funds. Upon completion, the building will showcase examples of how the Bistra community have lived through the ages. Additionally, it will have a permanent exhibition called Bistra 1209 (when Bistra is first mentioned). Traditional culture, life and customs of the Bistra community will be displayed. For example, wedding customs, folklore, traditional decoration of people and space, agriculture, produce, superstitions and beliefs.

reEkomuzej_Bistra_-_photoby_Lina_Malek_6.jpg© Lina Malek / Udruga Ekomuzej Bistra.

Ecomuseum in the Bistra community

Outside of the building, more aspects of the Bistra community to be protected under the ecomuseum project include, buildings, industry and arts & crafts. For instance, over 200 traditional wooden hut structures have been identified in the area. Some are incredibly picturesque and still very much in use.

reScreenshot_137.png© Udruga Ekomuzej Bistra

Within the region's key arts & crafts, the production of jewelry will be preserved. The making of kraluš – a type of neck jewelry using multicolored glass beads – is traditional in this part of northwestern Croatia. Within the canon of this recognised, regional skill, the Bistra community has two inclusions unique to them - bistranski kraluš and kravatlin.

Within the section of industry, the area's traditional production of wood charcoal in vuglenice (charcoal pits) is included. A centuries-old practice, it was once highly significant to the economic sustainability of the highland and forest regions of Croatia.

reUdruga_Ekomuzej_Bistra2.jpg© Lovro Bauer (Fabrika arhitekti d.o.o.)

The completion of work on the old school building of Bistra community ecomuseum is expected by September 2023. But, the development of the area itself as an ecomuseum is a project that is happening now and will never end. Like Bistra's beloved Medvednica Nature Reserve or it's famous Oršić Castle in Gornja Bistra, you can go discover and enjoy them today.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to extend their thanks to the following for providing the assets and information necessary for this article: Zagreb County Tourist Board, Klementina Batina and Lina Malek of Udruga Ekomuzej Bistra.

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

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Tourist Boards in Zagreb County Develop Gourmet and Cultural Tourism

January 19, 2021 – Tourist boards in Zagreb County are uniting in two projects – to develop and promote cultural and gourmet tourism.

The new Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Croatian Tourism encourage the tourist boards' association, both project-wise and formally. Local and regional tourist boards, as well as tourist boards and local self-government units that do not have an established tourist board for their area, may join a project (agreement) association.

Many tourist boards have already taken advantage of this opportunity, such as the Zadar Archipelago and Southern Istria tourist boards, and more recently, the tourist boards in Zagreb County.

Namely, they unite to promote and develop cultural and gourmet tourism. As the Zagreb County Tourist Board director Ivana Alilović points out, their goal is to intensively promote the Zagreb Green Ring region and existing tourist products and programs.

foto-Romeo-Ibrišević-2-1-1560x878.jpg

Scene from Zagreb County / Romeo Ibrišević, Zagreb County Tourist Board

"Our goal is integrated quality management of the Zagreb County's tourist destination product, which will reduce the gap between the level of quality that tourists expect and the level of quality that the destination can provide and deliver. Also, we want to improve the quality and content of Zagreb County tourism product, increase tourist satisfaction and tourist spending in Zagreb County and the benefits for entrepreneurship in catering and tourism," says Alilović.

Gourmet tourism in Zagreb County

Local tourist boards of Jastrebarsko, Samobor, and Sveti Ivan Zelina cities have concluded an agreement on the local Zagreb County Tourist Boards' association. In this first project, the joint activity will be the development of gourmet tourism. Wine roads and cheese roads are among the many tourist attractions of rural, eno, and gastro tourism of Zagreb County.

Vineyards and wine cellars in Zagreb County are located on three wine roads – Plešivica Wine Road, Zelina Wine Road, and Samobor Wine Road. Along wine roads, you can find Purtugizec Plešivica and Kraljevina Zelina wines from the Zagreb County brand, as well as Bermet, a traditional and widely recognized Samobor aromatized wine.

Also, there are wines produced from indigenous varieties Plavec yellow, sweet Zelenac, and Šipelj, and many other wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, black, gray, and white Pinot, Rhine Riesling, Traminer, Frankovka, Škrlet, yellow Muscat, Šipon.

btDKYZS9.jpg

Vineyards in Jastrebarsko / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

The main goals of the association through the gourmet tourism project are:

  • The smart specialization of Zagreb County.
  • The development of a tourist destination for gourmet tourism.
  • Improving the value chain of gourmet tourism.
  • Digitalization and application of new technologies.
  • Multi-sector connectivity.
  • Development of local production systems (Agri-food).
  • Positioning and promotion of Zagreb county.

Cultural tourism in Zagreb County

Cultural tourism in Zagreb County is based on protected natural heritage and cultural and historical heritage. Zagreb County has a rich treasury of natural heritage and beauty. It has many protected natural areas, which contribute to the development and success of cultural, hiking, picnic, and sustainable tourism in Zagreb County.

The association project aims to establish a basis for the integrated management of cultural tourism. Alilović says they want to create a recognizable tourist destination product that will be the main instrument for encouraging tourism competitiveness in Zagreb County. She adds that cultural resources are the leading destination's product in the promotion of a tourist destination, and what makes one destination different from the other is its intangible cultural heritage.

Dvorac_Lužnica-Zaprešić_TZ_Zagrebačke_županije.jpg

Lužnica Castle, Zaprešić / Zagreb County Tourist Board

"Heritage is the essential element by which a tourist destination's management attracts tourists to the destination. It is an attractive basis for branding. Creativity based on traditional intangible heritage thus pushes the boundaries of the mere functionality of a product.

Through the example of a cultural thematic route, we seek to show how myth can become a potential attractive basis for the development of mythological tourism in Zagreb County. The thematic route's stories and locations offer a choice according to criteria of collective and personal importance. Therefore, the thematic route is an open system that can be toured individually or organized with expert tourist guidance.

Special attention was given to the local identity. For example, the customs of St. George and St. John were highlighted, as well as other customs that are traditionally woven into the Zagreb County and surrounding regions," says Alilović.

The tourist offer of Zagreb County abounds in cultural and historical heritage, such as stories and legends, wooden construction, sacral construction, indigenous architecture, and archaeological finds and monuments of its rich past.

Zagreb County can also boast more than 200 cultural and historical heritage sites. Among them, castles Novi dvori Jelačićevi are a unique example of a complete manorial-economic complex preserved to this day. Then there are forts, manor houses, rich wooden sacral heritage, of which the most prominent is the chapel of St. Barbara in Velika Mlaka. A beautiful example of autochthonous secular architecture is the manor house (curia) Modić-Bedeković in Donja Lomnica. A special attraction is the memorial room of Alojzije Stepinac in Krašić.

promo-krasic.jpg

Krašić, Zagreb County / Zagreb County Tourist Board

Valuable is the archeological finds in Ščitarjevo, not far from Velika Gorica, and Budinjak (10th-6th centuries BC), one of the most important prehistoric archaeological sites in Croatia.

The project area includes the tourist boards of the cities of Zaprešić, Velika Gorica, Vrbovec, and Dugo Selo, the tourist boards of the municipalities of Pisarovina and Krašić, and the tourist board of area of the Sava-Sutla valley and hills.

"Agreements of project association in the Zagreb County Tourist Board are an example of planned activities. It is clear that the destination through joint action has the opportunity to better position itself in the market and develop projects that will stimulate overall economic development," said Alilović.

Alilović concludes that the association should result in numerous synergy effects. Not only in quality but also much-needed cost-effectiveness of promotion and project implementation.

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Sunday, 6 December 2020

In Cultura Veritas: Successful International Cooperation of 40 Winemakers

December 6, 2020 – With the project In Cultura Veritas, 200 kilometers of wine roads and 80 cultural heritage sites were connected in the cross-border area between Zagreb County in Croatia and the Obsotelje and Kozjansko subregions in Slovenia.

As Lokalni.hr reports, the main goal of this recently completed project, which lasted 28 months and is worth one million euros, was to contribute to the attractiveness, attendance, and protection of the cultural heritage of the area and increase economic activity through the development of a new sustainable cross-border destination. The goals were also to strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders and the comprehensive promotion of tourist destinations from the Zagreb County and the Slovenian subregions Obsotelje and Kozjansko.

The In Cultura Veritas project was implemented by Zagreb County, with partners the Museum Documentation Center and the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies. Slovenian partners were the Sotla Development Agency, the Municipality of Šmarje pri Jelšah, and the Maribor Agricultural and Forestry Institute.

On behalf of Zagreb County, the project was presented by Ivana Rendulić Jelušić, who pointed out that thanks to this project, the attractiveness of the offer of cultural and wine tourism in Zagreb County was increased following the requirements of modern visitors.

The cooperation of about 40 winemakers from the area of Zelinska, Samoborska, and Plešivička wine roads, the towns of Samobor, Jastrebarsko, and Sveti Ivan Zelina, and their city museums have borne fruit.

As Večernji.hr reports, the attractions of wine and cultural tourism within the new destination have been promoted by the application of modern digital tools, the improvement of the visitor infrastructure, and the renewal of cultural heritage.

This project idea was developed thanks to the recognition of common and insufficiently promoted tourism potentials in the cross-border project area. The area has a rich and somewhat forgotten cultural and historical heritage preserved in about 80 cultural heritage sites located along 200 km of wine roads.

The centuries-old tradition of wine production is an important part of life in this area, and the quality of the wine is confirmed by numerous awards that adorn the walls of wineries on Plešivica, Zelina, Samobor (Croatia), and Šmarje-Virštanj wine roads (Slovenia). It is in this area that the oldest vine in the world is located, the one from Maribor. Also, the fluttering and fresh white wine Kraljevina, which is believed to have been drunk by the famous Beethoven, is an autochthonous variety produced only in the Zelina area in Croatia.

Zagreb County was the leading partner of this project and thus digitized the tourist offer of the new cross-border tourist destination. A digital catalog with the cultural and wine offer of this area is available on the project website, where you can find information about winemakers, museums, natural heritage sites, photographs, multimedia content, and interesting facts and legends about famous people associated with the project area.

The digital catalog is also available on a mobile application, as well as on tourist machines and smart benches set up by the Zagreb County in the center of the cities involved in the project – Sveti Ivan Zelina, Jastrebarsko, and Samobor.

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

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