Friday, 19 February 2021

People also ask Google: What is Croatia Famous For?

February 19, 2021 – What is Croatia Famous For?

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

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

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

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

What is Croatia known for?

1) Holidays


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

a) Islands


What is Croatia famous for? Islands © Mljet National Park

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

b) Beaches

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

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

c) Dubrovnik

What is Croatia famous for? Dubrovnik © Ivan Ivanković

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

d) Heritage

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

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

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

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

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

e) Music Festivals

What is Croatia famous for? Music festivals © Khris Cowley

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

f) Plitvice Lakes and natural heritage

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

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

2) Football

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

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

Sports in general are what is Croatia known for


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

3) Zagreb

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

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

4) Olive oil

What is Croatia famous for? Olive oil

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

5) There was a war here

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

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

6) Wine

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

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

7) Croatian produce

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

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


What is Croatia known for? Truffles © Donatella Paukovic

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


What is Croatia known for? Vegeta

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


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

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


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

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

8) Innovation

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

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

9) Being poor

What is Croatia famous for? Being poor. Yikes!

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

10) People want to live in Croatia

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Handball, music

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

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

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Friday, 11 December 2020

The Zagreb Truffle Revolution Continues: Meet the Truffle Praline

December 11, 2020 - First we discovered that there are truffles near Zagreb, then we tasted truffle strukli (delicious), and now... meet the Zagreb truffle praline. 

One of the things I love most about this 'job' is that every day is different, and things rarely turn out the way I envisage, quite often opening the doors to new discoveries and hidden gems. A recent trip as guests of Sveta Nedelja is a case in point - previously I had thought of it as just an industrial town near Zagreb, which was the home of Rimac - how wrong I was.  

I had a similar experience a couple of weeks later when Zagreb County Tourist Board director Ivana Alilovic invited me to go on a spot of truffle hunting near Veika Gorica in a region called Turopolje, which I confess I had never heard of. 

Ivana was very persuasive, deeply committed to unlocking new avenues of tourism in her county, with a focus on local produce and local traditions. 


I was more than a little dubious, but set off on a rainy overcast Saturday morning with my daughter in search of truffles. And what a day of discovery it was! Not only a bone fide truffle hunting experience (with Turoploje triufles which for years have been making their way to Istria for sale), but also a quite outstanding truffle-themed lunch at a Michelin-recommended Dalmatian restaurant in Velika Gorica, would you believe. You can read all about it in Move Over Istria: the Rise of Zagreb Truffle Hunt Tourism

Having the truffle hunting was one thing, explained Ivana, but there needed to be a range of supporting activities and products to give the experience more authenticity and depth. If local producers could integrate truffles into some of their products, and local restaurants offer dishes with the Turopolje truffle, this would help build a brand and make it more attractive for tourism. 


Ivana enlisted the help of local producers with her truffle plan. First up was another Ivana - Belosevic - who runs the Cipov bakery in the village of Busevac near Velika Gorica. She had bought into the other Ivana's vision and come up with a fabulous strukli with truffles, which was DELICIOUS. You can learn more in Strukli with Truffles, the Latest Authentic Gourmet Hit in Zagreb County. She plans to expand her range shortly with truffle-infused bread. 

truffle-praline (1).jpg

But there would be more to come, promised Ivana 1. And so it has proved, as a little addition from her in my Facebook feed a couple of hours ago introduced the latest gourmet innovation - the Zagreb truffle praline.

They are fresh off the press and - as one would expect from the recent Zagreb County campaign to buy local products from local producers - they are produced within the county, at the Nautilus chocolate factory in Zapresic. Ivana went to visit them with some freshly unearthed truffles and suggested they might like to come up with a new product powered by local ingredients. Nautilus liked the idea, and the rest is history.

I have yet to taste them, but initial feedback is pretty positive. Why not find out for yourself by ordering your own in time for Christmas directly from the Nautilus factory?

truffle-praline (3).jpg

If you would like to keep track of the Zagreb truffle story, you can do so on the dedicated TCN section. I have a feeling that we will be reporting on new gourmet innovations very soon. 

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Strukli with Truffles, the Latest Authentic Gourmet Hit in Zagreb County

December 5, 2020 - The secret of one of Zagreb's lesser-known gourmet secrets is slowly getting out, and now there is a new way to try it - strukli with truffles. 

One of the most incredible things about Croatia, a land of 4 million people, is the richness and diversity on every level. Every village seemingly has its own dialect words, at least one unique tradition, and often some sort of culinary twist or ingredient which sets it apart form the rest. It is one of the reasons why writing about Croatia is such a fascinating job, for no two days are the same, and there is usually a surprise or three around every corner. 

Along with safety and lifestyle, it is one of the jewels of Croatian tourism around which I believe we should build our tourism - the unique authentic experience. 


A few weeks ago, for example, I was invited to go truffle hunting near Zagreb Airport in the region of Turopolje. Truffle hunting in Croatia but not in Istria? Just outside Zagreb? I had never heard of such a thing and I was more than a little skeptical. But - and not for the first or last time - I was wrong, and not only can I confirm that the Zagreb truffle industry is alive and well, but also that some of those lovely truffles you are sampling in Istria have their origins in the forests around Zagreb. You can read all about the Zagreb truffle hunting experience in Move Over Istria: the Rise of Zagreb Truffle Hunt Tourism.

But if the truffle hunt was a surprise, so too was the lunch that followed. A Dalmatian restaurant recommended by MIchelin in the heart of Velika Gorica, offering local Turopolje specialities, including black and white Turopolje truffles, including this 135g gem below. 


You can read more about the truffle-themed lunch in the article above, but there was one more gourmet addition to a fabulous lunch at Mon Ami restaurant which I only tried later that night when I got home. 

Over lunch I was introduced to a very nice young lady called Ivana Belosevic, who ran a bakery called Cipov in the nearby village of Busevec. The name “Cipov” is actually a word used in Turopolje to describe white bread. Cipov was a type of bread only eaten during holidays such as Christmas or Easter. A traditional name for a business which is helping to produce some fabulous authentic Croatian dishes, such as strukli. 

But authentic Croatian dishes with a twist. 

Such as strukli with truffles. 

The conversation at lunch was as good as the excellent food, and I enjoyed listening to Ivana talk with passion about her bakery business, where she has been making homemade strukli now for some 15 years. Another Ivana - Alilovic, Director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board - approached her and asked her what she thought about making strukli with truffles. Zagreb has a great truffle story which is being left untold, and delicious authentic local dishes flavoured with local truffles would be perhaps the best way to promote the story. 

And so a new gourmet treasure was born - strukli with truffles. 

Strukli is akin to a savoury strudel, with cottage cheese the key ingredient, and one of Croatia's most famous - and popular - dishes. It is best-known in the region of Zagorje, but appears in various formats in other parts of the country. You can see how it is made in the English-language video above. I am not aware of anyone else making strukli with truffles. Ivana's new Facebook page also shows strukli with apricot, and I am sure that a visit to the Cipov family bakery in Bresovec will yield plenty of other culinary delights. 

As we previously reported, one of the successful tourism stories in this crazy year was the launch of the Around Zagreb platform, which is a joint effort from the city and county tourist boards of Zagreb. This has helped to considerably widen the scope of tourism possibilities in the capital, in the form of day trip activities just outside the city. In an era of social distancing and outdoor activities, Zagreb County is rich in authenticexperiences - both active and culinary - away from the crowds. and truffle hunting and the sampling of its cuisine fit into this nicely. The pumpkin offer of Ivanic Grad (with its own pumpkin festival), Zumberak trout, and the authentic Samobor quartet of salami, kotlet, mustard and kremsnit, not to mention the local Plesivica wine region, have enough authenticity and unique flavours to entice curious foodies. 


The new strukli with truffles is just one in a number of excellent local authentic product which is made with passion and care by small local family businesses. Individually, they are tiny businesses struggling to survive, especially in this most challenging of years. Collectively, they offer a fascinating web of authentic excellence, which shows the true diversity of Croatia's traditions and heritage. both culinary and otherwise. 

In another nice initiative that we reported on recently, the regional tourist board has launched a seasonal campaign to both highlight and promote these businesses. 

The local producers are collected in interestingly designed categories that will change in weekly cycles from December 3 to December 24: 1. Relax and reward your body, 2. Decorate your home with Christmas magic, 3. Prepare your holiday table, and 4. Sweet Secrets of Zagreb County.

"In Zagreb County, there are many craftsmen, hardworking people who turn natural resources from their homeland into unique local products," said Ivana Alilović, the director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board. "At the same time, they combine the traditional and the modern. With their creativity, they refresh our heritage and enrich the entire offer of the region. Natural cosmetics and healthy food, medicinal preparations, imaginative decorations and everyday items for the home, irresistible treats etc. Each of these products bears the signature of its origin and its author."

"Production is usually small and limited, but with a high level of quality and personal commitment. Domestic goods that are truly domestic, but also different. We want to raise awareness about the importance of buying from local producers and help all of them in the branding and promotion of products that we can be proud of."

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

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

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Move Over Istria: the Rise of Zagreb Truffle Hunt Tourism

October 25, 2020 - It has long been the exclusive preserve of Istria, but the Zagreb truffle hunting season is in full swing, with ambitious tourism plans for its development. 

A couple of years ago, I was enjoying lunch on the Lesic Dimitri terrace on Korcula with a main dish which included truffles.

"Did you know that there are truffles to be found over there on Peljesac?" asked my luncheon companion, motioning across the Adriatic towards the Peljesac Peninsula, a view a young Marco Polo would have enjoyed as a child. 

Truffles on Peljesac? Really? I had never heard of truffles in Croatia outside of Istria, a region whose outstanding gourmet offer is defined by the exclusive funghi which is highly sought after in the finest restaurants in the world. Apart from Italy and Istria, I was not aware that truffles could be found anywhere else, certainly not on Peljesac. 

On the contrary, said my friend confidently. And not only that, but he had heard that they are shipped to Istria and sold there. 

The luncheon conversation sat locked away in my head until very recently, when I was writing an article about the excellent new tourism promotion synergy between Zagreb City and Zagreb Country Tourist Boards with their new initiative to combine their offer in one fabulous - and extremely informative website called Around Zagreb.  Among the many activities on offer in and around the Croatian capital was truffle hunting

zagreb-truffles (3).jpg

(Photo credit Taliah Bradbury)

Zagreb truffles? Really? This sounded even less likely than Peljesac. I decided to investigate, and I discovered that not only was Zagreb truffle hunting a 'thing', with its own organised tours, but that there were official efforts underway to develop the Zagreb truffle hunting experience into an attractive and more widely available activity just a short drive from the centre. And the more I began to look into the Zagreb truffle scene, the more interested I became, culminating in a family day out in and around Velika Gorica, close to Zagreb Airport, yesterday. 

Zagreb County Tourist Board director Ivana Alilovic took over the position recently and has been energetically looking at ways to add value and promotion to the considerable content in the region around the city. The Around Zagreb website is one concrete early result, but she was reportedly also very passionate about promoting the Zagreb truffle story, and she invited us along to take part in a hunt that was already organised. 

It was quite a day. 

A little online research and some conversations on the day filled me in with some useful information. Truffle hunting does indeed exist, and in various locations in oak forests around the capital - near Samobor, on Medvednica, and in Turopolje, near Velika Gorica, from where our day would begin and end. Some organised local truffle hunts have recently started, but the most results Google was showing for 'Zagreb truffle hunt' were tours to Istria starting from Zagreb. 

zagreb-truffles (10).jpg

(Photo credit Taliah Bradbury)

Alilovic wants to change that by building up an eco-system of truffle tourism, which goes beyond the hunting experience itself. And while she has some way to go before achieving her goal, the building blocks are firmly in place, as we experienced on our refreshing visit to the forest, looking spectacular in its autumnal colours. 

zagreb-truffles (4).jpg

After meeting at an arranged spot in Velika Gorica, we followed Ivana into the forest to a delightful wooden house managed by Croatian Forests from where the event would begin. 

zagreb-truffles (5).jpg

In addition to the others taking part on their first hunt, we were also introduced to the dynamic duo, who ensured that our truffle-hunting day would be a success - Stjepan and Zagi, a truly fabulous team for five years now, of which much more below.  

zagreb-truffles (8).jpg

There followed an excellent presentation on truffles in the region and beyond, with the many questions from the audience being answered. Far from being a closely guarded secret, Zagreb truffles have been for sale on Dolac market for more than a decade now, and the 4 truffle hunters before us had many years experience trawling through the forests of the region in search of this black and white gold. It was interesting to note that just like Peljesac, they too supply the Istrian market, and it is only a relatively recent development that Zagreb restaurants have started to seriously order local truffles locally. 

After all, a Zagreb truffle does not have the same aura of an Istrian truffle. A food blogger who was also on the hunt told us the amusing story of a famous player from the Croatian national team having dinner at a well-known Zagreb restaurant. Asking if the waiter could bring him a truffle to show his friends, the waiter returned with a Zagreb truffle, explaining that it had been locally procured. Smelling the truffle, the famous footballer expressed his dissatisfaction and requested a truffle that had come from Istria instead. 

The waiter disappeared and returned with the truffle which had come from Istria. What a difference, the player exclaimed!

It was actually the same truffle. Sourced in Zagreb, sold to Istria, then sold to the Zagreb restaurant. Perception is everything... 

zagreb-truffles (12).jpg

Part of the plan to develop Zagreb's truffle tourism opportunity is to build a network of supporting partners, all of whom have a role to play in providing richer content for the tourism experience. 

Two local Turopolje restaurants, whose menus offer local truffle delicacies, were on hand to feed the hunting team with a selection of truffle dishes, starting with Babriga from Velika Gorica, whose team was on hand to serve breakfast after our welcoming presentation, the highlight of which was scrambled eggs with black truffles.  

zagreb-truffles (6).jpg

It was time to hunt! Off we headed into the forest, before splitting up into four teams. I had already chatted to Stjepan a little and decided to stick with him. I was surprised to see him on his quad bike, as I had not expected truffle hunting to be quite like that. He explained that he was an invalid and confined to a wheelchair, and that truffle hunting was an escape from that reality. With his relationship with Zagi, it was clear that I had found a professional team who adored each other. 

There are many more technical descriptions of truffle hunting online, and I don't pretend to be an expert at all. I got the most joy watching the successful partnership of Stjepan and Zagi. Truffle hunting is quite literally like looking for a needle in a haystack. Unless you have a properly trained dog (Zagi started getting truffles in his food at a very early age five years ago), there is no chance you will ever find a truffle. With a well-trained dog, however... 

Was it beginner's luck? Literally within 20 seconds of entering the search area, Stjepan released Zagi, who ran about 20 metres and started digging. At this point, he was called off so that he did not destroy the truffle. Zagi was more than happy to be called off, as he headed to his master to be rewarded with a treat for his work.  

zagreb-truffles (13).jpg

It was a great start, with an impressively-sized black truffle to give us encouragement.  

zagreb-truffles (14).jpg

What a great partnership! The search for a needle in a haystack, with Zagi's trained nose the only hope. His effortless efforts reveal the hidden locations to bring joy to his owner, who rewards his efforts with treats which bring canine joy. Perfect! 

There were several kids on the hunt who were enjoying themselves immensely, but nobody could keep up with Zagi, who went off in all directions in search of treasures to please his master. It would have taken a videographer more skilled than me to capture the highlights, but here he is from distance, having found truffle number four.  

zagreb-truffles (15).jpg

Some TCN photographers at the scene were taking things a little more seriously than I normally do...  

zagreb-truffles (2).jpg

(Photo credit Taliah Bradbury)

In addition to the truffles, the wealth of mushrooms on show was striking. Perhaps something to think about combining into the tourism offer? A mushroom and truffle hunt, with the best of the edible mushrooms and truffles finding their way to your dinner plate after the hunt.  

zagreb-truffles (16).jpg

To my shame, I had never been to Velika Gorica before (unless you count Zagreb Airport), and I certainly was not expecting to find what awaited us at lunch. A Michelin-recommended restaurant which specialises in seafood due to the Sibenik County origins of the family which owns it. Opened in 1994, Mon Ami has been on the Michelin list for the last three years, and Bruno Ceronja is continuing what his father started to produce a memorable gourmet experience.  

zagreb-truffles (17).jpg

One of the luncheon ingredients was presented to us before we ordered - a 135-gramme Turopolje white truffle.  

zagreb-truffles (18).jpg

In my opinion, Croatia should be marketing itself on the basis of safety, authentic experiences, and lifestyle. And for an authentic gourmet experience, combining local flavours with his Sibenik roots, Bruno pulled out all the stops. 

Home-made bread with his domestic olive oil  - we could try both the 2020 harvest, above (5 days old) or the 2019 harvest. There was a spiciness to both which I have not come across too often in Dalmatian olive oils - delicious.  

zagreb-truffles (19).jpg

Rather than choose from the menu, we followed the excellent waiter's suggestion to try his recommendations, which resulted in an exquisite selection of starters of Dalmatian seafood classics. Black risotto, fish pate, smoked mussels, and the clear winner...

zagreb-truffles (20).jpg

... tuna carpaccio with white truffle shavings on top.   

zagreb-truffles (21).jpg

From seafood to fuzi pasta with truffles, and beefsteak for the main course, medium rare in a Turopolje truffle sauce... 

... with a little white truffle magic on top. 

zagreb-truffles (1).jpg

There was no room for dessert, but room would have to be found, with a mix of Dalmatian and continental treats to round off what had been a truly excellent day. Traditional Skradin cake from Bruno's Sibenik roots, a supremely light rozada, and vanilla ice cream with pumpkin oil. The latter might sound an unlikely combination, but I have become mildly addicted since discovering it once I moved from Hvar to Varazdin. 

We were not quite finished with the food yet. One of the challenges (and opportunities) that Tourist Board director Ivana Allilovic has to build on this excellent start is to get enough related products and content to add to the main experience. But things are moving already in that direction, as we were introduced to a lovely lady over lunch who runs the Cipov bakery in Buševec village near Velika Gorica, and who gave us one of her truffle-inspired delicacies to warm up and try when we got home - strukli with truffles. It was outstanding. 

A highly educational day, and one with much food... and much food for thought. A simple concept, using the natural treasures of the local region to build up a tourism story based on a fantastic authentic experience in spectacular nature. I wish Ivana luck with her plans, and this is a story we will be following closely. 

And for those of you dining in Istria, I would be interested to know if the restaurants up there have heard of Turopolje Zagreb truffles. 

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

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

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

This article was sponsored by the Zagreb County Tourist Board.