Today we travel into the countryside outside Zagreb to the north to expolre some of its small villages. This area is called Zagorje, and is still part of the Pannonian plain, so the countryside is still highly agricultural, and the people are justly proud of their very fine gastronomy.
Our first stop today is the small town of Kumrovec. On the outskirts of town, there is a small settlement, which has been preserved in its historical state. This settlement is first famous for being the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito, and we saw the house where he was born in 1892. However, the whole settlement has been preserved, and there are many exhibits dedicated to replicating everyday life in Croatia. It’s basically the equivalent of Croatia’s Williamsburg or Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Tito’s uncle’s house is also preserved here. We were able to see some volunteers who demonstrate traditional skills such as blacksmithing, and making the toys we saw in the marketplace yesterday. Kumrovec is also the home of the ubiquitous small hardened honey cookies which are in the shape of hearts with tiny pieces of mirrors on them which are traditionally exchanged between sweethearts.
We then drove to the hilltop outpost called Grešna Gorica, where we feasted on a traditional country lunch. The proprietors met us at the door with a shot of honey brandy and fresh cornbread and salt which are a traditional form of welcome to visitors in the Croatian countryside. Our lunch consisted of soup, salad fresh bread, and roasted turkey served with the local type of pasta. They also offered us some pumpkin oil into which the brad can be dipped or to drizzle it on the pasta. Either way, it was delicious, and I vowed to find some to bring home. The people who run the restaurant also offer (in the summer months) a campground with tiny cabins that you can rent. They have farm animals that kids can play with, including pygmy goats and giant rabbits.
Finally, we drove tot the town of Samobor, which is only about 30-45 minutes outside of Zagreb. It is a charming village in a valley, and the hills above town are crowned with the ruins of a castle built in the mid 12th Century AD. We actually hiked up to the ruins, and caught some great views.
As a reward for our labors, we stopped at a café on the main square in town, we tried the local specialty called samoborska cremsnita ( fabulous pastry/cake with layers of puff pastry dough on top and bottom, sandwiching a thick layer of pastry cream which I think contains mascarpone cheese all whipped into it. Death by carbohydrates!
Since Saturdays are a popular day for weddings in Croatia, from our café seats, we could also see lines of brides and grooms wearing their wedding apparel, who lined up outside the town hall on the square to have a civil wedding ceremony performed. Afterwards, many of them (and their guests formed processions walking around the town before they went to the church to have religious wedding ceremonies. There were balloons and flags and everyone seemed to have already sampled the champagne.
We went back to our hotel and prepared to leave Zagreb. Our next stop tomorrow is at Plitvice (pronounced plit vichy) Lakes national park. In the meantime, our takeaway is that Zagreb is a lovely city which is fun and comfortable to explore