Strukla, Licitar, Truffles and so much more!
This ancient land with the sordid rise and fall of the Romans, the building of castles and fortresses, the Croats and other Slavic tribes existing side by side to Communist control and approximately 100,000 people lost during the Bosnian War from 1992 -1995, Croatia is now a very safe, independent and a tourist friendly country. The strength, beauty and resilience of this county and its people can be experienced at every turn.
Zagreb was where we began the trip. It is Croatia's capital and largest city, with both metropolitan energy and small town charm. There are medieval settlements on hilltops, cobblestone streets, gas lamps, squares with inviting cafes (coffee, gelato and people watching is not to be missed).
We stayed in the Hotel Jagerhorn which is the oldest standing hotel in the city and enjoys the truly privileged location at just a stone's throw from the main Ban Jelacic square in the heart of Zagreb. We started our days with a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, cheeses and croissants on the garden terrace as we planned out how the day would unfold. There are steps right off of the terrace which go directly up to the beautiful upper town or for people like me who carry heavy camera equipment and whose knees have seen better days, there is the side alley with no steps or the shortest funicular in the world, being only 66 meters long. It is the oldest and first means of public transportation in Zagreb. The ride takes about a minute and departs every 10 minutes from 6:30 am till 10:00 pm. At the cost of 4 Croatian Kuna (they are in the midst of converting to the Euro since they have become part of the EU) which is equivalent to about $.62 cents US, it is so much nicer than walking the steps.
St. Mark's Church which is noted for its multi-colored tile roof was constructed in 1880. The rest of the church dates back to the 13th century. St. Mark's is situated between the Parliament and the presidential palace. There is such a rich array of architecture steeped in so much history.
There are many different and interesting museums, one being the Museum of Broken Relationships. Two artists fell in and out of love and met up years later to find out that both had kept sentimental things from their relationship. From that thought, the artists reached out to others and asked if it was common to hold on to mementos from relationships gone sour and found that enough people could contribute their stashed away keepsakes and the museum was born!
At the Stone Gate is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. In 1731, fire damaged much of the town but one painting remained intact - the Virgin Mary with Jesus. The owner of the painting built a chapel inside the Stone Gate where the beautiful art is on display for all to see. People passing though can light candles, kneel for a bit or bow with gratitude or a request in their hearts. Surrounding the walls are all plaques of prayers answered. (The Legend of the Stone Gate ). It provides a moment of grace and reflection on a very busy street. Outside the wall is a statue of a young woman. Dora and Pavle, are Zagreb's Romeo and Juliet and after his daughter's untimely death, the adoring father had the statue commissioned and placed it there so he could see it everyday from his home.
Open daily from 7am to 1pm, Dolac is the fruit and vegetable market. It has been said to express the soul of food-loving Zagreb with its quintessential red umbrellas. It is surrounded by all different charming restaurants to sit and enjoy after strolling through row after row of beautiful fresh fruits. Vendors gladly hand out a sampling of their mouth watering grapes to the interested tourist. Another type of food and the authentic souvenir is the Licitar heart shaped pastries that were made beginning in the Middle Ages and in 2010 UNESCO included the production of Croatian licitars on its list of protected intangible cultural heritage items. Young men would put a small mirror in the center of the heart and stand behind the girl whose affections he was after so that when she held it up, she could see his image as if he were giving his heart to her! You know I brought home many of these as gifts...I just love a good romantic story of culture and tradition. We ended our first day in Zagreb with a welcome dinner at La Struk and had a portion of traditional strukla. It is dough with layer after layer of different baked cheeses and if I could have licked the plate, I would have but I wanted to at least represent the United States with some decorum! (Traditional Croatian Baked Strukli). Since I am on the topic of food, how lucky were we to be in this city that had a night just to celebrate the hamburger! Zagreb Burger Festival 2021! All the best burger restaurants were represented here and were perfectly paired with local craft beer and a stellar line up of music - mostly 70's and 80's from the US! I felt like I was back in the states for sure. On our last night in Zagreb, differences melted away to so many similarities.
So after a day and a half in Zagreb, we were off to Miro Tartufl in Motovun to make friends with dogs and go digging for truffles.
If anyone is interested in exploring Croatia and all its wonders, just contact my friends Sharon and Abdou at Morocco Immersion Adventures and they can arrange it all for you!