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Botel Marina – Ship of Gastronomy Delights

You cannot miss boat hotel (botel) Marina; it is docked right in the centre of the Rijeka’s city port, recognisable by the red chimney. Inside is an unusual and very popular boat hostel, a cosy bar just perfect for the lazy afternoons, and a restaurant serving local and fresh cuisine. It is in this restaurant that we tried the delicacies for the annual days of sardines in Rijeka, with a help of the manager Andrej Kušeta and his dedicated staff.

The ship was not always here. It was built for the Swedish crown princess and she walked the same halls as one can walk today inside this yacht-like ship. In the sixties, it sailed to Yugoslavia, to the port of Rijeka, where it served on the cruise line between Rijeka, the island of Cres, and the island of Susak. Marina was favourite among the locals who cherished the structure of the ship, being built for the northern seas, and which sustained the heavy blows of the strong bura wind. As a testimony to the glorious time, the menu in Marina consists of many dishes bearing the names of the ship’s destination during her prime days.

Its working days are now done, and the ship was bought and reconstructed by the Arhipelag company from the island of Lošinj. Now it surprises the guests who dream about sleeping aboard a ship, even if it is stationed in the harbour. They may dream about the food also, as it is wonderful aboard Marina and gives a special feeling of dining in maritime surroundings. While honouring the history, we raised our glass of cocktail with its beautiful colour consisting of orange juice, brandy and grenadine.

Very friendly staff greeted us with elaborative sardine menu, confirming the knowledge of making fish dishes. The skill of doing sardine fillet is especially noticeable as our first meal of the visit was done surgeon-precise, using the long and sharp knife on the body of small but strong fish. It came with ricola and toast, blending the salty and somewhat robust sardine with the softness of bread and bitterness of herb.

Next, we tried excellent sardine brodetto with aromatised polenta, which was very pleasing in its arrangement and skilfully combined in tastes. It is not unusual that the brodetto sauce takes over and indeed many locals like it that way, as the joy is in dipping some bread in the sauce and just feel the richness of its taste. In this case, advantage was given to the sardine itself but even more to the polenta which was visibly and tastefully aromatised with the Mediterranean herbs, adding to the rosemary and basil that came atop this dish. Indeed, a skilful play of mild brodetto and pure taste of the sardines!

It seems unavoidable thing to have some of the Kvarner’s sardine classics on the menu, and Marina is not an exception. Locals just love fried sardines, almost like a snack. One often eats it as an appetizer, or just a side dish with some wine. In Marina we had fried sardines with potato salad and radicchio, a slightly changed traditional recipe of very known taste.

It suited excellent with the wonderful open Cabernet Sauvignon Pavlomir wine, originating from the beautiful and awarded vineyard of Mr Miroslav Palinkaš. A leading red wine in the Kvarner area invites for more, and we had it with the cherry pie, a sweet finish of our sail through the Marina’s culinary adventure.

The restaurant is very friendly to various flavours and options, including the gluten free diet. In its beautiful wooden ship atmosphere and cosy interior, it serves local foods, mostly classics, but with rather unusual and healthy additions such as chick peas, traditionally not used in this area. Modern gastronomy goes healthy, especially in various kinds of beans, and Marina is not an exception. Overall, Marina is a very cosy and inspiring maritime place, with lots of tradition and skills, excellent place for brunch and in the very centre of Rijeka, where guests can soak in the atmosphere of city’s maritime glory.

Botel Marina
Adamićev gat, Rijeka
+385 51 410 162

Text by: Vedran Obućina

Photos by: Edvard Badurina & Vedran Obućina

Feel the Sea

Maritime and fishery tradition in the Northern Adriatic is very old and survives until today. Here is what we’ve found out on our tour of the FLAG Vela Vrata:

Blue World in Lošinj

House of the Sea – Maritime Museum in Mošćenička Draga

Apoxyomenos – Bronze Effigy of Ancient Lošinj

We have also visited the House of the Lovran Guc.

Among different boats used in the Adriatic, Lovran Guc is specific for its elegance and form. It was made by Nino Gasparinic in Lovran, a small town settled in a picturesque bay, surrounded by Mediterranean herbs and slopes of Mt. Učka. The boat was being built between 1850s up to the present day. Within the Lovran’s fort there is a small museum dedicated to this unique ship.

All the gratitude for that museum goes to Silvano Raffaelli from Lovran who says that plastic boats will never have the same navigation possibilities as the wooden ones. Lovran shipbuilders made a boat that suits best the needs of navigators and fishermen.

Small, light and maneuverable boat is easily used in fisheries, and is adaptable to hide quickly if the sudden bura wind starts to blow. Still, a significant maritime knowledge is needed to steer the boat. Every year, Lovran stages the guc regatta.

Pri izviru Hublja – On the Spring of Homemade Tastes

If you follow the road from the centre of Ajdovščina into the mountains, you will pass the Youth House and end up in front of an impressive waterfall of the river Hubelj. In the ancient times, Romans called it the Cold Water and it was the source of life in the valley. Next to this rock surface is the lowest mountaineer hut in whole Slovenia (only 210 metres above sea level) that is named exactly after the river: restaurant “At the Hubelj’s Spring” (Pri izviru Hublja).

The Pižent family runs the restaurant since 1992 over the weekends and from 2007 until today it is open as a standard restaurant. It is favourite getaway for the citizens of Ajdovščina, especially in warm summers when the touch of mountain gives so desired shadow. The whole family greeted us warmly and presented their cuisine that boasts with local tastes and aromas, together with the beloved wine sorts of the Vipava Valley.

In fact, it is precisely these traditional and good tastes that invites locals to Hubelj. The kitchen often prepares dishes that may be partly forgotten or are not so usual in the everyday life. In cold winter nights people still remember to warm up their organism with bacon spread over the baked bread. Full white fat melts in mouth and brings the scent of pork that is clearly very local. As a very pleasing introduction, this appetizer was given to us together with Pinela Tomas, from the Fabčič Household. Fresh white wine with accentuated acidity is a rewarding start of our culinary voyage to the classic Vipava table.

It was spring when we have arrived at Hubelj and the asparagus season. That is why we were surprised by the home-grown asparagus with homemade sheep cheese over which the local olive oil is spread. It is a mild combination where cheese dominates with its salty flavour, while the olive oil is a significant reminder that we are not so far away from the sea. The asparagus can be found also in soup, and we did refresh ourselves with an excellent soup made of asparagus, carrots, and potatoes.

Another fine example of Mediterranean influence came with gnocchi made with the bear leek sauce and ten other herbs, with addition of pancetta. The chef plays with us, the dish comes in a shape of wine cluster. Gnocchi are soft and full of potato flavour, while bear leek and pancetta give tremendous interplay of tastes. Pižents suggested us cleverly Zelen Vipavska dolina, a table wine from Zelen sort in the neighbouring villages of St Martin and Brje. Its freshness and mild aroma greatly support the culinary experience.

The same is with herb rakija (brandy) made from the herbs growing just next to the restaurant itself. We also visit the waterfall and learn more about the place that once was a mountaineering resting place near the old hydro-energy plant. It is peaceful place, excellent for body and soul. The jolly and ever-smiling family Pižent says cleverly: “If you are ashamed to eat, you are ashamed to live” and it is indeed a slogan we stand with. Their philosophy is very simple; cook as you do it at home, and put meat in the beef soup! No wonder this family, father Stane and mother Zdravka, together with daughter Sonja and brother Tomi, were cooking for the Slovene Olympics representation in 2000 in Sydney.

The reason why exactly Hubelj’s staff was invited hides in the simplicity and honesty of its dishes. Such a clear reason is the lamb with baked potatoes and onion. It is a classic meal in the Adriatic region, but every lamb has its significant touch. Mild lamb still brings its distinguished taste, it is tender, and served with caramelised onion, rosemary, and a touch of garlic. Everyone appreciates good lamb, but there are significant varieties. Vipava’s lamb is more fatty than Adriatic island lamb, and it leaves that great and unique lamb aftertaste. But, word of advice: don’t even consider to eat lamb ribs with fork and knife, it is the fingers that should feel the essence of why we love lamb so much!

The same goes for pork ribs with asparagus and fennel, an interesting combination of beautifully baked pork with strong fennel, which gives to this dish a specific taste. It is served with dumplings and salted mildly.

A beautiful dinner at Hubelj concluded with classic desserts made by Mrs Zdravka (the mother) whose knowledge and brightness transforms dough into the walnut dumplings and cherry strudel. Rich in substance, it opens way to the family’s soul: giving the best of home cooking in the relaxed and enjoyable natural environment!

Gostilna pri izviru Hublja, d. o. o.
IV. Prekomorska 75, 5270 Ajdovščina
00385 5 366 37 88, 00 386 41 201 924




Zelenjak – poetic introduction to Zagorje cuisine

When poet Antun Mihanović was writing a poem in 1835 that will later become the Croatian national anthem, he surely didn’t even think that in a protected nature forest of Zelenjak, where is a monument dedicated to him and his poem, will be also one of the top quality restaurants in whole Zagorje. Family Ventek runs the restaurant Zelenjak and is proud of dedication to beautifully made, eye pleasing, and traditionally authentic Zagorje foods.

Immediately next to the Sutla river, for already seventy years, this place enchants its visitors. They can now stay and rest in the family hotel, a pleasant destination for business ventures, family dinners, and various feasts. Grandpa Ivan and grandma Josipa opened in 1936 a small inn here and very soon the spot became favourite among merchants and citizens of nearby Klanjec. Zelenjak is also protected natural area where you can go for bird-spotting, walk alongside Sulta river all the way to Klanjec, or hike up to the Cesargrad and Chapel of Our Lady of Snow.

Gastronomy here is based on protection of real Zagorje taste, but it is also an inspiration to create something new and different, but again very local and traditional. Fresh and quality ingredients from Zagorje make it even better. The Ventek’s are very busy but also very tentative to their guests and we weren’t an exception.

First meal of the day – Zagorje soup. It is now so known outside the region that five star hotels all over Croatia offer it on their menus. Zagorje soup is clear-creamy mushroom soup and consists of dried ribs, potatoes, carrots, greens, but what really gives a difference are the locally grown boletus.

Full of taste, it gives great energy and fills with warmth. The same goes for aperitif we had, homemade plum brandy with bits of dried plums inside the glass, and clear fruity taste of bitter-sweet cherry brandy.

Main course consisted of pork loin wrapped in bacon, very nice delight for everyone caring for pork. Crispy bacon gives full flavour to tender pork loin, and blends well with cooked vegetables. Additionally, we were surprised with turkey roll filled with savoy, giving the accent on famous Zagorje turkey. Last but not least, mlinci (thin dried flatbread prepared by simply pouring it in boiled salted water) baked with boletus and bacon were real treat! As usual, the simplest dish turns out to be best surprise on the plate. Full of good old taste, it is also praise to the cook’s knowledge and blending of ingredients.

Don’t look far for sweet ending. Baked štrukli (pastry filled with cheese) with raisins is a sweet variety of this old and most recognisable Zagorje dish. Although it looks hearty, it is easy and not too sweet dessert, given the rich and smooth cottage cheese and bitter-sweet raisins in it. All the time we enjoyed Klanjec graševina, a mild wine without much acid, that was splendid with all the dishes we had.

Overall, Zelenjak is unavoidable fine dining place for everyone who likes to get a great introduction to the Zagorje cuisine.

Restaurant Zelenjak is listed in 100 best restaurants by

Villa Zelenjak – Ventek
Risvica 1, Kumrovec
tel: 00385 049 550 747

Apartmani Queen, Otočac

The royal treatment in the Queen Apartments… a real vacation in very warm atmosphere… pleasant ambient, hospitable owners and beautiful nature… these are only some of the reviews left by the visitors to these apartments located only 1,7 km away from the Otočac city centre.


It cannot be a coincidence, as the family Burić used the attic of their large house. There are four apartments here, which cater for up to 16 guests. They are fully equipped for relaxed holiday, but the guests are not fascinated only by this feature, but by the hospitality of the family, professional service they get, and gastronomy offer in the house.


Guests can taste home wine, prosciutto, bacon, homemade honey, cheese, brandy (rakija), cookies, and especially the bread which is baked every day. The owners are ready to help 24/7 and everyone can rely on them. Burić family will give information for day out in Gacka, Lika, and beyond, and are very knowledgeable about the local history and culture. Guests usually stay from five to seven days and have plenty time to experience Lika hospitality, and even learn the local recipes!



The house offer bicycles for free, as well as billiard table and small wooden house for parties. When the guests leave, they always bring homemade honey, cheese, and coffee as presents from the household. This shows tremendous love the family has for their guests and dedication to the job.


Wi-Fi internet is accessible in whole house, and you can order your breakfast in the room. In front of the house is free parking place. Excellent choice is that the house is completely no-smoking-area, but there is a room for smokers. Pets are not allowed.


To choose Queen Apartments may be your best choice to learn more about traditions and to experience hospitality in Lika. According to the past visits, there is surely valid reasons for this.

Apartments Queen
+385 53771632
Sajmišnoj 8 B, Otočac 53220 Hrvatska


June 24-25, Istria

Brtonigla traditionally hosts the Festival of Istrian Malvasia, the queen of regional wines. It is a refreshing, elegant wine, containing a fruity note and, thanks to its low percentage of alcohol, is ideal for consuming with light meals.


This popular festival in Brtonigla nurtures the traditional savouring of this top-quality wine, and it brings together local tastes, traditions, and entertainment. During the festivities, a little tourist train will take you on a tour of the wine cellars of the town and its environs. Guests are welcomed by renowned vintners who throw open the doors to their underground treasures, while telling tales and anecdotes of the path of thorns that leads to the creation of top-quality wine.

Drniš Prosciutto

To be in Drniš and to try Drniš smoked ham is a must. Drniš is known for its famous Drniš prosciutto. What distinguishes is from other similar products is its special quality coming out of micro-climate conditions of Drniša area and northern wind „bura“.


Pig breeding occurred in Drniš around 1500 BC. First reliable information of prosciutto production in this area was written in Statutes of Town of Šibenik in 14th century. A story tells that Drniš prosciutto was served on coronation banquet of Queen Elisabeth II in 1952. On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II and celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the accession of Queen to the throne, Drniš prosciutto was presented as a gift from delegation of Town of Drniš. The Mayor had received Her Majesty’s Letter of gratitude, and the letter is being kept in Drniš museum. Drniš prosciutto has become market brand in 1969, when it reached large production quantities. In 2012. Drniš prosciutto was certified by Croatian Ministry of Agriculture as a product of Protected Geographical Indication.


This culinary delicacy is made in a way that you firstly salt two back pork legs, then they are put in a press, and finally they are dried using smoke and local winds (bura and jugo). In the traditional production process it lasts up to 18 months before a smoked ham is ready to be tasted.Until the Croatian Independence War, the government firm “Mesopromet” was supplying the market with Drniš smoked hams. However, today this is being done by the association of Drniš smoked ham producers (Udruga proizvođača drniškog pršuta), as well as by small, private producers.Ever since, Drniš smoked ham has been unique.


It was so special and so valued that it was always kept for special occasions and big parties and celebrations. Just like today, people from Drniš area offered their guests with their top-quality and the best product, since this was the way to show their hospitality and say welcome to their guests. It is impossible to describe with words the richness in taste and smell that our Drniš smoked ham offers. The only thing one should do is to enjoy this culinary delicacy just like we do. And then, we are sure, you will be able to completely understand its true meaning!