Category Archives: Events

Choco & Wine Festival in Brtonigla

Who is not in favour of chocolate? How about wine? In Brtonigla, a gastronomy paradise near Umag in Northwest Istria, you can easily pair both. For already five years, Tourist Board of Brtonigla prepares Choco&Wine Fest, a unique gastronomy festival in Croatia. New trends in chocolate world and local sweet delicacies have been presented together with wine champions of this Istrian municipality.

Same weekend hosted Seventh Brtonigla Adventure Trek, which gathered some 300 trekkers from several countries. Three trails, of various length and intensity, led many to appreciate the beautiful nature of this part of Istria. All of them could later come to the Brtonigla’s main square in the chocolate tent.

Sweet sense of chocolate tears the air inside, where many chocolate masters showed their expertise. Especially interesting program of cake decoration by Dragica Lukin from Vila Soši in Umag was indeed a delight. Dragica and her son Igor Lukin showed how the chocolate is rightly tempered and decorated. Vila Soši is somewhat a legendary sweet centre of Umag, dedicated to the preservation of traditional sweets and heritage of Croatian delicacies.

Choco art & show of Italian sculptor Stefano Comelli featured the chocolate jewellery, especially chocolate rings, favourite among kids and adults. As the carnival season is high, Vili Radonić from Pula made chocolate masks.

Wine was in no shortage either. Sunny weather gathered also many wine enthusiasts who indulged in wine tastings of renown Brtonigla wine makers Novacco, Veralda, and Ravalico. Istrian Malvasia and Muscat are among the best wine sorts coming from these wine cellars and go excellent with various chocolates.

The tent in Brtonigla was too small for all the guests arriving to this first gastronomy festival in the year in Istria.

Photos by: Elvis Horozović

From Rukavac to Bregi and Žejane – Bell ringers and Carnival Foods

The wearing of masks, with which man performs fertility rites, drives away evil spirits and marks the passage of winter into spring, has been present in almost all civilizations and all parts of the world since times long past. This custom has particularly taken deep roots in the localities of the North Croatian Littoral, namely its backcountry – Kastavština.

In the course of the historical context of emergence of carnival customs in our region, various bell – ringer groups (zvončari) appeared. They became an inevitable part of the carnival ritual, not only in the Kvarner area, but wider. The bell-ringers mark the very beginning of the Carnival – hence the first bell-ringer bells make themselves heard in Mune and Žejane on Epiphany (6th January), and in the other localities on the Saint Anthony holiday (17th January).

Today we differentiate the bell-ringer groups of Rukavac, Zvoneće, Bregi, Brgud, Mučići, Žejane, Mune and Halubje. The distinctions between these groups are in pieces of garments they dress in, or in the characteristic bell-ringers’ gait and the additional elements they wear. However, they all wear white trousers (some with a red or blue stripe, though some wear jute trousers with sewn on ribbons) and sailor’s striped jerseys, sheepskins around the neck or waist, three bells or a single one respectively, head scarf or bandanna.

The bell-ringers of Rukavac, Bregi, Brgud, Mučići and Zvoneće wear hats with colorful crepe paper flower decorations, while the bell-ringers of Mune and Žejane wear hats with varicolored strips from the top of the hat to the ground. Only the Halubian bell-ringers wear large beast-like masks instead of hats. All the bell-ringer groups wore such masks until the beginning of the Italian occupation, when they were prohibited.

Photo by: S. Drechlser

Mune and Žejane are quite specific in whole region not only because its inhabitants are descendants of Romanian Vlach population, but also of carnival traditions. When bell ringers come in a village, their leader first enters a home to greet the owner and only then all other bell ringers enter. They gather in their baskets eggs and money and on long sticks bits of bacon. Eggs and bacon are used for big omellette. Main difference between Žejanski zvončari and Munski zvončari is in the colours and styles of strips and hats. Žejane is also specific for using sour beet instead of sauerkraut, in a classic winter dish consisting of beans, dried meat, bacon, and garlic (Huverova repa). Fritule, which is fabourite winter dessert in the Adriatic, is made with yoghurt, which is again very unique.

Photo: S.Rubinić, TZ Matulji

Place of Rukavac has its special bell ringers’ association, Rukavački zvončari. They are known for their elaborate outfit, similar to Halubje bell ringers but without animal mask. Two places, Rukavac and Zvoneća have same bell ringers who are followed by partenjaki, boys and girls who walk around asking for gifts.

Photo by: M. Gracin, Novi list

There is also a little devil, all in black but with red horns. You may try to run away from him, but he will find a way to make two black strips on your cheeks! In every time of year you can also see the Bell ringers’ Museum in Rukavac, but be sure to check with the Tourist Board if it is open.

All the restaurants, inns and taverns in the area offer something from our wide range of traditional dishes: turnip, pork loin, sauerkraut, home-made bread, sausages, pršut dry-cured ham, various sweets (supice, presnac, grašnjaki) and much more. The choice is yours, but we have visited the famed Stancija Kovačići:

Winter Rhapsody in Stancija Kovačići

Another very old bell ringers’ association is Brežanski zvončari from place of Bregi, high above Opatija. They have similar features to the Rukavački zvončari, but add with a very specific dish – olita or sweet blood sausage. The recipe is family heritage for more than 150 years, it is traditionally made only for the carnival season, although it is already rare to find. This blood sausage has addition of sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and raisins. It is indeed a very special thing to try!

Matulji Tourism Office:

Address: Trg maršala Tita 3, 51211 Matulji, County of Primorje-Gorski kotar, Croatia
VAT ID (OIB): 60986406974
Telephone: +385 (0)51 276 789
Fax: +385 (0)51 276 221


Old Christmas Traditions in Croatia

Christmas is among the most celebrated holidays in Croatia and the world. In some Croatian regions celebrations begin already for Saint Catherine’s Day, on November 25th. An old proverb says “Saint Kate, snow on doors” (Sveta Kata, snijeg na vrata) which reminded people in the past that winter is coming. With St. Catherine time of Advent arrives and religious rites command the expectation of Jesus Christ. Throughout this time people used to go for early morning masses, and were asked to think about their life and first arrival of Christ, but also of the future, when His last arrival is excepted.

Advent wreath is a symbol of this expectation. Usually, it was done by weaving evergreen branches in a wreath with four candles that represent four pieces of human life: making, embodiment, redemption, and ending. Today, it is customary for everyone to have an Advent wreath in their home for Christmas, although its real meaning is mostly lost.

Throughout Advent, Croats especially celebrate Saint Barbara (December 4th), Saint Nicholas (December 6th) and Saint Lucia (December 13th). Saint Nicholas and Saint Lucia had a role of gift-givers. While St. Nicholas custom is preserved, St. Lucia was also giving the children dried figs, almonds, nuts, and apples. Old Croatian Christmas gift is also decorated apple (božićnica), given to girls by young men.

On day of St. Barbara or St. Lucia people used to sow wheat as symbol of new life and fertility. Wheat is a symbol of life in Catholicism and should always be on Christmas table. Interestingly, in protestant countries this custom is not present and can be seen only in Croatia, Portugal, and South Italy. Until Christmas, wheat is growing and in full green it is later placed under the Christmas tree. It is often wrapped with Croatian tricolour flag, and is adorned with candles and apples. After the Christmas time, wheat is given to the birds, as it is sacred and should not be thrown away.

Traditionally, every Christmas Eve a stump (badnjak) is brought into the house and put on fireplace. This tradition is now lost, and is prevalent among the Orthodox Christians only. Putting straw beneath the table is still visible in many households. With this act Christmas time officially begins and family members would gather and sing Christmas songs. It is a sign of Christ’s birth in a stall, and on Christmas Eve people used to sit and dine on the hay.

The Christmas Tree as such was not known in Croatia until the second half of 19th century, but first Christmas Trees were not evergreens. Before, the tree was decorated with apples, oranges, plums, pears, plated nuts and hazelnuts, sweets, and decorative papers. In some areas, empty branches were decorated with sage and ivy, or fir branches, as the green colour was always associated with the renewal of life.

Sweet Market in Opatija

Opatija is oldest Croatian sea resort, an Imperial city, a beacon of Croatian tourism, and heritage of Austro-Hungarian times on the Adriatic. It is only natural that Opatija has its own style of Christenkindlmarkt and it is indeed situated next to the old market place. Throughout the Advent, visitors may enjoy the “Advent na Mrkate” (Advent on the Market), all kinds of stalls, tastes, and aromas that describe both Christmas and local production.



The program is going to be held throughout December and is based on four weeks: Sweet Market (Slatki mrkat, December 2-11), Healthy Market (Zdravi mrkat, December 12-18), Christmas Market (Božićni mrkat, December 19-25), and Old Market (Stari mrkat, December 26-January 1). We have visited the Sweet Market, which was held also together with the Festival of Chocolate in Opatija.

Because of it, round the market people can be acquainted with the history of chocolate, by reading historical facts on chocolate. The market has also humanitarian aspect and many children choirs participate here. We were also interested in many producers of sweet products present at the market.



Common to all producers is accent on healthy and natural sweet products. Honey pops almost immediately in mind, and diversity of tastes and aromas that bees bring us. Thus, talking and finding out new things from Fajdetić Beekeepers is excellent way to learn more about Northern Adriatic honey. The family transfers beehives from Rijeka surroundings to the island of Cres, central Istria, and in the mountains, and thus has a rich variety of honey.



You can find on the market their praised honeydew honey (medun) which succeeded greatly this year in the mountains of Gorski kotar. Additionally, chestnut and acacia honey is very popular among Croats, but truly magnificent and aromatic honey on display is one from the island of Cres, where bees enjoy the aromatic Mediterranean herbs. In these cold winter days, one should consume more honey, and Fajdetić family recommends their Imunomed, honey for immunity, blend of honeydew, sage honey, propolis, and pollen.


Pčelarstvo Fajdetić
Milice Jadranić 1, Rijeka
+385 51 644 108, +385 91 760 91 68


But what would be Advent without the famous Croatian poppy cake (makovnjača) or walnut cake (orahnjača)? It would be stripped of taste of Christmas, definitely an answer from the “Kao Kakao” confectionery situated in picturesque fishing village of Volosko, trademark of Kvarner cuisine. Kao Kakao is sweet addition to this tradition, as a combination of local desserts with Belgian, French, and Italian influences.


If you visit their place on market you will for sure be tempted for hot chocolate with rum, with walnut cake, or fruits in chocolate, as well as the caramelised apples, almonds, and other traditional Christmas delicacies that not only feel but smell like Christmas! For more elaborate achievements of this confectionery you should head to Volosko and try their Kaokakao cake or Volosko cake, signature sweets of this cosy place!


Kao Kakao
Andrije Štangera 44, Volosko



Sweet market in Opatija will also present you with natural jams from Lika, our mountainous and snowy region, where mythical Velebit Mountain is full of wooden berries transformed in jellies and jams. Such a sweet burden lays upon the shoulders of Family Farm Hećimović from Perušić in Central Lika.




Jams that taste like they come from out childhood is recognisably packed as “Tastes of Lika”, and vary from sweet-sour to ideal-for-pancakes sweet taste. Hećimović make extra jams from strawberries, rose hip, dogwood, and elderberries. Packed in various ways, it can be a great Christmas gift, remembered by sheer intensity of natural sweetness and excellent taste!


OPG Hećimović
Kaniža 86, Perušić
+385 98 955 1582, +385 92 245 9671



We ended our tour of sweet market by visiting the stall of Towar distillery, for some serious liqueur and brandy tastings. Towar is in fact “Tovar”, Croatian word for donkey, and in local imagination, one can be drunk as donkey. If so, Towar at least gives a great opportunity to be drunk from high quality drinks. Very appealing design will for sure attract many passer-byes who will enjoy the product of distillery from Lučko near Zagreb.




We had a grand tour of rakija (brandy): we tried apricot, Williams, plum, and quince brandy, of which quince is perfect blend of aroma and taste, while brandy made from Williams pear is absolute heaven of taste. Next to brandies, the Towar makes also liqueurs from raspberry, lemon, orange, cherry, blueberry, honey, fig, and carob. Excellent gifts for Advent can be also found within various aromatised salts and oils.



Ludbreg Fair

The City of Ludbreg invites you on traditional 24th Ludbreg Fair which will be organised within the Days of Ludbreg’s Holy Sunday. The Fair will took place between September 1st and 4th in the main square.


The Ludbreg Fair brings various producers of souvenirs, handicrafts, children’s toys, books, flowers, honey products, blackberry wine, herbs, pumpkin seed oil, agricultural mechanisation, inox equipment, etc.


Fair is part of the Ludbreg Holy Sunday, a manifestation with a long pilgrimage tradition. Ludbreg’s sanctuary was established in 1513 by Pope Leo X, whose certificate attests the miraculous emergence of the Christ’s blood in 1411 in the chapel of the Batthyany Castle.

Turistička zajednica grada Ludbrega
Trg Svetog Trojstva 14
+385 (0)42 810 690

Lopar Night

Lopar, August 13th

In order to preserve the local ways and traditions, pass them down to younger generations and present them to visitors as such, the manifestation “Lopar night – back to the roots” has been held at Lopar since 2007.


Since its very beginnings, this manifestation has been a true attraction for both tourist and the people of Lopar and the island. The performers bring to life and present old crafts and skills of the people of Lopar, the tools they used, and what they ate in the old times. Interestingly, some of these are still used and still appreciated as a reminder of the old times.

The highlight of each manifestation is the send-off of St Marinus, according to the legend of this saint who descended from Lopar.

Lopar bb, 51281 Lopar, CROATIA
Tel: +385 (0)51 775 508
Fax: +385 (0)51 775 487

The Biggest World Čobanac in Vukovar

Vukovar, August 19-21

Vukovar is hosting the Tamburica festival, but within the rich program a special manifestation takes place. The biggest čobanac in history should enter the Guinness Book of Records.

Čobanac is a traditional meat stew which was cooked in a cauldron hung over an open fire and is one of the signature dishes of Slavonia.

This stew was originally cooked by shepherds in a cauldron hung over an open fire. Not only is it an enjoyable meal but it will keep you going all day long.



Hotel Well in Terme Tuhelj, together with winemakers from Zagorje, are organising an awesome program where the visitor will be able to enjoy the wines made by premium winemakers from Croatian zagorje, including Vuglec, Sever, Zdolc and Prekratić.

You’ll be able to enjoy their wines this whole week, and on the day of the concert, there will be a free wine degustation. After drinking some amazing wine, you will be able to enjoy wonderful concerts.


September 16-18, Buje

The Festival of Grapes is one of the most important and most splendid of festivals in Buje. It comprises entertainment and sports activities for children, youths and elderly citizens alike.


A very interesting part of the festival demonstrates how the local wine called mištel was produced according to an old recipe from Buje. This event is the very heart and soul of the festival. Recently, it has been held at Liberty Square – renamed the Court of Bacchus for this occasion – in the old part of the town. The procession reaches the Court; the grapes are unloaded into large barrels, and then crushed under the bare feet of young maidens, as in times gone by.

Visitors can also expect to find books and publications dealing with wine, as well as enjoy concerts, prize-winning games and many other surprises.



August 22-23, Mandrač

Homemade is the Best is a fair of local products travelling along the Croatian Adriatic shore during summer, which will once again make a short stop in Novigrad’s town port, Mandrač.


The fair gathers a large number of exhibitors from all parts of Croatia, offering its visitors high-quality, tasty homemade products at promotional prices.
A discreet entertainment program in the spirit of traditional music will nicely fit into the manifestation as well.