Autumn Delicacies in Mala Hiža

Mačkovec is a place where Međimurje valleys turn into the Međimurje rolling hills, and this is precise location where adorable restaurant “Mala hiža” (a small house in local dialect) is situated. The cuisine here is among the best in Croatia, thanks to the owner Branimir Tomašić, whose touch is visible in every meal on the menu. That is why everyone can say Mala hiža is not only a restaurant, it is a place of good memories!

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Handmade pasta, home grown products, carefully chosen high quality meat, freshly made sauces, and traditional methods in making foods are the starting points in gastronomy of Mala Hiža. Followed by excellent wines, this restaurant clearly deserved to be the best one in continental Croatia, which is an award given this year.

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There is a witty story of how this restaurant came to life. Mr Tomašić decided to make a restaurant in his old orchard in Mačkovec. But, he couldn’t get the permit to build a solid object on this ground. Thus, he found an old and devastated hiža – a traditional wooden house near Zagreb built in 1887 – and transferred it to Mačkovec. From 1996 up until 2001 it was diligently refurbished in its old authentic style. And here we have today a representative restaurant of unusual history, excellent cuisine, and indeed a spectacular interior. The ambient is elegant, romantic and intimate, with a feeling of house warmth.

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Our arrival was based on autumn menu of the restaurant, but began with a very typical Međimurje dish, Tiblica Meat. It is a high calory salty meal made from the better quality fresh pork, which is put in a special pot, tiblica, usually made from wood. Inside the meat is conserved in salty lard. This meat is first rinsed with salt and garlic, and then it is being left in its own salty juice for a few weeks. The salt should enter into the meat well, and this was a traditional way to preserve the meat. After that, the meat is smoked, boiled, or baked, and then put in tiblica. It is again preserved inside the pot for a few weeks.

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Among famous and rich Međimurje soups we have tried autumn’s favourite, pumpkin soup. Delicious and creamy, it is part of the autumn menu in Mala Hiža, consisting also of pheasants and ducks, pumpkin dishes, rich pork meals, and small game.

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Mala Hiža
Balogovec 1, Mačkovec
+385 40 341 101
malahiza@gmail.com
http://mala-hiza.hr

Photos by: Mala Hiža

Kolinje in Mamica Restaurant

When first really cold days approach, Croats begin to prepare wonderful pork delicacies. It is called kolinje, which is a local term for pig slaughtering. We have tried it at the Mamica restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Međimurje. Its owner Mrs Sandra Nedeljko showed us how the čvarci and blood sausage are made, together with hearty lunch.

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Čvarci, or pork rinds, is kind of pork crisps, with fat thermally extracted from the lard. It is very popular in all Balkan countries, especially in the rural areas. The best ones, of course, are homemade, and industrial production is not developed.

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Preparation of čvarci involves melting the lard. Lard is cut in blocks of about one inch in size and slowly fried in their own fat. Milk may be added at this point in order to obtan caramel colour. Process lasts until all fat melts away and only a kind of tough crispy pork rind remains. Onion or garlic may be added as a spice and salt is always used as condiment. Pieces of skin may or may not be attached. In most common varieties of čvarci, some percentage of pork fat remains.

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Čvarci were made in places such as Mamica before the real season begun, as the gastronomy offer should be available before everyone else. For this restaurant in little Međimurje village of Pušćine it is a prime autumn and winter delicacy, together with blood sausage. The family Nedeljko opened Mamica in 2008, but the family is working since 1969, when grandma Marija opened restaurant „K Feriju“. And although many would say that „Mamica“ means „dear mother“, in Međimurje it is a word for grandma.

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And while Mrs Nedeljko was making čvarci, another table was reserved for the blood sausage. Blood sausage, made in continental Croatia by cooking pork blood with a filler. Apart from various pig parts, most often the filler consists of buckwheat, barley or corn flour. They’re eaten in winter, usually with sauerkraut and “restani krumpir” – boiled potatoes sautéed on onion.

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Our own menu started with Kolinje soup with sour pig lungs, a delicious start in winter time, and legendary soup for hangovers. It was followed by blood sausages in two varients: prepared based on blood and without blood. The varient without blood is usually spiced with picant paprika. One should not forget that Međimurje is very close to Hungary and has a big Hungarian influence both in culture, folklore and music, as in the cuisine. Everything was followed by restani krumpir and sauerkraut.

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For the dessert, „Mamica“ offered Međimurje’s favourite cake – the Međimurje gibanica. Probably it is a sweet that perfectly represents Međimurje. By the rule, as wealthier as the region is with fields, the traditional meals are richer in calories. And when one sees gibanica, one can easily determine there is a calory bomb waiting on the table. Međimurska gibanica consists of four layers! On top of dough one can easily see cheese, apple, poppy, and walnut layer. Indeed, a dessert only for the bravest ones!

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Mamica will welcome you in any time of the year, with homemade and season meals, and with very reasonably priced lunches and special offers. It fits great with local Međimurje wines. Probably the best way to learn more about Međimurje cuisine is to go for the Mamica degustation menu, consisting of cold appetizers tiblica meat, homemade dried sausage, bacon and cheese with sour cream, followed by the beef soup with homemade pasta and cooked beef with horseradish and celery sauce. Then you will try the hen with bacon and leek, as well as veal with potatoes. To finish the main course, pork loin with mushrooms, cheese strudel and oatmeal will do. And don’t forget for dessert – the Međimurje gibanica!

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Mamica
Pušćine, Čakovečka 47, 40305 Nedelišće

+385 (0) 40 373 433
mamica@mamica.com.hr
http://mamica.com.hr

Holiday House Zulejka, Sabljaci

On the shores of mythical lake Sabljaci, and with a stunning view on the forests and mountains, is situated the Holiday House Zulejka. The house is named after Zulejka or Đula. Zulejka was of noble origin and her parents, as was the custom in those times, promised her to an elderly nobleman. Meanwhile, after a great battle against the Turks, a young captain Milan Juraić from the border arrived in Ogulin. He defended the Frankopan fort in Tounj. When Zulejka saw him she fell in love at first sight. Milan was killed in a battle against the Turks, and when Zulejka heard this she threw herself into the abyss of the River Dobra.

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There are no abysses in the Zulejka House. Instead, it offers accommodation in newly decorated and equipped holiday house for six persons. The ground floor features living room, completely equipped kitchen, dining room, and bathroom.

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The upper floor is where two double-bed bedrooms are situated, also with a bathroom. They are beautifully decorated, with feeling of lots of space.

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The house is surrounded by greenery. There is a garden here, with a grill, and terrace with a sitting place, a perfect relaxation area where you can have barbecue with your family and friends. Your dog may enjoy as well, as the house is open to pets.

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Next to the house is free parking place. The quality and the pleasant temperature of water in Lake Sabljaci during the summer provide opportunities for refreshment, but for those who want to spend a little more energy and enjoy a longer swimming route the River Dobra is also suitable for swimming. Lake Sabljaci provides an opportunity for rowers and a real challenge for the lovers of windsurfing.

Holiday House Zulejka
Ribarići 43F, 47 300 Ogulin
00 385 98 650-573
zulejka.ogulin@gmail.com

TASTE MEĐIMURJE WINES

Winegrowing, production and cultivation of grapes in Medjimurje dates back to the Antiquity, but winemaking expanded notably beginning of the last century. Winegrowing is mostly a family enterprise in Medjimurje, so the winegrowers launch their exceptional wines to Croatia and the world straight from their wine cellars.

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The following recommended varieties of wine prevail: Graševina (Welschriesling), White Riesling,  Moslavac (Furmint), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminac (Gewurztraminer und Red Traminer), Muscat Blanc while red wine varieties are represented by Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Wine Road is undoubtedly one of the most famous tourism product in Medjimurje. It consists of a 30 km itinerary with round thirty wine tasting establishments. Do not miss out Pušipel – wine variety created in Medjimurje which revitalized Moslavac variety.

Lovrec Wines

We have tried several of these wine sorts in our voyage through this northernmost Croatian province. First we enjoyed Lovrec wines. In the last ten years, wine business of renown Franjo Lovrec is continued by his son Krešimir, who is devoted to nurturing of inerited Central European cultivars recommended long ago from 1847 by German and Austrian wine-growing experts whose basic professional standards apply still today.

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The authentic white wines line of Lovrec natale solum make Sauvignon, green Sylvaner, Rhine Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, yellow Muscat and Gewürtztraminer“. These fine and in harmony with nature produces wines enjoy the trust and support of many years of faithful consumers and the are gaining up the confidence of new fans.

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Innovations in family boutique production of selected cultivars are rose wine and from about ten years ago already established and recognisable „Knight’s Red“ wine. Cosmopolitanism of the small vineyard village of Saint Urban, which celebrates International Wine Day, Lovrec family also celebrates with its commitment and the ability to communicate in the world languages.

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Lovrec Wines
Sveti Urban 133, 40 312 Štrigova
00385 40 830 171
info@vino-lovrec.hr
www.vino-lovrec.hr

(photos by Lovrec wines)

Dvanajščak – Kozol Wines

On the elevated and the sunniest location around the village of Dragoslavec, at 300-344 m above sea level, live and ripe the wines of Dvanajščak – Kozol household. The best wines that the family Dvanajščak – Kozol creates come from vineyards covering almost 8 ha of sunny and elevated areas near the village Dragoslavec, places like Grofovo, Okrugli vrh and Mohokos. Mohokos stands at 344,40 m above sea level and is the highest point of Medjimurje.

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Moslavac (Furmint), Graševina (Welschriesling), ranjski Rizling (Rheinriesling), Pinot Blanc and Noir, Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Traminac (Gewurztraminer) are the varieties of grapes that ripen in our vineyards, and after the harvest, in our cellars. We can also boast to being the first in Međimurje to have produced Pinot Noir.

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DK Grofovo cuvee (Count’s, Landgrave) is a mixture of wines and it was named after the eponymous hilltop where it’s grown, and whose former owners were the Counts of Celje. Anthony Rose, one of the world’s leading wine tasters and president of The Evaluation Commission at Decanter panel, rated our DK Graševina (Welschriesling) 2006 with 93 points out of 100, placing this wine along with some of the best wines in the world..”

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Beneath the house is a large, modern cellar in which the processing of grapes, wine storing and maturing takes place. Currenty, an old cellar in the house of Rajsko’s parents is being remodeled in a rustic style, and already looks very attractive. Next to the house is a beautiful terrace overlooking the magical Međimurje hills that will leave no one indifferent. In the nicely furnushed and air-conditioned wine tasting room, along with quality wine, we offer homemade products, hot and cold dishes.

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Probably the most original Međimurje wine would be Pušipel. Refreshing flavors of lemon, lime and green apple can be found in Pušipel. This refreshing wine has distinct mineral – citrus notes, low alcohol levels and a pronounced acidity that allows it to be consumed along medium and strongly seasoned dishes. Its taste demonstrates the great potential this variety has.

OPG Dvanajščak Rajka
Dragoslavec 81, 40311 Lopatinec
Rajka Dvanajščak: +385 (0)98 910 9172
Zdravko Dvanajščak: +385 (0)98 723 168
Tea Dvanajščak: +385 (0)98 180 9431
vinska.kuca.dvanajscak.kozol@gmail.com
info@vina-dvanajscak.hr
www.vina-dvanajscak.hr

Photos by: Dvanajščak wines

Bees of Honey Garden

Beekeeping in Međimurje goes back many years and has a rich tradition. Today there are about 12 thousand colonies in Međimurje from which up to 200 tons of honey can be produced. Međimurje has some 400 beekeepers most of whom are members of the local associations.

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With their hard work and good beekeeping practices these beekeepers produce first class honey, pollen, propolis and other bee products. We have visited one of these, the Honey Garden, in village of Črečan, run by Tanja Šardi.

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Beautiful old village garden has stepped back in time of our grandmothers, caring for the traditions and nature. Behind the wooden doors lies a mix of natural and old preserved village items, with shabby chic furniture, and of course, the bees. To sit and relax here, listening to the heartbreaking melodies of Međimurje songs, is a holiday by itself.

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We were greeted with honey brandy and gingerbread, before we ventured off to see the beehives. The major bee pasture in Međimurje is acacia. Its honey is of exceptional quality and high percentage of fructose and a bit of pollen grains. This honey is almost translucent and does not crystallize over a year, mild flavour and easily acceptable, recommended for children.

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One of stranger honey is of pumpkin. It emerged recently because of large areas in Međimurje that are used for growing pumpkins. Such honey is of golden-yellow colour, pleasant taste and contains significantly more pollen than other varieties. Also popular is chestnut honey.

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Another healthy product is pollen honey, pollen, and propolis, all of which can be easily obtained in this old homestead, which is such a fresh addition to the gastronomy offer and rural tourism in Međimurje.

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Medeni vrt
Črečan 88, Črečan, 40306 Macinec
+385 95 2005 567
tanja.sardi@gmail.com
http://medenivrt.com
https://www.facebook.com/medenivrt87?fref=ts

In Search of Gold

Green Međimurje was once the place where gold was being found in the rivers Drava and Mura. People who lived on its shores often went for gold rush in time of year when agriculture was not so demanding. The gold on the river sandbank came from the Alps, taken by the flows in spring.

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Međimurje goldsmiths, as they were known, transferred this knowledge from generation to generation. In 1939 over 200 people went on Drava, searching the valuable gold nuggets. They were floating the river in long wooden boats, taking two persons. One gold rush lasted for at least ten days. The village of Donji Vidovec was especially known for this activity.

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Amongst the inhabitants of this village is Matija Mate Horvat, the last living gold expert. For decades he has been visiting the river with two wooden planks, sieve, shovel, buckets. He was working with Mr Dragutin Horvat, another gold rusher. The two never got rich from gold, but the best day in career was when they have found 17 grams of gold! Still, purchase of gold did give them good earnings for their families. The Drava and Mura gold is among the cleanest in the world, and thus gets a good price.

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For one piece of pure gold, Mr Mate should work few weeks in the murky waters. After cleaning, the gold pieces are put in a bowl with mercury, which gives pure gold in the end of the process. Still, there isn’t enough gold on these rivers for commercial exploitation. Thus, Empress and Queen Mary Theresia gave in 1776 concession to the villagers of Donji Vidovec to search for gold.

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The gold search is now part of tourist activities and team building in Međimurje.

 

Čabar – Petar Klepac Homeland

The town of Čabar covers a territory which locals regard as the greenest part of Croatia. More than 94 per cent of the area is covered by woods. Picturesque small places of Čabar, Prezid, Gerovo, Tršće and Plešce are dotted next to the rivers of Kupa and Čabranka, making this region almost Alpine-like part of Croatia.

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Between lush woodlands and green mountain valleys you can see the remnants of history – mostly connected to the noble Croatian family of Zrinski. Ban Petar Zrinski established Čabar, where his manor still stands as the most valuable historical place in whole area. Today it houses the Municipal museum, the gallery of paintings of the academic painter Vilim Svečnjak, and a trophy collection. Next to it is 17th century parish church of St. Anthony of Padua. Iron mining and wood industry was for centuries the essence of life in Čabar.

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Nearby place of Gerovo is one of the oldest places in Gorski kotar. The parish here was established in 1504, and was centre of Gorski kotar during the reign of Zrinski dukes. On the other side of Čabar is Prezid, a place named for the wall from Roman and Liburnian times. This old settlement was once property of Frankopan family, later given also to Zrinski. Today, this is the best place to see the original old wooden houses, built in the original Gorski kotar architecture.

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These houses with a rectangular ground plan and two narrow eaves are made of stone and wood with tilted or shingled roofs. Croatian rural architecture heritage is enriched with preservation of Vesel, Ožbolt, Žagar, and Lipovac houses in Prezid. In the centre of Plešce is another beautiful household from the 19th century, the Palčava šiša, estate of the Čop family.

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Along the river Čabranka and below the cliffs of Sveta Gora, lies Plešce, place of sawmill, mills, and smithies. The miners’ centre was Tršće, another place in Čabar region, where exploitation of iron ore begun in 17th century. The natural wealth attracted noble families, whose tombs at the Čabar graveyard are of special interest for the sacral architecture, especially the tombs of family Križ, Ghyczy and Paravić.

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Čabar is the homeland of Petar Klepac, a Croatian giant and a legendary hero who was brave, resistible to all bad things, clever and intelligent, with big heart and sense of humour. On Sveta Gora he received a miraculous strength to help weak and unhappy people, defending it from their enemies, mostly against the Turks. Klepec is still alive in many different stories from the Čabar region, all of them celebrating heorism, bereavement, honesty and strength connected with intelligence.

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Klepac for sure roamed around the forests and next to mountain creeks, where people built mills and saws. Some of them are still standing as a testimony to the old times. Among the oldest is the Selanec mill, mentioned first in 1751 in Zamost. Today it is run by family Žagar, who managed to preserve their mills together with three millstones for grinding corn, wheat, barley, and oats from the neighbouring hamlets, both for Slovenian and Croatian side of the Kupa valley.

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The area is ideal for nature lovers, especially hikers and mountaineers. The most outstanding trek here is on the Risnjak Mountain, which is also National Park. To walk beside the Kupa and Čabranka rivers is another adventure, especially if one visits the source of the river Kupa. It is one of the most powerful, deepest, and widest river sources in Croatia, with an impressive green-blue colour.

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Text used from the Tourist Office of Čabar
Školska 1, 51305 Tršće
+385 51 824 110
info@tz-cabar.hr
www.tz-cabar.hr

Dormouse anyone?

Possibly amongst the strangest foods in Croatia are the dormice. These peculiar creatures are sometimes called “the spirits of forests”. Gorski kotar is famous for its game dishes, mushrooms, sauerkraut and potato. Various game stews, smoked cheese, mushroom soups are standard offer in this mountainous region between continental Croatia and the seaside.

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But in early autumn, Čabar region lives for Dormice Days, a food festival dedicated to dormice stew. Early autumn is perfect for hunting dormice, as they eat plenty during the summer, and as the winter approaches, they are falling in their half-a-year deep sleep. This hibernation in a tree or in a hole in the ground can last up to seven months. In sping, dormouse is almost 50 per cent thinner than in late summer.

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Dormouse is among the few rodents whose meat is good for eating.  It is hunted in Gorski kotar and only on some Dalmatian islands. The custom was present among the ancient Romans as well. The hunting season is between September 29th and November 11th. Their fur was appreciated, while the lard is thought to be extremely healthy and good for wounds.

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In Gorski Kotar is dormouse, together with the bear, wolf, and lynx trademark of forests. When hunting big game was aristocratic privilege, dormouse was a prey and source of nutrition for poorer commoners. Methods of hunting dormice then were far more diverse, with special tentacles with rods and lid, barrels with fruit, a method under a rock and the like. However, this traditional approach quickly changed. Consequently, dormice are hunted in special tentacles. Today its tentacles are called puholovka (dormice catcher) and are only permitted means of hunting them down.

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Puholovka is placed into a tree at a height of about 3 m. As bait commonly used is apple or carob. Almost every hunter has its own district where hunting, and generally do not visit each other in the area of hunting. Every hunter gives a special attention to the natural breeding. Today dormice meat is no longer a source of life, but specialty. To hunt them hunters go at night, sitting by an open fire, and enjoy delights in recounting experiences.

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The meat of dormouse is nutty and sweet. It goes excellent with tomato-based sauce and its own fat, with polenta as a side dish. Dormouse is eaten with fingers, sucking bits of meat between the small bones. If the dormouse stew is made in its traditional way, the sauce and the meat blend together perfectly!

Authentic Gorski kotar Cuisine – Restaurant Tajči in Kozji vrh

In Kozji vrh, a crossroad between Čabar and Prezid, for decades stands a traditional inn Tajči. At the first glance you might think it is an ordinary house, but entering it everyone will understand this is the place where real Gorski kotar food is being served. The walls are adorned with wood animals almost as a menu, and the view on evergreen forest remind you on the altitude of almost 1000 metres.

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The owner is especially proud for the authentic Gorski kotar meals that you may find here. This dedication for homemade specialties such as the traditional bajtar lunch, Čabar blacksausage, Budla, Potato Polenta and desserts with wooden berries. In the season, Tajči prepares dormice, especially those from Gerovo, which are the most delicious.

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Our lunch began with wonderful and plentiful homemade soup, feeling just like the memories of grandma’s soup. Good soup should replenish the body and the soul, and prepare the guest for more palate adventures. And what an adventure it was! Gorski kotar is no place for vegetarian souls, as the meat makes even the staple food here.

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Potatoes and sauerkraut are basis of almost every meal. Potato polenta is special for this region, as it is made only in Grobnik area and in Čabar. Locals usually make everything with it as a side dish. As soon as the first days of autumn come, sauerkraut is ever present on the dining table. In cold and long winters, sauerkraut gives vitamins and strength.

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Next to grilled veal’s liver, we enjoyed excellent pork chops and thick ham. For dessert we had such a lovely apple strudel, with home grown apples! And if you feel lazy for driving home, you can easily relax in one of the four bedrooms for guests!

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Tajči
Šumarska 1, 51307 Prezid, Hrvatska
098 / 9657 473, 098 / 830 014
jelena@tajci.hr
www.gorski-kotar.eu
 Tajči – smještaj & gastronomska ponuda Gorskog kotara