Sever – Wines under the Cesargrad Hill

Not so long ago, it was thought that Zagorje cannot produce high quality wines. Wine estate Sever in Klanjec is one of many opposing evidences. Situated on the southern slopes of Cesargrad Hill, Sever family cares for viticulture since 1989 and today they produce some 60 thousand litres of wine per annum.

In Sever winery you will find Pinot Grigio, Rhine Riesling, Graševina (Welschriesling), Muscat, Traminer, Sauvignon and Chardonnay of white wines, and Frankovka (Blaufränkisch), Merlot, and Portugizac (Blauer Portugieser) of red ones. Sever’s wines are awarded in Zagorje and beyond with golden prizes for several years now, especially for its Muscat Yellow and Sokol.

The family is especially known for cultivating authentic sokol wine sort. This is an old sort brought back from the old times. Because of its hard skin, it is favourite grape to eat. The wine has scent of Traminer, but without very intensive aromas. It is great addition to mild cheese, corn bread, and pumpkin seed oil. Apparently, sokol was served in Erdödy’s castle in Klanjec, and its cultivation was given to the Fransiscan order in Klanjec. Franciscan monks used the terroir of Broz’s hill (Brozov breg), which boasts with splendid views of Klanjec, Sutla valley, and Klanjec vineyards.

You can try Sokol, which is limited quantity wine, in the Sever tasting room and wine cellar. Tastings are often done on top of vineyard, in an old-fashioned Zagorje klijet (wooden wine house). With great drop of wine and degustation of authentic Zagorje meals, guests can enjoy the Zagorje hospitality and spectacular views.

Vinarija Sever
Kumrovečka 4, 49290 Klanjec
Filip – 098 778 508, Zvonko – 098 315 182, Jakov – 098 696 636
Tel. – 049 550 180, Fax. – 049 502 147
e-mail – agrovitis@net.hr
fb page – vinarija TRS sever
www.vinarija-sever.com

Photos by Vinarija Sever

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.

img_7448

img_7449

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.

img_7456

img_7457

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.

img_7455

img_7453

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.

img_7463

Pčelarstvo Fajdetić
Milice Jadranić 1, Rijeka
+385 51 644 108, +385 91 760 91 68
ivica.fajdetic@ri.t-com.hr
www.pcelarstvo-fajdetic.hr

img_7465

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.

img_7464

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!

img_7469

Kao Kakao
Andrije Štangera 44, Volosko
info@kaokakao.hr

img_7472

img_7471

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.

img_7475

img_7476

img_7477

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!

img_7479

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

img_7481

img_7485

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.

img_7480

img_7483

img_7482

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.

img_7487

img_7486