Ethereal gastro-tales and the mysterious castles of Croatia

You do not need to fantasise about unattainable destinations in order to spend the perfect, dream-like weekend in nature - gathering your friends and family to pick a spot in Croatia will suffice.

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Town walls that hide magnificent rooms are the main venues of the plot in many fairy tales. It is those places that were inspiration for a number of legends. Nowadays, the secrecy of their buildings inspires visitors’ delight to the same extent to which they become the basis for numerous untold stories.


Most castles in Croatia were constructed in the Mediaeval times. Besides oozing mystery, the castles are the best witnesses of a history passed. If you are visiting Croatia, it would be pity not to visit at least one castle. Besides, places where they are located tell numerous gastronomic tales.


TRAKOŠĆAN CASTLE


The Trakošćan Castle is located in Croatia’s Zagorje, 23 km to the northeast of Krapina, and 40 km to the southwest of Varaždin. The closest places are Macelj and Strahinčica. Its owners had often changed until 1569, when it went in the hands of the patrician Drašković family. Count Drašković turned it into a residential castle. Today, the building houses a museum (open every day), and its surroundings are shaped as a park where a lake, meadows, and forests nearby make a harmonious horticultural entirety.


In Varaždin, 40 odd kilometres away, you can visit the Bedem Restaurant. The magnificently fitted restaurant with a view of the bedem (town walls), pet named “the fort of superior food,” has nestled in the immediate proximity of the Varaždin Old Town. And that it is. The Bedem is also famous for venison dishes such as roe with mushrooms, fillets, sauces, as well as classical steaks and for the grilled perch with roasted vegetables.

- We would certainly recommend roe, duck breast or štrukle with pheasant meat to our guests. We also have beefsteak, and we are confident that they would be delighted about black gnocchi. We can entrance all tastes, and our guests know that and they can come on recommendation. For the end, we would offer our Bedem cake to everybody - they say at the restaurant.


MIHANOVIĆ CASTLE


Photo: Davor Višnjić/PIXSELL

The castle in Tuheljske toplice is surrounded by a park housing century-old plane trees among which numerous animals feel happy to hide. In 1983, when it was restored, the castle became the Croatian cultural monument, which is known nowadays for organising numerous festivities. The baroque Mihanović Castle was built in the 18th century by the Counts Erdödy only to later become the property of Ban Josip Brigljević, and poet Antun Mihanović respectively. The author of the Croatian anthem “Lijepa naša” (Our Beautiful Homeland) often stayed at the castle and therefore it is named after him.

Photo: Davor Višnjić/PIXSELL

Within the castle there is a la carte restaurant that offers rich cuisine of traditional and national dishes. The content of the menu is classical, and they offer their guests dishes from cold starters through desserts, but the special charm of a new menu is a special concept of specialties that provides various offers for the guests. The offer contains dishes from Zagorje that are prepared according to recipes specific to the Croatian Zagorje, and also court dishes that are prepared according to special recipes from the time of Count Brigljević, enriched with small secrets.

Photo: Davor Višnjić/PIXSELL

- We always recommend some of the court dishes to the guests that come first. We offer count steak, steak royal, knight's sword... We will not disappoint with our offer - we were told at the restaurant.


PRINCIPOVAC

Photo: Davor Javorović/PIXSELL

Not far from the centre of the historic wine town of Ilok lies the Principovac Castle. It was built back in 1864 as a summer residence of the noble Odescalchi family who stayed here during hunting and grape picking. Within the restored castle, there is a restaurant with a rich gastronomy offer. As a starter, they boast a rhapsody of delicacies from Srijem, actually, a kind of pâté that contains ham, kulen sausage, smoked bacon, sausage, fresh cottage cheese, lard and cracklings. Guests love it.

- Our guests love the atmosphere of the castle, and along with the large offer of our traditional foods, we would recommend everyone to try the Principovac steak – they told us in the restaurant, which is open from April to the end of November.

Photo: Davor Javorović/PIXSELL

If you find yourself at that particular time in that area, you can have very good lunch at the Stari Podrum Restaurant. They have a great selection of meat dishes as well as an offer for vegetarians, while desserts are combinations of international favourites and fine local peasant dishes like tačkrlapads made of potato dough filled with jam and covered with poppy seeds.

Stari Podrum. Photo: Davor Javorović/PIXSELL


OZALJ CASTLE

The Mediaeval town of Ozalj, situated on a cliff over the Kupa River was rebuilt into a castle in the 18th century. The town is entered through a bridge that was movable until 1821. The entrance tower was erected in 1599 as endowment of Juraj IV Zrinski. The castle now houses the Zavičajni muzej (local history museum) that was founded in 1971. The museum has valuable exhibits from the time of the Zrinski and Frankopan families, especially related to their cultural activity, which is known as the "Ozalj cultural circle."

If you are visiting Ozalj and are a fan of good lamb, we recommend you to visit the Žganjer Restaurant. A peculiarity of the restaurant is the tradition that is based on the supply of live lambs from the Pag and Krk islands and their spit-roasting over the dry beech wood just before serving.

- Everybody knows that they will eat home-made food with us and thus tourists come on recommendation. With lamb, we definitely recommend baked potatoes, some vegetables and salad - we were told at the Žganjer.

Žganjer. Photo: Kristina Štedul Fabac/PIXSELL

If you love game, the Lovački Rog Restaurant is located 15 kilometres from Ozalj. Venison specialties range from deer to wild boar and roe deer, and they come in all wonderful shapes, from natural steaks, burgers and medallions to hunting or mushroom sauces.

Lovački Rog. Photo: Kristina Štedul Fabac/PIXSELL


ORŠIĆ CASTLE

The Oršić Castle is situated in Gornja Stubica and houses the Peasant Revolt Museum. A monument to Matija Gubec stands in its immediate vicinity. The castle was built by Count Krsto Oršić in 1756. The Peasant Revolt Museum offers visitors materials related to the peasant revolts, life of nobles and peasants, and objects of cultural, historical and artistic heritage of the Croatian Zagorje. The museum exhibition is classified into several collections: cultural and historical, art, ethnographic, archaeological, collection of Zagorje souvenirs, postcard and photo collection, collection of weapons and equipment, collection of Viktorija Oršić, and the museum also keeps archaeological artefacts from the old town of Konjščina. It is open every day from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

After visiting the castle, you can also visit the Vuglec Breg, 40-odd kilometres away. The original interior in the authentic “Zagorje” style, an open fireplace and a terrace with a thatched roof give a feeling of warmth and special home atmosphere. Forgotten old recipes of “grandma's dishes” come again to life in their kitchen and on the tables of the restaurant.

Vuglec breg. Photo: Marko Prpić/PIXSELL

- We are focused on our local dishes, so we certainly recommend our guests to try dishes from the oven – lamb, veal, turkey ... It is the pumpkin season now, so we make sure to recommend to our guests to taste them as well as štrukle - they say at the Vuglec Breg.


VELIKI TABOR

Veliki Tabor is one of the best preserved Renaissance fortresses in the continental part of Croatia. Тhe inside of the fortress boasts several galleries and a permanent exhibition comprising archаeological, ethnographic, cultural and historical, artistic and paleontological and geological collections. Several legends are linked to this fortress, but certainly the most famous is the one about Veronika of Desenice and her forbidden love with young Frederick, Count of Celje. Mutual love erupted between Veronika and Frederick but it was not by the will of his father Herman. Frederick was married at that time and ordered his wife to be killed, after which he escaped with Veronika.

Only two or three kilometres from the castle, there is a restaurant, Klet Grešna Gorica. People go there to eat local food and then “chill” in the nature, on the edge of the forest, with birdsong and endless calmness. Popular starter is homemade zaseka (lard, bacon and spices in the form of a scoop of ice cream), a great rustic spread. In addition, the plate contains bacon, pork/beef salami, buđola, pepperoni and three kinds of fresh cheese: with pumpkin seeds, paprika and smoked cheese. Wait till you taste the food on the spoon, mushroom soup or maybe a turkey ... Pure perfection!

Klet Grešna Gorica. Photo: Borna Filić/PIXSELL

- Starters are ours, homemade, we make it in our family. We have something for everybody but we definitely recommend turkey with dumplings, veal... We also have štrukle in all possible ways - they say at the restaurant.

Klet Grešna Gorica. Photo: Borna Filić/PIXSELL


MAILATH - PRANDAU CASTLE

The castle was built in the hunting style in the area of the municipality of Donji Miholjac and is one of the last constructed castles in the early 20th century. With its numerous towers, high roofs, decorative chimneys and large terraces, it is considered one of the best preserved castles in Croatia. At present, the castle houses the state government and city offices; the visitors can see it from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. upon prior arrangement with the doorman, whereas the tourist office should be referred to for group visits.

Even the architecture of the exterior is more than enough to fascinate you. The most significant and the largest park in Donji Miholjac is surely Veliki park (The Great Park), which is located within the compound of the castle.


And when you are in Donji Miholjac, you can continue to Osijek, up to 50 kilometres away. There, at the Kod Ruže Restaurant you will enjoy river fish meals – fish stew and perkelt , and you will be delighted by the skewer of several types of meat, čobanac (mixed-meat stew), meat on the grill and venison. The Kod Ruže Restaurant is situated in the old part of Osijek – the Citadel, and offers authentic dishes from Slavonia and Baranja.

- We always recommend our guests to try something authentic. Veal or venison is always a good choice. And certainly, they would have to let us know that they are coming so that everything is waiting prepared for them - they say.


STARA SUŠICA CASTLE

The Stara Sušica Castle is a real gem. It is located in Gorski Kotar, in Stara Sušica, 5km away from Ravna Gora. Situated at 800 meters above the sea level, it takes pride in the pristine hundred-year old forest with diverse flora and fauna. The property is owned by the city of Rijeka and managed by the Youth Home.

The castle provides services of a children's resort where children and youngsters from all across Croatia reside in various programmes, from school in nature to camps to winter and summer vacations. This idyllic place is a true oasis, not only of peace but of magic, so, a school of magic for children is also organised there. Its building is impressive from the outside, but you should also look at it from the inside.

Photo: Nel Pavletić/PIXSELL

Thirty kilometres away, in Fužine, a real paradise for the palate is waiting for you at the Bitoraj Restaurant. Thick soup of mixed fungi or the one made of horseradish with cheese that is grating under your teeth are also worth tasting. Forest larder of the cuisine of Ravna Gora, in addition to deer, bear and boar, offers plenty of juicy berries of which irresistible sauces for red meat are prepared in the Bitoraj kitchen. Thus, for example, the boar steak marinated in cranberry sauce is one of the favourite specialties of the fans of sweet and salty combinations.

- If guests ask us, we recommend frogs fried in eggs and breadcrumbs, then roasted veal and mandatory horseradish or fungi soup. In our offer, we always have bear, deer or wild boar meat goulash - they say at the Bitoraj.


PEJAČEVIĆ CASTLE

The Pejačević Castle is located in the centre of Našice. The castle was the home of generations of this noble family, which had been present in the city since 1734 when Baron (later Count) Josip Pejačević purchased a property in Našice to the Second World War when the Pejačević family left Našice and Croatia.

Along with the large castle, a park with romantic features and a lake was built. The castle is now open to the public and there is a museum, a memorial room, ethnographic collections and many other attractions of this region.


If after a visit to the castle you want to try the delicacies of Slavonia and Baranja, then you can go to Osijek, up to 50 kilometres away, which inspires with its tranquillity and width, but this is most evident when you approach the bank of its Drava River.

The menu of the Lumiere Restaurant there offers fish dishes and pasta as well as classical meat specialities, so there is virtually no foodstuff that you cannot try there. Although we are on the border of Slavonia and Baranja, and the Lumiere provides a stronger emphasis on meat, the choice of fish dishes here is quite solid.

Lumiere. Photo: Marko Mrkonjić/ PIXSELL

- We always give suggestion to our guests to try black pig fillet with homemade smoked croquettes. The black pig meat is most demanded of all - they say at the restaurant.


LUŽNICA

The Lužnica Castle is a baroque castle located in Lužnica, in the suburbs of Zaprešić. It was built in the second half of the 18th century and is a multi-wing open castle that can be also found in the Croatian Zagorje. Today, it has the status of a monument of the first category.

Having visited the castle, you can proceed to Zagreb, to the Stari Fijaker Restaurant, which is located at Mesnička street, with the offer being mainly cuisine from Zagorje and Zagreb. It is a restaurant that owes its name to the carriage for gentlemen coming to gablec (the cult term of the Zagreb's gastronomy). Gablec is closest to the concept of brunch, though it can last until afternoon. Soup with seasonal vegetables is a typical Lika dish that invigorates and restores strength. In winter, its deliciousness is obtained from cabbage, and in summer from broccoli, Swiss chard, cauliflower and a few potatoes. In the list of authentic dishes there is also deer meat paprikash.

Stari Fijaker. Photo: Sanjin Strukić/ PIXSELL

- Tourists mainly ask for čobanac, pašticada, buncek, sauerkraut, stuffed peppers, while the local guests ask for meat like veal. It is always necessary to reserve a table because we are always full - they say at the Stari Fijaker.


- Your Gourmet365

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