Istria. It was here that Adriatic tourism as we know it first took off, and Istria still functions as an incubator of new ideas, ideas that end up being exported to the rest of the Croatian coast. The reasons for Istria’s preeminence are partly geographical – the peninsula lies very close to the Central European cities where most Croatia-bound travellers originally came from, so it’s hardly surprising that the Istrian hospitality industry has always been a few steps ahead of everyone else. Adriatic mussels © starkovphoto However, Istria also stands out for reasons unique to the peninsula itself. Take for example Croatia’s breakthrough as a gastronomic destination, a phenomenon rooted in the rediscovery of local culinary riches and great Croatian delicacies, such as Istria olive oil and Istrian prosciutto. Istria always had a reputation of neighbourhood inns serving homemade pasta, local game, seasonal goodies such as asparagus and truffles, and menus that ran from farmhouse sausages to the finest Adriatic scallops and mussels. The contemporary emphasis on locally-sourced food and the unselfconscious readiness to mix high- and low-cuisine was not something that Croatia learned by watching TV chefs on cable TV – it already existed in Istria. Istrian vineyard © Motovun vineyard The same might be said of boutique wine. It was the Istrian emphasis on small-scale quality, exemplified by local growers such as Degrassi, Clai and Matošević, that brought domestic varieties like Malva
The best exhibitions of Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020
Rijeka is a city with internationally-recognised museums, galleries and collections. For the city's special European Capital of Culture 2020 year, each of the existing institutions alongside the main event organisers have pulled out all the stops in order to fill every space available with exhibitions to satisfy all. From past masters to contemporary art and everything in between, here are some of the best exhibitions of Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020.RECOMMENDED: The best interactive and installation events of Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020
The best interactive and installation events of Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020
Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020 is not just for spectators. The city's community have helped shape the events happening within the year and some of those extend a further invitation for everyone to join in. From the carnival parade and the bell-ringing of the inauguration ceremony to giant robots you can manipulate and art installations you can walk beneath or touch, here are some of the best things to do within Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020 at which you can all join in.RECOMMENDED: The best exhibitions of Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020
One of the most memorable images of the year so far was the sight of Dubrovnik being burned to a crisp in the penultimate episode of a popular fantasy show. This disturbingly destructive piece of televisual fiction was almost like the CGI-assisted reenactment of an earlier catastrophe, the great Dubrovnik earthquake of 1667. This real-life event also left the city in ruins: Dubrovnik’s post-tremor reconstruction produced the planned Mediterranean-Baroque town we know today. The conflagration featured in Game of Thrones is by no means the first example of life being revisited by art. In 1717 English poet Alexander Pope published his Monster of Ragusa (Ragusa being the name by which Dubrovnik was formerly known), a satirical ballad that made fun of a sensationalist news-sheet report claiming that a giant had been seen stalking the Dalmatian countryside. Pope’s comic giant terrorizes the townsfolk and berates them for their dissolute and immoral ways, before farting a whole dragon out of its arse. What all these corny dragon tales demonstrate is that places like Dubrovnik will always inspire fantastic stories – although there’s always a danger that the fictional tales will have more impact on the visitor than the true story of the destination itself. King's landing © Flo-pictures When it comes to real-life narratives, Croatia has had an extraordinary year. The Croatian football team’s astounding run in the 2018 World Cup left kids all over the world enthralled by the skills of
A cultural guide to Zagreb in summer
Zagreb is a Central European city with a Mediterranean sense of the good life; especially when it comes to spending as much time as possible outdoors. Summers are long and dry, and the emergence of a whole new breed of al-fresco festivals and pop-up events have filled the calendar with things to do. For the visitor, the Croatian capital has become one of Europe’s best destinations for picnicking in parks, strolling through vibrant streets, and drifting from one social hub to the next. The move to bring culture out of doors and into the streets began five years ago and has been picking up speed ever since. Festivals have been reimagined as boutique pop-ups or niche garden parties rather than institutional events aimed at a traditional concert- or gallery-going audience. The regular, high-prestige diet of film and performing arts festivals is still on offer, but has now been joined by a more informal, inclusive menu of events like Museums Outside the Museums, with its interactive displays and vintage fashion shows in May; Design District, which turns the Martićeva area into a cluster of pop-up galleries in June, or The Courtyards, which opens up some of the Upper Town’s most beautiful backyards in July. Paced throughout the summer are outdoor food festivals covering everything from cake-baking to burgers; while Little Picnic spreads deli stalls across a small garden square in the Upper Town. Ban Jelačić Square /© Davor Rostuhar Hitherto underused spaces have been transformed
Ten beautiful Brutalist buildings in Zagreb
Born out of the ubiquity of concrete and a love for functional shapes, the architecture of Brutalism is frequently misunderstood. The very term seems to attract us for all the wrong reasons, inviting us to admire buildings for their roughness, or their obstinate refusal to be pretty. Recent years have seen the word Brutalism fall victim to a warped social media aesthetic in which it is exoticized as something east European, communist, falling to bits – an object of nostalgia or pity that is shorn of its social context. Touring the modernist neighbourhoods of Zagreb is something of an antidote to this – Croatian Brutalism is restrained and sympathetic to its surroundings in a way rather different to the application of the same style in, say, Sheffield or South London. Not all of it is pretty – Brutalism was above all a functional style designed to provide social planners with cheap solutions to big problems. However, there is plenty here of compelling interest – enough to justify Zagreb’s growing reputation as an unsung treasure-trove of Central-European modernism.
New exhibitions in Zagreb
Our round-up of new and upcoming exhibitions in Zagreb will help keep you updated with the dizzying array of displays in the capital. If planning ahead isn't your thing, we've also brought together the top galleries in Zagreb and cultural events going on the capital, so you'll morph into a culture vulture before you even know it. RECOMMENDED: our full guide to art and culture in Croatia.
Where to find the best comfort food in Zagreb
There are times when only good home cooking will do. Despite its reputation for crisp clear weather, Zagreb can also be quite cold in winter, and this is when Croatian comfort food comes into its own. While Zagreb has seen a boom in creative cuisine and global street food in the last few years, this has in no way taken the shine off the enduring appeal of the traditional hearty lunch. Luckily the Croatian kitchen repertoire is full of the kind of filling winter fare that will bring a rosy glow to your cheeks and – after an appropriate pause for digestion – a renewed spur to your sightseeing energies. Thick stews and soups are central to the winter menu: grah (a thick stew of beans often served with sausage) and čobanac (a paprika-seasoned meat stew similar to Hungarian goulash) are frequently brought to the table in big tureens with massive ladles. Punjene paprike (peppers filled with minced meat), sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice) and ćufte (meatballs in rich red sauce) are the other home-comfort dishes that no self-respecting neighbourhood restaurant could afford to do without. For vegetarians, sadly, there is not a great deal of choice, although štrukli (doughy parcels filled with tangy creamy cheese) is one of those central-Croatian specialities that is safe to eat. Despite the city’s growing tourist reputation, there are still plenty of restaurants for whom affordable traditional fare remains the principal raison-d’etre, and have retained a loy
A crash course to Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture
The EU. Almost everyone agrees this collective of neighbourly co-operation was a good idea (well, perhaps maybe the Russians and the bafflingly undecided Brits). The EU grew from economic co-operation but eventually extended its remit into more political arenas (which many consider baby steps on the road to federalism, with the block intending to soon have its own armed forces, a scary prospect for the aforementioned dissenters). But, in the mid-80s, it was recognised that integration between member states would be better served by recognising their individual cultural worth. The European Capital Of Culture (originally called European City Of Culture) was designed to highlight the similarities which different European societies share and also the differences which go to create such a rich and diverse cultural conglomerate. Bellman © Borko Vukosav Assigned for a 12 month period, European Capital of Culture status is awarded to different cities each year and makes funds available for cultural events which hold a strong pan-European dimension and which display the core values and rights of European citizens (you won’t see any single religion dominating proceedings, but you will see an appreciation of minority and different ethnic groups, for example). The awarding of the Capital of Culture status intends to create a template for arts and culture happenings which will hopefully reoccur after the designated year concludes (it is hoped that, impressed by the year’s manifestations,
The 80 best Zagreb restaurants
This ultimate guide to Zagreb restaurants covers it all: from splash-out fine dining to street food, bistros and east-west fusion. Our critics are constantly on the look-out for brilliant new restaurants (which we visit anonymously, of course) to bring you this list of our favourite tables in town. A few words on the selection criteria: our choice doesn't reflect only the expensive, upmarket restaurants that Zagreb has to offer. We're looking for originality over exclusivity; value for money over fancy frippery. Our pick is a mix of daring, cool, cosy and downright tasty eateries to satisfy every spectrum of diner. Dobar tek! RECOMMENDED: our guide to restaurants in Croatia.
Zagreb's cultural icons
From the kitchen to the stage, art, writing and all points in between, Zagreb continues to erupt with talent, names to watch and faces to remember.
Five extraordinary road trips in Croatia
Running from Rijeka on the Kvarner Gulf to Karasovići on the border with Montenegro, Croatia’s Jadranska magistrala or Adriatic Highway offers one of Europe’s most unforgettable journeys. Whether weaving its way round deeply indented bays or skirting scree-covered mountains, there’s scarcely a single boring kilometre in its 650km length. The magistrala may frequently set your stomach a-churn with its endless twists and turns, but the views it offers are unforgettable, with the Adriatic’s famously stark islands parading in stately procession before your eyes. Travelling along the magistrala used to be a severe test of holiday season nerves, with its columns of caravans, straggling towns with speed restrictions, and enough blind corners to make overtaking a near impossibility. With Croatia’s still growing motorway network now taking the pressure off much of the magistrala, the route is re-discovering its reputation as one of Europe’s greatest coastal odysseys. We’ve chosen two large chunks of the magistrala for our list of Croatian road trips listed below, followed by three more recommendations for exhilarating and rewarding drives. 1. Rijeka to Zadar: 220km For twists, turns and superb maritime views, there are few roads in Europe that can match the magistrala, especially in this northern stretch. A sense of the otherworldly sets in early, with the hypnotically bleak and tawny island of Krk dominating the western horizon. The huddled town of Senj with its knoll-top Nehaj for
Remembering Daša Drndić
There’s a passage in Daša Drndić’s 2004 novel Leica Format in which the narrator visits Mali Neboder, Rijeka’s cult second-hand bookshop, and sits down to read some of the antiquarian titles she’s just found on the shelves. ‘There are some beautiful places here [in Rijeka]’ she writes, ‘it’s just that they tend to be rather hidden.’ The Mali Neboder evoked by Drndić, a tightly-wound labyrinth crammed with books, documents, postcards and maps, is like an alternative archive of the city, a repository of its secrets. Each book you find on the shelves will lead you to another, related, tome, while the shop’s intuitive owners will guide you onwards to parallel topics that you hadn’t even thought of when you first entered the shop. The world of Mali Neboder (a real existing shop which can be visited in person) is an appropriate metaphor for Daša Drndić’s own books, in which the big themes of the twentieth century are entwined with the lives of little people, rambling digressions, and a tangle of micro-histories that frequently shed light on our hunt for a bigger picture. © Fraktura Drndić’s death in June 2018 came at the time when her international reputation was just achieving critical mass. Her 2007 novel Sonnenschein, published in English as Trieste in 2014, garnered major-newspaper reviews and was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. A flurry of further English translations followed, beginning with her earlier novel Leica Format (first published in 2004)