I love doing things on the spur of the moment!
This was one of those occasions.
My poet friend and neighbour in Podgora, Dubravka Boric, was recently awarded 3rd prize out of hundreds of entries for her poem, ‘ORANGES’
Poets from all corners of Croatia had been invited to submit their entries into this most prestigious competition. Dubravka, originally from the little picturesque village of Pucisca on the Island of Brac, has only recently begun to realise her potential as a poet of distinction, writing in the old dialect of her beloved Brac. Dubravka was overwhelmed by her success!
The evening of folklore entertainment, poetry, and prize – giving promised to be an evening of sheer fun and cultural entertainment. Out of the blue I was invited to accompany her and some members of her family to the Zagorje Region near Zagreb to attend the celebrations. Within half an hour my bags were packed and we set off on a 3 day adventure to firstly claim her prize, discovering many delights along the way, and also to visit some magical places of special interest.
Travelling north from Split we turned inland and passed through Knin on our way past Plitvica Jezera, and the sleepy town of Slunj. I have passed through here many, many times but had never stopped to visit Rastoke just on the outskirts of Slunj. Dubravka’s son, Ratko, and wife Giulija, had prepared a picnic lunch. A white linen tablecloth appeared from the picnic basket and was soon covered with plates of local prsut, (prosciutto) cheeses, freshly sliced tomatoes, peppers, various spreads, home-baked bread, and fresh fruit. Here on the banks of the river at Rastoke, old mills and gushing streams from nearby Plivica Lakes create a living museum showing how life used to be in past centuries.
Our accommodation at Kozje Klet was outstanding. Built only recently from recycled ancient stone, bricks and timber, the guest house resembled a home of great character, with wide timber floors, and each comfortable room tastefully designed with ethnic flair. The doonas and pillows are feather filled, and the views out over the valley beyond were so picturesque.
Dinner and conversation by candlelight was so pleasureable……
Next morning after a sumptious breakfast of a variety of fresh local cheeses, plates of finely sliced smoked meat delicacies, a bowl of homemade tart plum jam to accompany the cheeses, scrambled free-range eggs and mushrooms, and excellent coffee, we set off for Trakoscan Castle about a 30 minute drive.
We were not disappointed! What a magical sight! Home to the Family Draskovic for many centuries, it certainly lived up to all I had ever heard about it and read about it.
As the day drew to a close we tried to have a rest before Dubravka’s special evening. Excitement about what was soon to unfold prevented us from have our usual afternoon siesta…we arrived at the Bedekovicna School and soon the hall was filled with poets, guests, and dignatories. The evening began, Dubravka was first to be called on stage to recite her poem. Without a tremor of stage-fright, she walked to the centre stage and recited her poem with a great deliverance. The audience loved it and Dubravka beamed such a smile, and gave thanks to those who had given her such a wonderful opportunity.
The evening was sensational, and the folklore mesmerised us with colour, song and dance accompanied by a traditional ‘tamburica’ band, followed by supper and wines as guests mingled and new friendships were made.
We were determined to buy some apple cider vinegar to take home to Dalmatia, so famous here in the Zagorje Region. We farewelled our wonderful hosts at Kozlje Klet and made our way across the valley following directions to the home of some local people who would happily supply us with our vinegar. Our unplanned, unannounced arrival was all taken in the stride of these most hospitable country folk. Dubravka struck up a lively conversation with the lovely Jasna and before long, after a little encouragement, she was reciting her poem yet once again in the living room of total strangers who responded with goose-bumps! Cider vinegar purchased, we made our way slowly to the front gate, promising to keep in touch and come again some time in the future.
Not to be missed is a visit to the sweetest Baroque town of Samobor, a short 20 minutes from Zagreb towards the Slovenian border. We were just in time for Sunday Mass and then made our way to the prettiest little boutique hotel to sit in the garden and treat ourselves to the famous dessert of ‘kremiste‘, a light as a feather creamy cake with light flaky pastry. Delicious!
As we made our way home to Dalmatia, we all agreed the long journey had been very worthwhile and we wished to return to Zagorje again in the not too distant future.