Things to do in Turopolje
Turopolje, a micro-region south of Zagreb, to which it naturally gravitates, takes pride in its long and glorious history. For centuries, it has been known as the “Noble Municipality of Turopolje”, whose proud people were never serfs to anyone. Many years ago, this area abounded with oak forests, was roamed by multitudes of aurochs (Croatian: tur), an extinct cattle species which Turopolje, it is said, was named after. Times have somewhat changed, but Turopolje remains a quiet, lowland rural area, with an abundance of untouched nature, rich cultural heritage and an intriguing past. Its focal point is Velika Gorica, the largest town in Zagreb County and the best starting point for exploration.
The most important building in the center of Velika Gorica is an elegant single-story house, built in the mid-18th century, which once served as the town hall for the Noble Municipality of Turopolje and today it serves as the Museum of Turopolje. It is a place where you can delve into the centuries of Turopolje history and culture through a unique archaeological, ethnographic, cultural and historical collection. Right nearby is the attractive Visitor Center of the Tourist Board of Velika Gorica, where you can get the best information on how to get around Turopolje.
The Andautonia Archaeological Park in the nearby settlement of Šćitarjevo shows that life was vibrant here a few thousand years ago as well. The 1st-century remains of ancient Roman structures reveal that a strategically important settlement and the main hub of this part of the Pannonia province stood here. The Days of Andautonia annual event revives the customs of those times.
Some centuries later, ancient Turopolje locals mastered the art of wood building. Since the entire area was rich in wood, the European oak in particular, it was only logical that it would be used to build houses, from the modest homes of peasants to those of well-off people, as well as sacral buildings. That is why Turopolje nowadays has its wooden beauties. About a dozen beautiful wooden churches and chapels have been preserved, and the biggest and most impressive is the Chapel of St. Barbara in Velika Mlaka, built in the 17th century.
The fort of Lukavec was also originally built from wood, but was later replaced by the only stonework fortification in Turopolje. Its core purpose was to defend from the Ottoman conquests, but it was also the place where the nobility of Turopolje met and held council. Turopolje locals still keep the custom of St. George festivities, saying farewell to winter and celebrating spring. The biggest bonfire is lit precisely in front of Lukavec.
The Turopolje Grove is a small remainder of a huge prehistorical forest between Velika Gorica and Sisak. Vrata od krča (the Timber Gate) is a cultural monument originally erected in 1779 to commemorate the clearing of the forest, and today it stands as a symbol of the centuries-old bond between the local population and the forest's abundance. These woods were once freely roamed by the Turopolje pig, an ancient indigenous breed whose preservation is nowadays a priority, and its meat a true delicacy, once even served in the Imperial Court of Vienna.
If you are looking to connect with the forest and the Turopolje wildlife, an ideal way to do this is a walk on a well-kept trail, such as the nine kilometers long Šumarica Educational Trail, through the gentle beauty of Vukomeričke gorice, between the villages of Krušak and Kozjača. And the local forests hide a recently discovered underground treasure—the black truffle. Several varieties of this prized fungus have been found, and it is increasingly present in the restaurant menus of Velika Gorica and its vicinity (for instance, at Mon Ami or Babriga).
An exploration of Turopolje is best concluded by savoring the local cuisine at one of the picnic areas or rural households, such as the family favorites Ključić brdo in Vukomeričke gorice or Odranski ribič, right by the river. The ethnographic pearl called Turopoljski grunt of the Dianežević family in Kurilovec will serve as a time machine, taking you a century or two back with its blend of folklore, old customs and traditional food.
Although it is not known as a wine growing area, you can enjoy a quality drink in Turopolje. The Brgljević Family Distillery in Velika Gorica will be happy to invite you for a taste of its award-winning rakija spirits and liqueurs, as well as Croatia's first craft gin.