Things to do in Prigorje and Zelina

The area from southern slopes of Medvednica to the river Sava is considered to be the Prigorje region, with the center in the town of Sveti Ivan Zelina. In this rural area were hillocks and fertile plains are intertwined, agriculture is the main activity. Of course, that entails plenty of good food, wine, and options for anti-stress excursions to nature. Prigorje may not boast the title of a well-known attraction, but its mysteriousness is its main feature–only the ones in the know come to visit and relax in a peaceful, rural idyll. Under that lightness of being, centuries of quiet, yet rich history are hiding, and you can find all that only around half an hour from Zagreb.

Where the plain of Posavina meets Prigorje, lies the town of Dugo Selo, leaning onto the eastern parts of Zagreb, with which it is connected by train. In the center, first make a stop next to the Grounds of Count Drašković, where the Drašković family used to own a castle of which only a tower remains. However, the history of the town is chiefly marked by the templars and St. Martin of Tours. At the slightly elevated area a few kilometers away from the park, lies the most prominent local notability–the Church of St. Martin on the Hill. The ruins of the old Gothic estate more than 800 years old deserve the credit for getting the first Croatian Footprint of St. Martin in Dugo Selo, thus making it a part of the pilgrimage route that connects more than ten European countries. “Following the footprints of St. Martin” is the name of the Dugo Selo biking trail that leads from the center of the town to the tourist site Martin Breg. Nearby, there is also the popular estate of the Bunčić family–it used to be a “klet” (country house), and now, it is a holistic catering complex with accommodation. This is the first location that springs to mind when you need a place for celebration in the Dugo Selo area.

If you continue towards the east, you will get to Vrbovec, the birth place of Marija Jurić Zagorka and Petar Zrinski. The Zrinski tower, heritage of the Zrinski family, is the only remaining part of what used to be a medieval fortress. Now, it is the trademark of Vrbovec. Little outside the city, you can visit the manor Lovrečina grad, that is much older than its baroque embellishments from the 19th century lead you to believe.  For nature therapy, you need to go a bit more towards the south, where you can find the protected zoological reserve Varoški lug. In this magical oak and European hornbeam forest, you can climb a watchtower and observe a multifarious animal world, from black stork to deer. Vrbovec is best known for the event Kaj su jeli naši stari(What our forefathers used to eat), a festival of homemade, almost forgotten traditional dishes. One of such meals is the delicious, savory pie called vrbovečka pera, and you can find it in several local restaurants; for example, in Galerija.

In the heart of Prigorje, in between the slopes of Medvednica and the Lonja River, there is the town of Sveti Ivan Zelina. The story about the Zelina area is best told by the Sveti Ivan Zelina Museum located in the center of the town. Right next to it, on a hill, there is the parish Church of St. John the Baptist, connected to the beginnings of the town development in the 12th century. Archaeologists have always been busy in this area, because it had been inhabited since the Bronze Age. From all the historical notabilities, the ruins of Zelingrad are the most prominent. Zelingrad used to be a medieval castle that overlooked the paths that crossed here. The knight-like history of this area is still alive through the activities of the Zelingrad Knights and their knight tournament, a spectacle for the whole family. As Zelingrad is now secluded and surrounded only by woods, it is convenient to combine the visit with a light walk along the Zelina Hill educational eco-trail, that ends on Kladeščica, the peak of Zelina Hill. Southwest of the town, on the mild green hillocks, there are numerous vineyards, through which the Zelina Wine Road leads. The main product is the autochthonous variety Kraljevina, a mild and fresh white wine, ideal for warm days. The klet Ljubekov gaj is a good choice for pairing the local dishes and wines in the pleasant rural ambient, and make sure to ask for a loparka from a wood-fired oven, a local version of the savory gibanica dish.

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