Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Green Ring of Zagreb

The life in smaller places and villages that surround Zagreb is calmer and simpler than in the big city, so it is easier to create, and especially to take care of local traditions, some of which are centuries old. The tame and fertile land of the Green Ring of Zagreb has been inhabited for a long time and it has a rich history. Even though the whole belt shares many similarities, each area proudly protects its peculiarities. Something that, to a modern spectator, may seem like an obsolete tradition and romantic folklore, is actually a part of the inhabitants' identity, and an important piece of a treasure trove of Croatian culture. The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage is a praise to the authenticity and beauty of culture that has been developing for centuries in the nation, among ordinary people who have not written history, but who have certainly lived it. The Zagreb area has contributed to the Croatian catalogue of cultural heritage with versatile and interesting elements of tradition.

  1. Gingerbread craft–northern Croatia

The sight of the colorful licitar cheers all of us up, but did you know that this cute little ornament represents us on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List? Licitar is crafted by “Medičari” (gingerbread-makers), who also make candles, gingerbread, and the beverages mead and honey brandy. Honey (Croatian: med) used to be used instead of sugar, so the connection is clear. The tradition has spread from the medieval monasteries across middle Europe and onto the north of Croatia, into the arms of craftsmen. Licitar is actually a skillfully crafted piece of dough made from flour, sugar, water and baking soda, shaped using a special mold, adeptly colored and decorated. Today, it is a recognizable souvenir, and it used to be bestowed as an ornament or a gift for special occasions. In the Zagreb County area, there are several hardworking gingerbread handicrafts that you can visit and get to know their tradition: Oslaković and Arko in Samobor, Saraga in Velika Gorica and Bičak in Bedenica.

  1. Kajkavian Donja Sutla (Ikavian) regiolect –Brdovec

While you can touch the majority of other items from the Green Ring of Zagreb that belong to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Donja Sutla Ikavian has to be heard. It is quite an infrequent, somewhat unusual phenomenon. Despite the fact that the number of people who speak Ikavian Kajkavian is even bigger, the Donja Sutla regiolect is completely specific. The explanation where Ikavian along the Sutla River comes from lies in the historical circumstances–a larger number of Chakavian speakers moved here in the 16th century while escaping the Ottomans, and with time, they have accepted the local manner of speech, but have also kept something from their maternal regiolect. This combination still lives in the areas of Brdovec, Marija Gorica, parts of Pušća and the marginal part of Dubravica.

  1. Opanak-craft Kruh Vuk–Ivanić-Grad

When the tradition of one family becomes a piece of Intangible Cultural Heritage, you can be assured that that is an extraordinary accomplishment. Especially when it comes to opanak, the archaic shoe of our ancestors that is really rare to see these days. However, before modern shoes came to be, handmade footwear made of leather and bound with leather belts was the standard, and there have been many versions of opanak in the wider area. The Kruh Vuk family continues with the tradition and skillfully makes craft pieces of shoes shaped with folklore and heritage.

  1. Rudarska greblica–Rude

The humble, savory pie from Rude is not only our cultural heritage, but it is also the first, and for now the only protected food item from Zagreb County. In its essence a peasant dish made from always available ingredients, greblica has been a practical meal that the local miners used to take to work. Between the two layers of thin, crisp pastry, there is a filling made with fresh cheese, walnuts and leaf vegetables. Greblica was named after the traditional wooden tool used for shoveling the ashes in the wood-fired oven in which it used to be baked. The process of making it is standardised these days, and the bakery Nikl from Rude became synonymous with greblica. You can enjoy greblica on the traditional Rudarska greblica Days, an event held every summer in Rude.

  1. Kraluš–Samobor and Sveta Nedelja

Kraluš is a traditional piece of neck jewellery worn for special occasions along with folk costume, even though it dates from a more recent time–the oldest information about it come from the beginning of the 20th century. Colorful pearls and beads are threaded onto horse hair strings, or, these days, onto nylon strings, to form very intricate and complex patterns. Other than being sumptuous and elegant, kraluš also used to give away pieces of information about the age and the marital and social status of a woman wearing it. There are several versions of it, and the most precious is plaited kraluš, followed by a bit more modest version called “kraluš na košic”. The most notable is the Samobor kraluš, and kraluš from Sveta Nedelja is protected as well. The demanding craft has been passed from generation to generation, and the hardworking hands still make kraluš and keep the tradition alive.

  1. Plaited (Croatian: pletena) koladra–Slavetić

Koladra is another form of jewellery worn at ceremonies, similar to kraluš, but still unique in many things and specific to the limited area of Jastrebarsko. Other than that, the history of koladra stems from the 19th century, and supposedly, its tradition came from the common people to the nobility. This necklace is made by threading rows of beads until the desired pattern and shape are achieved. The process of making it takes a lot of time and is complicated, but the reward comes in the form of a unique and impressive ornament that looks good when worn with folk costume, but also when worn with a modern evening gown.

  1. Turopolje regiolect–Turopolje

The Turopolje regiolect belongs to the Kajkavian dialect of Croatian language, but it is completely different and specific because it has kept some characteristics from the old times. It is still alive; not merely a remainder of something that used to live, and the oldest written mentions of it come from the 16th century. It was explored by some of our distinguished linguists in the second half of the 20th century, and they agreed that the Turopolje regiolect is not only a part of local identity, but also a part of Croatian cultural heritage as well.

  1. Jurjevo Turopolje processions–Velika Gorica

St. George's Day (St. Juraj) is observed across whole northwestern Croatia as the coming of spring and as a marker of yet another fruitful year to come. This tradition stems from pagan times, and it is especially notable for the Velika Gorica area.  It includes the processions across villages, when young men and young women go around the village houses, receive gifts and sing songs about Jarilo. The main part of the celebration is making large, Jurjevo bonfires made of straw to symbolically chase winter away. Despite the fact that these days the ceremony is done mostly by the members of folklore societies as a form of reliving the heritage, the Jurjevo bonfire held in Velika Gorica park and in front of the old Lukavac walls is a popular and important event for the whole area.

  1. Linen and weaving workshop–Ivanić-Grad

Even though it still is not officially on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List, this project from the Moslavina area surely deserves to be there.  If you go to the Ivanić-Grad Visitor Center, you will see linen towels as souvenirs of the town and of Zagreb County. Reliving the process of making this old-fashioned item unknown to modern generations relies on the tradition that has almost disappeared. The plains east of Zagreb used to abound with flax fields, and flax used to be processed, woven and used daily in the households. Thanks to the enthusiasm of some people, flax is planted and processed on the old looms again, and the linen story is still continued, be it thread by thread.

  1. Vrbovečka pera - Vrbovec

There is no shortage of traditional savoury cakes in Zagreb County, and savoury cake vrbovečka pera really is special.  Rolled into a circle, it was prepared for special occasions, and was most often made from leftover bread dough, which would then be stretched and filled with a mixture of cottage cheese, cream, cornmeal and eggs. Although the pera is a dish that has a long tradition, there is not much record of its preparation, because the recipe for this specialty has been successfully passed down from mother to daughter for years. Vrbovečka pera can be found at fairs and events such as the "What our forefathers ate" (Kaj su jeli naši stari) food festival, and an initiative has been launched to finally protect the original recipe.

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