The Colours, Smells and Taste of Autumn in Zagreb
Every season has its attractions, but the autumn in Zagreb and around it is truly special. It is hard to say is it because of the autumn's natural beauty or because of the positive energy filling the air. The secret probably lies in the combination of the visible and the invisible, the call of nature beckoning people to go out. The summer heat is easing off, the city is filling up with people and the weather is perfectly suited for spending time outdoors. No matter whether you are in the city or in its green surroundings, the possibilities for enjoying those pleasant autumn days just keep piling up. The citizens of Zagreb are relaxed after summer holidays, energised and eager to socialise. Streets and squares are teeming with life again, and all around one can sense the need to use the time left until winter to the fullest.
The social life in the open air varies from sitting out on café or restaurant terraces, casual walks, barbecue parties, to day trips, recreation and sports. Hints of the quiet arrival of autumn can clearly be seen in the parks of the Lower Town. Just a look at the hundred-year-old treetops reveals all the charm of the autumn palette – the bright green colours of summer gradually make room for the discrete shades of yellow, orange and red. The taste of corn on the cob from street vendors brings back summer memories, until the seductive smell of roast chestnuts takes over and confirms the arrival of autumn. The menus of the city cake shops, bistros and restaurants also adjust to the seasonal changes. Various food and drink festivals, as well as open-air cultural events, have good reasons to aim for the dates in September and early October. Everything is buzzing with activity, whether it is just pure pleasure or work in the garden, in the fields, around the house or in the kitchen.
The weather is perfect for hiking on Medvednica, Samobor Hills or Žumberak, discovering Zagreb's park-forests like Grmoščica or Dotrščina, cycling along Jarun and the Embankment, fishing on the lakes by the Sava River. In the forests everyone has an open invitation to mushroom and chestnut foraging, and there are many events in the picturesque small towns of Zagreb County dedicated to the fruits of autumn. In rural areas, most of the work on farms is done, and that needs to be celebrated properly. Ivanić-Grad is known for its pumpkin fest, an eventful weekend when a broad spectrum of pumpkin products and specialties is presented. Chestnut festival in Zelina puts focus on roast chestnuts and outdoor fun, but does not lack in a wide selection of homemade dishes, entertainment acts and recreational activities. Mushroom fests are an opportunity to get familiar with the world of mushrooms and their culinary potential, but also an excellent excuse to spend a great day out with your family. Fishermen would recommend freshwater fish festivals, when the day’s catch ends in cauldrons over open fire, to the joy of visitors who can taste and rate the skill of amateur cooks.
The very end of summer is the right moment to take part in a grape harvest in one of the numerous vineyards on three wine roads around Zagreb – Samobor, Zelina and Plešivica. The first thing to come out is the sweet nectar called must, a nice companion to seasonal autumn dishes. The harvest and grape processing are followed by traditional wine festivities, culminating on St. Martin's Day. Wine celebrations with a hearty dinner and the old ritual of baptising the must are organized in many places, from fine establishments in the city to farm restaurants and inns. Young wine, chestnuts, mushrooms, apples, pears, quinces, homemade jams, pickles, the sky full of migrating birds, dry leaves under the feet – these are all tell-tale signs of the change of seasons. Luckily, there are plenty of reasons in Zagreb to look forward to September, and actually it is very easy to accept the natural order of things and enjoy the colours, smells and taste of another romantic autumn in the city.