There's a funny thing about roads in Croatia. You come to learn pretty quickly (and see the humor in it) while driving around that roads will often turn from normal and paved, to dirt, and will just... end. Cam's Croatian teacher told a story about he and his brother swimming off the Dalmatian Coast when their friend told them about a great restaurant up in the hills that they just had to try. But of course! they responded. So they set out in their car, following the appointed road to get there, taking all the curves, turning to dirt as it winded up and up... and then... it just ended. They never made it to the restaurant. "You will see, Captain," his teacher chuckled with a sparkle in his eye, "what I mean about roads in Croatia."
Other times, like in Zagreb, there will be a two-lane major road, but then all of a sudden it's a two-way and you're headed straight into on-coming traffic. Or, in our case on the day we were exploring the beautiful region of Zagorje, north of Zagreb, a road can lead you to homemade wine and a spread of delicious local food.
We left in the morning after our usual kava sa mlijekom, excited to see Trakoscan Castle, the region of Zagorje, and we also hoped to drink some wine, as some of the best in the country is said to come from the regions around Zagreb. We found the castle (beautiful!) and saw a very small sign pointing to go past it for wine tasting. We followed the quiet road through little villages, each with it's own church steeple in the center, pastures with chickens and grazing sheep, small orchards next to nearly every home, roses too. The countryside was gorgeous! So green and quiet, with rolling fields of corn and vineyards on most of the steep hillsides. We'd driven maybe 30 minutes before passing a young man on a tractor who looked at both of us as we drove by as if to say, "Hey! You're not in my family and you're not one of my neighbors, who are you and how did you get here?!" There were a couple homes we passed with families sitting outside around a table eating together. It was a national holiday that day. They also looked at us like, "I've never seen you in my life?" Finally we came to another small village (Brezni) after rows and rows of corn and another little sign pointing the way up a very narrow road. It quickly became one-way and curved up through an old abandoned village of thatched tiny barns and houses built into the hillside. Cam down shifted again to get us up another steep curve, thinking we had definitely gone the wrong way and were lost (but it was beautiful land and a beautiful day!) when we came down a steep ridge with vineyards sprawling on either side. We found it. The small winery with a big wooden table outside and the very kind Vesna (in the first photo) who came out smiling and waving, dobar dan! when she heard us pull up.
We tried the crni vino, red wine, along with salami, prosciutto, cheese, strukli, bread, tomatoes and dried boar. Everything was domacinstvo, homemade and grown on their land. Vesna, who was a very sweet and attentive hostess, is also the winemaker while her husband makes and cures the meats. She showed us all of their vegetables next to the fruit trees, growing at the bottom of the steep slopes where their vines showed off juicy red and white clusters of grapes, waiting to be harvested in a few weeks. It was a wonderful meal in an idyllic setting, one of those afternoons where you just shake your head in thanksgiving, wondering how you came to be in such a fascinating place... and that the road to get there didn't just end.
You can find Vesna's winery and restaurant above the village of Bresni, in the hills behind Trakoscan Castle. Looking out from her property you can see Slovenia! Her website can be found here.