Image credit: breki74
With Eastern Europe increasingly appearing on the ‘to-do lists’ of both travellers and tourists, a visit to the Croatian capital – with its clash of old and new – should be somewhere near the top. Its location, just three hours from the Adriatic Coast, on the slopes of the Medvednica Mountains, makes it a great base for holiday-makers of any persuasion.
If three hours to the coast seems too much of a stretch, it’s only a short hop from the city centre to Jarun Lake; a 2km artificial waterhole created for the 1987 World Student Games. Cool off with a swim or rent a pedalo, canoe or windsurf. If you don’t want to get your feet (or the rest of you) wet, there’s a sports centre nearby, where skateboarders, rollerskaters and cyclists appear in abundance when the weather’s fine.
A pebble beach at Veliko Jezero is popular with picnickers, and sunbathers gather at Malo Jarunsko Jezero, the eastern end of the lake where a thin island creates a shaded bay. Take advantage of the area’s excellent nightlife where clubs and cafés cluster the shore.
Loosely translated as ‘Bear Mountain’, the hulking Medvednica Nature Park encompasses a ski resort and winter sports centre complete with cosy mountain huts. For warm weather weekenders, hiking and mountain biking are a popular activity for those looking for a breath of fresh air. The mountain’s rich beech forests turn from deep green in the summer months through to spectacular shades of flaming orange during the autumn.
The Veternica Cave, on the southwest side of the mountain, is open to visitors at the weekends during the summer and the medieval silver mine attracts historical re-enactors. Definitely one for those who like donning a suit of armour and waving a sword about…or those who just like to spectate.
West of Zagreb, the picturesque medieval town of Samobor, at the foot of the alpine Massif Mountain, boasts a pleasant climate some two degrees warmer than the city centre. Alongside its attractive baroque architecture and sheltered location, the town has cultivated a bourgeoning artistic scene, becoming home to painters, sculptors and poets alike, making it worth a visit for those with a bohemian inclination.
Its bustling market squares are surrounded by highlands, making it an attractive and picturesque place to soak up the atmosphere at one of the local cafes. Sample a slice of the local kremšnite, a vanilla and custard cream cake, rumoured to be among the country’s finest. The area is also known for Bermet, a local aromatic wine flavoured with wormwood.
Known as the City of Four Rivers, this beautiful town was designed in the 16th century to resemble a six pointed star as a fortification against invading Turks. With a vibrant cultural life, it’s a nascent centre for tourism and, as such, offers a host of activities from paint balling and mountain treks to swimming at the city beach.
With four rivers to choose from, pick one to suit your tastes: the Mrežnica River’s white water and waterfalls are ideal for canoeing; the calmer Dobra is ideal for families, sailing and picnics, while fishing is popular on the Kupa river. Townsfolk often describe their beer drinking as the town’s fifth river, so it’s a great place to stay an evening, kick back with a bottle or two and simply watch the world go by. Indeed, until recently Karlovac’s main industry was the local beer Karlovačko.
Only a short drive to the east of Zagreb is the nation of Slovenia and just under 90 miles away is the capital, Ljubljana. It’s a lively baroque city, one of Europe’s smallest capitals, and its population of students, artists and street performers lend it a youthful air. Permanent attractions are plentiful; from museums and galleries to the medieval old town and castle which overlooks the city to the picturesque bridges which cross its central river, the Ljubljanica.
The city plays host to a number of events all year round, from pop-up playgrounds to works created by local artists. Those wanting to explore that little bit further should check out the autonomous Metelkova City, a hub of counter culture in the centre of the capital.
1 hour 40 minutes