It’s the last weekend in August and I am considering best day trips from Zagreb. As Nik and I are driving to my Mum’s house in Bjelovar (a town 80 km away from Zagreb) we notice a billboard for the Koprivnica Renaissance festival. Bingo!
The festival was amazing, but how can you find out about it? Or is it the question of the fewer people know about, the better it is?
Beyond Zagreb events
Koprivnica is a small town an hour’s drive from Zagreb in the region called Podravina. If you’ve even heard of Podravina it’s in the connection to the Croatian naive painting. Every Zagreb city guide will point you to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. You should definitely see it, but know that the best naive painters were born in Podravina villages – Ivan Generalic was from Hlebine where you can see more of his work in the Gallery of naive art.
There is no Renaissance castle left in Koprivnica, but the spirit was definitely there for the weekend. The old moat was superbly used to lay out numerous tents showcasing Renaissance crafts, food and drinks. In the afternoon the staging of knight fighting caught everyone’s attention. The area was neatly organised and by strolling around you had just enough space and just enough crowds around you. No elbowing or grasping for air.
Food and drinks – all made of nettle
The name Koprivnica roughly translates as ‘nettle town’. The festival proudly showed what delicacies could be made from this medicinal herb: nettle beer, liqueur, honey, pasties, pies and other types of baked goodies.
My head was spinning with delight, but my stomach was too full to try everything. Best of all – you can’t buy these products in a shop. They are made by small local producers which don’t stock in supermarkets.
If you’re an animal lover like me, you might get appalled by the way meet was prepared and served. But just remember – this was the way they ate in the Renaissance times. Try getting past your initial repulsion, and you might appreciate the ancient culinary expertise. For example, you can taste ox on a spit, rabbit stew cooked on open fire, carp on a spit and all types of sausages and bacon (smoked, cooked, grilled).
Vegetarians don’t end up hungry either. I tasted the amazing tangy pepper spiced cheese, saur kraut and mlinci (type of flat bread) and all kinds of brick oven baked bread.
I’m not a huge alcohol drinker, but I simply couldn’t skip the beer of the day – monastery nettle ale. It was superbly brewed by a new Croatian craft brewery Nova runda especially for this occasion. If my picky palate approved, then you know you have an amazing drink.
Eco-friendly day trip
What was even more impressive was that the Festival was eco-friendly and avoided plastic glasses. If you wanted a drink, you had to rent a clay jug, carry it around and return it at the exit – what a great strategy!
The Renaissance festival takes place every year in late August. Believe me, it’s one of the best day trips from Zagreb you can take. It’s been going on for 9 seasons and I only found out about it now. Even though the official marketing is slow, it seems that the locals know where the fun is. The place was packed and judging from the visitors’ number plates, there are people from around continental Croatia who have been tipped off.
I promised friends I’d take them along next year. I also pledged to get a Renaissance dress so that I can blend in with the locals, who managed to transport us to a whole different time by dressing up in their hand-made costumes.
If you plan to visit Zagreb in August and want to have a fun day out, get in touch for more tips. Or join me and my friends!