Friday, October 18, 2019

Vina Deak: Pošip, Seafood & Ficovic Restaurant

During my time in Croatia, we spent one morning touring the Walls of Ston, impressive medieval fortifications which are said to be the second largest preserved fortification system in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China. These walls were used for a few scenes in Game of Thrones, and I'll later post plenty of photos from this location. Walking along those walls, and climbing numerous stairs, I worked up a hearty appetite, which would soon be sated by some amazing seafood and delicious Croatian wines.

We stopped in the village of Hodilje, a couple kilometers north of Ston, and had lunch at the Ficovic Restaurant, a casual seafood restaurant with its own small beach, where customers can even go for a swim before or after dining. During our lunch, several people took advantage of the small beach to either catch some sun or take a little dip. The photo at the top shows one of the approaches to the water and the gorgeous view from our exterior table.

We were there to meet the Deak family, including father Damir, wife Marijana, and son Dino, of Vina Deak, one of the Komarna wineries. We would taste three of their wines with lunch, pairing them with some incredibly fresh and delicious seafood. It was a leisurely and fun tasting, providing a nice context for evaluating the wines with food.

Damir, in the blue shirt in the above photo, was previously employed as the director of a company that purchased numerous agricultural products. After sixteen years, he sold that company, invested in a tourism business, and then decided to get involved in the wine business. In 2012, Damir purchased 22 hectares of land, becoming the youngest member of the cooperative. Six of those hectares are dedicated to olive trees, and they produce several types of olive oil. Currently, their vineyards are planted with about 70% Plavac Mali and 30% Pošip.

This is very much a small, family business and last year they produced only 5,000 bottles of wine while this year, they expect to increase production to about 7500-8000 bottles. This is their third year in the commercial market in Croatia and they haven't yet started exporting any of their wines. However, they will soon start exporting some to the U.S., most likely their Pošip and Rosé. Their production is primarily sold to restaurants though that seems as if it will change in the coming years as they start exporting their wines. Within Croatia, their wines generally sell for $12-$18 US per bottle, which is a very reasonable price for the quality of their wines.

Our time with the Deak family at lunch was illustrative of a significant aspect of Croatian wine, the excellent pairing of Pošip & Seafood. Pošip is primarily produced in the Dalmatian region, where seafood is prominent, so its popularity is easy to understand. With all of the seafood available in the Boston area, then it makes sense that Pošip should also be an available option here. This lunch wouldn't be the first, or only time, I drank Pošip with seafood, and each other time I've experienced this pairing has only further solidified its efficacy in my mind.

The Pošip grape is indigenous to the Croatian island of Korčula, which derives its name from an ancient Greek colony named Melaina Korkyra, Black Corfu. The origin of the term Pošip is a bit ambiguous, with two main theories. The first is based on the elongated shape of the grape while the other theory is the grapes once grew closely near pomegranate trees, known as šipak. Though some believed that Pošip was brought to the island by those ancient Greeks, DNA analysis has shown that Pošip was born from two other grapes, Bratkovina Bijela and Zlatarska Bistrica, both which are indigenous to Korčula.

In 1967, Korčula became a legally protected appellation, making Pošip the first Croatian white wine to be part of such an appellation. Though Pošip originated on Korčula, it has since spread throughout the Dalmatian region, becoming one of the most common and popular white grapes in this region. It is an early ripening grape, versatile and expressive of its terroir. You can find a wide variety of expressions, from stainless steel to oaked, fresh & dry to sweet dessert wines.

In general, Pošip wines can range from medium to full-bodied, possessing flavors of citrus to tropical fruits, and commonly have fresh acidity. They may have mineral notes, a taste of almonds, and might also have a high alcohol content, over 14% ABV. Much will depend on the terroir and winemaking style and I often preferred the unoaked versions of Pošip. It definitely is a fine pairing with seafood, from shellfish to grilled white fish, though it would also work with light chicken and similar dishes.

Our first wine of the lunch was the 2017 Vina Deak Ćaća Moj Pošip, and I'll first note that Ćaća Moj, the name of this brand of wines, basically translates as "my daddy." This Pošip was aged for about six months on the lees in stainless steel, saw no oak, and has a 14.3% ABV. With a bright golden color, it possessed an appealing nose of citrus with subtle floral notes. And on the palate, it was crisp and dry, fresh and creamy, with delicious flavors of citrus and hints of floral honey, and a subtler herbal note. It was tasty on its own, an elegant and well-balanced summery wine, but it also shined with the seafood that we were soon to enjoy.

Our initial course was the Hodilje Plate, which consisted of a bounty of seafood, including Fish Pâté, Marinated White Anchovies, Salted Sardines, Marinated Shrimp, Octopus Salad, and Olives. What a way to start a lunch! The anchovies were fresh, tender and flavorful, some of the best I've tasted. The pâté was creamy and complex, while the crunchy sardines were a salty treat. The Pošip wasn't overwhelmed by any of the foods, and its profile complemented the seafoods, especially those anchovies.

Then the avalanche of shellfish began, starting with fresh Ston Oysters. These famed European Flat Oysters are from the Mali Ston Bay, and have been harvested at least as far back as the ancient Romans, and possibly even earlier. The waters possess a distinctive nutrient blend, which creates a unique flavor in these oysters. I found them to have a pleasant brininess, not as briny as many New England oysters, but far more than West Coast oysters. They were plump and meaty, with a unique taste that is hard to pin down but which were quite delicious. During my time in Croatia, I certainly enjoyed plenty of these oysters. Just ask my traveling companions and they'll tell you how much I loved these oysters. Pošip and Oysters was a killer combination!

The Grilled Oysters, adding a touch of smoke and butter, were also quite tasty. Though I preferred the raw oysters, I still very much enjoyed these too.

We were then brought two large bowls of Mussels, Clams, and Noah's Ark Shells, in a compelling broth, with a great depth of flavor. This was the first time I've ever eaten Noah's Ark Shells, a unique type of clam that is native to the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. The elongated shell roughly resembles a tiny ark, which is obviously how it acquired its name. When cooked, the shell remains sealed, though there is a tiny slit which you can use to easily open the clam. Inside, you'll find a good-sized meaty clam. I devoured plenty of the scrumptious shellfish, not wanting any of it to go to waste.  Once again, the Pošip went well with the mussels and clams.

While enjoying the shellfish, the second wine was opened, the 2018 Vina Deak Ćaća Moj Rosé, made from 100% Plavac Mali. There are separate sections in the vineyard for the grapes that will be used for their Rosé, and the grapes undergo a short time of skin contact, though Plavac Mali still provides plenty of color. The wine, with a 13% ABV, spends about five months aging in stainless steel and sees no oak. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine, finding it to be fresh and crisp, dry and light-bodied, with tasty flavors of raspberry, cherry and a hint of citrus. Refreshing and juicy, its acidity makes it an excellent food wine, and it worked very well with the shellfish.

There was still more seafood to come! Sea Bream and Sole (though it is called List in Croatia). Fresh, tender white fish, simply prepared but with plenty of flavor. As they say, if you start with high quality ingredients, you don't have to do much to prepare it properly. The ingredients speak for themselves, delivering the taste you desire.

Finally, there were whole Squid, with a light char to them, again simply prepared and tasty.

I can't forget that we received a plate of greens and potatoes too, though with all the wonderful seafood, why fill yourself up with these?

With the white fish and squid, we enjoyed our final wine, the 2016 Vina Deak Ćaća Moj Plavac Mali, which was aged in 2nd year French oak for a year and then a second year in the bottle. With only a 13.5% ABV, it would be one of the lower alcohol Plavac Mali wines I'd taste while in Croatia. It was more of an elegant red wine, with prominent raspberry, plum, and black cherry flavors, accompanied by a touch of spice, well integrated tannins and good acidity. As it wasn't overly tannic or powerful, then it didn't strong-arm the fish. This would also be a good wine for pizza or burgers.

Overall, what a stunning lunch and tasting. The Ficovic Restaurant was a stellar seafood restaurant, with great food, excellent service, and a stunning view. Highly recommended! I was also impressed with the wines of Vina Deak, and my personal favorite of the three was their Rosé, though all three earn my hearty recommendation. Their Pošip is an excellent pairing for seafood and it's a grape that all wine lovers should learn about and taste. I look forward to when these wines finally get exported and become available in Massachusetts. The Deak family is making their mark in Komarna, and the future will be exciting.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
1) On Tuesday, October 22, starting with a Reception at 6:30pm, the Boston Harbor Hotel Chef Daniel Bruce and WhistlePig Whiskey representatives, including ambassador Jessica Kelly, are hosting a three-course WhistlePig Whiskey Dinner and Reception at Rowes Wharf Bar. WhistlePig is a band of dedicated Rye enthusiasts that transformed an old dairy farm into a Rye Whiskey distillery. The menu is as follows:

10 year
Oak Smoked, Burnt Orange, Chicken Thigh Rillette, Pineapple Sage
First Course
Char Grilled Diver Sea Scallop and Whiskey Glazed Berkshire Pork Belly (Nutmeg Laced Baked Pinto Beans, Caramelized Cipollini Onions)
Second Course
15 year (My personal favorite of the WhistlePig portfolio)
Roast Prime Petit Filet (Whiskey Laced Vanilla Spinach Cream, Crispy Wild Mushrooms)
Third Course
Green Apple “Brown Betty” (Bosshog Maple Caramel, Oat Streusel Ice Cream)

Tickets to the dinner are $150 per person. To purchase tickets, please log onto

2) On Saturday, November 2, from 11ma-1pm, Post 390 invites Bostonians with a sweet tooth to the 6th annual Rise and Rumble Donut Throwdown where guests will be able to sample and vote on a variety of creative donut flavors for the coveted title of Rise & Rumble Champion. This will also be Halloween themed and so many of the chefs will be donning costumes and guests are also encouraged to dress up! The Costumer Contest winner will get a $200 gift card to any Himmel Hospitality restaurant they choose.

Guests will enjoy Post 390’s brunch buffet, coffee, and espresso bar while enjoying endless donut samples. The Post 390 beverage team will be mixing up Bloody Marys, mimosas, cocktails, and offering a selection of craft beer to enjoy during the event.

Participating pastry chefs include: Post 390, Chef Alyx Abreu; Harvest, Chef Joshua Livsey; Bistro du Midi, Chef Justin Reynolds; Tiger Mama, Chef Dee Steffen Chinn; The Broadway, Chef Matty Dworkin; No. 9 Park, Chef Tab Volpe; The Table at Season to Taste, Chef Mary Edinger; Capo, Chef Marissa Hart

Tickets are available for $35 per person (inclusive of Post 390 brunch buffet and coffee bar) and can be found on Eventbrite.

3) Portsmouth and the Seacoast chefs are preparing for the Fall Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast from November 7–16. You have 45+ reasons to visit this charming and delicious seacoast community with dozens of restaurants, breweries and hotels ready to welcome visitors and kick off Spring. Produced by the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth, Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast is a highly anticipated “ten days of Saturday nights” with the city’s top chefs going all out to showcase their restaurants and to thank visitors for their support throughout the year.

Located one hour north of Boston and one hour south of Portland, Maine, Portsmouth is an easy drive from all points New England. Known for its historic sites, architecture, festivals and coastal charm, Portsmouth attracts talented and ambitious chefs and restaurateurs who are creating a one-of-a-kind New England culinary destination.

Restaurants from all over the NH Seacoast are participating –including from the towns of Portsmouth, Durham, Epping, Exeter, New Castle, Newington, Rye, and Kittery, Maine. The Restaurant Week menus haven't been listed yet but you can keep an eye on the website for when they are posted.

Menu Prices: Lunch: Three Course Prix Fixe for $19.95; Dinner: Three Course Prix Fixe, $34.95 *Note: Some restaurants extend the $19.95 value price for dinner as well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Komarna: Exploring Croatia's Newest Wine Region

Sunset over the Pelješac Peninsula in Croatia, viewed from the Rizman Winery in the Komarna region. The natural beauty of Croatia is exquisite, from the mountains to the ocean, from the grape vineyards to the pebbly beaches. There is a special serenity accompanying these views, bringing with it an inner joy and a deeper connection to our natural world. Those living in more urban settings need to take time to visit such areas, to reclaim that connection.

One of the primary objectives of my recent journey to the Republic of Croatia was to visit and explore the Komarna appellation, the newest wine region in Croatia. This region is occupied by the K7 Cooperative, an association of seven wineries, including Rizman Winery, Saints Hill WinesVolarević WinesTerra Madre, Modro-zelenaNeretvanski Branitelj and Deak Family Farm. As I've mentioned previously, the K7 Cooperative is working with the Boston-based Croatian Premium Wine Imports, which has recently started importing their wines to Massachusetts. This import company is owned by Win Burke and Mirena Bagur, husband and wife, and they were also our guides during our trip to Croatia. 

The Komarna appellation is located in Southern Dalmatia, in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and across the water from the Pelješac Peninsula. Komarna is about 97 miles south of Split and 47 miles north of Dubrovnik. And the drive from either of these two cities to Komarna is quite scenic. The region takes its name from the tiny village of Komarna, which has a population of less than 200, and is located on the coast of the Mali Ston Bay.

Before grape vineyards were ever planted in Komarna, olive trees were most commonly planted in this region, and olives are still grown here, used to produce delicious olive oil. In addition, this region was once a popular hunting region, with wild boars being one of the most popular types of game. In 2008, grapes were first planted in this area by the Rizman Winery, and five years later, in 2013, Komarna became a legally recognized appellation.

When you walk through the vineyards in Komarna, you'll see plenty of rocks, as much of the land in this area is limestone with small amounts of topsoil. Some of the larger rocky areas needed to be blasted to make the land amenable to planting vines, so it wasn't easy or inexpensive to create these vineyards. The vines need to create deep roots, so time is needed for those vines to best express their grapes. As the years pass, these vineyards will produce better grapes.

Most of the vineyards face south and southwest, and receive about 2600 hours of sunshine annually. The intense heat of this region means that irrigation is necessary, though the heat doesn't stop the grapes from possessing excellent acidity. The vineyards are located from sea level up to an altitude of about 750 feet, and you'll find some vineyards with as much as an incline of 30%, which makes tending to the vines, as well as harvest, laborious and difficult. These vineyards reminded me in some ways of the vineyards in the Douro region of Portugal.

Komarna is the only Croatian appellation where all of the wineries are certified organic. This is an important stance and philosophy for all of the wineries in the K7 Cooperative, and extends beyond just their vineyards. Approximately 92% of their vineyards, which contain over 500,000 vines, are planted with indigenous Croatian grapes, including Plavac Mali, Pošip, Tribidrag, Maraština and Babic. Plavac Mali is the most planted variety, occupying over 60% of the acreage. A few international varieties, usually used as blending grapes, are grown as well, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Viognier.

The Komarna region consists of approximately 200 hectares, with about 82 of them planted with vineyards and additional hectares planted with olive trees. The Rizman winery is the largest, with about 22 hectares of vineyards and 7 hectares of olive trees. There is little room for additional vineyard growth in Komarna, with the wineries generally indicating they only have potentially 1-3 additional hectares that they can plant. As such, this region will remain a relatively small production area, each winery producing less than 7000 cases annually, unless at some point they extend the boundaries of the appellation, which doesn't seem likely in the near future.

The unity of the seven wineries in Komarna is a significant strength, helping to promote the general interests of the region. As there are only seven of them, it relatively easy for them to work as a unity, and they basically agree on all major decisions. For example, they all agreed to maintain organic vineyards throughout the region. In addition, they share information together, assisting each other with issues in the vineyards and in the winery. They can share their experiences with growing Plavac Mali, helping each other improve the quality of their grapes and wines. They are more akin to collaborators, and as Mihovil Rizman stated to me, "If you have quality, you have no competition."

A few of the wineries haven't yet started producing wine, but should in the near future. I tasted many of the Komarna wines that are currently available and overall, I was impressed with their quality, especially considering the youth of this region. I found the winery owners and winemakers to be sincerely passionate about their endeavors, and they certainly are driven to continue learning and improving their wines. Additionally, the different wineries shares commonalities, similar vinous philosophies, indicative of their basic unity. They are all also looking to the future, thinking of various ways to attract more wine consumers.

The diversity of the wines I tasted, Whites, Rosé and Reds, was compelling, especially the various expressions of Plavac Mali wines I encountered. Plavac Mali is a red grape that is worthy of attention. The Komarna wines were food friendly, wines which would appeal to almost any wine lover. There were easy drinking wines, great for everyday drinking, while there were also intriguing, complex wines which would brighten any special occasion. As I tasted a significant amount of Croatian wines from other regions besides Komarna, I can make some comparisons, and believe that the Komarna wines certainly hold their own against any other region. It's also fascinating that the quality of the Komarna wines will only continue to improve with more time. There is such great potential in this newest region and I can't wait to see what happens there in the next few years.

Currently, about 6,000 bottles of wines from Komarna have been exported to the U.S., and that number will grow each year. In the near future, additional tasting rooms will be constructed, and they will then all be joined by a wine trail. There are also plans to open a wine hotel at some point, desirous of promoting wine tourism, to keep visitors in the region for more than a single day. I also learned about a few future plans which I cannot yet write about, but which sound exciting and I look forward to when I'm able to share information about those projects.

I believe the future is extremely bright for Komarna, and in the next couple weeks, I'll be writing, in detail, about some of the wineries of this region and the wines they are producing. And if you're in the Boston area, you can buy wines from the Komarna region at these restaurants and wine shops.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Croatian Wine Production & Exports: Lots of Questions (Part 1)

The oldest advertisement I found in a U.S. newspaper for Croatian wines was in The Lake County Times, July 1, 1910 (Indiana). So, we know that Croatian wines have been exported to the U.S. for over 100 years. Croatian wines though were mentioned prior to 1910, in articles describing Croatia and the surrounding regions. For example, the Evening Star, January 17, 1898 (Washington D.C.), in an article describing Vienna cafes, mentioned that "In southern Tyrol, Styria, Corinthia, Moravia, Illyria, Dalmatia, Hungary, and Croatia first-class wine is made..."

How much Croatian wine is currently produced? And how much Croatian wine is now exported to the U.S.?

As I searched for answers, I found more questions and answers remained elusive to some degree. I uncovered some statistics, but others remained elusive, and few explanations seemed to be provided. One of the problems is that Vina Croatia, a website of The Wine Association in Croatian Chamber of Economy, appears to contain some statistical information but the site isn't operative.

In short, I did discover that at least from 2011-2017, wine production in Croatia decreased. That doesn't seem like it would benefit a country which is seeking to expand its wine exports, and trying to make a bigger name for itself in the world wine market. What was the reason for the decline? Has the decline stopped? How much wine is currently being produced in Croatia? How much of their wine is being exported, and specifically, how much is being exported to the U.S.?

Let's begin our examination with an article in Total Croatia Wine, January 9, 2018, which noted the decline in production. "Wine production in 2016 was 21.6 percent lower than 2015. Trends in 2017 are also negative and estimates are the 2017 production will be more than 10 percent smaller than 2016." A nearly 22% decline is quite significant, and no explanation for the decline was provided. Despite the production decline, there was an increase in exports. "In the first six months of 2017, the export of wine compared to 2016 was growing." Tempering that good news though was that "... the average export price dramatically fell in 2017 and is 2.25 euro per litre, while in 2016 it was 3.31 euro."

In Total Croatia News, June 25, 2018, a little more detail was provided on the value of Croatian wine exports. The article noted that from January to November 2017, wine exports reached 11.89 Million Euros, over 30% higher than the 8.73 Million Euros exported in 2016.

The Dubrovnik Times, November 17, 2018, provided the first positive news concerning wine production. It was noted that in 2018, Croatia would produce about 777,000 hectolitres of wine, 35% more than 2017. The first increase in a number of years and hopefully a sign that the decline is finally over. The EU has noted that this would be the "second largest growth in wine production this year, with only Slovenia with a growth of over 57 percent seeing a more impressive season." Despite the decline in 2017, that vintage would allegedly be "a memorable year for wine producers."

However, the Central European Financial Observer, December 15, 2018, stressed the problems from 2017. The article noted that in 2017, wine production revenues was about 68.1 Million Euros, noting the decline of production which had been occurring since 2011. From 2014-2018, Croatia receiving subsidy funding, totaling about 57 Million Euros, for their wine industry from the European Union through the Wine Sector Program. The results of this funding weren't largely positive. For example, the article also noted, "In 2017, 230 businesses were engaged in wine production, with 151 or 65.7 being profitable. 79 enterprises reported loss,..."

The Croatian Bureau of Statistics, March 15, 2019, presented a report on the 2016/2017 wine-growing year (from August 1, 2016 to July, 31 2017), noting that total production was 760K hectoliters. Total exports were only about 54K hectoliters, about 7% of total production, and which would translate into 600,000 cases of wine. No breakdown of the exports markets was provided, though other information I've seen states the U.S. is one of Croatia's top five markets for wine exports.

It's clear that Croatians drink most of the wine they produce, which was further supported by The Dubrovnik Times, March 18, 2019, which reported that Croatians drank about 22 liters of wine per capita, making them the third largest consumer in the world. Wine is certainly a significant aspect of their culture.

Finally, a very brief article in The Adriatic Journal, March 21, 2019, indicated that in 2018, Croatia exported about $16 Million Euros in wine, with 939K Euros sent to Serbia, a 35% increase from the prior year. No additional information on other export markets was provided.

While I was in Croatia, I didn't find any additional statistical information, though several wineries noted that production in 2018 had been largely positive. Aggregate statistics, for the entire country, for 2018 though should soon start being reported in the media, and we can then assess whether the decline in production continued or not.

The modern wine industry in Croatia is only about 25 years old, after Croatia declared its independence in 1991, and then prevailed in a subsequent war in 1995. Prior to this point, much of their wine production was directed toward quantity rather than quality. With their independence, this began to turn around, and I strongly suspect that the decline in production was primarily due to wineries seeking to create higher quality wines, at the expense of large quantities. So, though they make less wine, they are making better wines, and my own experiences tasting a variety of Croatian wines convinced me that they are creating plenty of excellent wines.

We should keep an eye on Croatian wine production in the coming years, and hopefully the decline in production will even out and we will start to see increases. Croatia isn't alone in its situation as other countries, with lengthy histories of wine production, have been involved in the modern wine industry for relatively short time periods. For example, Georgia is in a similar situation, after having attained its own independence for the Soviet Union.

It's important to support these countries, to help their economies by buying their wines. As I've written previously, it can be important to be a Wine ActivistPeter Weltman, a sommelier and writer in San Francisco, summed it up well by writing, "With our wine purchases, I believe, we can help advance regional peace, provide support for farmers in war-torn regions, have a voice in geopolitics, and aid in economic recoveries." As the wines of Croatia can be excellent, it should be an easy decision to purchase their wines.

Fortunately, in Massachusetts, Croatian wines are becoming more readily available, especially due to the recent efforts of Croatian Premium Wine Imports. They currently import a number of Croatian wines, from the Komarna appellation, and are working on importing others, from different regions of Croatia. Let's hope that the other local importers/distributors who have Croatian wines in their portfolios also start promoting those wines more. Make it your goal this season to try some Croatian wines.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Zagreb: Art & Shopping--Plus A New Fedora (Part 4)

Some of the rest of my free time in Zagreb was spent wandering around the city, and doing a bit of shopping. One of my goals was to acquire a new hand-made hat, and I was successful. During my wanderings, I also saw a number of interesting sculptures, which seems to be indicative of their love for art, as well as their desire to honor numerous individuals.

Above, at a local bookstore, I saw copies of the various Game of Thrones novels, by G.R.R. Martin, in Croatian. Plus, there were Harry Potter novels in Croatian. I wouldn't be able to read any of these books, but they certainly looked cool.

As I've mentioned before, Croatians invented the necktie, the cravate, which was basically a scarf tied in a knot around their necks. In 1635, the cravate wearing Croatians impressed King Louis XIII of France who helped to launch the fashion for the rest of Europe. So, there are plenty of shops in Zagreb where you can purchase ties and cravates.

There are two different statues of St. George and the Dragon in Zagreb. The above statue, created by Austrian sculptors Kompatscher and Winder, is located near the Stone Gate, showing St. George paying his respects to the slain dragon. The statue was originally displayed in Austria but in 1937, it was gifted to a person in Zagreb, and has been in its current location since 1994.

This is a bit of a strange bronze sculpture. Created by sculptor Vanja Radauš, it primarily depicts Petrica Kerempuh, known as Croatia's National Jester. He was a popular entertainer as well as a cynical commentator on current events. In folk stories, he was considered to be a wandering trickster, carrying a mandolin. However, I'm unsure why there is another figure (and who is represents) in the sculpture, a figure that appears to be possibly dead. My preliminary research didn't uncover that info so I need to go deeper.

In Ban Jelačić Square, the central square of Zagreb, located near the Dolac Market, you'll find this equestrian statue of Ban Josip Jelačić, who ruled from March 1848 to April 1859. The statue was created by Austrian sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn and put in place in 1866. In 1947, Yugoslavia chose to remove the statue from the square and it wasn't until October 1990 that the statue was restored to its place in the square. For Croatians, Jelačić is considered a positive historical figure,  though Hungary has a much different view of him.

The pigeons voted and this is their most popular statue! Created by sculptor Ivan Rendić, this statue represents Petar Preradović, a famous general as well as a poet and writer. This is considered to be Ivan's best work. The statue, which was emplaced in its current location in 1956, also represents "freedom on the square."

This statue was also created by Ivan Rendić, and depicts Andrija Kačić Miošić, an 18th century Croatian poet and Franciscan friar. Zagreb seems to embrace and honor many poets and writers.

Another writer who was honored with a statue, created by Marija Ujević Galetović, was August Šenoa, a 19th century Croatian-language novelist who also introduced the historical novel to Croatia.

The strangest sculpture I saw seemed abstract, through with a potentially erotic theme. I later learned that the sculpture was created by Kosta Angeli Radovani, who often depicted nudes and the bodies of women. He created over 30 large-scale public sculptures, including this one, and many of his sculptures were called Dunja ("quince") as Kosta often compared women's bodies to fruit.

This well-known sign stands outside Cahun, an 80+ year old hat shop located at 59 Vlaška Street.

Cahun, a family business, was established back in 1935 and is presently owned and operated by Josipa Cahun. They make various hats by hand, following old techniques that have been passed down through the generations. They sell various other hats as well, including some not made at the store like Panama hats. If you love hats, this is certainly a destination for you. Prices are commensurate with the high quality of their products.

I knew I wanted to own of their hand-made hats and eventually selected, after much indecision over the exact style and color I wanted, this black fedora. Looking forward to wearing it this fall and winter.

Earlier this week, I had my first opportunity to wear my new hat, to an outdoor chef's event, and I was very pleased with my look, a memory of Croatia that will always remain with me.