Where to", the people of Zagorje would ask in their local dialect, adding - "Let's go to the beautiful, green Zagorje", as a local tune often heard from the surrounding hills says.

People there are of such good character, and everyone offers you some wine! But we won't stay here. We've set off to see the landmarks or this part of our Croatia: its wooden castles, estates, Gothic and Baroque churches, well preserved fortresses and ruins - and to take a dip at one of the many spas.

We're on the old Zagorje motorway. We turn right after 32 kilometers where there is a turn off to Stubicke Toplice (Spa). During holidays, the eight outdoor and two indoor pools are packed with people proving how popular the spa is. More than 300 thousand guests come each year. Medieval Castles can be found not far from here in Donje Oroslavje. The bigger of the two castles situated in the same place burnt down in 1949. The well preserved Golubovec castle is found just east of Stubica.

Even further east, in Gornja Stubica, an old linden tree still stands, under which, as the legend goes, Matija Gubec sat. The Stubica area is well known for the peasant uprising of 1573, so a monument by A. Augustincic was erected here in remembrance of the great leader of the rebellion, Matija Gubec and his fellow conspirators. The nearby Orgic castle houses the Museum dedicated to the peasant uprising.

We've arrived to the town of Marija Bistrica whose Catholic church is often visited by pilgrims from throughout Croatia. In the church, you can see the miraculous statue of the Madonna with child from the fifteenth century, while around the church, there are many stands where you can buy candles, honey, and biscuits. H. Bolle was in charge of restoring the church in the style of the German Renaissance. Not far from here is a beautiful, classical style castle from 1786 (Hellebach) representing typical European architecture from that time.

Zlatar is a local trading centre with a Baroque church from 1768. It sponsors a competition during "Days of Kajkavian Words" for the best children's song written in the local, Kajkavian dialect. I remember one of them:

The little, white happy cloud is playing in the sky like a kitten. It's rolling like a wheel. "The little cloud is running before the wind." Such short, happy songs are put together by local song writers. We've heard about Belec, but it exceeded all our expectations. We find ourselves in front of the most harmonious works of central European Baroque in the Church of St. Mary of the Snow. Our breath is taken away at the site of the unique beauty of the ornate decor and the radiant frescos of the great artist of the Baroque school, Ivan Ranger (1700-1753). A visit to Zagorje is worth it only for this feast for the eyes.

The other road leads to Lobor. In the church, we find Gothic frescos from the fourteenth century. The biggest surprise is a part of the old, Croatian pleter (an ancient Croatian woven symbol), probably from the eleventh century. This is the northern most border for finding traces of ancient Croatian culture. The ruins of medieval castles can be found in Belec, Ostrc, and Melengrad, while we know about others only through ancient documents.

Travelling through the Sutincica valley, we come to Sutinske Toplice (spa). It has been newly renovated and is rarely crowded although its waters are known for their curative value. We arrive in Lepoglava via the mining town, Goluhovec. Once again, we are confronted with the beauty of the art of Ivan Ranger who lived in the Lepoglava monastery. Ranger bequeathed his works to nearby towns: Gorica, Purga, Prigorica, and Petrova Gora. We were unsuccessful in obtaining the renowned, Lepoglava lace.

Let's stay in this town for a little while longer. In Lepoglava, the Paulists opened the first high school in Croatia in 1503, and in the seventeenth century, they established a school at the university level.

Trakoscan is the most frequent destination of travellers to Zagorje. The picturesque castle, overlooking the lake, the impressive noble halls with suits of armour and the collections of old armaments, make this an appealing place for visitors, while its surroundings, with brooks, meadows and forests are unforgettable. Of course, modern conveniences, such as good restaurants, also contribute to making Trakoscan a popular excursion spot.

On our way back, we arrive in Krapina. In Husujak's cave, you'll meet the Krapina prehistoric man and extinct animals - sculptures of which are made in their actual proportions. All this takes you back two hundred thousand years.

The monument to Ljudevit Gaj in the centre of town will bring to your attention the Croatian national renewal; our first newspapers published almost 160 years ago; and the legend that Krapina is the cradle of all Slavs. The Croatian Sabor (Parliament) was also convened in this town. Krapina is mentioned for the first time in 1193 which makes the town over 800 years old.

Trski vrh is a popular place to visit on Catholic feast days. Its church is built in the Baroque style with cincture - its architecture a valuable example of Renaissance and Baroque styles.

In Skaritevo, we find an old wooden estate, the only one of its kind in Zagorje to derive from the mid-eighteenth century. If we detour from the Zagorje motorway eastward, we come to Bedekovcina, a town with two castles. After touring them, it's time to rest. And we found the right place - the seven Bedekovac lakes with flowing water for swimming, water sports or fishing, whatever you please.

Some of us would rather sit at the table because of the offering of fish specialties before us, and not only this, but we're also offered excellent homemade wine. And if you've arrived during a wine exhibition, much later in the night, you'll be singing the well-known song:

We're not going home until dawn!

And that's the end of the first trip.

We liked Zagorje, and we're on the road again in order to visit its western section. We arrive at the Zagorje motorway, pay the toll and can then drive 120 km per hour. At the intersection near Gubasevo, we turn onto the new road to Krapinske Toplice, through the valley, leaving the old windy road in the east behind.

We are astonished that the spa is full of Austrians. We learn from them that the water here is the same kind as that in Bad Gastein in Austria but with significantly more peace and quiet and lower prices to be found in our Bad "Krapinstein". The source of the water is abundant and its temperature is from 40 to 43 degrees Celsius. The Klokovec Castle is situated in a park on a hill, far from the swimming pool. Sadly, the park has been neglected for years.

Just before reaching Pregrada, we stopped by the revitalised castle of Bezanec, that has been constructed in a shape of a square, constructed in the seventeenth century with a classical style facade. Pregrada is the starting point for hikers going to Kuna-gora. A dozen kilometres to the north is Mali Tabor with its three oval towers that used to be the town of the King's son, Ivanis Korvin. We passed by the ruins of the once powerful Kostel-town.

On a steep hill, the baroque church, Vinagora, is protected by thick walls and oval towers. The orchards, surrounding vineyards and many Zagorje wooden huts, memorialised in song, enhance the beauty of this region.

Several kilometres from here, Desinic lies in the valley of the Horvatska River. A thatched roof cottage proudly stands in the middle of the hamlet reminding us of the popular Zagorje tune "the poor thing is all crammed and covered with hay, you can't really tell whether it's a cottage or a hut..."

This cottage is the birth place of Duro Prejac, the composer of the Zagorje tune "The Blue Orchard". Veliki Tabor is a must see. It embedded itself on the green plains, as if it was a part of it. It is the best preserved fortified town in Croatia. The castle is built in the shape of a pentagon and is surrounded by four oval towers connected by strong walls. There are arcades inside with a two storey high doorway.

In the Sutla valley, the Ratkaj noble family built Muljana castle with its construction initiated in 1603. The castle is now renovated and belongs to Franjo Kajfez. We descend through the Sutla valley towards Kumrovec. The only thing remaining of this town's old glory is the valuable "Old Village" ethnographic park which includes thirty village cottages, stables and the other hallmarks of a village from the end of the last century. Let's stop in Zelenjak, a narrow ravine along the Sutla River where the poet Antun Mihanovic (1796-1861) wrote the Croatian national anthem, "Lijepa nasa domovina" (Our Beautiful Homeland), published for the first time in the tenth edition of "Danica", the newspaper edited by Gaj, in 1835, under the title, "Hrvatska Domovina" (Croatian Homeland). Let's recall half of the sixth verse, which is appropriate in today's situation: "Be happy sad mother, your virtuous sons have fallen, like heroes, like Croats, they have given their blood for the homeland!" It was put to music by Josip Runjanin (1821-1876) and became the official Croatian national anthem in 1862.

A monument was erected in Klanjec, the birthplace of Antun Mihanovic. The work was by his grandnephew, Robert Franges-Mihanovic. The Gallery of Antun Mihanovic (1900-1979) displaying his works is also found in this town. Not far from here is the Erdedi estate, Novi Dvori, erected in 1603. We arrive to Tuheljske Toplice (spa). It's time for us to take a swim in one of the four outdoor pools or in the big new indoor one. We'll also sit in the Mihanovic castle where the author of the Croatian anthem lived for a period of time. The money for the castle came from one of the members of the well known aristocratic family, Erdedi, who fought for greater freedom for Croatia. One of the Erdedi is known for his saying:

"Regnum regno non preskribit leges!" - (A kingdom cannot set legislation for another kingdom). These words were said in the Sabor (Parliament) in Buda (1790) in opposition to the introduction of the Hungarian language in Croatia.

Let's continue our journey Novi dvori in Zapresic. Here you'll find the mausoleum of Ban Josip Jelacic and numerous estate buildings like granary and a gallery of naive art.

Varazdin has long been called "Little Vienna" because of its numerous Baroque palaces, monasteries, churches and administrative buildings. This is a marvelous Baroque city both by its architecture and spirit, by its nourishment of the cultural heritage of the Baroque period, and by its well known Baroque evenings. Until 1776 when it was devastated by a fire, Varazdin was the capital of Croatia. It is mentioned already in 1181 as the centre of the municipality. Give yourself enough time to stroll the streets of Varazdin. You'll be pleasantly surprised every step of the way. The old town has remained an ancient, well preserved burg, which is home today to several galleries and museum collections.

It should be noted that one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe is found here constructed in the style of Versailles garden architecture. And residents of Varazdin also have their seaside along the spacious meadows by the Drava River.

Once we've reached the Drava, we should pay a visit to Medimurje which has been crammed between the Drava and Mura Rivers in an area which is densely populated by folks known for their industriousness in, among other things, the production of potatoes, and as craftsmen in small, well-to-do factories. Cakovec is a perfect town to live in as it's tidy and well organised. It was fortified already in the thirteenth century and was the centre for the Zrinski princes. The castle has been turned into a museum. Due to an abundance of game in Medimurje, this region is also an acclaimed paradise for hunters and fishermen but also for the most particular gourmet.

From here, we can pop over the border to the Slovene town of Ormoz. We take a stroll and return to our beautiful Croatian Zagorje via Cestica, Vratna all the way to Vinica that has a castle dating from 1391. Zelendvor, a game reserve which offers 12 thousand hectares of hunting grounds, is nearby. Not far from here is the renowned Opeka area, famous for its lovely arboretum, which has been proclaimed a part of Croatia's natural heritage. This natural beauty is a rarity even in Europe. And a motel is found along side the park.

The partially preserved Rajnski Castle is located near Ladanje Gornje. However, castles dot the landscape from Dolnje Ladanje to Vidovac: Culinec, Marugevac, Vidovec, and Krkanec. Let's stop a bit in the most beautiful of them, in Marusevac. The castle was built by Vragovic and was mentioned for the first time in 1547. It has undergone reconstruction many times and now stands before us in the enchanting style of Romantic Classicism with Neo-Gothic towers. The grounds are enhanced by a well tended park and fishponds. Let's return to Ladanje and head for Klenovnik.

Klenovnik is a large, appealing town. Its construction began in 1616, but it was mentioned as early as 1244 as the possession of Draskovic Counts. The Croatian Sabor (Parliament) convened here on several occasions. It was built in the style of the central European Renaissance. We propose that you peak into the chapel, which was decorated with relief's and furnished with pieces dating from the eighteenth century.

As we are already in Zagorje, we should also visit the "most Croatian town." Overlooking the Horvatska creek is the early Baroque castle, Velika Horvatska. The inside of the courtyard is adorned with arched entryways. The castle also had one of the most beautiful parks in Zagorje that can be seen from the surveyor's map dating from 1861. The neglected castle and park are not used for anything at the moment so they are steadily crumbling. But we hope not for long, at least because of the symbolic importance the castle has.

We've toured Zagorje but have still missed a great deal, so it is up to each one of us to explore the richness and beauty of the ever abundant green Zagorje.

We're off on another trip.

Samobor is beautiful. The surroundings are a delightful combination of woody hillsides and flatlands, fields and forests, rivers and mountains, villages and hamlets, the town and the countryside. This is how the writer A.G. Matos described the town located 23 kilometers from Zageb. And what more is there to say?

Samobor is an ancient town mentioned for the first time as early as 1240 when under King Koloman, it became a free royal merchant town. It is a picturesque town with a Gothic church from the fourteenth century, windy roads and the clear water of the Gradna River running through the centre of the town.

Samobor is a "nice town", as the song says, where the happy, lively, Croatian spirit lives. This is where Ljudevit Gaj wrote the line: "Croatia will not collapse while we're alive! And this is where the people sing," The people of Samobor drink wine from pots as well as numerous other cheery tunes sung during the weekends when Zagreb residents flock to the town and spread out along the various hiking paths; Anin Dol, Gizek, Stratnik, and others. Alternatively continue further to the peaks of Okic, Ostrc, Japetic, Palacnik, or along the brooks to the Soic house, Smerovisce, to the waterfalls, caves and ruins.

Samobor offers us paths leading in every direction. We set off to Bregana, we pass by Smithen where you can take a swim in its many pools. Situated in the gentle valley is a hatchery for trout. Fish specialties await us here just as in Gahrovnica.

One of the roads leading out of Samobor takes us to Rude, and then beneath Ostrc, onto Mt. Plesivica where there is a hiking lodge. Passing through picturesque wine producing hills, we come to Jastrebarsko, the entrance to the spacious, hilly and still a bit wild Zumberak. Jaska is the centre of the well known Plesivica wine country famous for the Desinac wine cellar and grape picking in Mladina.

Close by is the medieval town and fortress of Dubrovec which in 1582 became a part of the defence system for Karlovac. And Karlovac was planned out and constructed all in 1579 as the largest and most powerful fortress against the advancing Turks. The castle was built in the shape of a six-pointed star and was so big that the town with its planned street network, numerous Baroque and classical buildings all fit inside it. This is one of the rare examples of a preserved ideal Renaissance town. Ivan Mazuranic during his stay in Karlovac (1845) wrote the celebrated epic "The Death of Smail Aga Cengic" which has been translated into many languages throughout the world.

From Karlovac, we can set out on a trip to Bosiljevo, on the road to Reka. Here you'll find the fortified castle built in 1340. It has undergone significant reconstruction several times. Nearby are the thermal Hot Springs, Lesce.

It takes an hour from Karlovac to Zagreb along the highway. We're on a visit to Turopolje. The closest castle to us is Brezovica, a Baroque castle of the Draskovic' family with frescos depicting the "Seven Year War". It's surrounded by a park and awaiting us excellent culinary offerings. We reach Lukavac, a Baroque castle, via Sveta Klara and Odra.

Velika Gorica, formerly a Turopolje town from 1765, is now a museum. In the villages of the Turopolje region, well constructed oak, single-storey homes with wooden roofs and outdoor staircases with overhanging eaves are still standing.

The travel writer, Matko Peic, in his book, "Wanderings", says - Just as in Turopolje there are not many homes made of brick, rather most are made of wood, it is also true that there are more geese and ducks than chickens. Even the churches are made of wood: Velika Mlaka, Ples, Busevac, Hrastelnica and other towns.

The nobility's country homes are even more refined as is demonstrated by the home in Lomnica. We've arrived to our destination on this trip, to Sisak, once an Illyrian, then Celtic town. In the year 63 A.D., the first Roman Emperor Augustus conquered the town and it remained a Roman town until the arrival of the Croats. In the eighth century, it became the seat of the Croatian Prince Ljudevit Posavski who resisted the Franks.

Sisak's old town at the junction of the Kupa and Sava Rivers was built to be used in defence against the Turks. In 1593, the forces of the Croatian Ban Toma Erdody brought the powerful Turkish Army to their knees. More than 8,000 Turks were killed in this battle and Europe was saved. Congratulations were sent from Pope Clement VIII and from Spanish King Philip II, as well as from many others. It was from this time that Turkish power began to deteriorate.

Not far from Sisak, in the Brezovica woods, the first Partisan brigade was established (22.6.1941), which launched resistance against fascism. Also in the year 1992, the residents of Sisak repelled assaults by chetniks backed by state of the art JNA weaponry.

From Sisak, we return to Zagreb via the road running along the Sava. We'll stop off in Trebarjevo Desno, the birthplace of Stjepan Radic, the former president of the Croatian Peasant Party, which in Radic's time managed to gather the support of nearly all Croatian people. This unsettled those in power so they carried out an assassination on Croat delegates in the National Assembly. The Serb Punisa Racic killed Duro Basaricek and Pavle Radic while Stjepan Radic, who was badly injured, later died of his wounds.

At Bukovje, we turn towards Cice and the lake of the same name, so large that it is perfect for water skiing and sailing. On hot days, you can even swim here. From Velika Gorica, we can embark on a visit to the village of Scitarjevo which still has the remains of the Roman municipality of Andautonija with a colosseum and thermal springs. According to some historians, the Andautonians founded Zagreb. Fleeing before their enemies, they took refuge in the woods of Medvednica and in more peaceful times, they founded a settlement on the slopes of Medvednica.

Matko Peic in his book, "Wanderings", notes: "The old Scitarjevo has helped us recover an entire Roman column and a complete sarcophagus/" An an area like Turopolje, not often frequented by tourists, can be a very interesting place if you take a closer look.
Mausoleum of Ban Josip Jelacic
Statue of Ljudevit Gay
The Krapina Man
Mihanovic's Manor
Tuheljske Toplice
Varazdinske Toplice
Stubicke Toplice
Orsic Manor
Memorial to the Peasant Revolt of 1573
Trski vrh
Miljana Manor
Trakoscan Castle
Veliki Tabor