advertisement

Picturesque, quaint, and full of cafes that serve the delicate but waist-expanding pastry known as kremsnite, Samobor is a favorite day trip for Zagrebacka and for tourists who have limited time but want to see a bit of the countryside. Samobor is just 26km (16 miles) west of Zagreb and linked to the capital by frequent bus service, good roads, and lots of tour operators, so it is a convenient destination.

Contemporary Samobor looks like an 18th-century postcard with its flower-bedecked pastel buildings and copper-domed church. During medieval times, the town was a hub for trades- and craftsmen who made a living with their hands. Today, Samobor mostly attracts weekend visitors who want to trek in the hills or stock up on local specialties such as kremsnite, a 4-inch-high square of custard meringue between sheets of crispy mille-feuille pastry; samborska mustarda, mustard made the same way it was made during the French occupation of the region; and Bermet, a distinctive, herb-infused aperitif wine that takes some getting used to. Once in Samobor, you can tour the town's museums, browse in its shops and galleries, or venture into more rural territory such as Zumberak Eko Selo, Divlje Vode, or the Samoborsko Gorje (Samobor Gorge).

Because of its proximity to Zagreb, Samobor is rarely without tourists, but the liveliest time to be in town is during the Samobor Carnival, a pre-Lenten celebration that culminates with fireworks and hordes of masked merrymakers swarming the streets. Carnival has been a fixture in Samobor for more than a century, and the town really rocks while it's on.

Samobor has a unique character, but logistically, it is almost a suburb of Zagreb, and its expansive cobbled town square lined with shops, cafes, and crafters could almost classify it as a theme park. You'll want to linger for a while and with good reason. By contrast, the Zumberak is a vast area of forests, hills, rustic villages, and vestiges of the Greek Orthodox culture that once thrived there. There were almost no visible signs of tourism or construction activity there in the summer of 2009, perhaps because there isn't much to see between villages and historic sites, and because this territory isn't easily accessible via public transportation. However, the Zumberak makes for a relaxing drive and lets you get a feel for life in Croatia's hinterlands. The Zumberak is more mountainous in the north than the south, where the landscape gives way to hillside vineyards in the Plesivica wine region.