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Central Croatia

Although it is not perceived as a typical tourist region, central Croatia is a very interesting area that offers great opportunities for recreation, arts tourism, sight-seeing in interesting towns, castles and natural points of interest. A region of rolling hills with many vineyards, covered in forests and intersected by rivers, with numerous Baroque-period churches, monasteries, castles, forts and museums, it is just now uncovering itself to tourists who will here find attractions year-round. To this should be added thermal springs that have, with improvements and the building of thermal resorts become an ideal place for rest and relaxation as well as health and beauty programs that are entirely in keeping with new trends in tourism. Organised cycling routes, Wine Roads, traditions, old trades and an excellent selection of cuisine on offer are an ideal combination for weekend packages or rest and relaxation.

North of Zagreb is the interesting Hrvatsko Zagorje (www.tz-zagorje.hr), a hilly area that to the west borders with Slovenia and is intersected by rivers and highlands that give the area a special atmosphere.

The regional centre or arts, politics and administration is Krapina, a town with a preserved urban core, it is known as the site of the archaeological find of the Krapina Early Man. Krapina was put on the world map in 1899 when Professor Dragutin Gorjanović – Kramberger discovered the remains of diluvial man on Hušnjak Hill, the remains of what is known to science as Homo Krapiniensis.

This is a region rich in thermal springs so that visitors will enjoy rest and recreation at the Tuhelj, Krapina, Stubica and Jezerčica thermal baths. This picturesque and hilly country, with its many vineyards and forests, is a real treat for hikers.

Its charm owes much to the medieval burgs and country palaces (Veliki tabor, Miljana,…). It is a region of fascinating history full of significant events, people and legends. The atmosphere will be rounded off by the rich local cuisine and, of course, the local wines.

The national shrine of Marija Bistrica is a centre of religious tourism. Also included in the tour programs are the church of Marija Gorska in Lobor, the church of Snježne Gospe in Belec and of Mary of Jerusalem on Trški Vrh.

At Marija Bistrica, the largest shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Croatia – visited in 1998 by Pope John Paul II – has been for over 300 year now the destination of about 500 thousand pilgrims every year from Croatia and abroad. The pilgrimages begin in April from Low Sunday and last until Thanksgiving at the end of October.

Southwest of Zagreb is the city of Karlovac (www.tzkz.hr) that lies at the meeting of four rivers and is the centre of a region of interests to tourists. The beauty of the Karlovac rivers, the Kupa, Korana, Mrežnica and the Dobra, the forest-covered highlands of Velika Kapela and Mala Kapela, the greenery of the Kordun wilderness, the transit position and a rich heritage of history are enduring values that are attracting more and more tourists.

The rivers and a preserved environment have set the note in what the region has to offer tourists: a swim in clean waters, rowing and rafting, fishing on the lakes, rivers and their highland tributaries and canoe rides. There is hunting here too in the woods from Draganić to Klek and Modruš and developed winter sports facilities, skiing on the slopes of Bjelolasica. Alpine road trails and paths, cycling routes, Karst caves, thermal health clinics and the many other natural attractions of the region offer unlimited opportunities for rest and relaxation. The town of Ogulin is interesting, set on the River Dobra and under Mount Klek, part of the Velika Kapela massif. Klek has, on account of its shape, always been a source of inspiration to popular imagination. There are many tales and legends revolving around it. One of these tells of the Klek witches. Legend has it that at midnight on stormy nights witches and elves from around the world gather on Klek. The sounds of their dance and cries are heard as far as in Ogulin. Tourists can experience some of the magic. Nowadays, when the Karlek eco-tourism train is running, they may meet the costumed Klek witches in Ogulin.

South of the Croatian capital of Zagreb is an appealing region whose centre is the old city of Sisak (www.sisakturist.com) and is made up of the marshland plains of the lowlands basins of the Sava, Kupa, Odra, Lonja, Glina, Česma, Ilova and Una rivers, surrounded by the gentle forested slopes of the Petrova, Zrinska and Moslavina highlands. This region is known for its unique wooden architecture and noteworthy churches. Counted among its tourist attractions are a top-notch offer of cuisine and wines, with organised Wine Roads and cycling routes. Here too is the Topusko thermal health clinic with outdoor and indoor pools and other rest and recreation facilities. Lonjsko polje deserves special mention, a nature park covering 506 km² of marshland plains and oak forests. It is a protected habitat for many endangered plant and animal species: storks, herons, white-tailed eagles, otters, beavers and wildcats. The unique Posavac horse is bred in the surrounding villages, with their particular wooden buildings. There are organised outings by bus and boat to Trebež, Čeperlin, Kostrnja, the Krapje ethno-village and world-renowned Čigoč. The folk architecture and churches are certainly worth seeing.

The Varaždin region (www.turizam-vzz.hr), located in the northwest corner of Croatia, is an urbanised central European area of Baroque-period details, music, the arts, trades and commerce, an area of varied and preserved green vistas whose centre is the city of Varaždin. Known first and foremost as a centre of the arts, it also offers health and recreation opportunities (the Varaždin thermal baths) and is a not-to-be-missed destination on the itinerary of tourists who wish to get to know Croatia.

This area is home to the well-known Trakošćan woods and the, for the city of Varaždin significant, Drava woods. Here too are three exceptionally important and noteworthy (even on an European scale) geological and paleontological sites that confirm the continuity of the thousands of year of human presence in these parts (the Vindija, Mačkova and Šincekova Caves) and the only preserved fossil volcano and semi-precious stone find in Croatia, protected as a geological landmark (Gaveznica - Kameni vrh).

The county has an abundance of landmarks of park architecture, created mostly at the start of the 18th century together with the construction or renovation of castles (Maruševec, Križovljangrad, Bajnski dvori, Veliki Bukovec, Vidovec, Jalkovec, Šaulovec, Martijanec, Novi Marof, the Varaždin thermal baths). There is also the Opeka arboretum, valuable in the scientific and educational aspect, and the well-known Varaždin cemetery.
There are 354 registered culture sites in this county (castles, sacral edifices, museums, galleries). The tourist offer is based on cultural heritage (the cities of Varaždin, Lepoglava and Ludbreg), unique attractions (the Vindija Cave, the Opeka arboretum, the park and castle of Trakošćan) and on major entertainment and other events (like the Varaždin Baroque Evenings).

Varaždin is known as Croatia's "most-Baroque" place. With its preserved Baroque-period city core, museums, the well-ordered municipal parks and green areas, numerous manifestations (of which the traditional international festival of Baroque-period music, the Varaždin Baroque Evenings, and the Špancirfest street festival, deserve special mention, both take place in September), and arts and sports events, the destination of many tourists and school excursions. The well-known Varaždin cemetery was created at the beginning of the 20th century with the planting of thuja shrubs that are formed by trimming into hedges and arcades modelled after the parks in France's Versailles. The cemetery is a real monument to horticulture.
This area is also home to some exceptionally valuable museum exhibitions. There is above all the singular and in Europe unique "World of Insects" exhibition at the Entomological department of the Varaždin Municipal Museum. Another noteworthy example in this county is the Trakošćan castle, entirely converted into a museum with the premises preserved in their original appearance from the 15th to 19th centuries.
In nearby Ludbreg is the Eucharistic shrine of the Precious Blood of Jesus, the only shrine in Croatia, and one of the few in the world established by a written act of the Pope who approved the public worship of the Holy Relics after a miraculous appearance of the Holy Blood of Jesus at the Batthyany Castle in the year 1512.
Lepoglava should also be mentioned, known for a wealth of culture in its history linked to the Paulist religious order and also by the stunning Lepoglava lace that at the 1937 World Fair in Paris won a gold medal for the originality and skill of its manufacture.

Located at the northernmost tip of the country, at the meeting of Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia, is Međimurje (www.tzm.hr), whose tourist trademark is the newly renovated Sveti Martin thermal resort. This is a region with excellent cuisine and customs, premium wines, Wine Roads and cycling routes. The centre of the region is the city of Čakovec. The area offers great opportunities for sports and recreation and offers its guests well thought out tour programs based on traditions like, for example, gold panning.

Eastwards of the city of Zagreb is the appealing Podravina area, girdled by the Drava River and the Bilogora and Kalnik highlands. This is an excellent fishing and hunting area.

There are orderly cycling routes passing through the beautiful landscapes, beside Lake Šoderica, through Hlebine, the cradle of naïve art, through rich hunting grounds and along the Drava River.

The top events here are the "Podravina Motifs " (held in the city of Koprivnica during the first week-end in July), the "Legenda o picokima" (held in Đurđevac during the fourth week-end in June) and the "Križevačko veliko spravišče" (held in Križevci during the first week-end in June). All three events are dedicated above all to preserving indigenous folk distinctiveness with the focus on folklore, naïve art, original local cuisine and old trades and customs.

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