I live in the nature of Bedekovčina in Hrvatsko zagorje, which is called “Zagorje” in short. Zagorje is a very green, picturesque, and hilly region in northwest Croatia. It is very close to Zagreb, so this area is ideal for a quick escape to nature or to one of its many castles.
Summer ushers in specific changes and traditions in Hrvatsko zagorje. Many of these signs of summer overlap from person to person, but some are very personal to me. I’d like to share with you my signs that summer has arrived in Zagorje.
#1 Greenest nature
Croatia is a pretty green country. If you pay attention, you can find wild nature in almost every corner. However, Zagorje is one of the greenest parts of the country. Green hills, green grass, green landscapes, green fields, green forests, green lakes, green rivers, green animals…
People like to call it “Zagorje zelene” in Kajkavian dialect, which translates as “Green Zagorje” in English. [Read: The 3 Croatian dialects: Što, Kaj, and Ča] This term was taken from the folk song “Lepe ti je zagorje zelene”, which means “Green Zagorje is beautiful to you”.
All of my friends who visit from outside Zagorje, Croatians from other parts of the country as well as tourists are stunned by the green hills of Zagorje. If you climb the right hill at dawn and look out at the horizon, smaller hills will look like islands floating above a sea of fog. This is a spectacular and a bit trippy view!
Bonus: My friends from Oroslavje, Zagorje have a unique ethno alternative rock band called “Pravica”, which means “Righteousness”. They create their own songs in the Kajkavian dialect motivated by Zagorje, its history, and green landscapes. Here your can see a video for a song called “Miris starih duhova”, which means “The smell of old spirits”. It shows beautiful forests and the nature of Zagorje.
Catch the special view of Zagorje hills floating above the fog at the beginning of their song “Sunčece”, which means “The little sun”. You can see a video for this song here. I’m a guest on this song and sing back vocals.
Pravica has released two albums so far. You can listen to their songs here. Enjoy!
#2 Flowers and fresh air
There are not many apartments in Zagorje. Some small villages don’t have a single apartment. People live in houses with balconies and big backyards that are full of flowers. Flowers grow during the whole summer. Roses are the most common and almost every backyard is full of them in a variety of colors. They smell gorgeous! There are also fields of fragrant wild flowers.
Zagorje also has very clean and fresh air. When you travel from Zagreb to Zagorje, fresh air will be the first thing you notice when you step out from the car or train.
During summer in Zagorje, you are completely enveloped in sweet-smelling flowers, trees and vegetable gardens, and fresh, clean air.
#3 You can’t meet a group of friends
If you constantly call a friend to grab a coffee, but you just can’t make it work, it is definitely summer. With the first signs of summer, people can’t wait to go to the seaside or travel somewhere.
I’m not saying that it is impossible to gather all of your friends for a group barbecue or party. However, you have to be patient because the chances that everyone will be able to come are close to zero. If you ask them which date suits them best, everyone will come up with a different day.
#4 Smell of cut grass
This is my favorite smell. I wouldn’t trade the smell of freshly cut grass for anything else.
Since Zagorje is covered in grass, people have to mow the grass constantly. Sometimes, this can be frustrating to keep up with. If you want to keep your backyard neat, you have to mow the grass at least once every 10 days. The bigger your backyard is, the more (difficult) job you will have.
To me, this is not a problem because I like to mow the grass. After I do the job, I take a shower, chill, and enjoy the fresh smell. I always do it in the afternoon after work. However, it is even more wonderful when this fresh smell greets you in the morning from your neighbor’s backyard.
The fact that the grass must be mowed very often results in one negative consequence. You can almost always hear the sound of a lawnmower somewhere. Since people don’t have a bunch of free time these days, they will often grab every free moment to mow the grass.
#5 Everyone is gardening
My mother is obsessed with our garden starting from the first summer days that appear in spring. Obsessed in a good way, of course. She plans what vegetables to plant, how much to plant, and where to put them in our garden. Then during summer, she spends most of her free time in the garden.
I also adore the whole gardening process. It is fun, relaxing, meditative, and after all, healthy. The fact that you can go to your own garden and pick up your fresh organic vegetables any time is irreplaceable. Sometimes I just go to the garden in the morning while the sun is still not unbearable and eat delicious juicy cherry tomatoes. Mmm, they are so yummy!
However, everyone in Zagorje likes gardening since we are surrounded by plants and greenery. If you come to visit someone in the afternoon or evening and they are not home, check the garden. It is very likely that you’ll find them there.
#6 Lack of late-night public transport
If you live in Zagorje and you don’t have a car, this can be a problem. There are no places to go out in smaller villages, so you have to go to cities. We usually go out to caffe bars with late working hours or prepare private gatherings for friends.
During summer, everyone likes to stay out late and grab fresh air. You’ll definitely know that it is summer if you want to go out, but you have no idea how to return home. If someone drops you off by car, you are lucky.
If you have to return by train or bus, the only option is to come back late at night or early in the morning. There are no train or bus lines after midnight. This is pretty frustrating. So, if you are young, you will definitely experience this irritable feeling of helplessness in summer. Although small places are adorable for living, things like this sometimes annoy us.
#7 Long walks on lakes
Zagorje has many rivers and lakes. It is meditative to spend some time beside the water, so people like to meet on the shores. During the summer, this will cool you down. In some places, you can also swim or go fishing.
In Zagorje, you hear a lot of “Are we going to meet at [name of the lake]?”. Everyone likes to chill by the water. Sometimes we grab beers, guitars, or some music, and just hang out. Chances that you will meet someone that you already know at the lake are huge.
#8 Zagorje spa centers
Zagorje is known for its many spa centers called “toplice” which are frequently visited during the summer season. People from all parts of Croatia usually come to the spa for daily or weekend stays. Toplice are affordable, much closer than the sea and offer numerous ways to relax.
Below are the spa centers of Zagorje:
#9 Tabor Film Festival
You will know that the summer is here when everyone starts to talk about the Tabor Film Festival. You often hear the question “What is the lineup this year?”. Tabor Film Festival is a movie festival that occurs every July in the castle of Veliki Tabor, Hrvatsko Zagorje. In 2021, it will be held for the 19th time. It always has an excellent movie lineup.
Besides movies, this festival is known for its concerts. Many bands including popular and more alternative ones have performances in the evenings. The atmosphere of this festival is unique but definitely friendly and positive. A camp is available and, if you are young, I deeply recommend it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
#10 Long evenings at Polanović’s terrace
I adore long summer nights on the terrace of the caffe bar Polanović in Zabok. This is my favorite bar in Zagorje. It has a big terrace surrounded by plants and a big green garden with trees and outdoor cinema. They often organize concerts on their terrace and it is always a pleasure to discover, for example, an improvisational jazz band from the US.
When I’m in Zagorje, I enjoy spending summer evenings with my friends there. We drink craft beers and have fun. If you are from Zagorje, you will always meet an old friend there. When you see and hear a bunch of people hanging at the Polanović terrace, you know that summer is here!
Where do you live? What are your signs of summer?
Signs of summer in other parts of Croatia
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.