I’ve always said that the best way to learn about a country is by tasting it; sipping its wine, pairing the spirits with local snacks, indulging on its cuisine. Combine that cuisine with meeting locals and, now you’re having a true cultural experience. That’s what I love about food tours; and the Urban Adventures Zagreb Wine & Dine tour was no exception.
I met my friend Max, a local and history buff, in Ban Jelacic Square “under the tail” as the locals say. For foreigners, a saying like this might bring confusion, however, in Zagreb “under the tail” is a way to say “meet me under the horse statue in the main square”. It’s the New York equivalent of saying “Meet me at the clock in Grand Central”; an easy and effective way to gather groups together.
Earlier that week, I had met Max for coffee and he showed me around the city; stopping every few meters to share Croatian folklore stories and educate me on its history. He is an expert at his craft and is rarely stumped by a question. Max is the perfect person to show a foreigner around Croatia.
Now back to our wine & dine tour. Our first stop was the oldest wine bar in the city, where we learned about the different wine regions, tasted four different wines, and paired them with local cheeses. One of the most interesting learnings for me was that zinfandel originated in Croatia; something the locals are very proud of. How could you not be? It’s delicious!
The owner of the shop, an Aussie with a Croatian wife, welcomed us with open arms and even poured a glass of the unique Croatian orange wine as a friendly bonus with the pairing. At that point, the tour at only just began and we were five glasses deep. A Croatian wine tasting is practically full glasses, so you could say we were “feeling it!”.
Next stop was one of my favorite Zagreb coffee shops; probably to keep our energy high from all the wine. This spot serves a famous rainbow coffee that is so beautiful you won’t want to ruin it by drinking it. As we finished our java, Max told us about the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, Croatian customs, and the differences between cuisine on the coast vs. inland. It was extremely informative and interesting.
Tkalciceva Street is known for its hundreds of café bars. This is a place I visited frequently during my month long stay in the country. However, there was something that I had missed that Max kindly pointed out. There is a vineyard on a hill hidden between the buildings. This is extremely rare and was quite the site, especially for a modern city.
As a charcuterie lover, the last stop was my favorite. We tasted five different charcuterie platters that were paired with wines from the coast and inland. One of the platters even had bear meat! This, surprisingly, tasted just like salami. I imagine this could have been because of the way it was prepared, however, it was enjoyable nonetheless!
Alas, it was time to part my dear friend Max for the night. However, the learnings didn’t stop there. He left me with a suggestion to try the classic Croatian dish called “Octopus under the Iron Bell”. We were instructed to order it at least three days in advance because of how long it takes to cook. The next day I made a reservation at Konoba Bracera Restaurant for the following week. Let’s just say, Max was right again! It was the best meal I had in Zagreb. If you’re visiting, make sure to add that to your list of things to try!
I was a guest on this tour, however, the opinions are my own. To book a tour visit UrbanAdventures.com. The Wine & Dine tour is $117 per person.