Croatia Day 2 September 22, 2021

Today we set off into the countryside to visit Kumrovec, a preserved open-air museum

Field Marshall Tito

because it’s the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito — the Yugoslavian communist revolutionary (and later, dictator) who led the resistance to the Nazi and the fascist forces during World War II. We headed west of Zagreb through the countryside, and for a time drove along the border to Slovenia. So we were back in the mountains driving along narrow curvy roads.

During the ride to Kumrovec, Stefan relayed a little of the history of Yugoslavia and of Tito.  Over a century ago, excavation workers uncovered human remains near the town of Krapina in Northwest Croatia. Geologists, paleontologists, and archaeologists have dated them to be about 130,000 years old. The area that was to become Yugoslavia was settled by various tribes with their own cultures. In the 2nd century BC the Romans came to the area and stayed in control until around the 6th century AD.  Around that time, Slavs migrated south bringing their language and their culture, mixing with the Roman residents and became southern Slavs. Area was the center of Balkan trade routes, connecting east and west so they held some strategic importance. The two predominant religions were Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox.  Slavs in this region felt they had always been ruled by foreign influence and rulers and dreamed of more autonomy.  In the 19th century, the Napoleon Wars resulted in Austrian rule of this area. In 1918, support for the creation of a country for Slavs without foreign rule took hold, creating the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. However Slavic groups began infighting to gain dominance. Initially Serbia, since they already had a king took lead. In 1929, it was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Tito was born in Austria,  fought as an Austrian soldier in WWI was in prison in Russia where he became indoctrinated in socialism. WWI had begun with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria for which Serbia was blamed. During WWII Croatia joined Italy and Germany against the Allies. Tito proved to be an able military leader. Once the war was over, Tito promised unity, brotherhoods, and socialism as away to liberate Yugoslavia from Italy and German occupation. After WWII, the name changed again to the Federated Republic of Yugoslavia. Each of the six republics had some measure of autonomy and self-rule.  By the end of the 40’s, Tito refused to align with Stalin and they became enemies. In fact, Stalin sent 5 assassins to kill Tito but Tito discovered them. Tito was installed as President for life in 1963. Tito had a very dark side as a dictator, cruel prisons, forced labor, political opponents executed without trial, taking property for the “common good,” installing additional residents/families in homes, etc. Tito did become a middleman between the west and communist countries. He mixed up the original tribes by moving one group into an area occupied by another which increased familiarity. Religion became less important, not forbidden, but made uncomfortable by eliminating education and job opportunities fro those who openly practiced their faith. In 1979, Tito created the NonAligned Movement, which became the cornerstone of Yugoslavian foreign policy. Yugoslavian Products were exported to partner nations, creating a market for Yugoslavian goods.  Overall, perceptions of Tito and opinions of his impact depend on personal experience with his rule.  After his death in 1980 at 88 years old, Yugoslavia fell apart.

We visited the open air museum at Kumrovec of 19th century countryside homes and barns with exhibitions of daily life: blacksmith shop, barrel making shop, candle making, weaving, tiny kitchens, a typical wedding, typical family life and the home built by Tito’s grandfather for his family. His grandfather and grandmother lived on one side and Tito’s mother and her children lived on the other in very crowded conditions.  Our tour guide, Robert, was a preservationist who works at the museum and our visit was very informative.  We left to continue on to our lunch engagement.

We approached the Valley of Sin, termed that as a result of a 16th century legend of Frederick and Veronica. Frederick, a landlord’s son, rode through town and spied a beautiful young girl named Veronica. He immediately fell in love and they began a secret romance.  But Frederick was already married to woman his father found for him. His father was very angry when he learned of the affair. He accused Veronica of being a witch and she was tried. But the judges would not find her a witch, which angered the father even more. The father sent Frederick away, had Veronica killed, and disposed of her body in the walls of his castle – never to be found.  Some years ago, during renovations of the castle, a female’s body was found in the wall.  So is the legend true?

Then, we had lunch at Grešna Gorica, the first ever private family-owned estate to open in Croatia, serving only the most traditional of North Croatian specialties. After a long climb up a very steep hill, we were greeted by music and started off with a specially created Grešna Gorica welcome drink of honey brandy with a morsel of cornbread

The very steep hill, up and down

dipped in salt. We took a quick tour of the vineyard, tasted the vineyard’s red or white wine and settled in under an open pavilion for lunch. We dined on a seasonal menu that included wine, of course, cold cuts like sausages and cheese, Beef salad, Pickled vegetables, Bread, Cheese or bacon spread, farmer’s cheese, a soup of beef broth & noodles, Salad of shredded lettuce leaves and tomatoes, Beans, Roast pork, Duck, Potatoes, Whole wheat noodles, and for dessert apple strudel and cheese strudel ( Zagorski Å¡trukli).

Naturally, there was a lot of napping on the 1 ½ hour ride back to the hotel.  After all that eating, we walked through the Botanical Gardens, until closing at 7 pm. No dinner tonight – still digesting lunch.

Please enjoy the gallery of photos from todays journey through the country side of Croatia


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