Nestling beneath the eastern spur of the wooded Samobor hills around 25km west of Zagreb, SAMOBOR is every Croat’s idea of what a provincial inland town should look like: a tidy, prosperous agglomeration of pastel-coloured houses, largely unsullied by industry and modern architecture, and with an abundance of hilly woodland on the doorstep. Samobor rivalled Zagreb as a trade and craft centre in the Middle Ages, though it’s nowadays very much a dormitory suburb of its big neighbour, attracting a smattering of day-trippers keen to explore the woods above the town or sample the local delicacy, samoborska kremšnita, a wobbly mass of vanilla custard squeezed between layers of flaky pastry. Other local goodies worth stocking up on include samoborski bermet (Samobor vermouth), a brownish, stomach-settling spirit that tastes like cough mixture, and the sharply flavoured samoborska muštarda (mustard).
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One of the best times to be in Samobor is immediately preceding Lent, during the Samobor carnival (Samoborski fašnik; w fasnik.com). One of Croatia’s best-known and most authentic festivals, it dates from the early 1820s and – apart from a short period in the wake of World War II, when it was suspended – has been a permanent fixture in the town calendar ever since. On the weekend before Shrove Tuesday floats rumble through the streets in lively parades and hedonistic locals run around in masks, creating an impromptu party atmosphere. On Shrove Tuesday itself, an effigy named Princ Fašnik (“prince of the carnival”) is blamed for everything that has gone wrong over the previous twelve months and is ritually burned on the main square.
The Samoborsko gorje
The Samoborsko gorje
Samobor is the obvious base for hiking trips into the Samoborsko gorje, a ravine-scarred upland region which rises abruptly to the west of town, and backs directly onto the hills of the Žumberak. Both ranges fall within the boundaries of the Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje Nature Park (Park prirode Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje; w park-zumberak.hr), which begins 5km west of Samobor and stretches 30km farther southwest towards the town of Ozalj. An area of deep forest interspersed with subalpine meadows, the eastern end of the park is perfect for gentle uphill hikes, and is correspondingly busy with local families on summer weekends. The 1:50, 000 Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje map published by the Nature Park is a useful aid to exploration; Samobor tourist office or the Eco Centre at Slani Dol may have copies for sale.