The winter tale: Jaska and Pleševica
Jaska is best known as a viticultural haven that gives a home to some of the best wines on the Croatian wine list. Even though vineyards of Jaska are slumbering in the winter, it is an ideal time to slither into wine cottages (kleti), cellars and tasting rooms to sneak a peek into the state of previous wine harvests through a full glass, along with homemade snacks such as a warm copanjek. For that reason, January's feast of St. Vincent is best spent among the vines and winemakers enjoying the traditional celebration Vincekovo, a symbolic beginning of a new wine year. Winter offers a chance to see parts of Jaska's impressive cultural and historical heritage, or to enjoy activities under the clear winter sky in the forests and hills of the picturesque area southwest of Zagreb.
The center of Jastrebarsko is dominated by the Erdődy castle, the oldest building and the former home of a noble family that shaped the life of the city for centuries. While awaiting restoration, the castle is still an impressive reminder of the times long passed. The beautiful park that surrounds it is a symbolic monument of garden architecture and a favorite place for walks or outdoor socializing of the local people. Many of the advent activities will take place there and on Štros, the popular main town square. Jastrebarsko has always been a town of artisans – it is a home of the last tirelessly working cooper in this part of Croatia. The barrel collection of the Golub family shows us what it was like in the past, while the workshop portrays the current state of that craft and why Jaska barrels are still considered valuable. At the edge of the town awaits a pearl of baroque architecture, a renewed Franciscan monastery with the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally built in 16th century but worth your visit even today.
The pilgrimage center of this area is certainly Krašić, a small tame place in the heart of the Dolina Kardinala (Valley of the Cardinal). A special atmosphere is spreading through the air during the holidays, with frequent concerts of spiritual music in the Church of the Holy Trinity. Whether you are looking for spiritual peace or hidden sacral monuments of great cultural value, the Church of St. Peter in Petrovina and the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Snow in Volavje stand out. The Ethnographic Collection of the Sveta Jana Region and the renovated old Watermill and Millers’ House in Gorica Svetojanska are peculiar time machines that take you into the near past. A little further south, towards the Kupa river, near Pisarovina, you can find the Donja Kupčina Local History Museum – a complex of original rural wooden houses and farm buildings, with authentic objects typical of life in this area from over a hundred years ago. In winter, one can discover how the old generations prepared for the Christmas holidays there.
The outdoor lovers can look forward to amazing natural gifts of this area because all the way from the mountain peaks of Plešivica to the river lowlands of Pokuplje, the nature has provided beautiful, untouched landscapes for hiking, running, walking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, cycling ... In winter, even a walk in the fresh air is enough to recharge your batteries, while finding an ideal place for sledding and other joys that snow brings is easy. Did you know that Plešivica is the oldest sledding slope in Croatia? The natural trail of Kamenica has been used since 1907, and the traditional sledding cup, which is held every year in January, is a big event and a real attraction.
After choosing the way to relax in the winter fairytale, the appetite is surely increasing, making it the perfect time to explore the local gastronomy. In addition to the famous wine road, there are numerous stops on the cheese roads in the Jaska region – the Šestak family cheese factory in Plešivica, the Žumberak farm in Stankovo, the Malkoč, Lukšić and Penezić cheese factories in Kupinečki Kraljevec and the Grčević cheese factory near Pisarovina. Rich and nutritious winter dishes await in rural households and traditional restaurants such as Ivančić or Karlo on Plešivica, but if you want something different, that is still inextricably linked to local tradition and food, visit the Korak winery with its innovative gourmet restaurant. The best way to toast the new year and the arrival of the spring is with exquisite sparkling wine, a trademark of the Plešivica vineyards.