The First Saturday- Market Day and Hlebec

Every Saturday, near the castle, there’s an open market where the locals go to buy fresh produce, cheeses, meats and breads. I’ve been to open markets in Europe but this one had a different feel to it.  It seemed that the whole town went there to take their morning coffee and get the fresh stuff; none of that grocery store food for them today.  I was amazed at one of the women who sold chicken.  Her line stretched so far that it blocked shoppers from approaching the other stands.  Everything looked so incredible that I was ready to go on a grocery shopping spree.  Thankfully, David put me in check and made me realize that we don’t need three heads of cauliflower just because they were so beautiful.

Stacked up red peppers ready to be taken home by a girl like me.

Stacked up red peppers ready to be taken home by a girl like me.

Delicious nectarines and tomatoes, so juicy and ready to eat.

Delicious nectarines and tomatoes, so juicy and ready to eat.

Look how fresh everything is, and the amazing part is that it was grown maybe 10 minutes from the outdoor market.

Look how fresh everything is, and the amazing part is that it was grown maybe 10 minutes from the outdoor market.

For the afternoon, I really wanted to go wine tasting because I’ve read so many raving reviews about the region’s wine offerings.  We were advised to take a 40 minute drive across the border to Slovenia, to find a winery called Hlebec (the h is silent-ish) in the city of Kog.  Note to self, avoid Google map directions while traveling the Croatian countryside.

One of the many vineyards we passed along the wine.  This is wine country!

One of the many vineyards we passed along the way. This is wine country!

We’re about an hour into our trip and I see that we’re almost at the border but it doesn’t look very official, like the other border crossings we’ve been too.  Google tells us to turn down a narrow road surrounded by woods, so we reluctantly did. This narrow road turned into a twisty gravel road that somehow took us into a field behind an abandoned house where  the dead-end border crossing is.

The road or as I would call it, a field, in front of the closed border crossing to Slovenia.

The road or as I would call it, a field, in front of the closed border crossing to Slovenia.

After another hour and two additional dead-end border crossings, we finally found our way into Slovenia and in the city of Kog.

A crest from the city of Kog, Slovenia.

A crest from the city of Kog, Slovenia.

In a matter of minutes, we approached Hlebec Winery. I loved everything about Hlebec; the wine, the atmosphere, the owners, everything was wonderful.  We decided to go with a tasting which turned out to be more like full pours of wine, but let me get to the nibbles.  The owner’s son suggested we get the cold platter with meats and cheese and vegetables.  This platter was to die for!

Ham, Onion, Tomatoes, Cow Cheese with Pumpkin Seed Oil, Wild Garlic Spread, Red Pepper Sauce, Pickled Peppers, Lard Spread, and Sausage

Ham, Onion, Tomatoes, Cow Cheese with Pumpkin Seed Oil, Wild Garlic Spread, Red Pepper Sauce, Pickled Peppers, Lard Spread, and Sausage

Everything on the plate was made by his mother or grown in their garden.  My favorite part was the red pepper sauce; this sauce would be amazing just dipping with tortilla chips or adding it to bread with the cow cheese spread on top.  This stuff was so good, that I bought a jar of it.  I’m hiding it away from my husband so he won’t destroy the jar of goodness.  I was a little hesitant about the lard spread (lard from a pig with salt and other spices cooked down) but it was actually quite delicious.  The health-nut in me only allowed for a few tastes, but it was something special.

The wines ranged from the very dry to the very sweet.  My favorites were the Sauvignon and the Muškat, called Illuminati.  I wonder if Jay Z or Beyoncé have anything to do with it…  By the fourth pour, I began to wonder how we were going to get back home and that’s when he broke out the Cognac.  Oh, was it delicious.

From the beginning, David had been secretly pouring some of his wine into my glass while I wasn’t paying attention, so he was more than good to drive us home.  I love how sneaky he can be sometimes, especially when I get to reap the benefits!  With our bottle of Illuminati and jar of red pepper goodness, we made it back across the border and home to Varaždin in 35 minutes, with no border crossing problems to report.

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10 thoughts on “The First Saturday- Market Day and Hlebec

  1. Your travels are so exciting to see! I’m glad you and David are able to take advantage of this opportunity. Keep the beautiful photos and fun stories coming 🙂

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  2. Nikki, this sounds so amazing – even the crazy directions leading to the abandoned house. I admire you guys for continuing on the “road” that really resembled a field. I really feel like I am experiencing this with you.

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