Croatia is a secular country, but the majority of its citizens are Roman catholic. It is no wonder then that Catholic saints are held in a somewhat high regard and are often perceived as protectors of certain cities across the country. Among all the saints, none has a higher regard in northern Croatia than Saint Martin. That is not due to people living there being devoted Christians; most don’t know who Saint Martin was or what he did. They do know, however, that around that time, their grape must turn to wine.
Tradition states that priests go around cellars and bless young wine or people (most common in Zagorje) dress up as Saint Martin and his helpers and go around blessing (and trying out) their neighbors’ vintages. It’s something like Saint Nicolas for grown-ups.
Zagreb also celebrates Martinje, as it is known here, with different events being held in almost every wine bar. The biggest one is Martinje V Zagrebu held on Ban Jelacic square where people can try out local wines and foods, with Zagorje burger (beef rack, sour cabbage and horseradish) being the breakout meal of this Martinje. The event on the square is being held until Sunday.
There are plenty of places to get a bit tipsy today, but look for wine bars like Mojo, Cherry’s, Dobra Vina or Basement to get the best of local wines. And be careful, there’s plenty of police on the streets looking for the tipsy sorts, so think before you drink and use public transportation.