Imagine 10.000 tough, fully armed horsemen thundering across the battlefields of Europe at the service of the Hapsburg emperors… They were the Krawatten or Krabaten, the Croat light chivalry later renamed “Hussars.” Paid troops, skilled in warfare after gaining experience in centuries of combat against the Turks. That must have been a sight when they broke into a gallop to storm enemy lines. Today you can get a boost of adrenaline from modern horse racing and Pa online horse betting but for a taste of European times past head for Zagreb, the Croatian capital.

There you can often see the Krawatten in their elegant uniforms from the 17th Century parading through the city center. Cravats included: yes, the name of this modern, widespread male accessory comes right from there, derived from the kerchief the Croatian Hussars wore around their necks. When they took part in the Thirty Years’ War, they got all the way to Paris in 1630 and fascinated the French by the way they knotted that sash around their necks. That was the beginning of the cravat as a fashion.

On the touch of midnight on New Year’s Eve you will have the possibility to enjoy the sight of the Krawatten in all their glory, high uniform and classical cravat included: the traditional Changing of the Guard will be performed in a specially solemn version by hussars on horseback in front of St. Mark’s Church in parliament square. Care of the Honorary Kravaten Regiment, part of the Academia Cravatica, a local organization devoted to the conservation and promotion of this particular cultural heritage. The historical reenactment is part of the five-week-long “Advent in Zagreb” holiday festival.

horses, horse head, animals

The Zagreb Advent has been awarded the title of Best Christmas Market in Europe for three years on end, 2016, 2017, and 2018. There is much more to it though than stalls of local gastronomy, arts, and craft in the streets. The whole center comes to life with live music and performances, the giant ice skating Ice Park and the enchanted forest in the gardens facing the train station, lights and decorations everywhere, children’s spaces in several venues, art exhibitions, street art… From November 30th to January 7th, the Croatian capital literally lives on the streets.

You can enjoy the solemn Christmas midnight mass in the gothic cathedral, and later run into a party of hooded witches roaming the streets carrying lanterns – actually tourists led by a genial organization of local guides in the discovery of the secret spots of the old town with specially crafted mystery tours.

Zagreb has also become quite the place for foodies in the last few years. From street food to fine dining restaurants, the offers are rich and diverse. Croatia sends the best of its fields and pastures, fish from the Adriatic, wine from its many wine-producing regions, to the capital. Satisfied gourmets have undoubtedly contributed to the success of Zagreb as a winter Holiday international destination.