An Imperial Sow

The abiding conceit, Europe was under Turkish threat is not at all a very recent one. Since the fall of Constantinople Ottoman troops have intimidated the occidental concept of god given aristocratic rule over the common peasants whereas their system favoured plutocratic management. So it became the task of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to keep those Turks where Christians thought they belonged, i.e. beyond the Balkan, a word borrowed from the turkish language describing a forrested area.

When the conflict slowly calmed down during the reign of Maria Theresia Austria’s main assignment was to establish a safe zone separating these two systems that had such diverging concepts of civilication and governance. Hence a Military Frontier was established right north of the forrest mentioned above, just south of a city called Agram in German. Known to locals as Zagreb the city is situated in an area called The Kraijna which happens to be the slavic word for Boundary or Frontier.

christian aristocratic stronghold

With a little help from their countless Counts, Dukes, and Princes the Habsburgs have always managed to accumulate a good lot of soldiers but feeding them was never easy. Especially in those border zones, where commoners where obliged to fulfil official duties like serving under arms for half of the year, tending the fields and caring for the flock turned out to be rather problematic. Being “real men” they demanded meat, quite a lot of meat, as you would expect. Sure enough there have always been pigs around but, unfortunately, local varieties either bred quite small or, if you wanted to get fat specimen, some serious farming was required to grow enough fodder, getting us back to the problem with the lack in workforce.

lonjsko polje

Fortunately enough during that very era the legendary Emperess was in charge. if you have ever seen the statue of Maria Theresia, situated right between the two historic museums in the center of Vienna, you will easily apprehend her indepth understanding of food and her special interest in its nutritional value. Due to her interest she knew about some huge pigs in England that had resulted from intensive breeding, sheer meat machines. Her Majesty had some specimen imported from her Cousins’ Kingdom on that island off Europe, got them introduced to the delicate Croatian country pigs, and not much later a new breed of valuable pigs was born. Having first grazed in the area of Turopolje – which, strangely enough, translates to “Bull’s Field”- they got baptised “Turopolje pigs”. Nowadays, after having been taken over by the food industry under the name of “Mangalitza”, this very breed is regarded a preeminent provider of first class pork meat.

hungry?

There was just one little problem: even after most of the wars against various threats from all the different cardinal directions, including southeast, had been fended off during the 20th century, the inhabitants of the former austrian territories, only after having united in the yugoslav peoples republic decided to want to fight from new. And, again, the soldiers got hungry, the peovisions scarce, and soon the last Turopoljes, having found refuge in the Zagreb Zoo, where about to get inscripted onto the croatian armys menu. It was a last minute effort by two comitted animal lovers plus some help of people like Dr. Pechlaner, director of the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna at that time, that saved but a few of the last boars and sows.

joe kranawetter & his piglets

Based on thoose few individuals a rebreeding program was started in austria while at the same time local entusiasts in the Turopolje area managed to track down some more animals in the vicinity, be it genetically allready a bit diluted by surprise visits of wild boar whilst grazing. On a recent fact finding mission the president of the austrian breeding association Joe Kranawetter met up with like-minded croatian activists coordinating efforts to establish some standards, not only regarding the breeding but the quality of production as well. Which was an interesting process to witness, i can assure, but much more impressed we where by the beautiful surrundings the Turopoljes ancestors had lived in. They enjoyed quite a bit of freedom out in the alluvial forrests along the banks of the Save River, feeding not only on a great variety of plants but enriching their diet with crabs, shells and various other seafood -actually should read: riverfood- as well. Unfortunately as of now it still needs a lot of effort to recreate the real Turopolje Pig, but regarding beauty of the landscape and villages as well as taste of the Turopoljes closest relatives i may assure you: it´s worth the trip!

t
turopolje, the bulls meadow

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he has risen. positively!

well, soon he will…

It will not come as a big surprise to anyone that has been following me over the years, let´s say on homolkareist.com or had the bad luck to personally ask me what i think where he or she should go for holidays. The answer will always be: Greece, where else, nudnik?!

looking for lonelines?

Even more so when we are talking about a quick springbreak for the easter holidays. Ever expierienced that particular mix of scents when nature starts to bloom, priests throw an abundance of incence onto their charcoal in churches bursting with people and the mouthwatering smell of slowly roasted yeanlings? If you have you know what i´m talking about, if not, you have to get to know it, no excuses accepted!

athinamoy!

Shure, you might just travel to Athens, preffereably by Aegean Airlines, who, by the way, has just been named Regional Airline of the Year -again! – head for the city and whitness that this rite, that you wuold rather expect on the countryside, actually is being worshiped in the streets of the city itself as well. Just follow your nose. In case you quarter in the hereby warmly recommended Hotel Orion you actually might allready get the aroma when you´re sitting outside on the roof for breakfast. Together with a warmhearted welcome into Costa´s familyhome and a truly breathtaking view of the akropolis and the saronic sea that comes at the fracture of the price they will ask you in the well known houses in the touristy center.

the legendary roof @ hotel orion

Need a more luxurious treat? Kanena provlima, no problem, just head further down to the southwesternmost coast of the Peloponnisos! There, in his native place, one of theese proverbial greek shipowners many moons ago has decided to give greece a top resort, no, his mind worked in plural, so now you´ll find whatever you´ve been looking for in greek holidays. I´m not going to waste your time and my ink enumerating holes in the green, restaurants and courses, pools or stars, that´s all beyond question, taken care of marriott´s luxury collection i´ll take their word for faultless function and impeccable service at their Costa Navarino resort.

But what makes real luxury hotels, and even more so in Greece, stand out above simple bling bling show off places is their willingness and ability to make guest feel being part of local culture, customs and festivals. I´ve myself experienced that once being invited by the very person that started the luxury sector in the greek hotel industry. By now of course there´s an abundance of places for even the hardest to please, Costa Navarino even standing out by it´s privileged location.

So, while you undoubtedly find yourself engulfed by luxury, the exuberant atmosphere will be the one typical for greek easter, as well as the flavours, music and dances. Plus one thing that might surprise some of us westerners. Once the magic words christos anestis, christ has arisen, have been spoken by the papas, locals and believers not only get overwhelmed by true joy, in order to justly express their relief about that message they´ll start shooting fireworks. Which actually does give a much stronger emphasis to the optimistic core message easter is supposed to convey than just ringing old bells. Just ask your kids, if you dare!

Want to travel to Peloponnisos yourself? Join me!