A Healthy Hidden Diamond of Varaždin Breg
The Lukač family is the proud owner of a little zoo with various native species of Croatia. They have about 80 animals who enjoy living in a spacious meadow and eating healthy food. This heaven on Earth is in Varaždin Breg, along the old Varaždin-Zagreb road.
Back to 2014
About five years ago, Nikolina and Josip wanted their kids to eat healthier, so they got a donkey, goat, and sheep to get milk and to make cheese. After some people heard that the Lukač family owns different kinds of animals, not just domestic ones, people start to call them and asked them if they can come to visit. Step by step, they started gathering many species of animals. As they met one guy in Hrvatsko Zagorje and wanted to buy a turkey (Zagorska purica), he told them something that led to all that they have now. He said to them that not long ago, a bus full of Chinese tourists came to his place to see his turkeys. Then Josip said: “Why wouldn’t we have a private zoo with the native species of Croatia? People could see all of those animals in one place!”
This whole thing started five years ago as an OPG (Family Farm), but as they also organize children’s birthdays, they needed to open a company. All those years, they are continually making something new, building wooden houses, or extending the fences. Mostly they do it all by themselves or with the help of close family members. They have increased not only the numbers of animals but also in the area of the property. Now their animals are free to roam in an area of about 55 thousand square meters! Every animal has its part of the meadow and wooden house. The walking trail is about one kilometer long.
Ever since Josip was a kid, he wanted to work with animals. A combination of circumstances led him to have his company and worked in it for about four years. He was so disappointed with people that he decided to leave this job and start working with animals. I quote (with permission): “I wanted to show certain people that it’s easier to work with animals than with livestock.”
Living with 80 animals, a man could think they get up at 5a.m., but…
…but they get up whenever they want. Their schedule depends on kids’ obligations such as kindergarten or school. In the summer, there isn’t a lot to do. They give animals food and water in the morning, and in the evening, they put the animals in their cottages. In the winter, it is a different story because the animals are in cottages, so Josip does the cleaning both in the morning and evening. It takes him 2-3 hours to do that. But, he said with the smile: “I am tired in the morning, of course, but when I come to these animals, I feel relaxed more than anything else.”
Kids (ages 1, 3, 5, and 7) show interest in animals and spend their summer holidays with them. These kids are raised without phones, computers, or PS4, but they aren’t sad because of it. They sincerely enjoy playing on vast meadows along with the sheep and donkeys.
Out of the many activities they organize, The Christmas Story steals the show
They host children’s birthdays which are led by entertainers, while Nikolina and Josip provide food. The best indicator they are doing a great job is that 90% of the kids who once celebrated their birthday there, come back the next year. As the saying goes, children are the most honest beings, so it is all clear here. 😉
Besides the birthday parties, they organize summer children camps, a search for Easter eggs, Chestnut evenings (popularly called Kestenijada), weekends with knight orders, carnival days… But when it comes to their favourite activity, The Christmas Story is their favourite. Three years ago, Nikolina was Mary, and Josip was, well… Joseph. They even had a baby back then who was in charge of being Jesus. This was their first big deal as a family. Today, they have a whole program and people who are acting, making fire show, or play drums. Traditionally, at the end of the program, visitors release lanterns of good wishes.
Big dream and none of the help from the county
The county loves to promise them support and publicity for their events, but – as is often the case in Croatia – this support remains as just promised. Nikolina and Josip remain disappointed about the county, so now they rely on themselves and close friends. Their plans for next year include gathering all of the native species of Croatia. Besides that, they would love to have an orchard and plantations of Croatian species of trees. Among the plans for the future are more wooden houses for barbeque, sports terrains, and even some little apartments.
The reason why this what they do is so special lies in their unique approach to guests. They don’t have an ordinary playground for children, nor do they want one. Parents are sometimes disappointed by this fact. Yet they stayed amazed at how their kid plays on his own without any toys around. While parents enjoy their coffee with the owners of the farm, children find something exciting or play with the animals. “You could often hear parents saying: “Oh Gosh, I forgot that our kid is also with us here!” and that is what makes us happy.”
What visitors appreciate the most is the friendly and open relationship the owners have with them. If visitors want to discover the farm by themselves, they can. But if they prefer to have the owners as their guide, Nikolina and Josip will gladly join them. After they see everything they want, they enjoy the coffee, ice cream, beer, mulled wine, or something else.
The Lukač couple was concerned about having a farm near a road, but visitors often say to them that there is no feeling that they are near the road. They are completely relaxed and pay no attention to passing cars.
And if you are still making you mind about visit them, check this out:
Every group of kindergartens and schools plant their trees. Soon there will be educational trails with different species. For example, A Path of Acacia (Put bagrema) is already in the making.
If you have a family, this would be a perfect trip for every member. Owners said that more and more young couples like to come to their farm as a date. And if you don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day 2020, there will be a movie night in a cozy wooden house.
And if this story amazed you a bit more than usual, you can come and volunteer. We take you on a day trip to the Lukac family who will be happy to hang out with you occasionally!