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Gingerbread hearts

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One souvenir you’ll come across again and again in the Zagorje is the licitar, the icing-covered pepper-flavoured biscuit that often takes the form of a big red heart (licitarsko srce; invariably translated as “gingerbread heart” even though there’s rarely any ginger in them) and can sometimes assume enormous proportions. A popular holiday gift ever since the Middle Ages, the licitar is still considered an essential purchase for anyone visiting Marija Bistrica, where almost every bakery window displays gaudily decorated hearts, horses and other forms. Licitari are usually baked rock-hard and are supposed to be treasured as an ornament rather than eaten: sweet-toothed travellers may have better luck with the locally made medenjaci, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits made from honey dough.

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