Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Croatia Chooses Tradition For 2013 Eurovision Entry

Great news! Rather than re-invent the wheel, or go “Eurovision” or obscure pop, Croatia are pinning their Eurovision hopes for 2013 on their traditional music, Klapa. It will be interesting to see if they stick to “pure” Klapa, without accompaniment, or not. The group is selected from the stars of successful existing Klapa groups and dubbed “Super Klapa” and we’re in for a treat.

To read more about Croatia’s Eurovision entry, link to Who are Super Klapa?

To find out more about this style of music, link to our previous blog posting: Croatia Online: Klapa Music

And to discover how one group, Klapa Libar, have already given Klapa music a contemporary edge, read our post: Croatia Online: World Music Through The Ages

Today’s photo is attributable to Roberta F.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Croatia’s Ferries Fuel Inflation

Croatia Online - Zadar Jadrolinija

There we were yesterday, talking to Mark Murphy, on BBC Radio Suffolk, extolling the virtues of Croatia as a destination. Now we discover that the national ferry, Jadrolinija, has hiked its prices by a massive 20% from 1st June. It’s a good job we didn’t know that yesterday or the Director of the Croatia National Tourist Board, who came on the show after us, might have got a bit of a grilling!

Croatia’s ferries have always been good value for money, particularly for foot passengers. They have to be as they are a vital part of island life for the many people that still live on the islands. However, they’re fair game, I suppose, for profiteering from tourists in the summer season and I have a funny feeling that, knowing Croatia, the prices may go back down again in autumn. Most Croatians stay put during the summer so it’s pretty obvious who the increase is aimed at.

A little greed must be tempting when the locals see this mass of rich foreigners crossing their borders, jamming up their streets and monopolising their beaches, but you’d have thought that a massive state owned company like Jadrolinija would know better.

To listen to the BBC Radio Suffolk piece on Croatia (until 13.6.2012) follow this link and move the slider to 2:34:00.

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Today’s photo shows the Jadrolinija ferry from Zadar sailing into the sunset. In the foreground is the great installation “Greeting To The Sun”, which lies right next door to another modern classic public installation – the Sea Organ, both by Nikola Bašić.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Croatia Cancels Pelješac Bridge Project

Croatia Online - Dubrovnik Bridge

Croatia has abandoned plans to avoid crossing a short stretch of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the way south along the coast. Long established plans to build a bridge across the Pelješac Peninsula have been scrapped for financial reasons.

In the sometimes strange carve up of Balkan territory, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a small stretch of coastline around Neum. Croatians travelling by road enter into Bosnia and Herzegovina territory for fifteen minutes or so, or longer if they stop for duty free!  There is occasionally a token passport check.

To keep drivers on national territory, Croatia had planned a 2.4 km bridge linking the mainland to the Pelješac Peninsula, somewhat to the consternation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The contract was signed in 2007 with an estimated project cost of €320 million. The project was due for completion this year but has been fraught with delays, and construction had only just begun. Instead of the bridge, Croatia intends to spend a mere €5 million on enhancements to “the Neum corridor”. 

It is reported that  “the Government has reached an amicable solution with the contractors involved, and no reparations will be due as a result of the cancellation” and one can only imagine that there is a bit more to this than meets the eye!

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Today’s picture is of the Franjo Tuđman bridge, near Dubrovnik. Construction of this bridge started in October 1998 and was completed in April 2002, at a reported cost of around €35 million. The bridge was officially opened on May 21, 2002 after being delayed five times due to various permit requirements.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Croatia’s Troubled Shipyards

Croatia Online -Trogir Shipyard & Seget Marina

Back in 2006, we took a detailed look at the Croatian shipbuilding industry, both the public and private sector. We were prompted to revisit these postings by an interesting article on the same subject by Reuters.

Even six years ago, it was obvious that the titanic nature of government subsidies to the state sector had to be addressed in order to fulfil EU negotiation and entry conditions. However it seems that, since then, there’s just been tinkering around the edges and the prospects look bleak.

We used to be based in Trogir and the state owned shipyard there provided employment, stability, life and another dimension to a town that would otherwise have to depend almost entirely on tourism. Trogir has a life all year round and the children playing on the Riva during breaks from their school is as much, if not more, of a joy to watch as the posh yachts mooring in the summer!

There’s been continual pressure to “relocate” the school and turn the building into a hotel, such is the desirability of its location. Similarly, rumours that all or part of the shipyard is to be turned into a luxury marina, appear regularly in the papers.

It’s been obvious, for a very long time, that operating the shipyards profitability, without a huge investment in modernising the infrastructure, is a slim hope. However their loss would be a very sad thing indeed for the settlements that derive their living from them, and to the fabric of much of Croatian life in the surrounding areas.

Croatia Online - Croatian Shipbuilding Industry Part 1 (2006)

Croatia Online - Croatian Shipbuilding Industry Part 2 (2006)

Reuters - Oldest Croatia Dock Slowly Sinks (2012)

News is a little bit happier in the private sector. Looking back at part 2 of the 2006 Croatia Online Shipbuilding industry analysis, NCP have a new website, appear to have gone from strength to strength,  and have just opened their dedicated superyacht marina alongside the existing marina. Heliyachts has proved elusive to find on the web now, but we noticed their unique luxury yacht Galatea is up for sale.

We wrote about Galatea after having a chat with her owners at the Split Boat Show in 2007. Her story is fascinating - in particular, her building was a triumph of human resources and quality over minor challenges such as civil war – and there is no doubting her classic lines.

Croatia Cruising Companion - Galatea Photo

Croatia Online - Galatea Best Yacht At Split Boat Show 2007

Galatea For Sale

Otherwise, a quick link check of the original posting suggests that the other private shipbuilders we referred to are prospering!

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Today’s photo is taken from a layby on the scenic back road from Trogir to Šibenik.  Trogir’s shipyard is on the peninsula sticking out from Čiovo island. The island is linked to Trogir by a small road bridge. Nearer to the viewer are the new breakwater’s of Seget Marina (photo taken Sept 2009). The marina is now fully operational and you can read more about it, including a link to their website, on sister site Croatia Cruising Companion - Marina Seget

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Croatia, The EU Et Ivo Et Al

EU Map 1000px-Croatia_EU_svg

We try and avoid politics, most of the time but it’s difficult to do so altogether. When Croatia set its cap at the EU some years ago, led by the now somewhat discredited PM Ivo Sanader, we had a number of mostly selfish concerns including the following:

Would the delicious, almost entirely organic, produce found throughout Croatia be standardised to bland oblivion?

Would the cost of living rise enormously and what would be the effect on our modest duty free purchases as we travelled to and fro?

Would the very distinct and occasionally extreme national pride and culture be watered down?

Of course there was a time, back in the days when Ireland roared, that the EU was a cash cow. Then we might have put our selfish concerns aside in recognition of the much needed financial benefits that Croatia might reap, tempered however with new concerns at how this cash might “dissipate”, like structural funds that have gone before, amongst the “bureaucracy” of the old system inherited from the days of Yugoslavian communism.

Now however, with Greece on the edge of bankruptcy and having just called a referendum on the cuts it had apparently unconditionally agreed to implement, with the Euro in crisis and EU coffers bare, one has to wonder just what Croatia and the EU are thinking about in following the path of Croatian accession.

One of the biggest original stumbling blocks to accession was the state of the judiciary and allegations of corruption. That may have been overcome for EU purposes but surely the fact that PM Sanader, who only left office (rather mysteriously at the time) in 2009, is now facing corruption charges is a sign of more to come. OK, maybe the prospect of EU accession and the continuing pressure that brings with it is “encouraging” Croatia to clean its cupboards of skeletons, but the charges against Sanader relate to events of the mid nineties. It’s difficult to see how a clean Croatia can come entirely out of the closet in time for the proposed EU entry date of July 2013. And it’s difficult to see what’s in the relationship for either party given current circumstances.

Below are links to some earlier related postings on this blog which, with the benefit of hindsight, make even more interesting reading now!

 Croatia Online - Resignation Of Ivo Sanader, Prime Minister of Croatia

Croatia Online - NATO In Croatia

Croatia Online - Business Environment In Croatia

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Croatian Cultural Festival

Croatia Online - Split Festival

Please see below the initial concept paper for the Croatian Cultural Festival, being organised by the British Croatian Society. Relevant input, whether ideas or proposals to take on responsibility for taking a project forward, will be welcome and should be sent to the British Croatian Society.

Croatian Cultural Festival – initial concept paper

The rationale

Croatia’s expected membership of the EU in 2013 will increase media and public interest in Croatia and provide a unique opportunity for a cultural programme to ‘put Croatia on the map’. The Festival will aim to be distinctive and not to repeat the work of the Croatian National Tourist Office (while being compatible with it).

The audience

The Festival will focus on people in the UK who are intellectually curious about Croatia, on young people (possibly involving schools), on people interested in doing business with Croatia and on the media. The audience will go beyond those who traditionally attend activities of the various societies, targeting people with an interest in the wider world and people whose interest in Croatia has been aroused through tourism.

The Festival will also provide an opportunity for Croats living in the UK to celebrate Croatia’s membership of the EU.

New technology will be used to bring the Festival to a large audience and make an impact outside London and the UK with online exhibitions and the use of facebook.

The programme

The Festival will cover a variety of areas within the broad understanding of culture that will be brought together into a coherent programme. Subjects considered so far include: film, visual arts, sport, food and wine (lifestyle), theatre, photography, science, innovation and music. There will also be a focus on young people and schools.

Visits by high level Croatian politicians related to EU accession will, when appropriate and possible, be brought into the Festival programme.

Technology will be used to bring the Festival to a wider audience with online exhibitions and facebook. We try to secure media coverage wherever possible (eg Time Out and relevant specialist media).

Timing

A series of events from the autumn of 2011 and throughout 2012 (provisionally starting with the Ruđer Bošković exhibition at the Royal Society in November), culminating in a major concentration of high profile events in the first half of 2013 until the Croatian National Day celebrations at the end of June.

The organization

The Festival steering committee represents various British-Croatian groups in the UK and has responsibility for ensuring the coherence and quality of the Festival. The committee consists of representatives of the British-Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the Croatian National Tourist Office, AMAC, the International Trust for Croatian Monuments, The Croatian Students and Young Professionals Network, the Croatian Embassy, and the British-Croatian Society (the latter will also provide the secretariat).

Each event will be managed by an individual, a groups of individuals, or by societies who will report to the steering committee.

At this stage we need ideas for individual events and volunteers to make them happen.

Funding

The assumption in the current economic climate is that funding from all sources (government, private sector, individuals) may be modest, but that as the Festival brand establishes itself through events in 2011 / 2012, and with the date for EU accession coming nearer, enthusiasm will grow and increase the opportunities for attracting significant sponsorship.

The steering committee will work with organisers of individual events to avoid competing requests for funding and capitalise on the good will of the likely donors.

The Festival will work in partnership with other organizations whenever possible to increase impact through joint funding.

Title

The title will be finalized as part of the branding process. Suggestions so far go from ‘Festival Croatia’, ‘Celebrating Croatia’ to ‘Crazy about Croatia’, and a wish to convey the diversity of Croatia.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Croatia Online’s 100,000th Hit – Missed!

Croatia Online - Trogir

I can’t believe it! There was a time, in the early days of blogging, when every 10th hit was a milestone to be celebrated, then every hundredth and then every thousandth. I was looking forward to a big celebration on the 100,000th hit and it passed me by somewhere between the 1st and 8th of November 2010. Very disappointing. We’ll be working on a way to celebrate properly but in the meantime, here are some links to early milestones:

1st Post - January 2006

Highlights of 2006

1st Birthday and 10,000 Hits - January 2007

Croatia Online Celebrates 20,000 Hits - August 2007

2007 Highlights

Croatia Cruising Companion Launched at Earls Court Boat Show

2nd Birthday and 30,000 Hits - January 2008

Croatia Online Celebrates 50,000 Hits - November 2008

Croatia in 2009

2009 Highlights

Croatia's Best Kept Secrets - June 2009

Summer Itinerary & Cost Of Living - September 2009

Today’s picture is taken on Trogir’s seafront promenade (Riva). It’s a superyacht favourite and we thought Casino Royale might be a yacht worth aspiring to when we reach our one millionth hit!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Berlitz Croatia Pocket Guide

Croatia Online - Berlitz Croatia Pocket Guide

 

Plenty of explanations but no excuses for the long silence on Croatia Online. However we are up and running again but spreading our time between Croatia and Suffolk!

Today’s hot news was the arrival in the post of the new edition of the Berlitz Croatia Pocket Guide, updated by Croatia Online’s editor, Jane Cody. It’s the third edition of the Guide and all credit to Berlitz for being so painstaking in keeping it up to date – not so easy for a country moving as fast as Croatia!

Jane reports “Berlitz was an absolute pleasure to work with and it was a new discipline updating a guide, rather than starting from scratch as John and I did with the Croatia Cruising Companion. Where the Cruising Companion is very detailed and clearly geared to nautical visitors to Croatia, the Berlitz guide is an ideal place to start when planning a trip to the country. It’ll give you a real feel for the culture, history and best places to go and has some great tips and recommendations. It’s an absolute snip at £5.99.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Olive Oil v Grapeseed Oil

Croatia Online - Olive Oil

Friends and regular readers will know that we are just as fervent about Croatia’s olive oil as the country as a whole. We learnt  more about true “organic” produce in Croatia, in just a few years, than in a lifetime in the UK.

However, as many know, the word “organic” is being reinvented in a western Europe that has lost most of the natural tricks that many of our Croatian contemporaries take for granted.

In our travels around Suffolk we stumbled upon Shawsgate vineyard and winery and the discovery process there made us wistful for a few weeks in Croatia - coming soon we hope!

You can read about that on sister site Suffolk Online but the thing that surprised us most was to hear that grapeseed oil may be even better for health than olive oil. Is this something that Croatian’s have discovered and are keeping to themselves or do they prefer to use the seeds for rakija (or more accurately lozovača – grappa, the grape form of the fruit brandies generically known as rakija), or is it a fallacy?

See our earlier postings below for more information on some of what’s best about Croatian wine and olives:

Croatia Online - Gold Medal Winning Wines

Croatia Online - Solta The Island Of Olives

Croatia Online - Liquid Gold

And let’s hope our Croatian pals can answer the question and let us into this secret. Alan of Secret Dalmatia, this sounds like one for you!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

World Music Through All Ages

Croatia Online - Klapa Libar

Klapa Music is a big part of Croatian culture and we’ve written many a time about it. In it’s pure form, unaccompanied male voices singing in harmony, it’s about the essence of Croatian life – the sea, love, heartland and much more. It’s hard to go anywhere without stumbling upon an impromptu performance, and for the best that Croatia has to offer there’s the Omiš Klapa Festival (see recent posting on Omiš)

We were fortunate enough to stumble on Klapa Libar at an early stage – an innovative group that have taken the genre into the 21st century. A few drinks too many one night, when some of the band members were a little bored with singing the same old songs at another traditional celebration, they decided to liven it up a little by setting the folk to rock. The rest is history and Klapa Libar combines tradition, style and, harmony in a seamless way to deliver moving musical performances that translate into all languages.

We were stirred to revisit Klapa Libar after a similar experience in England, where we found two young people bringing traditional and classical music back to life. thus preserving and enhancing it. Read about them on Suffolk Online. Find out more about Klapa Libar on their Facebook Site

Hotel Slavija, Split

Croatia Online - Hotel Slavija

 

It would be hard to find a more historic and central hotel in Split if you tried. The process of continual improvement continues apace and since our review for Time Out Croatia written earlier in the year (extracts below), progress continues under a very proactive new style of management. As we mentioned then, history comes at a price as UNESCO continue to supervise the works around the Roman Spa in the basement. Though historically significant, this Spa is not available to guests, so it is perhaps with some relief that visitors to Hotel Slavija have access to modern wellness facilities via a special arrangement with a nearby partner, complete with door to door transport.

That, the magnificent views from the newly refurbished terraces (pictured), a revamped reception area, broadband and a location right within the Diocletian Palace walls help to make Hotel Slavija unique. Its three star status also gives it the edge on value compared to the central four and five star hotels, with a single room at €91 to €112 and a double at €111 to €140, rates varying according to the season. Triple and family rooms are also available and it’s worth paying that little extra for a unique view from the terrace - €134 to €162 for a double and €148 to €176 for a triple. Check out the website Hotel Slavija for various discounts depending on length of stay or visits that avoid the popular Friday and Saturday nights.

 

Hotel Slavija

Buvinina 2 (021 323 840/fax 021 323 868/www.hotelslavija.hr).

Modernisation has seen all 25 rooms fitted with showers and a TV. The new restaurant and lift have had to be put on hold until some new archaeological discoveries relating to the Emperor Diocletian’s thermal baths have been appropriately dealt with – an occupational hazard of improving venues in the city core.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Omiš – One of Croatia’s Many Undiscovered Treasures

Croatia Online Omis

 

Last summer we were lucky enough to get a guided tour of Omiš from a resident expert in the tourist industry. We’ve kept it to ourselves pending the publication of our report in this year’s Time Out magazine but, with everything that’s happening in Croatia, there’s not always enough space for all the great destinations to get a full airing so below is the unabridged version. In fact we could have written another three pages and perhaps we will in the weeks to come.

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Past Split, towards Makarska, the area around Omiš and Dugi Rat has yet to claim Makarska’s riviera status but is working hard on it. Aside from Omiš itself, it is mostly a collection of small villages that developed inland, around the olive groves and vineyards, and then descended towards the sea as tourism and industry gradually took over from agriculture.

Omiš, now probably best known for its annual klapa music festival which continued uninterrupted during the Homeland war, is stunningly photogenic. Craggy mountains rise up directly behind the old stone houses, alleyways and squares that make up its compact centre, and around the mouth of the river Cetina, popular for rafting trips and climbing. Perched on the mountaintops, as the river gorge meets the sea, the remains of medieval defences built by the counts of Kačić and Bribir gave a safe haven for the pirates of Omiš who brought much wealth to the town and managed to resist the Venetians for decades longer than Split but were eventually defeated when the Turks attacked from the other side. Omiš is fiercely proud of its heritage, and still discovering new stories about its pirate history which it celebrates with an annual pirate battle, summer pirate patrols (8pm-10pm, Weds) and three restaurants featuring pirate menus based on the ingredients used at the time (13th & 14th centuries). You can now visit two of the fortresses (10kn each) – Mirabella (Peovica) and Stari Grad (Fortica) and the long trek up pays back in terms of spectacular views – from Mirabella, over the whole of Omiš, and from Stari Grad over Brač, Hvar and Šolta. There’s also plenty of investment to improve the tourism offer – a lift for disabled swimmers for easy entry into the sea, the renovation of the hilltop fortresses for better visitor access, and the development of a series of themed climbing, cycling and trekking routes around Omiš. There are also well formed plans for a new hotel and 160 berth marina on either side of the Cetina river, and a pedestrian bridge to connect them. Meanwhile the old town centre hides many secrets - “the house of a happy man”, the pillar of shame, and a square known as “the hidden square” where the locals go for a little peace and quiet in the summer, and it’s an amazing place to be during the annual klapa festival.

West of Omiš is Dugi Rat with its collection of beaches, cafés, bars and pizzerias. In 2012 or thereabouts, its centrepiece will be Korenat Point, a substantial marina resort development. Around these two centres, along the coast, is a collection of holiday settlements, some with stunning beaches, but many still making the transition from the package tourism of old: large pink-and-white boxy hotels and a plethora of apartment accommodation of various appeal. Inland, the Republic of Poljica (‘Small Fields’) stood from the 11th century to the beginning of the 19th, and was regularly fought over for its important geographical position. Present-day locals of the 20-plus settlements are still uncovering relics from its heyday and villages celebrate their heritage with soparnik festivals, featuring a giant pancake stuffed with vegetables and garlic.

Where To Eat

Omis old town is alive with restaurants bursting out onto the streets around the small squares and alleyways. The best pizzeria is probably Mrma (Vangrad 13, no phone) and for a traditional konoba, Kod našeg Marina (Knezova Kačića 4, Tel 021 861 328) leads the field. Pirate menus (see above) are on offer at Radmanove Mlinice and Kaštil-Slanica (see where to drink) and Konoba-Ćaća on the river waterfront near the bridge.

Kod Mije

Lokva Rogoznica/Ruskamen (021 870 193). Open 10am-11pm daily. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.

After the turn-off to Hotel Ruskamen from Dugi Rat, the coast road invisible from its raised terrace, Kod Mije offers a huge menu of 170 dishes – oysters, omelettes, steaks, roast lamb and fish platters. Popular with the locals and good value for money.

Konoba Bracera

Glavica, Duće (021 735 444). Open 11am-midnight daily. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.

A stepped terrace off the main road provides a fine setting for summer dining, overlooking pine woods and a secluded pebble beach. Around a dark-wood interior, huge models of traditional sailboats adorn the rafters separating the ground floor from the gallery dining area. The extensive menu has a couple of surprises, such as spiny lobster, house-style. More traditionally, there’s lamb ribs, grilled fish and meat and peka dishes.

Konoba Kremenko

Svinišće (021 860 291). Open Summer 5pm-midnight daily. Winter noon-11pm Sat,Sun. No credit cards.

The journey here – 15 minutes up a steep mountain road from Omiš in a Flintstones-themed bus – sets the tone. Owner Alen Bartulin has created a venue (‘Flintstone Tavern’) with his bare hands, under the mountain rocks which form part of the interior walls. The all wood and stone furnishings include a life-size model of the Flintstone car complete with working stone sun visor, engraved stone portraits of Fred, Wilma, Dino and the kids, a stone-age tv and the occasional historic Croatian tool thrown in. The food is good standard local fare, but that’s not the point, really.

Where to drink & nightlife

The four squares in Omiš old town are packed with bars and each attract a different age group when the town roars to life for the annual klapa festival. Trg Stjepana Radica is for 20 somethings and you'll get a stunning view of the church tower, fortress and mountains over a coffee in Caffe Fontana which fights with at least five other cafes for space for its chairs in the small square. For cooling drinks watching the river rafters, try the restaurants on the south bank of the Cetina, Kaštil Slanica, 4km upstream and Radmanove Mlinice another 2km (for both: 021 862 073). For a view, too, the rooftop terrace bar of Villa Dvor is hard to beat. And for after beach fun, La Vida Loca is a favourite cocktail bar, near Konoba Bracera (see where to eat) on the long Duce beach near Dugi Rat.

Where To Stay

Hotel Plaža

Trg kralja Tomislava 6, Omiš (021 755 260/fax 021 755 261/www.hotelplaza.hr). Rates €47-€136 single, €70-€156 double. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.

Opened in 2007, central Plaža overlooks Omiš’ long, sandy beach. Most of the 36 rooms and five apartments have sea-view balconies. A small spa contains a Finnish sauna and ‘special adventure showers’. In summer, this four-star sells to foreign agencies and individuals should book for a minimum stay of a week. In the quieter winter, the restaurant terrace sometimes becomes a small skating rink.

Villa Dvor

Mosorska 13, Omiš (021 863 444/fax 021 863 452/www.hotel-villadvor.hr). Rates 560kn-750kn single; 800kn-960kn double. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.

Spectacularly setting, comfortable inside and reasonably priced, the Villa Dvor is one of the best deals around. [See box].

Getting There

Local buses run regularly from Split – allow 30 minutes.

Resources

Tourist information

Omiš Tourist Office Trg kneza Miroslava bb (021 861 350/www.tz-omis.hr). Open Summer 8am-8pm Mon-Fri; 8am-noon Sat. Winter 8am-3pm Mon-Fri.

Dugi Rat Tourist Office Poljička cesta 133 (021 735 244/www.tz-dugirat.hr). Open Summer 7am-2pm Mon-Fri; 7am-1pm Sat. Winter 7am-2pm Mon-Fri.


Thanks to a comment on this blog, see below, we have discovered another great Croatia blog. Check out Elisa's Croatia blog for some great photos and Elisa’s angle on Croatia from the perspective of a Mexican mum married to a Croatian dad, who grew up in the States. Coincidentally, Elisa has also just published a post on Omiš. Hope the culture shock is now over Elisa and you are getting nothing but family quality time!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New Beachclub Near Trogir

Croatia Online Laganini Beachclub c

News hot off the press is the opening of Laganini Beachclub, on the island of Čiovo, across the bridge from the lovely medieval old town of Trogir. Operating as a members only club, for practical reasons, you couldn’t wish for a lovelier, west facing spot from which to sip your cocktails and sway to the rhythms watching the sun go down.

We say it’s hot off the press but we managed to get a sneak preview when we were researching this year’s Time Out Visitors’ Guide To Croatia magazine in March and here’s a summary of the facilities here, nearby and a brief review on the beaches near Trogir.

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Čiovo has a string of good pebbly beaches, busy in summer when the apartment trade booms. A morning ferry from the Riva goes to Drvenik Veli and Mali islands, coming back early evening (not Fridays). Krknjaši Bay, on the east side of Drvenik Veli, is a remote pebble beach with the clearest of water and a summer-only seafood konoba, Krknjaši (021 893 073). Rooms are also available.

For a rustic dinner over a perfect sunset, drive to the summer-only Konoba Duga (091 582 8666 mobile). A bumpy track leads from the west part of Čiovo to the south side. Once there, you’ll find a lovely terraced beach and a stone building with a restaurant in it. The freshest grilled fish and meat accompany the view, pricier than town but worth every lipa. This year another treat awaits – Laganini (091 883 1093 open 9am-11pm), the area’s first beach lounge club, located in Uvala Duboka, 1 km from Konoba Duga, will open this summer featuring beach parties, live acoustic sessions, an open barbecue, another lovely terraced beach and a choice of couch, bean bag, sunbed or hammock to enjoy your cocktails from.

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To get to Laganini, turn right at the end of the bridge on Čiovo island, pass the large beach in Okrug Gornji, go up the hill, turn right when you see the school or bus stop, pass the tennis center, then turn left after about 400m and follow the signs for Camp Labadusa or Konoba Duga. Turn left when you see the green fence for the camp.

Thanks to Sasha Sekovaneć, owner of Laganini, for today’s photo (and detailed directions!) and we wish him every success with a project he has been painstakingly working on for a number of years.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Croatia’s Newly Revamped Bunari Museum And Cafe, Sibenik

Croatia Online Bunari Sibenik

One of the highlights of Croatia Online’s last extensive exploration of the Dalmatian Coast was to re discover the Bunari building. We’ve been watching it for a few years since the museum  opened for the first time, one of the most innovative in Croatia, and then closed soon after. Now the museum has been brought back to life and there’s a great cafe and nightspot downstairs. Below are extracts of our report for Time Out Croatia.

Caffe and Wine Bar Bunari

Obala palih omladinaca 2 (022 219484). Open 8am-1pm daily. No credit cards.

Šibenik nights are much brighter now that the Bunari museum is back in action albeit in a somewhat different form. New owners Ivica Pilić and Ivan Livić have overcome most of the obstacles to bring this remarkable venue back to life. Originally just an award winning exhibition space masterminded by specialist museum designers JANVS, the exhibition space remains upstairs (separate entrance and opening times ) but downstairs is a vibrant, spacious and modern interior made all the more vibrant by an imaginative year round programme of events featuring jam sessions for local musicians, karaoke, and live bands and DJs playing most genres of music including jazz, blues, klapa and gypsy swing. Events are almost daily in the summer; 3 or 4 times a week in winter. Drinks are reasonably priced, there’s free WiFi and internet, brioche breakfasts are in the plans though otherwise there’s no food, and there’s occasional jazz on the fantastic terrace next to Pelegrini where you can peer down through the protective glass into the wells or gaze over the estuary, or peek through the terrace entrance to the majestic cathedral just across the square.

 

Bunari – Secrets of Šibenik

Obala palih omladinaca 2 (022 219484). Open Apr-Sep 9am-10pm daily; otherwise by arrangement. Admission 15kn, concessions 10kn, under 7’s and over 65’s free.

A great exhibition in a remarkable building tells the story of Šibenik and particularly its four wells. Brought to life again after being closed for a few years, the interactive museum includes a pinball machine about Šibenik’s shipwrecks, an ancient diving suit, treasure chests, a 3D castle puzzle and a “reveal” of Šibenik’s main sights. Guides are available to take you around the city itself and when you get thirsty or in need of entertainment, pop downstairs to the Caffe and Wine Bar Bunari. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, the raison d’etre is the story of the wells and the history of the town itself. The four wells housed beneath the terrace were still in use until the middle of the twentieth century, when a public water mains system was installed, 500 years after they were first constructed. The capacity of up to 28,800 barrels saw Šibenik citizens through long periods of siege and drought and the building also protected them from air raids in the Second World War.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Zadar’s Sky Diving Cocktail Bar Owner

Croatia Online Zoilo Zadar

Zadar, in northern Dalmatia, has already made quite a name for itself in nightlife but now it has an increasing number of slick cocktail bars. Caffe Bar Zoilo  was one of the first and is named after Zadar’s lesser known first saint. It’s popular with the business fraternity, much of which works nearby at Tankerkomerc. Morphing into a night club after dark there are plenty of innovative touches including free canapés in the summer. Though it’s hard to tell from the outside, its a largish space and simply but nicely done up – wood, stone, lilac and white. Also a picture of the eponymous saint holding the signature cocktail, Krila Zadra (45kn), which owner Ante Butić (pictured, right) says allows you to drink (responsibly of course) and dance all night. The name translates to wings of Zadar and Ante should know - he mixed one in May 2006 as he descended 3,000 metres by parachute, landing on the sea organ, or so legend has it. It’s made from the best cognac and amaretto, mixed with grenadine, lime and Red Bull, hence the comparatively lofty price tag, but the standard drinks and cocktails are all pretty reasonable. Internet café and WiFi are free and the music caters for a wide range of tastes. On the mainland by the, yet to be completed, vast new shopping and residential development. Contact details as below.

Obala kneza Branimirar (095 864 0955). Open 7am-4am daily, summer, 7am-4am weekends winter. No credit cards.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Croatia Online Update

Croatia Online - Greeting To The Sun

A huge thanks to readers for their patience and fidelity pending our return to normal business. Our page hits have been averaging 80 to 100 per day, despite the lack of recent content which we are determined to put right very quickly. Our total page count since we started has sailed over 90,000 so the next milestone is that magic 100,000th hit.

Our book, The Croatia Cruising Companion has been holding its own pretty well too despite a similar lack of recent attention from us. On Amazon UK it’s currently number 3 for all books on Croatia and 35 for all books on sailing globally, though it can be occasionally caught at number 1 and in the top 5 respectively.

Since our last posting, we’ve written a book on Montenegro and Croatia for Boat International, made a winter tour around Croatia from Dubrovnik in the south, to Zadar in the north, and submitted pages and pages of reviews and editorial for Time Out Croatia’s 2010 Visitors’ Guide To Croatia, published a few weeks ago.  We’ve not been idle in the UK either but that’s a story for another time. The important think is that we’ve a mountain of news to catch up on and plenty to report.

As for today’s photo, what better way to get over the recent lull than with a picture of Nikola Bašić’s Greeting To The Sun in Zadar. We finally had some time in Zadar at the right time – just before and during sunset – to see it in it’s full glory to the backing music of the Sea Organ by the same designer/architect. Words and photos really don’t do it justice and you have to see and hear them both for yourself. It’s not just the ingenuity of it all, and the lighting and sound effects, it’s the whole ambience of the area – ferries leaving the spanking new terminal by it but, most of all, kids with their ears to the ground listening to the Sea Organ, or running around chasing the light patterns of the Greeting To The Sun. Once you’ve had enough of all that Zadar’s nightlife has plenty of new things to offer including a parachuting cocktail bar owner who mixes his favourite cocktail on the way down. And that’s our next story!

Thanks for sticking with us and we hope you won’t be disappointed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Restoran Fortica – Jelsa on Hvar Island – Classic Dalmatian Food At Its Best

Croatia Online - Restoran Fortica Jelsa

There’s a danger of summer 2010 arriving before Croatia Online catches up with its summer trip of 2009! However, inspired by our friends at Secret Dalmatia, and spending the day capturing the highlights of Hvar Island for another project, we couldn’t fail to bring one restaurant to the attention of our loyal readers. Restoran Fortica was probably our favourite restaurant of an action packed trip that covered a large part of the Dalmatian Coast and islands, from the Makarska riviera in the south, to Zadar in the north. It stood out, not because it has a very different style of cooking – essentially it provides classic Dalmatian fare – but because what it does, it does extremely well.

Tucked away in the back streets of Jelsa’s old town, Fortica is the perfect place to escape the bustle and heat of the summer.  The large terrace is walled on all sides and broken up by raised areas and plants. Above you are vines, and all around are lanterns waiting for the customers that arrive at dusk. It’s cool, relaxing and spacious and the plastic furniture is not at all out of place with the purple cushions that pull together the green tones of the vegetation and walls on on side, with the various hues of purple and magenta on the walls and terraces on the other side. Norah Jones occasionally competes with the church bells and the rotivator in the field next door, but on the whole, the ambience is one of relaxing harmony.

The food is great too and even the mixed salad, at 20 kunas (about £2), is worth writing about – the freshest tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, olives and capers, all beautifully brought together with a perfect dressing with a strong hint of garlic. Dalmatian cuisine is one of simple flavours and, when it works, it’s delicious. Our main course was described as grilled fresh mackerel and cost 60 kunas. In some restaurants you might get one mediocre fish and a few potatoes. In Fortica it’s easy to imagine  these two huge specimens racing around the Adriatic the same morning. And they’re accompanied by a very tasty bean stew, chips, roast potatoes, aubergine and pepper, and another good but not overpowering touch of garlic.

Fortica is not short of those little finishing touches that distinguish the good from the average – the house wine is excellent, the modest bill arrives in  a pretty embroidered serviette, excellent olive oil is put on the table as a matter of course, rather than the inferior variety of oil served up in many restaurants unless you ask, and the elegant but understated (except in size!) plates have Hvar’s lavender motif on them. Add a chef who obviously enjoys making people happy and a waitress who has that rare quality of quiet and relaxed efficiency, and you have a dining experience that’s worth searching out. It’s hard to find a downside but short ladies will need stilts to flush the toilet!

Find it in the old town by the church. Opening hours vary according to the season, and it’s closed in the winter (approximately mid October to Mid March)  but in high season its open from 10 am to midnight.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gastronomy Near Šibenik

Croatia Online Torcida Spit

Donje Polje, near Vrpolje lies on the back road from Šibenik to Trogir and this main road reveals a number of excellent restaurants as you get near to Šibenik. Arguably the best of the lot, and always packed with locals is Torčida. The speciality is meat roasted on the spit – suckling pig, lamb or turkey (hen is “tuka”, cock is “pivac” and they have different flavours) - but you can also get excellent “peka” and grilled meats. Half a kilogram of meat and a portion of roast potatoes is probably more than enough for two but you’re likely to be able to find room for seconds.  Make sure you also order plenty of delicious roast potatoes (pečeni krumpir) and the excellent and very mellow house red wine. The health conscious might want to trim off some of the fat though it was delightfully crispy when we ordered the lamb. If you’ve room for the pancakes, Tiramisu or cakes afterwards, so much the better. The vast terrace overlooks rolling fields and on a winter’s day it’s also very cosy in the equally huge interior. All very good value with plenty of ambience and easy parking but it’s not for those in a hurry.

Torcida is open 8am to midnight daily  all year round and you’ll find contact details and a map on the website.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Vodice Revisited In 2009

Croatia Online Vodice

Hemmed in by drifts of snow in England, our Croatia summer tour of 2009 seems even further away! The thought of a swim in a warm sea provides great motivation to catch up on the trip on Croatia Online.  We’ve covered a number of subjects in earlier postings, and updates on Tribunj, Biograd, and Seget. Now it’s Vodice’s turn.

Vodice is the next town on from Šibenik as you head towards Zadar. A classic Croatian tourist town, with plenty going on and several large hotels, it’s a one hour’s walk from the altogether quieter town of Tribunj (see Croatia Online - Tribunj Revisited).

Many of the hotels have been painstakingly renovated with Hotel Punta providing a slightly more secluded 4 star option than the larger and arguably smarter but more family holiday orientated  Hotel Olympia. Both of these are former Yugoslavian package holiday destinations so it’s good to see that there’s still room for some entrepreneurial initiative in the form of the newly built Villa Radin, just next to Punta.

This 4 star, 12 room hotel is open in summer and maybe outside the season for conferences. The first thing that strikes you is the lush green grass, amidst which is a terrace and a path leading to the outdoor swimming pool, and then the sea. Radin also takes its food very seriously – creative cuisine and gastro illusions are frequently mentioned and the menu is, by Dalmatian standards, very imaginative, thanks to a chef from Zagreb. All in all, Villa Radin makes a refreshing change from its larger neighbours and was already fully booked when we visited.

There’s no shortage of restaurants and bars in Vodice too. The Hookah bar, in the Olympia Hotel Complex, is a good place for after beach entertainment, and if you want to get away from the beach bustle for dinner in the evening, head towards Santa Maria restaurant, a short walk from the sea front. Here you’ll find food with a Mexican twist and an ambience that reflects the eccentric and artistic nature of its owner!

Vodice has the nightlife too. Hacienda, on the main road just outside the centre of town, has a national if not international reputation, and there are two clubs in the same building on the sea front, by the ACI Marina

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Year

Croatia Online Sibenik Snow

Just another week or so until we get back into full stride after a hectic end to 2009. In the meantime we’d like to wish all our friends and readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.

Readers might be surprised to learn that today’s photo was taken in Šibenik on the Croatian Dalmatian Coast in February 2009. It’s not often that snow falls, let alone settles, on the coast.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Croatia For Smokers

Fuji July 06 005

 

Our last comment on Croatia’s relationship with smokers was only a few months ago (Croatia Online - Smoking In Croatia) when we reported on the practical implementation of the smoking ban introduced in May 2009. For a country that has a higher proportion of smokers than many other parts of Europe and where cigarettes are still around £2 per packet, it was of some surprise that the ban had managed to stick quite well. However, with winter approaching and recessionary pressures still strong, the government has now bent to pressure from worried bar, cafe, restaurant and nightclub owners, and relaxed the rules a little. From now on, in most cases, designated smoking zones covering no more than a fifth of the premises will be allowed. Venues under 50 square meters will have to decide whether to be “smoking” or “non smoking”.

Non smokers will obviously feel this is a retrograde step but the decision has been met with a big sigh of relief from owners who have seen their taking go down considerably since the ban was introduced. That’s a similar story as elsewhere in Europe but Croatia shouldn’t be criticised too harshly for being practical in this way – don’t forget that England, amongst other western European countries went through a similar early compromise process and then reintroduced a more severe ban later on, after the brief reprieve. No doubt there’s a psychological process in force that will make inveterate Croatian smokers now more conscious and considerate of their non smoking compatriots and perhaps more open towards a total ban in indoor public places when EU pressures eventually win the day. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tribunj Revisited

Croatia Cruising Companion - Tribunj

We don’t have much to add to our last comprehensive review of Tribunj  in July 2008 – see Croatia Cruising Companion - July Update for nautical news and  Croatia Online – Tribunj for onshore news.

We did, however, check up on Villa Diana which had just changed ownership and was intending to refurbish and upgrade to improve on its already fairly harsh two star status. Villa Diana does now have a website of sorts – www.visitdalmatia.info – and the refurbishment program is gradual rather than drastic. However the young Russian owners are charming, they seem to have been discovered by the independent travel brigade, and you can be sure of a good clean room. Bear in mind it’s closed from mid November to early March.

Tribunj remains a charming unspoilt town on one side, and a classy marina on the other side though the two do seem to complement each other quite well.

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Today’s photo shows what we believe to be a reconstruction of a classic Dalmatian fishing boat in the foreground with the marina building in the background.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exploring Croatia In The Summer – Itineraries, Travel Costs and Cost of Living

Croatia Online - Sucuraj Sign

When we set out on our Croatian summer trip, we knew roughly what we had to cover but took our own advice (see previous posting) and didn’t plan the itinerary too rigidly. We were lucky enough to be able to make a base with friends on Čiovo Island, near Trogir, for the duration so explored much of the mainland from there and then bored our mates in the evening with all our new discoveries!

We chose to fly with Ryanair from Stansted to Zadar (see our earlier posting Getting There And Back) and though the basic cost of the ticket was only £59.99, by the time all the extras had been added (1 case check in, taxes, etc, the total cost was £145.73. In fact the flight is the cheapest part of the trip as the real expense on this sort of exploration is car hire at around £200 per week, and accommodation.

For the first few days we caught up with a few old friends and covered the mainland from Zadar to Šibenik and we’ve reported on most of that already in our previous postings. It could be said that some of this area (not of course Šibenik and Zadar themselves) is perhaps the least interesting part of Croatia’s coastline but, again we followed the tips in our previous posting and visited each destination with an open mind.

The next phase of our Croatian journey was to explore Hvar and Brač (or Hvach and Brar as they became after a couple of glasses of wine too many one evening!). With not even an idea of where we were going to stay, we got on the car ferry from Split to Stari Grad (cost 286 kunas for the car and 42 kunas for one person) and drove into Stari Grad (a long walk from the ferry – there’s a bus for foot passengers) where we spent some quality time with the Stari Grad tourist board Director. At that point we decided to make our base in Stari Grad on the grounds that the other main settlements on the islands were mostly in easy reach by car, Hvar Town would be way outside our budget, and Stari Grad is a comfortable size for a lone explorer. We’ll tell you more about these places in subsequent postings but we found a great double room in Stari Grad, with ensuite bathroom and private balcony, for €20 per night.

After two nights in Stari Grad, the days spent exploring Hvar town, Jelsa, Vrboska, and a few places inland, we drove the length of the island to lovely, photogenic Sučuraj. We toyed with the idea of getting the ferry back that evening, staying with our friends on Čiovo overnight and heading back to Split for the ferry to Brač the next day. However that seemed to be cheating and a bit of a waste of time so we had a half hearted look around Sučuraj for a room without much success and ended up in the one and only hotel. It didn’t look too promising from the outside, but the extremely helpful and friendly receptionist offered us a room and breakfast for the night for 220 kunas which seemed an even bigger bargain once we’d seen the large, clean and comfortable room.

The ferry next morning  from Sučuraj (95 kunas for the car and 13 kunas for one person) took us to the little known, and fast upcoming, holiday resort of Drvenik and we’ve got plenty of news to report on that. And from there we explored most of the Makarska Riviera, including Makarska itself, before getting another ferry from Makarska to the town of Sumartin on Brač (140 kunas car plus 30 kunas per person). Again we hadn’t really thought about accommodation but decided to head for Bol and make that our base. There’s almost too much accommodation to choose from in Bol but, by chance, we ended up stopping in one street behind the main town, full of apartments, and told the lady on the corner we were looking for a room. She tried (genuinely we think) to phone her friend next door but after waiting a few minutes said she had a studio apartment available for a couple of nights. Thinking this would be way outside our budget, we were even more convinced that it was when we saw it. A huge modern studio apartment with every mod con, it’s own terrace, luxurious bed and bathroom, etc. It was late, we were tired and ready to agree to anything reasonable. How much? €30 a night. Deal!

There were a couple of disappointments on Brač of which more when we get to them, and partly because one of them took up so much time, there are a few places that we didn’t get to see but already know well. Having said that, there were a couple of highlights too. In any event, three days later we were back on the ferry to Split from Supetar (140 kunas plus 30 kunas) and back with our friends ready to knock off a few remaining destinations – Trogir, Omis, Zadar and most things in between.

Cost of living comments? Not much has changed from our earlier reports - Croatia Online - Cost Of Living Update except for the ever diminishing rate of exchange. Hvar Town remains at least 50% more expensive than most other places but that’s the price of its celebrity status. We were pleasantly surprised by the reality of accommodation prices and the fact that room, villa and hotel owners appear to be far more flexible than of old in terms of letting for one or two days at a time. Food and drink are up just a little but the overall price depends on where you go. Also good was the fact that, on the whole, the ambience was good with those in the tourist industry somewhat relieved that the season had not been as bad as they feared.

The price of the first ferry ticket was a bit of a shock for some reason but after taking a few more, you realise what a wonderful ferry network Croatia has (state company Jadrolinija) . The ferries are mostly modern and spacious, reasonably priced (especially for foot passengers), pretty frequent and generally always on time. We were early for all of them (about an hour ahead of departure time) as the first ferry from Split turned a few cars away, but after that there was plenty of space. Above all, they’re very “easy” – well organised, cafes on most of them – and you could do worse than spending most of your time catching as many as possible to find new destinations. It’s a much better way to travel than by car on a steamy summer day!

Postings on the most exciting parts of our trip are yet to come so keep reading….

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Exploring Croatia – How Independent Travellers Can Get the Best Out Of It

Croatia Online - Omis Square

Croatia Online’s editor is living proof of how safe, easy and delightful it is to explore Croatia as a single independent traveller. Having just completed a nearly three week trip there, even as a seasoned Croatia lover, she’s still finding wonderful surprises and still feeling that however long she spends travelling around Croatia, it’s never long enough. There are a few rules however and below are ten of the best tips to help independent travellers get the most out of Croatia:

1. Don’t judge the book by its cover

We’ve heard so many people dismiss a certain destination because they drove past it on the way to somewhere else and it didn’t look very appealing. Many of Croatia’s best destinations don’t show themselves off at their best from the main road – in most cases the main road came along long after the destination developed. Before you dismiss anywhere, park the car near the city centre, amble around and discover a few secrets.

2. Make friends with a local

Even if you think you know somewhere quite well, take some time to chat to the locals and the destination will reveal several more layers. If you can’t find a friendly local, use the tourist boards – most of them are really helpful and delighted when visitors want to get under the skin of their home town.

3. Be flexible and don’t chase an itinerary

Preparation is important to get the most from your trip but don’t try to cram to much in and give yourself plenty of time at each place. With an open mind you’ll find plenty to interest you, even in the smallest of towns.

4. Leave your laptop behind and use internet cafés

They’re a great place for swapping travel notes and travelling without a laptop is liberating.

5. Get the best guide for your circumstances

If you’re backpacking it’s probably the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet, however Time Out’s Visitors Guide To Croatia is hard to beat for almost all independent travellers. Here we have to declare a vested interest as we write for them however, as objectively as possible, it scores high on keeping up with the trends, identifying the best restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs for visitors and locals alike, being bang up to date, and is written by people who live in the destinations they cover. If you’re a sailor or a landlubber travelling around the more remote Dalmatian islands then you’re unlikely to find much to compare with the Croatia Cruising Companion (vested interest again but we aren’t aware of any other book that covers this subject in so much depth).

6. Make use of the Croatia Tourist Board

We’ve already mentioned the local tourist boards above but many people just aren’t aware of what a wealth of information the main tourist board has. Whilst a few of the local offices seem to have almost no information at all, many, even in the smallest villages, have fascinating literature on things you might otherwise never discover. It seems that the proactivity of each local tourist board depends very much on its leader and who you talk to on the day so, as in 1 above, don’t be put off if you get the cold shoulder at the odd one or two. If you persist you will encounter encyclopaedic resources! And finally on this note, we were told by one enlightened local tourist board that it is not their practice to recommend or book accommodation – as part of the state run agency, they take money from the local businesses towards marketing the destination and thus deem it unfair to “prefer” individual organisations. Instead they pointed us in the direction of a private agency. If you have time, raid the local office for all the free information you can get, READ IT, and then go back and ask some questions.

7. Make a base for a few days

Instead of travelling around from a to b on a daily basis (tiring, often more expensive, and you normally only scratch the surface) find a good base for a few days and explore from there. You’ll have a better chance of getting to know a few locals and one place in depth, it’s much more relaxing and you’ll live a little more like the locals do.

8. Rent a room or studio instead of staying in a hotel

There are some remarkably comfortable and luxurious rooms available these days if you steer clear of the less scrupulous widows in black who greet you from the ferry. You can get the best of both worlds here – privacy, comfort, and a budget that stretches further, as well as the chance to try and engage your landlord or landlady in conversation. Again, we shouldn’t generalise, especially about the widows in black, many of whom rely on renting out much of their house in the summer to eke a living, and most of whom have more moral fibre than most of their guests . Their rooms are mostly clean and comfortable so don’t discount them entirely but don’t be rushed into any decision until you have seen them and had a chance to think about it.

9. Try anything (almost – common sense and rules of safety apply!)

Go with the flow and, as long as you’re sure its safe and fairly priced, take any opportunities offered to you to try something new. If you’re looking for a specific konoba (family restaurant sometimes in a private house) in a quiet village, the person you ask for directions may frequently offer to take you there. If there’s a chance to visit a cave or try a new sport, try that as well – just bear in mind that the western obsession with health and safety has fortunately not pervaded Croatia yet. Common sense rules here as well though, refreshingly, Croatians are like we were before the days of health and safety – ready to have a little adventure and take measured risks.

10. Remember you can always come back

If you don’t get everywhere you’d planned to visit, just book yourself another trip to look forward too. Better to get under Croatia’s skin over a number of visits than keep scratching the surface and never quite fathom the magic of what makes it tick.

***

We chose today’s photo as a great example of tips 1 and 2 above though we won’t be revealing all until a later posting. Driving through Omiš from Split, to Makarska or Dubrovnik, you’d be tempted to feel well shot of it. A busy road with a few market stalls, a small and not very appealing port, seems about all it has to offer through the passenger window. Step inside the old town and you’ll get an extremely pleasant surprise; sit down at a café in a square you’ve walked through a hundred times and you’re suddenly aware of the most fantastic view; spend an hour walking around with a local expert and you’ll live its colourful and unique history; visit during the annual klapa (multi part harmony singing) festival and see the place come alive as all the squares become “quartiers” for different groups of people and styles of music; drive along the Cetina river and discover another world….the list goes on and on. We thought we knew Omiš pretty well before we had the chance of a tour with a kind, generous and knowledgeable tourist board official. On top of everything else (and it also has a great city centre beach as well as a couple of great hotels) the pirate history of which we were already aware is even more fascinating when you get into the detail. Keep reading the postings on our summer trip – Omiš comes towards the end but it’s well worth waiting for. In our next posting we’ll give you a quick summary of our route so you have an idea what to expect.

Biograd – Gastronomy And Nightlife

Croatia Online - Biograd Cotonum

Below, in italics, are extracts from the last review we did on Biograd for Time Out’s Visitors’ Guide to Croatia. You can read more about Sv Filip i Jacov (see La Habana, nightlife, below) on the Croatia Cruising Companion blog.

Since last year very little has changed except that Carpy More is now providing food – anything from a children’s menu of Macnuggets, or small veal escalope and fried potatoes (32 kunas), to green pepper steaks with croquets at 96 kunas. There’s also a meat platter for two at 195 kunas, a variety of pastas and pizzas, calamare, etc. We are told that the kitchen is open every day, in all seasons, from noon to 3pm and from 6pm to 11pm.

The restaurants we listed remain popular with locals and visitors alike and shine out amongst many more. However we were also told that Konoba Vapor, serving up classic Dalmatian food, is also well worth a try – Obala Kralja Petra Krešimira IV 24, 023 385 482, www.vapor.hr (website in Croatian only at the moment), open noon to midnight May to October.

 

Where to eat and drink

A handful of venues have year-round activity, including the Marina Kornati Restaurant (Šetalište kneza Branimira 1, 023 384 505) offering anything from full-blown formal dining to a quick snack; Konoba Barba (Frankopanska 2, 023 383 087), a characterful, good value locals’ haunt that majors on fish, especially sardines; Casa Vecchia (Kralj Koloman 30, 023 383 220), a service orientated pizzeria in a converted stone house with a delightful walled terrace; and Carpy More (Kralja Tvrtka 10, 091 300 2009/www.carpymore.hr), a Dalmatian Pub (no food) in a large, tastefully renovated stone building, with live music most Thursdays and Fridays. Konoba Bazilika (Ulica Sv Ivan 5, 023 384 451) is a cosy new restaurant, tucked away by the Basilica ruins, with an innovative menu that includes vegetarian dishes, salt cod pate, main meal salads and aromatic fig pancakes, and Konoba Cotonum (Josipa bana Jelačića 2, 091 520 6338) is newly refurbished with a Roman theme and lovely courtyard.

Summer highlights include Šangulin Kavana and Bar (Kraljice Jelene 3, 023 385 150), a crisp, chic seafront bar which also offers toast, croissants and ices; and Lavendar Bed Bar (Hotel Adriatic, Tina Ujevića 4, 023 290 700), where you can sip your cocktail from the comfort of a cool lilac bed surrounded by trees, flowers and sea views; or dine from a shortened version of Hotel Adriatic’s menu.

Nightlife

Pocco Locco (Dražica Beach, no phone) is the beach bar for serious partying. In Carribean style, with a few Chinese lanterns, the endless list of cocktails includes many which are sold by the metre. Hotel Adriatic’s pool complex has a live band or DJ at weekends but many locals head to La Habana (091 353 7332 mobile), a short taxi ride to the small village of Sv Filip i Jakov. Here there’s a large terrace and beach bar, cocktails, pizza by the slice, and a Cuban theme.

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Today’s photo is of Roman themed Konoba Cotonum.

Croatia’s Undiscovered Treasures In The City Museum In Biograd

Croatia Online - Biograd City Museum

Tucked away a little, just opposite Biograd’s ferry terminal is Croatia’s lovely City Museum. We first discovered it back in late 2006 when we were lucky enough to bump into Mirko Čekop, an archaeologist, who gave us the full story behind the Gnalić wreck. Below, in italics, is the original write up we did for the second edition (2007) of Time Out’s Visitors Guide to Croatia.

We looked up Mirko again a couple of weeks ago to get an update. Mirko tells us that, eventually, the glass from the Gnalić wreck will have its own museum in Biograd. This could take as long as five years but the plan is to build a museum near where the existing bus station is and move the bus station a little out of town to ease congestion. The current City Museum will be housed there too – it currently occupies one of the oldest buildings on the Riva, an 18th century building that was first used as a courthouse. Unfortunately the building is now too small to display anything but a small part of the treasures and many of them remain in store.

As you might expect, Mirko is a mine of information on many things and told us about the latest discoveries in Biograd, the most important of which is the excavation that took place around the Basilika area of the centre. The excavation was completed in 2008 and though the material is still being identified, there were some fascinating discoveries of 10th and 11th century life when Biograd enjoyed its heyday as a grand city that challenged Zadar and Split. The area has now become a city square with the remains of the site covered with stone slabs. There’s also a good new restaurant, Basilika, nearby which serves up dishes that are a little bit different from Dalmatia’s normal offering.

We couldn’t write fast enough to note down all the fascinating information that Mirko imparted to us but here are some interesting facts about Biograd and related matters.

1. The Monastery of St John reveals the first use of money in Croatia

2. Biograd’s current name derives from the word white, in local dialect “Bilo” – the same deriviation as Beograd in Serbia. However, until 1921, Biograd was called Zaravechia which means “old Zadar”. Apparently, when it was discovered in ruins following destruction by the Venetians in 1125 and again in the retreat from the Turks in 1646, it was assumed that nearby Zadar had been reconstructed in its place.

3. Latin, as opposed to Slavic influence on the Croatian language is apparently most evident in building and nautical vocabulary. Of the hundreds of words in everyday use amongst sailors and fisherman, it appears that only three have a Slavic origion - “brod” (boat), “jadro” (sail) and “cesta” (road), the latter we assume receiving a wider, land based, use later. Mirko also told us that the last Croatian using Latin as their mother tongue died, as recently as the end of the 19th century, on the island of Krk.

As for the Gnalić wreck, since our original report the glass has all been analysed and you can read more about that by following this link to the Sheffield University website.

As ever, many thanks to Mirko for his time and enthusiasm in bringing the region’s history to life for us.

Zavičajni Muzej (Regional Museum)

Krešimirova Obala 22(023 383 721). Open Summer 9am-noon, 8pm-11pm; winter 7am-2pm Mon-Sat. Admission 10 kn.

The rusting anchor outside the sea front premises signals some of the quirky delights inside. A collection of urns and bowls from roman and other eras warms you up for the story of Biograd, told in a collection of pictures, relics and reconstructions. The highlight is upstairs – parts of a 16th century Venetian galley-ship sunk off the islet of Gnalić, south of Biograd in the entrance to the Pašman Canal. The ship was discovered in 1967 along with some of its treasures which include glassware, ceramics and textiles. Over 5,500 items of glassware were recovered, in the course of 6 diving operations, the last one in 1996, making it the largest collection of post Roman glass ever found from a single source. Only a small part of the glassware is currently on display here and most of it may end up in a purpose built museum in Zadar. It’s probably Murano glass but in 2005 a team of English and Slovene archaeologists undertook the first systematic analysis of it and, at the time of writing, ON Books were about to publish their findings - “Glass from the Gnalić Wreck” by Dr Hugh Willmott, Dr Caroline Jackson (University of Sheffield) & Dr Irena Lazar (University Primorska, Koper). The museum can be a little short of information in English but grab one of the helpful members of staff for a one to one tour if you can. The story of the wreck and its recovery is fascinating.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Croatia Online Celebrates 75,000 Hits

Croatia Online - 75,000 Hits (Supetar)

We’re interrupting our recent sequence of postings, covering our whirlwind tour round the summer hotspots of Croatia, to bring you a newsflash - Croatia Online has just celebrated its 75,000th hit. The big party comes when we get to 100,000 but in the meantime, here are links to earlier celebrations and landmarks:

First Posting 21st January 2006

10,000 Hits And First Birthday – 20th January 2007 

20,000 Hits – 2nd August 2007 (and a lovely photo)

30,000 Hits – 13th February 2008

50,000 Hits – 23rd November 2008

Our sister site, Croatia Cruising Companion, for nautical visitors to Croatia, and to accompany our book of the same name, launched on 21st October 2007 and is well on its way to its 10,000th hit.

Many thanks to all our readers, some of whom have become good friends, for their continuing interest and comments. Readership is becoming increasingly international with the last ten hits coming from Hungary, US, Sweden, Brazil, Turkey, Romania and of course the UK and Croatia. Visit number 75,000 was from the US.

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Today’s photo was taken waiting for the ferry in Supetar on Brač Island a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately we had a lovely sunset to entertain us, setting over the cemetery and it’s notable mausoleum of which more later.

Biograd – Hotel “IN” The Fastest Hotel Construction In Croatia?

Croatia Online - Hotel In Biograd

Perhaps not a stunner from the outside, Hotel IN has been very nicely done out on the inside. It also has a great view over Biograd’s marina and surrounds which can best be admired from the sun terrace which sports a jacuzzi, a bar and a 360 degree panoramic view.

What really sets the hotel apart in our minds, is the speed at which it has gone from construction site to fully functioning 4 star hotel. We passed a half built concrete block when we visited the Biograd Boat Show last October and the Hotel was up and running by July this year. That’s surely something of a record as the fastest hotel construction in Croatia, given the delays that most projects of this kind experience due to bureaucracy and problems with permissions and licences.

We had a full tour of the hotel, which is already well booked and seems very professionally run. The Croatian interior designer has taken inspiration from the surrounds and a yacht theme runs through the decor and design – teak and blue all very tastefully mingled and occasionally interrupted by vividly coloured jigsaw patterned chairs. Our only criticism is the name which doesn’t work very well when googling in English or reading about the hotel - “New Hotel IN”…. demands the question “in where” or worse “New Hotel IN in Biograd” looks like a typo. So we’ve made sure to use the name in capitals as perhaps the owners decided upon for this very reason, once they translated their literature into English, and we’ve reproduced full contact details below.

Hotel IN

Setaliste Kneza Branimira 32, Biograd na Moru 23210, Croatia

Tel 023 385 700

Fax 023 385 710

Email info@hotelin-biograd.com

Web http://www.hotelin-biograd.com/

Thanks to Hotel IN for today’s photographs which should give you a good idea of the style.

 

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Our next posting on Croatia Online will be an update on Biograd’s lovely City Museum and some very special treasures.  On our Croatia Cruising Companion blog we’ll be reporting on the upcoming Biograd Boat Show.