Thursday, July 21, 2016

Croatia By Bus

Croatia Online - London Bus

No, Not a London red bus but I’m afraid this was the best illustration I have!

***

In the process of pulling together the information on my journey by campervan to Croatia, I came across a brand new website that makes travelling by bus a lot easier. For many,  given the challenges of the terrain for railway lines, bus or coach is still often the best (and cheapest) way to travel short or long distances in Croatia. The problem has been, until now, that it’s often quite difficult to find out the information you need and it’s been late coming online.

Now there is Vollo, a young and enterprising internet start up with big ambitions and plenty of achievements already. In its own words, the simple website aims to provide a fast and easy bus search, comparison and booking system.

Rather than me explaining, why not read the following posts on Vollo’s blog:

Vollo Bus Booking System - How It Works

Vollo - Our First 100 Days

There’s no App yet but we have a feeling it won’t be long!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Driving To Croatia Day 3 – Austria

Croatia Online - Aigen im Ennstal

Day three takes us from Neumarkt in Bavaria to a stunning campsite by a lake amongst the Austrian mountains.

For those that want to recap on the detail of the first two days below are direct links to the postings:

Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day 1 - Suffolk to Eisenbachtal in Germany – 500 miles

Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia - Day 2 - Eisenbachtal to Neumarkt – 212 miles

As you can see, we did not push ourselves on day 2 (or day 3, come to think of it!) so we left Neumarkt quite early, rejoined the motorway and continued  south east through Germany along the E3. After refuelling (the campervan with diesel and ourselves with breakfast) in Regensberg, we carried on motoring with a stop every couple of hours or so.

At 1 30 pm we made the Austrian border and bought a vignette to allow us to use the Austrian motorways and a vignette for the Slovenian motorways. There was no opportunity for chit chat at the busy little “vignette kiosk” by the border – every question was met with a grumpy stare and a finger pointing to the price list – ie “don’t ask me; work it out for yourself”! For convenience, and a little rattled by Frau Grumpy and the queue of burly lorry drivers behind me, I purchased a two month vignette for Austria at a cost of €25.70 (about £21) when what I should have done was get one 8 day vignette for the journey there and another 8 day one for the journey back at a cost of two times €8.80 ie €17.60 (about £14). At that point I had no intention of coming back on Slovenian motorways, as I believe their vignettes have always been a rip-off, particularly given the state of their motorways, and so I bought the minimum available – a 7 day vignette – for €15. They call it a 7 day vignette but of course most people using this tiny stretch of motorway only use it as the most direct means to get to and from Croatia, so in practice it’s a 1 day vignette with the next option  being one month at €30.

What you get is a sticker with notches in it, to show the validity dates, and you need to put them on the top left of your windscreen. If you get stopped and the vignettes are not stuck on your windscreen you may be fined just as if you haven’t got one at all.

The following two websites give more information on the various categories of vignette and some other useful driving information – in Austria motorhomes under 3.5 tons pay the same as cars; in Slovenia, there’s a bizarre split into two categories for motorhomes under 3.5 tons, depending on height above the axle.

Austria By Road

Slovenia - Vignettes

And this link shows the main routes through Austria where tolls apply Austria Tolls - from the A3 in Germany the most direct route to Slovenia, and then Croatia, is via the A8 and then the A9 to Graz. From around Graz there are signs to Slovenia and Croatia.

And while we are on the subject of windscreen stickers, I had one other sticker which I did not need but might have done – one that shows I am “green enough” to enter into some of Germany’s bigger cities. It was relatively inexpensive and easy to get, and lasts for the lifetime of the windscreen it is on as long as you still “own” it – I just had to fill out a form online, load up a scan of my registration document and pay a few Euros. The sticker arrived back in a couple of weeks and it was all reasonably straightforward, even with a ten year old diesel van. Below is the link to the online application form (current cost is €6) and it works for all the cities in the scheme – I just happened to apply to Berlin because I read they had one of the more user friendly ways of obtaining it.

Germany Environmental Sticker

Now back to the drive – Austrian border negotiated, vignettes affixed, it was time to admire the magnificent Austrian scenery and experience a very sharp change of climate as we made our way south east through Austria and through a number of tunnels which cost us another €5. As well as the vignette, Austria has some additional one off tolls for “expensive” routes, for example where there are a lot of tunnels and/or where the tunnels are very long (and the A9 has at least a couple, well over 5 kilometres in length, piercing through the mountains, as well as one running several kilometres along underneath the city of Graz).

By this time it was about 3 30 pm and we were looking forward to a bit of a rest so, ACSI app consulted, we made for Aigen im Ennstall, near Liezen, and the delights of Campsite Putterersee which you’ll be able to read about on Croatia Camping Guide in a few days time. Close to a lake, mountains all around, a lovely crisp sunny evening – what more could you want?! We arrived at 4 15 pm after another 230 miles and several stops to admire the changing views. We filled up twice – once in Regensburg, Germany, where diesel cost €1.099 per litre, and once in Aistersheim, Austria, where diesel cost €1.409 per litre – gone, it seems, are the days when Austria had the cheapest fuel in Europe.

Today’s images show the lovely lake at Camping Putterersee – Barnie, the dog, who can’t resist a plunge in almost any temperature, and in whatever water is available,  found it bracing but invigorating!

Croatia Online - Barnie swimming in Aigen

Monday, July 18, 2016

Currency Matters!

Croatia Online - Kunas

Reporting on my road trip to Croatia is taking an age – nearly as long as the trip itself -  because I’m trying to catalogue individual photos and sort out various bits of admin at the same time. Hopefully things will go a little quicker once I “get to” Croatia and into my stride but I don’t want to rush it as, this time, I kept to my resolution to note everything very carefully so I could give a reasonably accurate account of distances, costs and other hopefully useful information.

Today I tried to work out what exchange rate I was getting with my various sources of cash and credit card and it is a minefield. Nor might it be terribly relevant to readers at the moment as, since I came back, there has of course been a vote to leave the EU and a corresponding weakening of sterling exchange rates.

On the assumption that sterling will recover and get back to “normal” soon, here’s what I found. Firstly, it is very difficult to come to any firm conclusion about the various methods of obtaining Euros and kunas because there are so many permutations of fees and exchange rates. On top of that the “pure” exchange rate does of course vary from day to day, making it difficult to isolate variations between banks and other travel money providers. Secondly it’s not just about the pure financial cost – there’s convenience too. Cash often carries with it a better exchange rate if you change it abroad but you don’t necessarily want to be carrying large quantities of cash around with you. If like me you also have an aversion to queuing in banks (and tying the dog up outside) when you can simply use an ATM, then that convenience also has a value. So I took a bit of cash, had some Euros and kunas from a previous trip, used two different UK credit cards where necessary but majored on my Post Office Travel Money Card (denominated in Euros) until that ran out of the money I had loaded onto it.

The big advantage to me of something like the Post Office Travel Money Card (and of course many other similar products are available!) is that, if you think sterling is going to weaken, and/or if you want to save up steadily for your holiday, you can load it up in advance, either when you think the exchange rate is favourable, or when you have some spare cash. Of course the exchange rate might go the wrong way so beware. A couple of things to note with this card – when in a country with a currency different from your base currency, eg kunas, you get the option to accept the exchange rate offered at the time of the transaction (in which case your card is billed in its base currency) or let your card provider do the conversion with an (unknown) exchange rate, and a bigger fee, available at another time. I did not understand this properly to start with (and as you will see below it’s really just a gamble!) but, overall and despite an additional €7 in fees (€9.98 instead of €2) it was better for me to use my provider’s exchange rate (though this might have been due to the timing). I think the concept is explained somewhere quite prominently but I’m afraid it did not seem very clear when faced with the rather complicated decision on currency rates presented on the ATM screen at the time of the transaction. The screen and your slip make it very clear that you have no comeback if you accept the offered rate and then find out it is a rip off although they do not put it quite like that! Essentially you are choosing between a known exchange rate now and an unknown one later so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. The other problem I had, and again this might be my fault, was that the card did not seem to work in petrol stations where payment was automated and there are quite few of these in, for example, Belgium. There are also a couple of frustrations:

a) you print your own statements and only a year’s worth of transactions are available so if you don’t realise this straight away…..

b) the date on the statement is not the transaction date (my banks give me a transaction date and a “received by us” date) so it’s quite hard matching individual transactions if you’ve done a couple of similar ones in the same place

In general I suppose the purely financial rules are to try and buy kunas direct (rather than going though an intermediary Euro card), and use the Euro card just for credit transactions to avoid too many fees, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. In the end you could tie yourself up in knots trying to save a few pounds and get the exchange rate movement completely wrong and lose much more!

The Croatian kuna is linked to the Euro in terms of exchange rates. I understand that we Brits (and Aussies, Canadians, Americans, etc) are in the “non Eurozone” minority of visitors to Croatia. However I find it quite infuriating that Croatian prices (for things like accommodation, car hire, campsites, etc) are often quoted in Euros but you have to pay in kunas and no one seems to be able to tell you what exchange rate will be used for conversion. Most organisations will quote prices in kunas too, if you persist, but I had a completely bonkers conversation with the receptionist of one very swish campsite who was adamant that they ONLY quoted prices in Euros (and this was the type of campsite that thinks all foreigners automatically come from Germany/or speak German as a native language). After remonstrating that Euros were not very relevant to me as a Brit, or them as a Croatian organisation, I got nowhere. “Fine”, I said, “then I’ll pay in Euros.” “You can’t” I was told, “it’s not legal; you have to pay in kunas” to which I replied, reasonably I thought, “then can you tell me how much I will have to pay in kunas, when I check out tomorrow?” “No”, was the response, “we only quote in Euros and I don’t know what the exchange rate will be tomorrow. The system will generate the kuna price in the morning”.

Confused smile

During the seven weeks I was away the publicised kuna exchange rate varied between about 9.4 and 9.8 kunas to the pound and the Euro between 1.26 and 1.29 Euros to the pound. I bought my Euros for my travel card back in March at 1.242 expecting the exchange rate to go against me in the future. However…taking into account fees, the best net exchange rate I got for cash was 9 and the worst was 8.2 so I’m going to have to work out a different strategy next time! For credit card transactions the kuna rate was nearer 9.3.

Rather than go by my limited experience of a prepaid travel money card, here’s a link to what Martin Lewis says about them and its reassuring to see that he’s also heard of them being refused at petrol stations (and for car hire which suggest that the problem is they have a relatively low finite limit on them).

Money Saving Expert - Prepaid Travel Cards

For the purposes of reporting on costs I’m going to keep it simple and use €1.2 per pound and 9 kunas per pound which will take into account a little of the decline of the pound since the Brexit decision, though I’ll also give the base currency amount and you can work it out for yourselves at your prevailing exchange rate.

And for those readers who may have glazed over by now, don’t worry, the next posting will hopefully be a little more exciting!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Driving To Croatia – Day 2

Croatia Online- Restaurant Plitvice

We wrote about Day 1 of our drive to Croatia a few days ago - Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day One - and also about our first night’s stop in Eisenbachtal - Croatia Camping Guide - Driving To Croatia Day One

After a full on first day of our drive across Europe, we decided to have a little spring clean, rest and enjoy our campsite so we did not leave Eisenbachtal until 1 20 pm. That’s the joy of exploring off season in a campervan – you can do pretty well what you like, when you like, according to need and mood.

Smile

Having rested and recovered, we drove on into the evening and hoped to find a nice quiet place for a short overnight rest so we could leave fairly early in the morning and make up some time. Neumarkt turned out to be the perfect location and we stopped there at about 7 pm having found an ideally flat parking space, by a field, not to far from town. After 24 hours on various combinations of ham, cheese and bread, we felt we needed something more interesting and decided to treat ourselves to dinner out. Lo and behold, the first restaurant we came across in this small German town, between Nuremberg and Regensburg, was Restaurant Plitvice, named after one of Croatia’s most beautiful natural attractions - the Plitvice lakes and National Park. It seemed too much of a coincidence to ignore so we went inside, only to find it empty apart from its owner who, you guessed it, was Croatian.

Ivo Gavić, like many compatriots, left Croatia several years ago to make a better life in Germany but continued with some of his favourite Croatian recipes. I had a delicious dish of “Croatian pork steaks” and then a couple of feisty home made rakijas (herb brandy) with Ivo whilst we chatted in a mixture of Croatian, German and English about the things we missed most about Croatia.

You’ll find contact details etc on Ivo’s facebook page Restaurant Plitvice and what a great way to whet your appetite for your visit to Croatia!

Croatia Online Restaurant Plitvice pork

On day 2 we drove a mere 212 miles but there’s no point getting there exhausted and we slept well and were rested for the next leg.

Diesel cost us €1.159 a litre, there were no tolls to pay on the German motorways so the only other expense we had was food. My dinner at Restaurant Plitvice was €13.80 which included a huge salad as well as my pork medaillons, a beer and a big glass of wine. The rakija was a gift from Ivo.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Croatia’s Peljesac Bridge Saga

Croatia Online Dubrovnik Bridge
No this isn’t it – this is the bridge over Dubrovnik’s river, Rijeka Dubrovačka, as you head south west to Gruž port and Dubrovnik city centre. We could have used the foundations of the new bridge, from the mainland near Split to Čiovo island, as an illustration  instead but it’s not quite so pretty!
Like the Čiovo bridge, the proposed Pelješac bridge is likely to be funded with EU money, and both sets of developers have been told to hurry up if they want to get all of it. Both projects also share a long history of being “on” and “off”. However the Čiovo bridge is well on the way as three shifts work day and night to get it finished. Not only will it considerably shorten the journey from, for example,  Slatine, at the east end of  Čiovo island, to Split (they are almost opposite each other as the crow flies but, at the moment you have to drive west to the other end of the island, then over the bridge to Trogir old town, over another bridge to the mainland and then back east to Split) but it will also take the enormous pressure of the narrow bridges, connecting  Čiovo to Trogir and the mainland, as holiday makers go to and from the beaches in day time and for some night life in Trogir in the evening.

The purpose of the Pelješac bridge is somewhat different. When the territory was split up after the various disputes and the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina got just a tiny bit of coastline around Neum, just before the Pelješac Peninsula joins up with the mainland. So Croatians travelling from, say, Split to Dubrovnik have to “go out” of Croatia and come back into it a few miles further along the coast. Understandably that wrankles, especially from a nation that treasures its relatively recent independence, so the bridge would allow Croatians to cross over to the Pelješac Peninsula and stay on their own territory wherever they wanted to go in their own country. Hopefully it’s all systems go now but it’s fascinating to read the history of this project and we found an interesting website that details the early stages (from 2005) and some of the early facts: Korčula Info - Pelješac Bridge

The French company, Bouygues, is apparently interested in tendering - SEE News - Bouygues Eyes Croatian Pelješac Bridge Project -  and that will add to a number of large infrastructure projects it is already carrying out in Croatia. And I suppose that as we Brits mull over and discover all the implications of Brexit, we also have to accept that another consequence is our engineering and construction companies missing out on big projects like this.

On a more upbeat note, whilst trying hard not to be distracted by the temptation to refer to Croatia’s political crisis and the “unifying” minority party “Most” (Croatian for bridge),  it looks like there’s yet another bridge in the pipeline for Croatia – big business I suppose for a country with so many inhabited islands and several inland waterways. Rather ironically, according to Total Croatia News, there’s a new bridge planned as part of a new highway connecting Eastern Slavonia more directly with the Croatian south, through Bosnia & Herzegovina. Read more on the following link New Bridge Across Sava River Planned Soon

And for those interested in more information on the strikingly photogenic bridge near Dubrovnik in today’s picture, it’s called the Dr Franjo Tuđman Bridge, it’s 518 metres long and an undergraduate student in Bath has carried out a detailed critical analysis of it which any bridge nerds amongst you (and even laymen like me!) might find very interesting - Student Critical Analysis of Dubrovnik Bridge

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

What’s Best About Croatia?

Croatia Online Sibenik Cathedral

According to the Telegraph…. party towns, summer festivals, Dubrovnik, a quirky museum, coffee, beaches, national parks and Roman ruins to name just a few of their favourite things.

Oliver Smith has come up with 23 reasons to love Croatia and although some points on his list might be a little obscure, there is so much to love that the UNESCO protected cathedral of Šibenik, pictured, doesn’t even get a mention. Check out The Telegraph's 23 reasons to visit Croatia this summer and see what else he missed.

Winking smile

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Driving To Croatia–Day 1

Croatia Online EuroTunnel

We’ve written about the drive to Croatia before and, depending on how close you are to Eurotunnel or the ferry ports in the UK,  it’s possible to do it relatively comfortably in two days. Frankfurt is a good place to aim for as a stop on the first evening if you want a reasonable choice of motel and to spread the driving fairly evenly.

If, like me, you have a dog, the most stress free way of crossing the Channel is Eurotunnel and it’s also much quicker than the ferry. Once we’re on the train Barnie and I always have a little lie down and then we’re ready for the continent! Of course Eurotunnel can be more expensive than the ferry but those of you who collect Tesco Club Card points will know that they get a triple boost on Eurotunnel which makes a big difference.

Last time I went in my campervan I took my time, but on this trip I had a lot to do once I arrived in Croatia so I wanted to get there as quickly as possible without exhausting myself or Barnie the dog. So, armed with my ACSI app (more about that soon on Croatia Camping Guide), I looked for a  place with a good choice of campsites to reach at about the time I thought we would have had enough for the day.  Camping Eisenbachtal was our home for the night and, again, you can read more about that soon on Croatia Camping Guide.

Those of you making the trip in a car, rather than a camper or caravan, and wanting to get to Croatia relatively quickly and cheaply, will fund a number of reasonable motels on the motorway with good restaurants that are often self service.

And what of the roads? Well the trip hadn’t changed much in this respect from four, or even ten, years ago. The German motorways are still (so far) toll free, mostly two lane and reasonably good. There are still plenty of lorries  (perhaps not so many at the weekend), but there don’t seem to be so many speed freaks now that speed limits have been around for a few years. On much of the motorway, lorries are not allowed to overtake, and there are occasional three or four lane stretches so generally it’s possible to average a decent speed.  Of course on a motorway this long there will always be maintenance somewhere and the narrow temporary lanes can be a bit scary if you choose the fast lane, but overall it’s a fairly easy drive though its a good idea to try and avoid the big cities at peak times.

As far as navigation is concerned, I know the route pretty well now and just follow the signs to Brugges, Brussels, Leuven, Liege, Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, etc to stay on the E40. The Brussels ring road can get a bit congested and you need to go roughly half way round it, but a good tip is to follow the signs to Zaventem Airport and then the Leuven/Liege exit is soon after that.

Its not the most scenic way of getting to Croatia but it’s a trade off with more time once you’re there and, as we discovered  on the way back, you can turn just a short way off the motorway and find yourself in a surprisingly lovely, historic location which adds to the surprise and fun!

We covered nearly 500 miles (excluding the channel crossing) from our Suffolk home to Eisenbachtal (270 miles from Eurotunnel in Calais) but an early start and long summer evenings meant we had plenty of stops to stretch our legs, and arrived at our campsite at 7 15 pm which still gave us a couple of hours to relax and explore in daylight and be relatively fresh for day two.

For previous postings on driving to Croatia:

Driving To The UK 2009

Driving To The UK 2008

Driving To The UK 2007

For more information on Eurotunnel, Tesco Boost and The Pet Passport Scheme, which is much simpler now

Eurotunnel Fare Finder

Tesco Clubcard Eurotunnel Boost

Pet Passport Scheme

Eurotunnel - Travel Info - Pets

Today’s photo was taken just as we proceeded to embark on Eurotunnel. We saw no sign of any problems, for example migrants trying to rush onto the tracks or the trains, on both Eurotunnel journeys, and we noticed little difference in border crossing practicalities once on the continent.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Croatia Online – One Helluva Road Trip!

Croatia Online Road Trip

Have we got news for you! 4,000 miles, plenty of time at sea and seven weeks non-stop researching have uncovered some new gems as well as some old favourites with a makeover.

We’ll be revealing all to you in a series of detailed postings both here and on sister site Croatia Cruising Companion. And we’ll be starting at least one new blog tailor made to give you the inside track on camping in Croatia.

A different campsite every night, detailed exploration of the mainland coastline and a number of islands, in depth catch ups with all our local experts, visits to almost all the principle marinas and ports (with quite a few new marinas to report on) and quite a few meanders off the beaten track.

It was a jaw dropping trip – the weather was beautiful, the landscapes and sceneries as varied, dramatic and stunning as ever and the people even more welcoming, friendly and resourceful. Seven weeks was a long time on  the road but we could easily have used another seven or  more. However all good things come to an end and now the hard work starts as we share the exciting discoveries, though that’s quite fun too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Croatia Puts All Its Parks In One Place!

Croatia Online Mallard in Krka

Metaphorically speaking of course, so this mallard in Krka National Park has no need to scratch its head!

Croatia is finally giving its enormous diversity and abundance of beautiful unspoilt habitats the attention it deserves and has consolidated all the various information onto one website.

It splits its parks between National Parks and Nature Parks, the former normally afforded a higher level of protection and perhaps a little more “spectacular”

Looking at the map we’ve just a couple left to do but so far the highlights are Kornati, Učka, Kopački rit and Krka. Here are some links to some previous Croatia Online “park postings”:

Croatia Online - Krka and Skradin

Croatia Online - Kopački rit

Literally, the Parks of Croatia, you can find the English language version of the new website here - Parks of Croatia Homepage

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Croatia Online Features on Total Croatia News

Kastela fire planes JC. One of my favourite blog photos

It seems Croatia Online has the dubious distinction of being one of the oldest English Language blogs on Croatia, having achieved its 10th anniversary at the beginning of the year.

In recognition of this magnificent achievement our editor, Jane Cody, was interviewed by Paul Bradbury of Total Croatia News – one of our favourite websites.

Jane made full use of this unique opportunity, and some very meaty questions from Paul, to reflect on a number of major and hopefully interesting issues – Croatia’s progress in tourism, particularly nautical tourism, the Croatian blogging scene and some favourite blog posts, to name but a few.

So make a cup of tea, put your feet up and see what she has to say on life in the universe as it applies to Croatia!

Here’s the link  Total Croatia News - Bloggers Of Croatia: Jane Cody and many thanks to Paul for his insightful questions and affording us the space we needed to answer them properly.

Today’s photo is a Croatia Online favourite – a fireplane coming into Kaštela Bay to top up its tanks with water.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Football in Croatia

Poljud_panorama_2

As in most other sports it takes part in, Croatia punches well above its weight in football. The national team is a force to be reckoned with, there are plenty of Croatian players in the UK leagues and of course Slaven Bilić, the erstwhile national coach, is now manager of West Ham.  Croatians also take their football fan responsibilities very seriously and none so enthusiastically as the supporters of Hajduk, Split. Despite needing a little tlc, Hajduk’s Poljud stadium, pictured, is a sight to behold, day or night, roof open or roof closed, and there aren’t many football clubs that can boast a backdrop of karst mountains and azure Mediterranean waters.

To get the full story on Croatia’s football scene (or most others worthy of note!) have a look at Libero Guide Croatia. Libero is a digital travel guide for football fans and aims to be the most up-to-date travel companion to the game’s most exciting destinations, city-by-city, club-by-club. So if you like holidays with a football theme, or just want to follow your club around the globe, Libero is the website for you.

Thanks to Ballota for today’s photo

Friday, February 05, 2016

Travel Croatia By Seaplane

DSC00945

In November 2014, our intrepid roving reporters, Diane and Roger, reported on their first seaplane trip. They travelled from Split to Hvar island on one of the first European Coastal Airlines (ECA) sea plane flights. In fact the Split terminal at Resnik they travelled from is just a short walk from where we used to live in Kaštel Štafilić. This terminal is placed to be near Split’s international airport but now it seems there’s also a terminal in Split city centre so you can arive right into the heart of this amazing Dalmatian City, with its eclectic history and culture, as well as easy links to Croatia’s popular islands of Brač, Hvar and Vis.

Read about Diane and Roger’s trip on Croatia Online - Come Fly (To The Islands) With Me!

News hot off the press is that ECA flights now link Split and Dubrovnik which is another huge breakthrough for locals and visitors alike. Previously the choice was a long car or coach ride, or scheduled flights between the two international airports. As far as I’m aware modern  trains and the motorway still don’t go all the way to Dubrovnik yet but that something else on the list of things to catch up on!

Even if you don’t particularly want to go to either destination (are you mad?!) the flight is worth it for the view of the coastline and islands alone and you can read the full story on Total Croatia News

Friday, January 29, 2016

Croatia Online Inspires One Of Croatia’s Best Native Bloggers!

Secret Dalmatia

It was with considerable delight that, following a tip off from our great friends Diane and Roger, we discovered ourselves credited as the inspiration for one of THE very best blogs on Croatia. We’ve known Alan Mandić for many years and had some of our best trips to undiscovered places with him. If anyone knows the real secrets of Dalmatia, Alan does, and he has that rare combination of local knowledge, national pride and international savvy that makes what he offers to visitors, and what he does to promote all that is best about Croatia, quite exceptional. So we forgive him for drawing attention to the fact that this blog has been a little quiet recently.

Winking smile

In fact the wake up call is a couple of months too late as one of our resolutions for 2016 is to make Croatia top priority again so expect to hear a lot more from us now!

Read the interview with Alan Mandić here: Total Croatia News Meets The Bloggers Of Croatia

And below are links to some of Croatia Online’s favourite postings featuring Secret Dalmatia when Alan  was just an embryo blogger, if that! Bear in mind that these are the original posts and contact information for some of the venues may have changed.

Croatia Online - A Day Out With Secret Dalmatia

Croatia Online - Caves and Caving

Croatia Online - Bibich Winery, Skradin

Croatia Online Discovers Secret Dalmatia

Today’s photo is of some Roman ruins that were, at the time, hidden away from almost everyone except Alan!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Learn The Croatian Language!

Croatia Online Rab Sign

If you are a little slow making your resolutions this year but are already yearning for a trip to Croatia, why not learn the language and get so much more out of  your visit?

Yes, Croatians know they can not expect many of their tourists to speak the lingo and yes, menus and signs are often in English, German, and perhaps Italian and French as well, but there will be times when you may really wish you’d done a little more homework…. for example when  that very special location eludes you because you did not know what the sign said.

First of all the good news: Croatian pronunciation is very phonetic and regular, so once you know how to pronounce each letter you can make words understood. Also good, in a way, is the fact that most Croatians speak English so they can help you (but tend to prefer practicing their English rather than letting you hone your skills). The challenge is that there are 6 declensions of each verb and three genders so you may have up to 18 different endings of a verb. And don’t believe the locals when they say the ending does not matter as they will be very quick to correct you!  There are some words similar to French and a very few where you could say the English word and be ok but, like anything worth doing, you’re going to need to put some time in. So maybe think of accelerating your progress by having some lessons from a professional?

We’ve known Linda Rabuzin, owner of The Croatian Language School (CLS), for years.  Based in west London, CLS was established in 1997, long before quite a few of our compatriots could place Croatia on the world map and certainly before it was properly discovered. CLS works with corporate and private students, from complete beginner to advanced, including providing tailor-made training programmes if required.

Better still, why not combine a visit to your favourite holiday destination with a language course? This year Linda is taking her students to north Croatia, near Zadar. Over a week you’ll have 12 hours of tuition, spread over 4 days, and the option to join in an amazing programme of excursions where of course you can practice some more.

Follow this link - CLS - Zadar Croatian Language Course 2016 - to find out more about the opportunity, not only to learn the language from a native and expert teacher, but also to get a real “local’s” insight into the culture, sights and sounds of this incredible, rapidly up and coming, and often overlooked, part of Croatia.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Croatia & Its Neighbours

Ivo Sanader

Though we try and stay in touch with the political evolution of a still young Croatian nation, we don’t feature politics much in this blog. However, there was an excellent article in the Irish Times on Friday looking at various recent commemorative events against the complex history of the region and relations between neighbours. Some of the implications are a little worrying but far better, we think, to air them in the hope of positive discussion, rather than sweep them under the carpet and let them fester.

Croatia not only sits in the middle of a region full of different religions, ethnicities and culture, but also between the two major world political philosophies and cultures of east and west. No wonder a prize like Croatia has been fought over so often by so many different nations and, with increasing world tension  as a result of Russian intervention in Ukraine, amongst other things, lets hope  western influence on the region remains strong and well received. Here’s a link to the full Irish Times article - Croatia and Serbia In Grip of New Balkan Struggle

Today’s photo is of Ivo Sanader, the disgraced Prime Minister, referred to in  the article. Readers may be interested to read about the circumstances surrounding his resignation which, at the time, came as a surprise to (almost?!)  everyone.  Croatia Online - Ivo Sanader Resigns

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Croatia’s Alka Tournament of Sinj (Sinjska Alka)

The Sinjska Alka, a knights tournament in Sinj

Every August, in a place called Sinj, inland from Split, a medieval jousting tournament takes place. It’s called the Sinjska Alka (literally the Alka of Sinj) and is a tradition that has endured since 1717. 

Rather than aiming their lances at each other as they gallop down the main street, the knights (called Alkars) aim for iron rings hanging on ropes. The event is named after these iron rings and is a word of Turkish origin. Participants must be members of local families and the whole community supports the tradition by, for example, making costumes and weapons. It has become a marker of local history and a medium for transferring collective memory from one generation to another.

The Sinjska Alka  is the only remaining example of these historic competitions which were once held in most Croatian coastal towns. It’s included on the UNESCO’s representative list of non-material cultural heritage of mankind and soon there will be a museum to further preserve and explain the tradition.

Split county and the national government are sharing the funding of the museum and it is hoped that it will be ready for visitors for this year’s tournament. See the government's  website link for more information on the museum and link to Unesco's Website for more information on the Alka itself.

Boris Ljubičić is the author of today’s photo which has been kindly provided by the Croatia Tourist Board.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Croatia’s Zadar Airport Continues To Grow

Ch 1 Zadar Airport

Ryanair operated its first flight in Zadar Airport in 2007 and is partly responsible for the long overdue discovery of this very special, and still overlooked, region of Croatia. CEO Michael O'Leary paid a visit recently and indicated even more visitors this year and in 2016.

For more information and a great directory of  airlines flying to Zadar go to Croatia Total Split

Today’s photo shows Zadar Airport back in 2006 though it has not changed that much on the outside since then!

Croatia Is Fodor’s Top World Destination On The Rise

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Croatia has come out top of world destinations people most want to go to,  based on Fodor’s data of most researched destination pages. Neighbouring Montenegro is rising fast too!

Read the full story here: Fodor's Top Destinations

Today’s picture shows some of Diocletian’s Palace and cafés on Split Riva.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cruising In Croatia

Croatia Online Trogir Riva

The best way of travelling around Croatia is by sea. No hanging around in traffic jams in the heat, no ugly suburbs to drive through, all of the islands and the best parts of the mainland at your disposal, and the frequent possibility of a cooling dip. Of course sailing yourself around  gives you the maximum flexibility, especially if you have a copy of the Croatia Cruising Companion to hand, but there are other ways. You could charter a yacht with a skipper or you could go on a cruise.

Today’s Telegraph suggests some luxury cruises majoring on Croatia – Telegraph Top 5 Cruises In Croatia – but for those on a very limited budget, it’s quite fun (and very cheap) making the local ferry service work  for you – check out this link for all the lines available in the summer  - Jadrolinija Sailing Schedule Summer 

In between these two budget extremes there are a number of other options including flying there under your own steam and taking a local and smaller cruise boat. Or perhaps get together with a group of friends and hire your own superyacht!

Here’s one yacht we’ve seen regularly in and out of Trogir - Princess Diana. And follow this link for a report we did on another classy yacht available for hire Croatia Cruising Companion - Cruising In Classic Style

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Today’s photo is of Trogir’s Riva (sea front)  jam-packed with local cruise boats on changeover day in the summer.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Croatia Online’s Roving Reporters Invite You To Come Fly With Me!

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We passed on the exciting new news of seaplane connections in Croatia in an earlier posting -  Croatia Online - Seaplane Transfers To Croatian Islands. Now our intrepid roving reporters, Diane and Roger, have tried it out and share their first hand experience with us.

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Late this summer European Coastal Airlines (ECA) started their sea plane flights from their terminal at Resnik, close to Split Airport and serviced by a shuttle bus between them. 

From our terrace we had watched as the Twin Otter Aircraft passed in front of us on its way to Jelsa, Hvar Island, and at the beginning of October we booked our tickets for the 9 am flight of Saturday 18th October.  On arrival at the terminal we collected our boarding passes from a friendly, smart and efficient team of staff.

The flight on the sea plane was quite exciting as you can observe the pilots and cockpit controls.  It's a great feeling as the aircraft gathers speed and you see the  spray from the floats before lifting off. The flight itself  is very scenic as the aircraft flies at  low altitude.

After a fifteen minute flight we touched down at Jelsa and were met by a car and driver who took us the 28km to Hvar Town. (This was arranged at the time of booking).  There was plenty of time to explore the town including climbing up to the Fortress to take in the spectacular views over the Pakleni islands and Hvar town.  After the climb, the descent led us to our first well earned beers of the day!

Eating in Hvar town can be expensive, compared to the rest of Croatia,  but we spotted a sign up a side street leading to to a Bistro called 'FOR'.  They advertised weekend specials of domestic Dalmatian cooking and we thought we would try one of the dishes. We were not disappointed.  First came home made beef soup and a basket of bread, then a salad which was followed by roast lamb, roast potatoes and vegetables.  This with half a litre of red wine came to 130kn for two. Not only amazing value but we were impressed with the friendly welcome and the tables laid with clean fresh linen.

Our driver collected us at the pre-arranged time of 3 pm for the return trip to Jelsa, allowing us enough time to explore Jelsa and down another beer before boarding our return flight at 5.35pm.

The cost for us both, including our taxi to Hvar Town, was 1168.13 kunas - about £120 - and the whole trip was a seamless, enjoyable experience which we would thoroughly recommend.

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Thanks to Diane and Roger for taking the time to share what may well be one of the best innovations in Croatian tourism in recent years, and for their photos. And congratulations to ECA for breaking through the red tape and getting started a lot quicker than many expected. And news hot off the press is that there should be a terminal in Šibenik, based at Mandalina Marina, in time for summer 2015.

 

Friday, October 03, 2014

Croatia’s First Year In The EU–Thumbs Up Or Down?

Croatia Online Olynthia

The jury is still out on that question. For expats it’s made things a little easier; for locals arguably a little harder, but according to a BBC News report a couple of days ago (see links at the end of this posting), the olive oil business is doing ok out of it and exports, in general, have improved.

Like many new entrants some Croatians expected EU entry to be a panacea for a marked improvement in the standard of living,  but long gone are the days when the EU was flush with enough cash to really indulge its new members. In fact Ireland was probably the last country to reap significant financial benefits of membership and we all know that cash injection did not last very long despite the considerable boom it created at the time. Interesting then to look back at the very first posting on this blog - Croatia Online - A Parable - back in January 2006, comparing the two countries at a time when the EU really did appear to be the land of milk and honey! And also a reminder of how long Croatia has been waiting to join its ranks.

As you will read in the BBC News article, a small olive oil company reports that it is thriving from the reduction in red tape on exports – great news that Croatian olive oil, amongst the best we have ever tasted, can now be appreciated by a wider audience. However it’s difficult to see EU benefits if you’re living in a county still deep in recession and with high unemployment. And it looks like there may be more pain to come as large, state owned employers, such as the shipyards, Croatia Airlines and ACI Marinas, go through the often traumatic process of privatisation.

What is hopefully still cheering the locals up, and a subject on which the BBC News report is remarkably silent, is the ever growing tourism industry. Visitors to Croatia’s coastline could be forgiven for presuming that the (tourism) economy is very healthy indeed!

Links:

BBC News, Croatia And The EU

Croatia Online - Šolta, The Island Of Olives

Monday, September 22, 2014

Goli Otok, Croatia–A New Tourist Attraction?

Goli otok 2

Goli otok translates as “naked island”, named, we believe, after its days as a secret nudist destination. However it became infamous for its prison back in the days of Tito and the Yugoslav Republic.

It lies just north of the popular northern Croatian destination of Rab and there is about to be much current debate as to what to “do” with it!

Croatia’s economy is driven, to a great extent by tourism and the government wants to maximise the use of its “assets” so options range from bulldozing all remnants of the dark past for new developments, to turning the island into a memorial of its bleak history.

For more details, some of them making depressing reading, have a look at these links:

Association of Goli otok

IOL Travel - Goli Otok

Daily Mail Online - Goli otok

Sunday, July 20, 2014

New Flights To Croatia From Dubai

Croatia Online - Plane

 

In December, Flydubai  starts a new route to Zagreb in Croatia. There will be three flights a week (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday) as part of a steady expansion and in the expectation of boosting trade and tourism with eastern Europe. Flight time is approximately six hours.

This follows on from an announcement in March, by the United Arab Emirates government, of  a new policy of visa on arrival for Croatian citizens and 12 other nationalities.

Dubai travel experts believe the sparsity of direct flights from Croatia and other destinations, such as Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was keeping Croatian tourists away despite promotions by the Croatia Tourist Board in 2012 and 2013. The new flights will also, of course, attract new tourists to Croatia!

For more information go to Flydubai

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Croatia In May–A Traveller’s Report

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Today’s posting and photos are from Jon Dunn who we “met” on Twitter [ @cromercanary ]  and loves Croatia as much as we do. Jon has just returned from a trip around one of the most unspoilt parts of Dalmatia and was kind enough to let us post the first part of his travel report. Please note that opening times, ferries and bus timetables vary according to the season and you might be hard pushed, for example, to find any boat to take you up the Krka River if you go there in February!

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North and Central Dalmatia, May 2014.

Hi, I’m Jon, from Cromer in Norfolk in the U.K. For several years now (since my first visit to Istria, in fact) I’ve had a “thing” about Croatia. That time, I was based in Pula, but had visits to Rovinj, Poreč and surrounding areas.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with cancer of the epiglottis, which was caught early and treated successfully - fingers crossed. So in May last year I had recovered enough to travel to Dubrovnik and Korčula, which were (and still are, I assume) both fantastic. Looking at the map, I saw there was a massive chunk in the middle of the country where I’d never set foot - something I was determined to resolve this year.

So the organising began in earnest. Where to fly to, stay, what to see and do, etc. These two websites were invaluable in helping this planning stage :-

Croatia Ferries

Croatia Bus Timetables

So, anyway, I eventually sorted out an itinerary that looked feasible - and great fun. First stop Zadar airport from London Stansted. From there it was straight down to Šibenik to spend four nights in my first ever Airbnb accommodation (more of Zadar later).  Šibenik is built on the side of a steep hill, so is quite demanding, seemingly never ending flights of steep steps. But boy, if you have appropriate walking boots on, it’s great. My rented room was perched high above the city, yet only five minutes walk from the waterfront. As it was getting late I settled for a pizza, from Pizzeria Fontana, Kralja Zvonimira 17a, 22000, which for 30 Kunas, was fine.

The early morning views across the sea from my balcony were to die for! St Ante’s channel and the islands of the Šibenik archipelago gleaming in the morning sunshine :)

There’s a helpful tourist office on the ‘riva’ (seafront promenade) just a few doors down from the Jadrolinija ferry office, which had brochures in several languages and a good city centre map. So, primed with a couple of macchiato coffees and some fritules (doughnuts) it was time to wander, get lost, discover forts, monasteries, medieval Mediterranean gardens, a beautifully kept cemetery (St Ana’s) and an endless supply of churches.

One of the main reasons for opting to use Šibenik as a base - it’s not the prettiest city in Dalmatia, with respect - was Katedrala sv. Jakova (St James Cathedral) which is totally stunning and benefits from UNESCO heritage status. It’s unique in as much as it’s constructed totally from stone, limestone quarried locally and marble  brought in from Brač island. No bricks or timber were used.

The intricate carvings at the main and side doors were just staggeringly ornate, featuring massive Venetian lions but the quirkiest feature is the 71 life sized carved human heads forming a frieze around the outside. Who these people are/were is not certain, but they all manage to look in different directions and are a photographer’s dream!

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Some more wandering for photos and a refreshment stop - the local red wine Babić became a pretty good friend and some of the best is produced in and around Šibenik – and I jumped on a bus to visit the picture postcard peninsula town of Primošten, which is charming and compact, but doesn’t warrant more than a couple of hours, in my opinion. Once again it’s a photographer’s paradise, especially if you carry on heading south and look back at it from there. The best Babić vineyards are just outside the town, so it would have been rude not to!

Back to Šibenik on the next bus, interestingly this bus service was run by Autotransport d.d. Šibenik (white buses with blue writing) and was literally half the price of Autotrans for exactly the same journey? Go figure.

By now I was starving. My ‘Rough Guide’ had mentioned konoba Tinel as a good place to eat and having tasted my first ever Pašticada with gnocchi, I have to agree with them. Tinel is tucked away a bit, opposite St Chrysogonus' Church (Galerija sv. Krševana - number 14 on the free tourist map) with a lovely raised outdoor terrace and comfortable indoor seating on two floors. Excellent.

The other reason for choosing Šibenik as a base is it’s proximity to Krka National Park. There’s a local service every morning from the bus station to Skradin at 9.00 I think, with a bus back at 17.00 ideal for a full day excursion to this stunning park. Skradin itself is worth a wander and apparently some of Dalmatia’s top wines are from there, but not enough hours in the day, sadly :(

From Skradin - there’s a reception and visitor centre in Skradin where you buy tickets for boat and park admission combined (90 Kunas adult) - hourly boats head up the Krka river to the end of that navigable stretch, Skradinski Buk waterfall. Forget all the photos, just go and see/feel/experience the thunderous wall of water spilling all around you! Spectacular is an understatement. There’s also a boardwalk of almost 2 km in length which the brochure says is a leisurely hour’s walk - I took more than three! Apart from the cascading water everywhere, there are numerous other attractions within the park, like weaving looms, blacksmiths, flour mills, even the remains of Croatia’s first ever hydroelectric power station. There are guides on hand to explain how it all used to work, and a woman weaving beautiful blankets on the loom.

In addition, as you make your way around the boardwalk, information boards telling you of all the rare and endemic plants, fish, mammals and birds which have been spotted in the park. There are additional boat trips further up the river to another massive waterfall, Roski Slap and a monastery on an island, but due to the timings of everything, you can’t really do it all in one visit, though there are places to stay overnight in the park and in Skradin. A fantastic and informative day for people of all ages.

Back to Šibenik and seafood risotto washed down with white wine - Istrian Graševina - delicious. (The plan was the black risotto with cuttlefish ink, but I had a change of heart - wimp!)

There’s only one regular Jadrolinija ferry service from Šibenik, to the ‘resort’ of Vodice, calling at the islands of Zlarin and Prvić en route. I wanted to visit a small, rectangular town called Tribunj, which is the epitome of cuteness. The ferry leaves Šibenik at 09.30 and returns from Vodice at 18.00, which again allows for a full day exploring. Tribunj is about four km from Vodice, but it’s a gorgeous walk along the beach path which is paved for most of the way. The marina is awesome, filled with some of the most luxurious boats I’ve ever seen. There’s a narrow causeway bridge linking Tribunj with the mainland, much like Primošten, and it’s a great place to wander. The old town on the islet is not much bigger than a football pitch, so you’ll be doing well to get lost! There are some cool waterside bars, such as Nautica, a great place to sit and watch the boats come and go, listening to some of the most chilled out music I’ve ever heard. Bliss!

The best vantage point and worthy of a visit is the hill behind the town, where you can find the ruins of a Venetian fortress and the lovely little church of St Nicholas.

Back along the beach path to Vodice for the ferry home, but not without a typically enthusiastic Croatian wedding taking place, car horns blaring, then a walk around the seafront with accordions serenading the happy couple :)

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Many thanks to Jon for his report on the first part of his travels and I am looking forward to the next. Makes me rather homesick for Croatia - Šibenik was my home for several months and when we first went to Croatia, in 2002, to find a house to live in, we stayed right by Tribunj “Marina” for a week. There was no swish marina then, just the shell of an enormous building (that became the marina offices) abandoned half way through construction.

For more information on some of the places Jon describes, the following links will take you direct to a few of our earlier postings on this blog and sister blog, Croatia Cruising Companion:

Croatia On Line - Gastronomy Near Šibenik

Croatia On Line - Falconry Centre Near Šibenik

Croatia Cruising Companion - Šibenik In Winter

Croatia Cruising Companion - Šibenik Regatta

Croatia Online - Tribunj Revisited

Croatia Online - Vodice

Croatia Online - Primošten

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Under A Croatian Sun – A Real Insight Into Croatian Island Life

Jacket

We were lucky enough to be sent an advance copy of this book, generally available today. It’s fairly unique in terms of insight into ex pat life in Croatia and a thoroughly good read. Jane Cody, Croatia Online’s editor, tells us a bit more about it.

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I have nothing but respect for author Anthony Stancomb and his wife Ivana. I thought I was brave going to live in Croatia in an age when most of my friends still couldn’t quite place it on the map. However we made a base on the mainland, in the fairly cosmopolitan town of Trogir, and our social life was mostly geared around the handful of other ex pats within a fifty kilometer radius and a few well travelled and cosmopolitan English speaking locals. So I can’t say we really “integrated” or indeed thought we ever would. The most we hoped for was to be recognised as residents rather than tourists, albeit we came to accept that we would never be anything else than “foreign”!

Anthony and Ivana, on the other hand, were pioneers and plunged themselves directly into traditional Croatian culture, on one of Croatia’s most remote islands, at a time, I imagine, when ex pats were only just rediscovering Dubrovnik. It helped, I’m sure, that Ivana is Croatian by birth and that Anthony learnt the language, but as Anthony illustrates in his book, it does not really matter whether you come from ten or ten thousand miles away - if you’re not from the village itself you’ve got a battle on your hands being accepted. And being accepted in Vis is probably the biggest challenge of them all – not only is it a two hour ferry trip from the mainland (Split) but Vis, with its military strategic importance, remained isolated for quite a long time after the Second World War and was at the sharp end, through the ages, of many attempts by a number of world powers to conquer and control the Adriatic.

But battle they did, and Under A Croatian Sun is an endearing tale of the roller coaster ride of gaining some sort of acceptance against almost impossible odds. Croatia is a proud, resilient and resourceful nation, long since used to playing host to foreign tourists. However, accepting a pair of ex pats into the everyday village life of an island culture, where everybody knows everyone else, and their detailed ancestry, is a very different kind of challenge.

Anthony relates, with great candour and some hilarity, their many different attempts to win the hearts and minds of the villagers, some more successful than others. In true British style, he becomes the only resident to have a lawn in his garden when all his neighbours are growing fruit and veg. Being seen clipping the edges, he soon realises, is rather detrimental to his status amongst such machismo males, and finding a lawnmower on the island proves impossible. Ironically, perhaps, Anthony’s attempts to build a cricket team on the island, after a slow and difficult start, are infinitely more successful and culminate in a decently matched fixture with a visiting MCC team.

What I like most about the book is its honesty about the challenges with Croatian bureaucracy and Anthony and Ivana’s indomitable spirit in not letting it grind them down. As a visitor to Croatia, you’ll hardly be aware of it but, if you decide to live there, you will come across it every day and it can sap the spirit. However, as Anthony explains, its not foreigners that are singled out; locals have exactly the same problems too. Though they may often have the advantage of cousins in the right places to oil the wheels, locals have the disadvantage of a psyche that has been worn down by bureaucracy over many generations and, worse, distant memories of the communist era when the Secret Police could make life very difficult for those who rocked the boat. Anthony and Ivana’s hard fought victory against bureaucracy in one area, particularly after bashing their heads against a brick wall in quite a few others, was not just a personal victory for them but one for the whole village and perhaps gave the locals a little more optimism for the future.

Under a Croatian Sun gives a rare and enlightening insight into what living in a small village on a Croatian island is really like for a couple that does not, by right, “belong” there in the same way that almost everyone else does. Now that Anthony and Ivana are well on the way to “acceptance”, I hope their neighbours will forgive the more colourful portraits that have been painted of some of them. The characters are all infinitely believable and Anthony is just as colourful and frank in relaying some of their less favourable impressions of him, along with plenty of Ivana’s frustrations! It’s difficult to imagine a sharper contrast in backgrounds and all credit to the Stancombs for making such earnest attempts to understand the history and circumstances which explain, for example, just why Croatians have come to prefer modern concrete buildings over old stone houses, and lino coverings over old wooden floors!

Most of all it’s very clear that the prize is worth it – a beautiful old house, right by a crystal clear sea, surround by vineyards and olive groves, amidst people that still celebrate a culture of traditional Mediterranean values, enjoy (reasonably!) healthy lifestyles and value the simple things in life.

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You can find out more about Anthony and the book on his website www.anthonystancomb.com

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Croatia’s Handiest Local Ferry? Trogir, Split Slatine

Croatia Online Bura Line

Just a few years ago, a savvy independent operator brought in perhaps one of the most sought after local ferry services. Yes, the state owned ferry company, Jadrolinija, does a great job servicing the islands and international routes. However poor old holiday makers on Slatine, Čiovo island, could look at Split, a stone’s throw away across the water, but to get there they had to drive miles in the opposite direction, cross over the busy Trogir bridges and then drive back the direction they came from on the mainland.

The Bura Line now takes them direct across the water and lands them right in the centre of Split, on the Riva by the British Embassy. It also extended its route to connect to Trogir so there’s no need to have a car anymore to get to the two most popular towns in the area.

It’s a seasonal service only, very much geared to tourist demand and you can find the latest timetable here Bura Line Timetable

The Facebook page is a fairly new thing and it’s in Croatian only but Google Translate will do most of the hard work for you. That being said, it made us chuckle to see “radnim danom” (week days or, literally, working days) being translated as the “The Oprah Winfrey Show”! Similarly don’t be horrified by the prices with “£” signs in front of them – that’s the price in kunas and there are around 9 kunas to a pound.

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Today’s photo shows one of the ferries leaving Slatine on its way to Split. The high rise buildings in the background are in the suburbs of Split.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bird Watching In Croatia

Copyright Reserved

Back in 2009, we were lucky enough to go out bird watching in Croatia with Robbie from Val Tours. It was a fascinating day – not just learning about the birds but going to some really undiscovered places.

The excuse was that we were writing a feature for Time Out Croatia about it – their first one on the subject. However even if you’re not yet hooked on the hobby it’s a fascinating way of seeing Croatia’s natural beauty.

Birding is not as developed in Croatia as elsewhere and the wide variety of habitats – from Mediterranean to Continental – means there’s a wide variety of birds. So if it’s your thing then Croatia could be the place to add a few more birds to your list.

Val Tours, based in Biograd near Zadar,  were one of the first tourist organisations to take Birding in Croatia seriously. They now have a very impressive website dedicated to birding and have expanded on the type and number of tours they offer. So if you’d like to find out more, go to Croatia Birding.

To read our 2009 postings on the subject, link to:

Croatia Online - For Undiscovered Croatia Follow The Birds

Croatia Online -Time Out On Birds

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Today’s photo is one of our all time favourites and kindly supplied to us by Val Tours for the Time Out feature – two Pygmy Cormorants having a chat!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Croatia’s Floods

Croatia Online - Drava River Osijek

Whilst there are no winners in the Balkan flood crisis, Croatia has fared “less worse” than neighbours Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The Digital Journal report on this link shows a map of the area worst affected though the crisis is still unfolding. Much has been made of the way that these previously warring nations are now helping each other and, in the normal pattern of things, the poor state of the maintenance of rivers and dams is now coming into the spotlight. However the scale of the tragedy seems yet to be fully apparent and our thoughts are with all those affected.

Visitors to the Croatian Coast should be reassured that the main flooded area is a long way away and they are very unlikely to be affected directly. The mood may be a little more sombre than usual but the continuing fidelity of tourists will have a very positive effect on the nation’s morale and its finances. Those with any concerns may be interested in this Trip Advisor Thread with comments on specific areas. Note that the main affected area is around the Sava river which forms the natural border between the north of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the south of Slavonia, a region in inland Croatia, not to be confused with Slovenia, which is a country to the north west of coastal Croatia.

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Today’s photo is of the Drava river is Osijek, north of the main flooded area but in the same region.