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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An Insight Into Tourism In Croatia

Croatia Online - Mountain Climbing in Omis

A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to get a one to one tour of the culturally colourful and dramatically scenic Dalmatian town of Omiš, from one of its more eminent residents - Joško Stella, Director of the Central Dalmatia Croatia Tourist board. We already knew that Omiš had an awful lot going for it but after that day we could have written a whole book about it!

So it was interesting to read Joško’s recent and very frank take on where Croatian tourism is heading, particularly in Dalmatia. In a wide ranging interview for Digital Journal last month, Joško gives his informed views on anything and everything, from music festivals to cruise liner visits, with a special mention for the new Roman Roads Project.

You can read the full interview here - Digital Journal - Tourism In Croatia

And if you’d like to uncover a few  of  the secrets of  Omiš, including the history of its pirates, then check out this earlier posting on sister site Croatia Cruising Companion

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Today’s photo is of some mountain climbers in Omiš. Once you’ve done that why not try some white water rafting on the river Cetina nearby?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Happy 150,000th Hit To Us!!

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In the last 24 hours Croatia Online has received its 150,000th hit. Very many thanks to all of you who have kept on reading since our early beginnings, and also to newer readers. It’s time for us to go and celebrate but readers might be interested to read Croatia Online's 100,000th Hit Posting which has links to some of our favourite postings, including the very first one back in January 2006. Our nautical blog, Croatia Cruising Companion, at 35,000 hits, has a way to go to catch up but it did start a few years later and seems to have found its niche!

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Today’s photo shows a very good friend of ours teaching Barnie, the dog, to drive  near Šibenik. The Croatian’s love a classic car as much as we do and everywhere we went they honked their horn and waved which makes it a good memory to celebrate all things Croatian! Smile

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Holiday Transfers To Croatia Islands About To Be Revolutionised?

Kastela Fire Planes 019

One of the logistical problems for visitors to Croatia’s islands has been timing their flight connections with ferries to their end destination. Sometimes it means an overnight stop on the mainland which can be expensive and tricky to find in the high season - most accommodation providers are looking for a minimum of three night stays and charge accordingly.

It looks as if that problem is finally about to be solved by European Coastal Airlines (ECA) who seem to have put many of the steps in place necessary to start their promised seaplane service in summer 2014.

ECA assure us that the seaplane transfers will operate all year round and be affordable for visitors and locals alike: “the ticket price for Split to Korčula will initially be below 300 kuna (40 EUR)” which does not sound bad compared to the gain in time.

Follow progress on ECA’s website news and just bear in mind that sometimes big things take a little longer to happen than is ideal!

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ECA will obviously have a modern fleet of seaplanes and we don’t have a photo of those yet. So today’s photo is of a different kind of seaplane – the fire planes used to damp down the occasional forest fire, neatly framed by the two windsurfers!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Continuing Economic Recession Unlikely To Dampen Croatian Spirits!

Croatia Online - Rab

Bloomberg reported last week that Croatia is the only eastern member of the EU to report a continuing recession in the spring quarter of 2014. Only Cyprus and Croatia, amongst all EU countries, are predicted to have negative growth in 2014. You can read the full post on the following link Bloomberg - Croatia Still In Recession.

Whilst clearly it’s not the best of news and Croatians are still suffering from a gloomy economy, we don’t expect the locals to be too downhearted. Croatia depends heavily on tourism and there’s not much of it about in the first quarter of the year. And Croatia has suffered far worse in its past and still bounced back with  determination and success. Croatians are a resourceful bunch and though, on paper, not a rich nation, self sufficiency never died out in Croatia so their Kunas go a lot further than ours might.

From a tourists’ point of view Croatia’s (and the Euro’s!) misfortune is our gain. The sterling exchange rate is over 9 kunas to the pound though this tends to decrease a little as the high season approaches.

All in all it’s probably as good a time as any to visit this Adriatic hotspot and do your share to help the economy!

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Today’s photo is of sunset over Rab town. Rab island, Kvarner, is a very popular destination and has some great sandy beaches. The silhouette of the town and its four elegant bell towers are often said, by sailors approaching at night, to resemble a grand four-masted ship. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Croatia Cruising Companion and Trogir

Trogir's Kamerlengo Castle

Readers please note today’s posting on sister blog Croatia Cruising Companion with details on a new marina in Trogir to come.

Trogir has a special place in our hearts as not only is it one of the most popular Croatian cruising destinations but it was also our first home in Croatia. This lovely UNESCO protected medieval walled town, with its cobbled streets, intriguing squares, bustling Riva (seaside promenade), stunning cathedral and elegant castle has a life all year round and just about everything you could wish for – a wide choice of hotels (old and new), a vast variety of cafés, bars, restaurants, tourist offers and shops, a vibrant summer festival, a fish market, a fruit and vegetable market and, of course, a rich history told by the many ancient buildings. What’s more it’s just a 15 minute drive from Split airport, half an hour by car to Split itself and only an hour and a half’s drive away from Zadar Airport. Inter city coaches to Dubrovnik or Zadar, for example, pick up and drop off in Trogir and there are ferries from Trogir to the nearby islands of Veli and Mali Drvenik as well as between Trogir, Slatine on Čiovo island and Split though the latter only run in the season.

For the best swimming you’ll need to walk or drive across the bridge to Čiovo island or take the seasonal ferry to Slatine.

Today’s photo shows Trogir’s Kamerlengo Castle and, beyond that, in the distance, the location of the new marina.

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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