Monday, November 13, 2017

Burek In Novalja

Croatia Online - Burek, Novalja

Day ten of our epic campervan trip around Croatia saw us in Novalja on the island of Pag. It was one of the very rare rainy days of the whole seven weeks and so we were in need of a little comfort food. And what better comfort food than the humble Burek, available in any Dalmatian bakery worth its name?

In fact Burek’s origins are Turkish but the Dalmatians have always been good at keeping the best of the various cultures that have fought over Croatia.

Cheese (“sir”) and meat (“mesa”) are the most common varieties – small specks of either cheese or mince scattered through filo pastry and best served and eaten hot. It’s probably not that great for your waistline and I guess the popularity of hot burek wains a little in the scorching Croatian summer but it’s a really satisfying snack if it’s raining. or the cold north east Bora wind is blowing.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Dubrovnik Airport’s New Terminal Open

Croatia Online - Dubrovnik

With Dalmatia’s first city continuing to attract an ever increasing number of tourists, EU structural funds have been used to help ease the strain on the airport.

The first phase of the new  Terminal C is now complete, with check-in and security moved from Terminal A, which will eventually cease to operate for passenger traffic. Hopefully the transfer of passenger operations to Terminal C will be complete before the 2017 summer season starts.

Here’s a link to details about the project - - but note that the links provided on this page, to the structural funds website, take you to pages in the Croatian language only. English pages have been “under construction” for several months, hopefully because the “real” construction work is going so fast and taking up so much time.

Winking smile

Welcome Europe reported last year that the 24,000 square metre development was being co-funded by EU structural and development funds to the tune of  €214.9 million and €134.6 million respectively. Stated, and obviously EU influenced objectives include:

*Improving Dubrovnik region connections with the rest of Croatia and the EU, and preparing for Schengen rules
* Facilitating uninterrupted mobility of people and goods and improving quality of life in the region
* Decreasing unemployment, fostering regional development and investment activities
* Resolving problems of a congested Terminal Building and harmonisation with the international standards of air traffic.

Dubrovnik airport broke yet more records in 2016 with nearly 2 million passengers so it’s not surprising the old infrastructure is bursting at the seams. Have a look at the airport’s statistics here - – to see just how much traffic has grown.

Today’s photo shows Dubrovnik from the road, heading south-east towards Cavtat.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Epic Croatia Road Trip - Day 9 – Lun, Pag

Croatia Online - Olive Gardens of Lun

Day 9 of our epic Croatia Road Trip was one of the rare wet ones and my was it wet! So we decided to do most of our sight seeing and photography from inside the campervan so apologies for the raindrops!

Off we went along the narrow north-western extremity of Pag island, from Novalja to Tovarnele at the very north-west end. There are plenty of little villages off this “main” road but the main settlement is Lun, near the north-west tip, which offers olive grove tours and an olive oil museum. In fact the road is lined with olive groves most of the way and you need to choose your turning points carefully as olive tree branches can be surprisingly inflexible and low hanging! We mistook the owners house for the olive oil museum and turning there proved quite a challenge despite  a little guidance from the owners who, from their very relaxed attitudes, must have been quite used to Brits in high sided vans turning around in their drive.

In fact the olive groves of Lun are very special and were protected in 1963 as a botanical reservation. There are approximately 1,500 wild (as opposed to cultivated) olive trees here - olea oleaster – which are relatively unique in the Adriatic, standing between five and eight metres high and averaging approximately 1,000 years of age with some significantly older. The stone walls are also special, with larger stones protruding from the top to stop the sheep from jumping over and damaging the trees. Despite this, there are areas where many of the trees were nibbled by sheep when they were young bushes, giving them a unique bonsai-type appearance.

Here’s a link to a brochure about the Olive Gardens of Lun Project, which will give more information on the many special attributes of the olive groves here. The three year project, largely financed by the EU, was completed in 2013 and aimed to show off all the unique assets of the area in a more sustainable way:

…. and here’s an extract from the brochure suggesting the trees are even older than suggested in most tourist information literature:

Lun olive groves stretch over about 24 hectares and
account for more than 80,000 oblica cultivar trees
grafted on a wild substrate of the Olea oleaster linea
olive. Around 1,500 oblica trees stand five to eight
meters tall, with an average age of about 1,200
years, while the oldest olive tree in Lun is 1,600 years
old. This olive grove is unique in the world due to
its large number of millennial trees all in the same
location, something that not even the famous olive
groves of Israel and Greece can boast.

Unfortunately, there were no tours taking place when we visited in May, and the weather wasn’t that conducive to staying around for long, so we headed to the very end of this part of Pag island and took some photos of Tovarnele, a small fishing village with a lovely church and a great little bay – pictures below.

Croatia Online - Tovarnele

Croatia Online -Tovarnele Church

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Happy New Year And Welcome Back To A Great Ferry Route!

Croatia Online - Korcula town

Every year is a good year for Croatia and its fans at the moment. The tourist boom that was promised for so long  just keeps running and running. Success and quality are now rooted deep in the Croatian psyche when, for the first few years I lived there, well over a decade ago, they were mostly just an aspiration.

Croatia has worked hard to get where it is today. No longer (most of the time), just a frantic six weeks of “anything goes tourism” in the height of summer. Let’s hope that we’ll still be able to see plenty of the “Mediterranean as it once was” (old tourist board strapline) in between the mostly welcome luxury hotels and resorts. Certainly, so far, Croatia has avoided the high rises of countries like Spain where traditional fishing villages were transformed into concrete jungles complete with fish and chip shops and English bars on every corner.

One excellent piece of news, to start 2017 off with a smile, is the reintroduction of the Jadrolinija ferry route along the coast from Rijeka to Dubrovnik, stopping at Split, Hvar, Korčula and Mljet. It was halted in 2015 and sadly missed by many of us.

Read more about it on  Croatia Week and check out the Jadrolinija website itself when it’s been updated for the news. It hasn’t yet but the following link will take you to the Jadrolinija local ferry lines schedule for 2017 Croatia Ferry Lines: Jadrolinija 2017

Sretna nova godina!


Today’s photo was taken way back in 2004 in Korčula town. It’s still one of my favourite photos – small local boats, a huge ferry, stone buildings, mountains and sunshine all in close proximity. Quintessential Croatia Smile

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Croatia’s Wellness Scene

CroVis Wellness Hotel Horizont's Spa

This morning I read a very interesting article in Croatia Week entitled “Top Thermal Spas Worth Visiting in Croatia”. It reminded me of an era not so long ago when “Wellness” in Croatia was more traditional – the smell of sulphur and chlorine, massive and overheated communist-era hotels in need of maintenance, and not all that much to feel “well” about! 

In 2008, however, the modern concept of Wellness was being well and truly adopted in Croatia and I wrote a feature for Time Out Croatia to help reflect and illustrate this new trend. I’ve reproduced the full text submitted below, with updated websites where necessary,  as many of these then “newer” wellness facilities are still at the forefront of the industry. Recently, of course, most new  four of five star hotel of any size (and often the new three stars as well) include some sort of wellness facility, and there are 86 entries in the separate Wellness section of the Croatia Tourist Board website so, on the whole, it’s no longer something to write home about.  Increasingly however, health tourism in Croatia is getting more attention, with some of the latest technology now available in modern dental practices hoping to attract more international health tourists.

For the full Croatia Week article, link to:

Croatia Week - Top Thermal Spas In Croatia Worth Visiting

For the Health and Wellness Section of the Croatian Tourist Board website, go to Croatia HR - Health and Wellness


Time Out Croatia On Wellness - 2008

Wellness, an intrinsic part of Croatia’s culture and history was, until relatively recently, only modestly exploited. Roman Emperor Diocletian may well have chosen Split as the best location for his magnificent palace in the 3rd Century AD, partly on health grounds. The Romans knew about the healing powers of sulphur, the Emperor suffered from arthritis, and the palace was built around two sulphur springs that, according to archaeologists, formed part of a medical complex within the palace walls.

Sulphur springs, healing mud, a great climate, skilled and educated professionals, attractive prices and an abundance of other natural resources all mean that Croatia has long had the potential to be a Wellness haven. Now, with substantial investment, it’s capitalising on its natural assets to cater to this ever growing and discerning market. Most new or newly refurbished hotels of any size are now including a Wellness Centre as standard, medical tourism is on the up and Croatia even has a Wellness Island, and a dialysis centre specially catering for foreign tourists with kidney problems.

One of Croatia’s newest mainstream Wellness Centres is Hotel Horizont - Hotel Horizont Wellness - in the Makarska Riviera resort of Baška Voda, flagship hotel of the Russian owned Hoteli Baška Voda Group. Here you’ll get a sublime combination of Russian opulence, contemporary design, modern facilities and a huge choice of treatments. The Wellness, Spa and Fitness area covers 2,000 square meters and is skilfully designed to provide an intimate Aladdin’s cave of treats. The Russian masseur has a reputation for being able to diagnose and treat several complaints just by touch and, to stay with the Russian theme, you can lunch in the Russian restaurant nearby. The vast choice of pools and saunas includes an infrared sauna, increasingly popular with western visitors for apparently achieving a multitude of benefits including cholesterol and blood pressure control, weight loss, treatment of skin problems and pain relief. If infrared’s your thing the Wellness Centres in Hotel Uvala and Hotel President in Dubrovnik, Hotel Corinthia-Baška on Krk Island, Blusun Hotel Elephusa in Bol on Brač Island, and Bluesun Hotel Soline, Brela will also oblige.

Prior to the arrival of Hotel Horizont, Falkensteiner’s Club Funimation Acquapura Thalasso & Spa Center in Borik -Falkensteiner Wellness - was the clear leader of the Dalmatian pack, with 2,000 plus square metres of modern facilities including 310 square meters of heated indoor and outdoor pools, a large fitness area and a range of Thalasso treatments (seawater and seaweed packs). The ultimate in private luxury is Funimation’s Presidential Suite which has its very own massage room, a small freshwater pool on the terrace, and a spa area with steam bath, sauna and whirlpool.

These and other upmarket mainstream Wellness Centres offer a mind boggling array of facilities and treatment. Sunčani Hvar’s Adriana Hotel in Hvar - Adriana, Hvar, Spa Hotel - focuses on a holistic “Sensori” approach to help guests make the most of its 1,400 square metres of facilities, including a rooftop seawater swimming pool; the Grand Hotel Adriatic in Opatija - Hotel Adriatic has its 600 square metres of facilities on the top floor to provide a panoramic view of the Kvarner bay as you relax; Remisen’s Premium Hotel Ambassador - Hotel Ambassador Opatija - also in Opatija, embraces Chinese philosophy to provide its Five Elements concept in a Wellness Centre covering two floors and 1,300 square metres; Aurora - Wellness Hotel Aurora - in Mali Losinj, is scheduled to open its new Wellness Centre at the end of May this year and Le Méridien’s Grand Hotel Lav - Le Meridien Lav, Split - near Split, brings a contemporary perspective to our opening story in its Diocletian spa and Aroma Grotto [in 2016 it’s claiming to be the largest spa in Croatia!].

CroVis Grand Hotel Méridien Lav Spa

And if a few hundred square metres of Wellness facilities isn’t enough for you then how about a whole island? Hotel Istra – Maistra;  Istria - lies on Otok Sv Andrije, nicknamed Wellness Island, a fifteen minute boat ride from Rovinj.

Less mainstream, and often less modern, facilities have grown up around natural thermal springs dotted all over Croatia. Take into account their gradual evolution (often from Roman Times!) when assessing them against more recently built facilities - some have a distinctively Eastern European feel. The Tuhelj Thermal Spa Terme Tuhelj - in the Zagorje region of Croatia, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Zagreb, claims to be the largest Wellness Centre in Croatia and to have one of the best healing muds in Europe. It’s built around thermal springs, at the bottom of which lies the mud. Elements of silicon, aluminium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium oxides, sulphur and organic compounds are believed to relieve anything from gout to cellulite. The thermal springs have a similarly impressive list of components and healing properties, and the water is warm enough to swim in all year round. The area has spawned a Water Park, as well as a number of sporting activities, which will keep the kids amused whilst mum and dad wallow in the mud. A similar range of facilities has grown up around the Bizovac thermal springs in Slavonia, the inland Istrian springs between Buzet and Motuvun, and a whole host of others. Perhaps the most modern and extensive of these facilities is in the most northernmost part of Croatia, close to the Slovenian, Hungarian and Austrian borders. The Thermal Spa St Martin -Terme Sv Martin - Spa - describes itself as a Wellness Oasis and offers apartment accommodation in a complex that includes Wellness and Beauty Centres, 18,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor water area, bars, restaurants and a pub.

CroVis Wellness Thermal Spa St Martin 1

A natural offshoot of Wellness is specialised health tourism. Dental tourism was an early seedling and now appears to be growing fast. In general, Croatian dental surgeries have well trained and qualified dentists and nurses, the latest in specialised equipment, and compete very favourably on price compared with other parts of Europe. And what better way to get over dental chair nerves than combining a new set of choppers with a relaxing holiday in a comfortable hotel by the Adriatic. Treatment Abroad ( is just one of the websites that Croatian dentists are using to promote their services. According to client testimonials a new set of teeth can cost less than half the price of the UK equivalent. Dentex- Dentex Dental - has three studios in Zadar and, in partnership with nearby Falkensteiner Hotels (see above), offers a tailor made package of dental treatment combined with a holiday.


Adriana Hotel - - offers one of the best Wellness facilities on Hvar Island.

Hotel Ambassador - - in Opatija uses Chinese philosophy and the “Five Elements Concepts” to provide a holistic programme in its 1,300 square metre wellness area.

Hotel Aurora - - on fast developing Mali Lošinj Island is undergoing a major face lift and due for its grand re-opening in early summer to include a state of the art Wellness Centre.

Wellness Baška - - designed to give the feel of a Mediterranean Street, is part of the Hotel Baška complex on Krk Island. Be aware though that there’s still some building going on to complete an apartment block on the complex which is scheduled for completion in May 2008.

Bizovac Thermal Springs In Slavonia, this complex, built around thermal spas, discovered whilst searching for oil, includes two hotels, an aqua park, a range of sports facilities and a clinic.

Blusun Hotels - - have a wide range of Wellness packages available from their hotels Elaphusa in Bol on Brač Island, Alan in Starigrad Paklenica, Kaj in Marija Bistrica and Soline in Brela, near Makarsaka.

Dentex - - have three studios in Zadar and, in partnership with Falkensteiner Hotels in nearby Borik, offer a full range of dental treatment and holiday packages.

Club Funimation - - has one of the largest Wellness facilities in Dalmatia and an outdoor area with pool and slides that’s great for amusing the children.

Grand Hotel Adriatic - in Opatija, offers the full range of treatments and a spectacular view from its top floor terraced Wellness Centre.

Hotel Horizont - - in Baška Voda, near Makarska is open all year round and has one of the biggest and up to date Wellness Centres in Croatia.

Hotel Istra - - lies on a small island near Rovinj and has a large Wellness area that extends outdoors into a Mediterranean Garden.

Le Méridien Grand Hotel Lav - - features a Diocletian spa and aroma grotto amongst its brand new five star facilities in Podstrana, just outside Split.

Treatment Abroad ( are a good site to keep up with medical tourism in Croatia. At the time of writing, dental treatment, from a number of providers, was the only option available but who knows what will be next.

Thermal Spa St Martin  - -  is the centrepiece of a village dedicated to sustainable tourism. As well as the spa complex, the village has a deer farm, puts on a number of exhibitions of traditional trades and crafts, and provides for a wide range of sporting activities.

TopTerme Topusko - - 65 kilometres (41 miles) south of Zagreb, offers Wellness, medical, sports, and special programs centred on the healing waters of the local thermal springs and in the style of accommodation that will take you back to the Yugoslavian era – be warned!

Tuhelj Thermal Spa - - 40 kilometres inland from Zagreb, has a water park with indoor and outdoor pools, and a Wellness Centre focusing on the natural healing mud, thermal spas and Fango therapy.

Selce Thermal Spa - - near Crikvenica is a traditional spa of the more spartan variety and includes a clinical psychologist, physiotherapist and cardiologist in its team to offer anything from sports injury rehabilitation programs to those for senior citizens. Accommodation is either in their own apartments or in nearby hotels and private accommodation.

Hotel Uvala - -  in Dubrovnik, has an infrared sauna amongst the many high tech facilities in its Wellness area.

Valamar Hotels - - have a number of Wellness packages available from their four star hotels Diamant, in Poreč, and President in Dubrovnik

Monday, November 28, 2016

Epic Croatia Road Trip - Day 9 – Pag Island


Croatia Onlina - Pag Island c

Looking at the nautical charts, I’ve always thought Pag island looked like a lobster; this photo, taken by a pilot friend, proves it! It also shows that Pag, like the rest of Croatia is not that easy to explore in a logical way. You have to go up and down the “spine” to get to various places.

Day 8 of our trip saw us arrive on Pag and we spent the night at one of Croatia’s biggest campsites - Camp Straško, near Novalja. For more information on that see Croatia Camping Guide - Camp Straško.

Pag is one of the few Croatian islands of any size I’ve never been to so I decided to spend three of my precious trip days exploring it to the full. Novalja, the “capital”, was the first stop of our first day on the island and I was pleased to be there off season as it is PACKED in the summer and has the reputation of being one of Croatia’s most vibrant party towns.

You can tell just how busy Novalja gets by the size of its hypermarkets – the largest I’ve seen and seeming to have the contents of an entire high street inside. One of the shop assistants told me the island has 100,000 visitors in August which is just as well as there were only about 10 of us on this rainy day in May!

Croatia Online - Novalja, Hipernovalis

However there’s much more to Pag than Novalja, it was raining and wasn’t much fun exploring on foot, so we decided to head to Lun which is about as far west as you can get on Pag. We’ll be reporting on Lun in our next posting but here’s a little more on Pag in general.

As most Croatiaphiles will know, Pag is reknowned for its salt cheese, lamb and lace. The cheese and lamb are special because of the salt and the aromatic herbs that the sheep feed on. Climate (particularly the dominant Bora [north-east] wind), soil and geology also play their part.

Croatia Online - Pag Sheep

Find out more on the following links:

Pag Cheese

Boskinac Blog - Pag

Pag’s lacemaking is inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and you can read more about that here:

UNESCO - Lacemaking in Croatia

Many may not know that Pag has also achieved fame for an alleged UFO mystery – the mysterious PAG triangle. There’s a complex set of theories, best explained by the experts, and the following links, particularly the first, will enlighten you further:

You Tube - Mysterious Triangle On The Island Of Pag

Pag Triangle - Alien Visitors Again?

That’s it for now – there’ll be more on Novalja later, including Stara Novalja, the old town. Next is Lun, with its olive groves and olive museum.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Croatia’s Griffon Vulture Rescue Centre

Croatia Online - Griffon Vulture Centar - Bird
It was with some surprise, as I worked my way south along the coast road from Senj, that I saw a sign for the Griffon Vulture Centar, more officially known as the Birds Of Prey Conservation Centar. I’d got to know it a little, seven years ago, when  I was living in Croatia and wrote a feature on birds in Croatia for Time Out.  Follow the link below to go back to earlier postings on this:
Croatia Online - Birding In Croatia

At that time the centre was located on the island of Cres, an island that had become synonymous with the birds it protected. However, it seems that the somewhat unregulated tourist attention that ensued from the ecological success of the project, the introduction of wild boars for hunting, which disrupted the already fragile eco-system, and a number of other factors, forced the centre’s  founder, Goran Sušić, to relocate to the mainland.
Croatia Online - Griffon Vulture Centar - Sign
Unfortunately the Griffon Vultures have a number of other challenges, not least the fact that there are not so many dead carcasses around any more and certain drugs, used by farmers on their livestock, are toxic to the birds. Goran and his team have helped the numbers in Croatia go from 80 to 140 but they are now going back down again.

Nonetheless, and despite being somewhat dispirited by the ups and downs of their pioneering work and particularly the politics that surround it, this small group of conservationists continues to do its best to rescue and care for injured or orphaned birds and return them to the wild.

The centre itself is a fascinating place and I was lucky enough to get a one on one guided tour from Marin, the founder’s son.  One of the most interesting things he told me (and there were too many for my overloaded memory to handle!) was that the  Griffon Vultures from Cres are the second heaviest in the world, only beaten by those from the Himalayas. The reason is obvious once you think about it: at the high altitude of the Himalayas, a bird needs plenty of weight to cope with the violent winds and weather. In this region of Croatia, the fierce Bora wind, from the north-east, blows more strongly and more frequently than anywhere else in Croatia, and a bird needs plenty of muscle and power to manoeuvre in its mighty gusts.

Croatia Online - Griffon Vulture Centar - Marin
Apart from the rescue, care and release of the birds, the centre is also involved in the science of trying to protect this highly endangered species. One vulture has GPS “onboard”, many are ringed and from this conservationists learn much about their struggles. They tracked one pair taking it in turns to make a round trip to Italy every day, in order to feed their young, because there was no food in Croatia and, apparently, the centre is not allowed to set up a feeding station. 

The centre also helps in the education of children and adults alike and the rooms and outside spaces are peppered with innovative quizzes, visual displays and information areas. Of course the centrepiece is the convalescing birds themselves, kept in an enormous netted area with a hut and viewing area at one end. The vultures are happily oblivious to all the interest they arouse as they are viewed through one way glass – you can see them but they can’t see you!

Croatia Online - Groffon Vulture Centar - Centar
For more information go to Griffon Vulture Centar At the time of writing the website was not available which we trust is just a temporary hitch, perhaps caused by a big Bora wind!

Facebook pages are mostly in Croatian Facebook – Grifoncentar

GPS co-ordinates are 44°53.06’ N 14°54.72’E and opening times are 11 to 6 from 1st May to 30th September. However, certainnly outside the main summer period, it’s probably best to ring ahead to the mobile to double check someone is going to be there when you want to visit + 385 ( 0 ) 91 3357 123.

The tour costs 30 Kn but all donations are most welcome and you may be lucky enough to be given a small souvenir.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Žrnovnica, Near Senj

Croatia Online - Zrnovnica

After the various unsolved mysteries of Sv Juraj, or St George, as it translates into English, we did manage to solve most of the mysteries of the next place we stumbled upon as we continued our drive south along the coast road from Senj.

From high up on the hill we spied a narrow bay with a breakwater on either side leaving just a narrow gap in the middle. Our interest was piqued as we thought that it must provide good and rare shelter for yachts, from the Bora wind that blows from the north-east very fiercely in this part of Croatia. Indeed there was a yacht moored well inside the breakwater.

We decided to inspect further and parked the car in a few different lay-bys to get a better view. It looked like a huge private residence for someone with plenty of money but, as we got a wider view, we saw other buildings also looking as if they were quite newly built. It didn’t have the look of a small village and we deduced that the owner must be very rich and that the other houses were for staff!

Croatia Online - Zrnovnica Outbuildings

We didn’t really fancy the steep descent to investigate more closely and suspected that, anyway, we’d probably be given short shrift so we left any further research for our return home.

It turns out that this is “Veladrion” – according to the website “a private haven where your intimacy is protected froom prying eyes…” aimed at the corporate market as a venue for meetings and events.

It does look like a lot has been invested in it and I would imagine it has all the latest mod cons. Landscaping, and what looks like a pitch and put, are well on the way and I’m sure the owners have thought about providing a pier or beach so that, after a hard day’s work, conference participators can relax and have a swim. Visit the website - Veladrion -and you’ll find an array of exclusive facilities for work and play!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sveti Juraj, Near Senj

Croatia Online - Sv Juraj Ruins

I’m sorry to say that, despite my best endeavours, Sv Juraj still remains something of a mystery to me. If I’d seen the statue of St George, at the time I was having my coffee,  then I would have asked the waitress a lot more questions!

However part of the fun of blogging my trip when I get back home is that I get to delve into what is now quite an extensive library on all things Croatian and find out some obscure fact relating to an unsolved mystery arising from my travels. This time I have drawn two blanks: not only do I not know what the connection is between Sveti Juraj and its namesake saint, St George (see Croatia Online - St George Slays Dragons All Over Croatia), but nor have I been able to establish the exact history of its two sets of ruins.

The ruins in the main picture above are on the mainland and the other, smaller, mound of stone is on the tiny nearby islet of  Lisac – see picture below.

Croatia Online - Sv Juraj - Lisac Islet Ruins

The best I can offer is the paragraph below from thee Senj Tourist Board site

On the old graveyard by the sea you can see the St Juraj church and abbey, and nearby there are the remains of St Filip and Jakov church. People have been living here continuously since Roman times.

So, if anyone reading this can help me solve the mystery of St George and the ruins, please add a comment.

History aside, Sv Juraj is a typical example of “The Mediterranean As It Once Was”, the slogan now dumped by the national tourist board.  Everything flows around the small harbour and there’s a pizzeria, café, shop and harbour master’s office. It’s a lovely little place that I would imagine retains its soul and character throughout the year  and doesn’t see too much of a tourist invasion in the summer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Epic Croatia Road Trip – Day 8

Croatia Online - Island Shots

I’m hoping this photo gives you just an idea of why I spent most of my six weeks in Croatia gawping at the stunning views and worrying about the sheer drops in equal measure! On Day 8 of our very memorable road trip we covered just 43 miles but a vast array of locations.

After checking out Nehaj Castle in Senj, having reluctantly dragged myself away from one of my all time top ten campsites, we had a coffee in Sveti Juraj, a peek at Autocamp Raca, investigated a very private looking and secluded estate, stumbled upon the Griffon Vulture centre, not realising it had moved from its former base on the island of Cres, took a ferry to Pag island, drove to Novalja and finally parked up for the night at Camp Straško in Novalja.

Our constant backdrop was the stunning and ever changing view of the Kvarner islands – Krk, Rab, Cres, Lošinj, Goli Otok, Prvić and Pag to name but a few. So, apart from all the stops to check out bays, campsites and villages, it was impossible to resist stopping in almost every layby to drink in the views. That’s something we never got tired of and though it made the days a lot longer, trying to fit everything in, it made them very full. No wonder it took most of the evening to download the day’s photos and transcribe my notes, and no wonder it’s taking me so long to report properly on the trip! Still, working through the images and events of the day is the next best thing to being there!

The next few postings here, on Croatia Online, feature Sveti Juraj, Goli Otok, a very exclusive resort in Žrnovica and the Griffon Vulture centre, where we were lucky enough to get a one on one tour from the founder’s son, Marin Sušić.  Meanwhile on Croatia Camping Guide we’ll be looking at the campsites in more detail and on Croatia Cruising Companion, the ports and navigational considerations.

In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some more of those jaw dropping views.

Croatia Online - Prvic

Croatia Online - Rab, Goli Otok & Sv Grgur

And finally, does anyone else think that Pag looks like a lobster?! Twitter Pic - Pag

Friday, October 07, 2016

Croatia’s First Resort Development

Croatia Online - Brizenica Bay5

Yesterday afternoon I became completely distracted trying to pin down the location of Croatia’s first new resort development – Brizenica Bay, on Hvar island. Extensive searches saw it mentioned a few times on tourist pages in relation to beaches accessible by boat, and in connection with the proposed development, but it was not named on any one of my maps – nautical or otherwise. Nor did the developers think to include the exact location on a map on their website. Even my detailed maps of Hvar island, which name almost every coastal indentation, were silent on Brizenica Bay.  I guessed it would not be far from Stari Grad and I also deduced it must be part of the Kabal peninsula that stretches north west from Stari Grad and so, eventually I found that some obliging member of the public had pinpointed  it on a google map. And then, lo and behold, I zoomed in, in a slightly different place, on my electronic navigational sailing charts, and there it was, spelt slightly differently.

In order to avoid readers having the same challenges, and to share the benefit of all those hours spent solving the mystery, I thought I would reproduce the results of my research and have pinpointed the location in the main picture above. I have used the tourist board map of Hvar for this, which I trust is within the terms of use – please note that copyright in it is with Kartograf. The lable and boxes, and extraction of the boxed out area on the map, are my work. Please do not reproduce the photo without permission from the copyright owners,  just in case.

Having pinpointed the location, and after checking the latitude and longitude with the notes I made on photos taken on a recent boat trip in the area, below is a photo of what I am pretty sure is the right bay.

Croatia Online - Brizenica Bay Boat trip

You can see the spine of the Kabal peninsula, rising behind it, and, as you’ll see from the map, the peninsula is a narrow y-shaped and heavily indented piece of land with a “b” road running along the top, with steep narrow tracks down to some of the bays.

Of course the locals would have known where it was instantly. Brizenica Bay, along with others on the Kabal peninsula  such as  Žukova, Zavala, Tiha and Digidaga, are favourite “secret” retreats from the summer hoardes. Barely accessible by car, easier to get to by boat, these bays and beaches, hidden amongst pine forests and olive groves, make for a pleasant peaceful contrast to the busier beaches nearer Stari Grad itself, but perhaps not for much longer?

Four Seasons Resort Hvar, covering 17 hectares around Brizenica Bay,  is expected to open in 2019. Arqaam Capital, a  specialist emerging markets investment bank, head quartered in Dubai, has entered into a partnership with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to manage and operate the luxury mixed use resort.  

The development will feature a 120-room Four Seasons hotel and a luxury residential community including 60 Four Seasons private residences ranging in size from a one bedroom residence to a five bedroom villa.  The resort will also feature  several swimming pools,  a spa and fitness centre, top end restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques, as well as conference and banqueting facilities. The sales blurb also suggests private docking, though I would imagine that might not be all year round, since the bay is not particularly well protected, especially from winds from the north-west. It is, however, quite a deep bay and I would imagine it will need plenty of imported gravel if the designers want to incorporate a gradually sloping area of beach. The media pack also mentions multiple daily seaplane flights from Split to nearby Jelsa  - hopefully the developers and other interested parties can bring some pressure to bear to resolve the current impasse between ECA, who run the flights, and the authorities, who have suspended flights after, allegedly, reports from a disgruntled employee criticising maintenance and other matters. There is a link to an article about the suspension below, reporting on a statement made by ECA on 3rd October 2016, but, at the time of writing, the ECA website itself has no news update since August 2016.

I suppose, as far as the march of progress goes, this new resort project is a really positive development for Hvar, and Croatia as a whole. If it’s going to get developed then better to “go” 5-star than anything else and there aren’t much better brands than Four Seasons. However there’s just a part of me that is a little sad that this will be another part of “the Mediterranean as it once was” that won’t be again. And I fear that this resort development, classy and pioneering as it is, may just be the start of the taming of the whole of the wild, rugged and dramatic Kabal peninsula. Thankfully, however, there are still plenty of wild, rugged and dramatic parts of Croatia left,  and Stari Grad deserves the best, so let’s celebrate progress and trust in the developers and the authorities to make sure this enormous project does full justice to its location!

For more information, try the following links:

Brizenica Bay.Com

Stari Grad Tourist Board

Slobodna Dalmacija - Aerial Shot Of Bay

Arquaam Capital

ECA Suspend Seaplane Flights In Croatia

European Coastal Airlines

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Senj, Kvarner, Northern Croatia

Croatia Online - Senj

Nestled close to the Velebit mountains, and the largest town between Rijeka, to the north, and Zadar, to the south, Senj has long enjoyed huge strategic importance and has a chequered history.

The settlement started on the hill more than 3,000 years ago and was an important trading stop. Gradually, as elsewhere in Croatia, development gradually focused closer to the shore.

In Roman times it was one of the most significant ports and cultural centres in the region but was largely destroyed, by the Barbarians, in the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries.

In 1537 the Turkish government made a treaty of non agression with Venice  on condition that the Uskoks left Klis. Many Uskoks (literally “fugitives”) came to Senj and helped the Austrian governor with the fight against the Turks. The well preserved Nehaj Castle, overlooking the town, was built in the fifteen fifties and located so as to have a good vantage point for sighting approaching ships.

Croatia Online - Nehaj Castle Senj

However when relations improved between the Austrians, the Uskoks took up piracy, threatened the new peace and so were moved inland.

Peace and economic prosperity returned to Senj as it became an important trading post again, particularly for the import of salt, grain and wood. It also became a significant cultural centre again, with many of the country’s great poets coming from Senj and now commemorated by having with their busts placed in Senj’s Poet’s Park.

However, in 1873, the building of the railway line between Rijeka and Karlovac cut Senj off from the progress it brought, and Trieste and Rijeka, with better connections, started to flourish as ports at Senj’s expense. Inhabitants started to leave in the late 19th century, a process which accelerated after the Second World War when the town suffered heavy bombing.

One of Senj’s other claims to fame is that it is the windiest place in Croatia. The Senj Bora (north-east wind) is a weather phenomenon both feared and feted by its inhabitants. The wind builds high up on the Velebit mountains and then blows directly down the Vratnik pass to Senj. The part of the island of Krk directly opposite Senj is bare – nothing can grow there against the onslaught of the Bora.

Croatia Online - Bora Senj, Krk

Apart from generating hurricane force winds every now and then though, the Bora brings some advantages producing exceptionally “clean” air once it has blown through and generally heralding clear skies and sunshine.

Senj is a more traditional kind of town as far as tourism is concerned. Following its isolation resulting from the new railway line, the building of the motorway has also cut it off the main road transit route. However it’s a great place to visit with a good museum in the castle, another one in the town and plenty of shops, banks, restaurants and bars.

Croatia Online - Senj, view from castle

And it has one of the best located and best value for money campsites we stayed at in our seven week trip, very close to town and with its own great little beach – for more details go to  Croatia Camping Guide - Kamp Škver, Senj

For more information on the town itself, link to Senj Tourist Office

Monday, October 03, 2016

Croatia Ranks Second For World’s Best Beaches

Croatia Online - Vinisce

There’s never a shortage of interesting Croatian news stories on Croatia Week and today is no exception. Sister site, Croatia Camping Guide, will shortly be reporting on Croatia’s campsites in the news, but, for this posting, we’ll be featuring Croatia’s beaches as one of them has made number two in Skyscanner’s list of 10 of the World’s Best Beaches.

Lovrečina beach is between Postira and Pučišća on the north coast of Brač island. It’s one of Croatia’s fairly rare sandy beaches and it stays shallow until the very end of the bay. It’s well protected and a similar shape to the bay pictures above – Vinišće – which is one of my favourites. You can read the full story and see Lovrečina bay in its full glory on this link - Croatia Week - Croatian Beach Named 2nd Nicest In The World. And you can find out a little more about Lovrečina beach on this link Croatia Gems – Lovrečina

If you want to go back to the original skyscanner top ten, follow this link - Skyscanner - 10 Of The World's Best Beaches. It was written in 2013 so maybe there’s a new one coming along with a few more Croatian beaches in it?!

We’ve found so many great beaches, on our various travels around Croatia, that it’s very difficult to rank them. However we’re trying to do just that as we go through the photos of our epic, early summer, road trip. Vinišće, above, makes it because it’s such a peaceful settlement and a great place to get away from the masses in summer. Zlatni rat beach, near Bol, on Brač island, pictuted below, probably has to feature too as the most photographed beach and one of the best for water sports.

Croatia Online - Zlatni rat, near Bol

Wherever you go on the Croatian coast , though, you’re never very far away from a great beach, or even a seclection of beaches with something for everyone.

For some of our earlier postings on beaches check out the following links:

Croatian Beaches & The Art Of Picigin

Beaches in Croatia (2008)

Beaches In Croatia (2006)

Sadly, the website we featured in the 2006 posting is no longer around. It was brilliant, way ahead of its time and there’s been nothing to match it since. However there are plenty of  other  websites with sections on beaches around and below are just a few.

Croatia National Tourist Board – Beaches

Visit Croatia - Famous Beaches

Telegraph's Top Five Croatian Beach Resorts

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Driving To Croatia – German Motorway Tolls?

Croatia Online - German Motorway

As I pound the keyboard preparing my Croatia Camping Guide, currently focusing on the road trip there and back, I am reminded that the costs I estimated, based on my latest trip, were high enough without the threatened introduction of road tolls on German motorways for foreigners.

So I thought I’d better check the current position, and the latest reliable information I have found is in a Wall Street Journal article dated June 18th 2015. According to that, the EU is still blocking the introduction of the tolls on the grounds that they are discriminatory to foreigners, and long may that last!

I’ll try and use this posting to collect updates on the matter in the comments section so if anyone knows any different please let me know.

For the Wall Street Journal article, link to WSJ - Germany Postpones Highway Toll For Foreign Cars though be warned, you may be asked to subscribe.

For our detailed posting on the costs of the trip, go to Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia: How Much Does It Cost?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Croatia Road Trip–Day 7 Part 1 – Klenovica

Croatia Online - Klenovica

Today we went from Novo Vinodolski to Senj, ending up at one of our very favourite campsites of the trip, right by the beach and next to the centre of Senj.  First stop was to take some photos of the second new marina just outside the centre of Novi Vinodolski – see sister site Croatia Cruising Companion – and the next stop was Klenovica, a lovely small and compact settlement around a large harbour.

The statue in the picture gives a big clue as to the main occupation of Klenovica’s residents – fishing. Now, of course that’s supplemented with tourism and Klenovica has plenty of apartments to let, a campsite, bakery, post office, small supermarket (with limited stock though that might be because the summer season had hardly started), free WiFi and a handful each of restaurants and bars. It also has its own little islet, St Antony, with a causeway built so you don’t need a boat to get to it. Our kind of place for quietly watching the world go by.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Croatia Road Trip Day 6 - Novi Vinodolski

Croatia Online - Novi Vinodolski

Novi Vinodolski was the last stop of a very interesting day. It appears there are no less than two new marinas under construction here, of which more on our Croatia Cruising Companion Blog in due course.

Readers may recall that, in an earlier posting on Selce, our first stop of the day, we alluded to the rather fascinating wartime history of the area. Our research on a Novi Vinodolski war hero,  Slaviša Vajner, known popularly as Čiča Romanijski and depicted in a statue (sorry about the crooked image!),  took us to the same website  -

Croatia Onlina Slavisa Vajner, Novi Vinodolski

The website lists a number of partisans from Novi Vinodolski, including Slaviša Vajner, killed during the second World War, and quite a few more citizens who were victims of fascist terror. Here’s what the website says about the town and its hero:

NOVI VINODOLSKI. A town on the Croatian Littoral, its representatives had been one of the signatories to the Vinodolski zakon (Vinodol Law), one of the oldest legal texts in the Croatian language dating from 1288. It remained the leading town of the Vinodol Valley for centuries.

The town is the birthplace of Slaviša Vajner, known popularly as Čiča Romanijski, one of the first People's Heroes. He was killed in battle on the Romanija Mountains in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1942.

Croatia Online - Novi Hotels & Resorts

Just out of town is the new, five star, Novi Spa Hotels and Resort with its own kilometre of coastline, 70 hotel rooms, over 300 apartments and, allegedly the largest spa centre in Europe. It’s website -  Novi – lists the main highlights as follows:-

To mention just some of the endless NOVI SPA HOTELS & RESORT amenities: NOVISPA – the biggest SPA Centre in Europe, SeaPony Club for children: 4000 m2 Kids’ Town and Pirates' Island playground, programs and activities throughout the day for our youngest guests, ten different Restaurants and Lounges, pools with cabanas, a Spa beach, a pebble beach, an abundance of sports and outdoor activities, a Shopping gallery, a congress hall and meeting rooms, night entertainment ….

Novi Vinodlski has plenty of churches but the one in the main picture, St Martin, has its own little island so you’ll need a boat to get there.

And make sure you make the climb up into the old town to see the 13th century Frankopan Castle, the city museum and some more lovely churches.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Croatia – An Engineering Nation

Croatia Online - Ciovo Bridge

Yes it probably does get a bit of help from its international neighbours but it never ceases to amaze me how clever and resourceful Croatia can be when it comes to meeting the engineering challenges of its dramatic and scenic topography! Nothing is too big a hurdle it seems when it comes to roads, viaducts, bridges and buildings.

I took the picture above, of the new Čiovo bridge being built, half way through my road trip, in late May this year. Latest reports suggest that it’s going to be finished, on schedule, in a couple of months. That doesn’t altogether surprise me as, after a slow start, it seems there have been three shifts working pretty well around the clock for the last few months. It appears that additional motivation to finish was provided by the EU infrastructural fund holders who suggested the funds would not be available for ever!

Not only will the bridge take the pressure of the narrow road bridges linking Čiovo to Trogir and then the mainland, but it will also allow the inhabitants of Čiovo to get to Split in a much more direct way rather than having to drive all the way to Trogir and then all the way back to Split which is just about opposite the east tip of Čiovo island.

And it appears that the bridge even has its own Facebook site -

The next, even bigger project, will be the bridge to the Pelješac Peninsula which has been on the drawing board for years and will allow Croatians to drive all the way along the coast, to and from Dubrovnik, without having to go through Bosnia and Herzegovina which has a stretch of coast around Neum.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Croatia Road Trip Day 6 - Crikvenica

Croatia Online - Crikvenica

As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve been somewhat distracted, in a good way, from the chronicles of our Croatia trip and got slightly ahead of myself in the last posting which was triggered by a photo from Day 8!

On Day 6 we went from Kraljevica to Novi Vinodolski and our first stop was Crikvenica where I saw some brave souls having a dip in the chilly, early May, Adriatic.

There are quite a few elements to Crikvenica and it covers a large area with plenty of, mostly sandy,  beaches, including a Dog Beach. Primarily though, it’s a resort town full of cafés, bars restaurants, ice cream parlours and souvenir shops, but it’s also got bags of character. Parking for the campervan wasn’t that easy and there were plenty of signs saying “No Motorhomes”  so I wondered where the bigger ones might go. On the plus side, the drive down from the main road was nice and easy – not too steep or bendy!

Croatia Online - Crikvenica Statues

The large main square hosts the tourist office, the post office and several banks, and there are plenty of moorings for boats of most sizes. Crikvenica also seems to have rather a lot of statues and it always seems to be the statues that lead into the real history of a place. There are some busts of famous Crikvenica residents dotted about all of whom played a part in the Partisan resistance during the occupation of Italy, and later Germany.  The history is fascinating, if complex, and the following  link will take you to a great account of it, as well as detailing the relevance of the various statues (scroll down to Crikvenica) Croatian - Chapter One

Croatia Online - Crikvenica Statues 2

The Croatian Tourist Board describes Crikvenica as “one of the most beautiful tourist destinations on the Kvarner coast” and I can see why it must be popular –plenty of space , sandy beaches….. All the same, in places it did look in need of a little TLC. Most of the hotels are two and three star and I suspect it’s just one of those places where the tourism infrastucture is of an earlier era and waiting for some new investment.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

St George Slays Dragons All Over Croatia!

Croatia Online - Sveti Juraj Statue
I learnt quite a lot this morning as I was cataloguing photos of day 8 of our epic trip around Croatia. The day took us from one of our favourite campsites in Senj, to Novalja on Pag, but it was a stop in Sveti Juraj that piqued my curiosity, specifically the statue in the picture. What was it and what was its relevance?

The light slowly dawned……..

First of all, I finally twigged that Sveti Juraj is, of course, Croatian for St George and therefore the statue must depict the man himself slaying a dragon. Given that St George is our patron saint I wondered what he was doing near Senj and discovered that he featured quite a lot in Croatia, particularly in the capital Zagreb. There it appears that, not only are there no less than three statues honouring St George, but also a secret society – The Brethren of the Croatian Dragon – which took St George as their patron and continues to have influence today.

The second connection I made, that had not previously dawned on me, was that it was our old friend, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who is mostly responsible for the charm and character of Split city centre, who was also responsible for poor old George’s demise as a Christian martyr.

Read the full article that illuminates St George’s place in the Croatian world here - St George The Dragon Slayer In Croatia

Unfortunately I am not much clearer on why the place, Sveti Juraj, in Croatia, is named after our patron saint or why indeed, with his international, rather than national, significance, George is our patron saint instead of the man he “displaced”, St Edmund!!

Time to consult the #Croatia Twittersphere!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Zablaće, Near Šibenik – A Celebrity Make Over?!

Croatia Online - Zablace Sign

Zablaće, and the rest of the area around Šibenik, was one of the places I enjoyed exploring most on our recent road trip around Croatia. It’s completely unspoilt, a little off the beaten track and some of the very minor roads, for example around the Kanal Sveti Ante, leading to Šibenik, have been opened up.

Unspoilt, perhaps, not for much longer though hopefully in a good way!! Croatia Week reports the arrival of Brad Pitt and entourage in Croatia last week to inspect the proposed site of a substantial investment destined to provide a luxury resort including villas, shop, marina, hotel and golf course.

Reassuringly the project team includes local but internationally renowned architect,  Nikola Bašić, probably most well known in Croatia for his two Zadar installations Greeting To The Sun and the Sea Organ.

Croatia Online - Greeting To The Sun

I interviewed  Nikola Bašić for the 2009 edition of Time Out’s Visitors’ Guide To Croatia and this is what he told me about  the Zadar installations and, prophetically, about future plans!

When commissioned to regenerate the western part of Zadar’s peninsula, Bašić took his inspiration from Hitchcock’s immortalisation of Zadar’s sunsets, and the sound of waves breaking on the shore. Resisting a conventional approach, he wanted the public space to be a “kaleidoscope of metaphors” to enhance the visitor’s appreciation of the true spirit of Zadar. Though there’s plenty of technology involved in the Greeting To The Sun, The Sea Organ could have been engineered centuries ago, and Bašić maintains that the result of both is more of a man enhanced natural phenomenon than a man made installation…….Bašić has more challenges to pursue before he retires to his idyllic islet of Ganagarola to “catch cuttlefish and dry figs”. His “1246 project” involves a commemorative stone for each of Croatia’s 1,246 islets and islands, and his innovative enthusiasm is currently directed towards the concept of a new breed of tourism developments designed to blend with their surroundings.

Croatia Online - Sea Organ


The project has apparently been in the pipeline for several years and early reports suggests that eco friendliness will be a priority. Reports also suggest that the project is generally welcomed by locals for the additional infrastructure and facilities, such as schools and clinics, it will provide, and for the additional money it will inject into the local economy.

Hopefully it will make the most of  Zablaće’s place in history as well as its natural assets – the settlement dates back to the 18th century and inhabitants were engaged in fishing and salt extraction. As well as the salt lakes, the mud is reputed to have medicinal qualities.

It’s not far from the large Solaris resort and has a campsite and beaches of its own as well as a small local marina. However, partly due to its remoteness by road, and also because all but 500 inhabitants remain after many have gone abroad, it does have the air of a rather sleepy settlement which may well get a rude awakening once development starts.

For more information on the proposed development go to:

Croatia Week - Brad Pitt in Croatia - Brad Pitt Visits Croatia Luxury Real Estate (though I wouldn’t describe the Sea Organ as a giant sculpture, as all the working parts are concealed underwater beneath the steps, and the “Dogusvom Hotel” is actually a hotel of the Dogus Group called D-Resort Šibenik.)

Independent Balkan News Agency - Swiss Investor Building Town In Croatia

For more about Nikola Bašić and his work, including a recording of the sounds of the sea organ, go to:

Croatia.Org - Nikola Bašić

Domus Web - Nikola Bašić And The Adriatic Landscape