Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trogir, Čiovo and Split – The Bridge Is Finally Open!

Čiovo Bridge © Jane Cody & Croatia Online

The next few postings were supposed to be about my exploits in Lošinj, under the gentle guidance of  The Croatian Language School , and they will be. However this is an extremely auspicious day for the inhabitants of Croatia’s island of Čiovo so I couldn’t let it go unmarked.

I used to be one myself (an inhabitant of Čiovo that is) and, for one main reason, we used to dread the tourist invasion in the summer. We could walk over the two bridges to the part of Trogir that is on the mainland, in about ten minutes but, in the summer, if you timed it wrong and people were heading to, or back, from Čiovo’s beaches, the trip by car could take a couple of hours. Even outside the summer, if your car trip coincided with workers going in and out of Trogir’s shipyard, with its entrance on Čiovo island, it could still take a while.

Back in the early noughties, there was just one narrow, paved, single lane carriageway over the bridge from Čiovo island onto Trogir island and then another one onto the mainland. It was a pretty hazardous trip for pedestrians and drivers alike, with confusing priorities, which didn’t help the traffic flow, and very narrow pavements which didn’t help the people flow. In fact it was finally a nasty accident that, I think, encouraged the speedy construction of a pedestrian only bridge by the market.

We used to laugh in those very early days (around 2005 I think) when a visionary called Blagaić put an article in Slobodna Dalmacija suggesting that a new bridge from Čiovo to Split could help transform Slatine (at the Split end of Čiovo island) into a Croatian Manhattan Island. Well he might just be proved right now.

Certainly the new bridge should help a lot to take the pressure off the traffic through Trogir and what a bonus for those who can see Split just across the water but used to have to go north west all the way to Trogir to get to the mainland, only to double back on themselves and head south east to Split.

The photo above was taken a couple of years ago when I was visiting friends in Slatine. They certainly deserve a bit of a bonus after all the building works – not only has the bridge building been going on for a while but there’s been another long construction project, to link most of the houses on Čiovo to a mains sewage system, which has involved substantial road diversions around the back and up the narrow spine of the island. What with stops and starts, for various reasons, and the fact that not much construction happens in the tourist season, both projects have taken  a few years and I must say I rather doubted the bridge project would start, let alone finish, challenging as the tendering and construction problems have been. I understand, though, that the EU has helped keep things going, threatening to stop funding unless the various deadlines were met, and the work shifts were increased so that work was going on 24 hours a day.

Whatever the challenges, it’s a great accomplishment and I suppose it will be the massive Pelješac bridge next!

Croatia Online - Trogir Bridge Sign © Jane Cody & Croatia Online

The image above details EU funding for the bridge, or at least two of the phases – I saw a lot of these signs on my travels round Croatia in 2016 but not many for amounts as big as this. I’m sure the project over ran its budget considerably, what with all the delays, etc, but, according to the sign, the total project cost was 207 milllion kunas, of which 85 % was funded by the EU.

Lošinj Island - First Impressions: Immortelle!

Immortelle, Lošinj, Croatia © Jane Cody

Regular readers will be well aware that, in June, I spent a week in Ćunski, near Mali Lošinj, on the island of Lošinj.

The main purpose of the trip was to better my language skills with an immersion course with the Croatian Language School, but of course there’s no point trying to ”immerse” yourself in all things Croatian without getting out and about a little!

I've explained, in detail, how to get to Lošinj in earlier postings - Rijeka airport is probably the best airport to fly to and then it's over the road bridge onto Krk island, followed by a short ferry hop to Cres island and then a further drive south, over another road bridge, onto Lošinj island - the next few postings are all about the delights you can find on the island….

The first thing that strikes you, the moment you arrive on Lošinj, is a strong, unusual but pleasant smell that's hard to identify. Some suggest it's a curry smell but I think of it as a mixture of carob, pine, rosemary, sage, lavender and aniseed although that might just be because they are all smells that I associate with Croatia. In fact I’ve just had another smell (you CAN bottle it!) and now it’s reminding me of Orohovac – a walnut brandy. Whatever its scent is like, it’s with you all the time you are on the island, as is the sound of crickets and the iridescent blue of the sea and sky.

The olfactory part of the sensory overload is down to a plant called Helichrysum italicum, more commonly known as the curry plant or immortelle. In Croatian it’s called Smilje. Clearly it takes the first nickname because of how some people perceive its smell; the second common name derives from the fact that the flowers seem to last for ever, whether still attached to the plant, or dried, or on their way to making a health giving elixir.

Lošinj has long been known for its health giving attributes, no doubt partly because, although sheltered by Kvarner bay, it lies a long way out to sea. It may also be because of this native plant which is attributed with immense health giving powers. In fact, if you google it, you’ll find that, in the form of an essential oil, it’s pretty well all you need in your medicine cabinet! It’s supposed to be particularly good for skin rejuvenation, allergies, liver function, muscle spasms, gallstones, detoxification and as an anti inflammatory. It’s used widely in aroma therapy and, whether its Smilje or something else, I have to say that, whilst I was on Lošinj, I barely touched my considerable stock of tissues when, normally, there’s always something around to give me the sniffles.

Todays photo is of a clump of Smilje at the back of the Croatian Language School premises. Linda Rabuzin, my teacher, tipped me off about a tour of Mali Lošinj, including a visit to an organic small holding, where I was able to bring back my own small bottle of the elixir of youth and immortality – more on that particular trip soon.

 Be right back

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Learning The Croatian Language – Why?!

Learning Croatian © Jane Cody

Many friends have asked me why I decided to go the island of Lošinj (pronounced Losheen) for an immersion course in Croatian with The Croatian Language School  [CLS]. Not only is it a significant investment in money, but also in time and courage. And the time does not just start and end with the week itself – you could go as a complete beginner, and still benefit hugely, but, like everything else, the more groundwork you put in beforehand, the more it helps, and the more you continue afterwards, the less likely you are to lose the considerable benefits of an immersion week such as this. Already, just two weeks later, with a few other things to distract me, I can feel words slipping away, so I am determined to get back into language learning as soon as I can.

Visiting Croatia, in itself, is obviously a great selling point, but, on the other hand, you won’t have too much time to spare if you take the language learning seriously. To get the most from your studies you need some time to do your homework and prepare for the next lessons, on top of the nearly four hours a day you are cranking up the gears in the rusty foreign language part of your brain, as you sit in front of your teacher, trying not to make the same mistake again (and again!).

Everyone is different but for me, originally, it was a bit of an impulse decision – one of those opportunities not to be missed. Croatia has been an important part of my life for nearly two decades  and it seemed ridiculous to have to continue to struggle to put a few sentences together correctly. Yes, I know quite a few words, and yes, I sound pretty good ordering food and wine in restaurants and asking for things in shops, but I was not confident and missed out on any real connection with the locals. Now I believe I have a solid basis from which to move on.

The naysayers will tell you there’s no point in learning the language…….

* Croatians all speak very good English

* It’s not a “useful” language as it’s not widely used

* It’s too difficult

* It’s ok to just come out with a few words and phrases that are roughly ok

……..

I say, along with several other devoted CLS pupils …

* You’ll get much more out of the country and culture if you make an effort to speak the language correctly

* It’s as useful as you let it be – I couldn’t believe the difference in the way the locals engaged with me when I managed to get my sentences out correctly, albeit slowly, rather than trotting out a few haphazard and scrappy phrases

* It is difficult to start with but it’s a fascinating language and once you master the basics you’ll improve in leaps and bounds

* It’s not ok to make a pig’s ear of someone else’s language – think how we Brits feel about the way Americans have “adapted” Queen’s English

More than all that  I could almost hear my brain working as it grappled with so many new things in rapid succession – it felt good and, eventually, I did start remembering things and making good progress. As the week went on, I gained in confidence and, by the end of it, I just wanted more.

I wouldn’t advise that anyone embarks on something like this lightly – if you get the wrong teacher you’ll probably never want to try and learn any other language again, let alone Croatian. Linda Rabuzin, the founding Director of CLS, however, has the patience of a saint and a real knack of knowing when to push you and when to cut you a bit of slack. Much to my surprise, especially for someone who has not been in a formal learning environment for nearly twenty years, the almost two hour, one on one, sessions all flew by – a bit of conversation (don’t worry…you’ll start with a bit of the Croatian equivalent of franglais – hrvengleski?!), some grammar, a few exercises from a really good set of books, some reading to get the pronunciation right (and this is one of the facets of Croatian that is relatively consistent compared to other languages) a little verb conjugation……and then the killer question.

“Why are you here?”

We spent a little time each day until I had a brilliant answer, almost a speech, to this question – not just perfecting the Croatian but getting the right rationale too – I forget to tell you that Linda has pretty good personal development skills too!

All in all the week surpassed my already high expectations considerably; not only did I achieve more progress in Croatian, in a week, than I would ever have imagined, but it has enriched my understanding of Croatians and Croatia no end. More than that it has turned on switches in my brain that I thought were permanently off, and also re-connected me with a lovely bunch of people and all that is good about Croatians and Croatia.

There’s plenty more to tell about the lessons themselves, the surroundings and the events of the week, but I hope today’s posting has given you a bit of a flavour of it all.

Today’s picture is of me and teacher Linda, on the last day, in the very comfortable and functional classroom. This forms part of an apartment in which equally comfortable accommodation is also available.

For more information on the immersion courses and many other ways of learning Croatian visit CLS’s website http://easycroatian.com/  To find out more about the highlights of my week, look out for the next few postings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lošinj – A Very Special Croatian Island: Getting There Part 2

Landing At Zadar © Jane Cody

Since I’ve now actually been to Lošinj, Croatia, and put my original “getting there” instructions through their paces, I thought I should do an update, though I’m pleased to say they stood up pretty well to the test.

I drove from Zadar along the coast road, although the motorway would, of course, have been much quicker, because I wanted to look at a couple of new marinas in Senj. These were just breaking ground when I made my epic camping trip two years ago – see Croatia Camping Guide – but are now both open for business. That’s a pretty good achievement and I’ll be reporting on them both, soon, on sister site Croatia Cruising Companion

The Flybe flight from Southend Airport was great, arriving more or less on time at Zadar Airport. Unfortunately picking up the hire car was a slow process, more on which at another time, but I eventually left the airport at 12 30 pm. The two marina stops took about half an hour each and I guess I made another hour’s worth of stops for petrol, a few photos, etc. Following the signs for Rijeka, and then Krk island and Rijeka airport, I was on the Krk/Cres ferry at 6 15pm and at my final destination of Ćunski at about 8 30 after a few more stops for various photo opportunities. A long day, having left home at about 3 30 am, but a very scenic and interesting one.

Going back I decided to take the “slow ferry” from Mali Lošinj to Zadar, the afternoon before my flight. We left Mali Lošinj at 4 pm and arrived in Zadar about 10 stopping at a number of islands on the way to pick up and disembark passengers. It cost 250 Kn for a small car (less than 5 metres) and 59 Kn for one person, and I needed to stay the night near Zadar (lovely apartment in Bibinj – 300 Kn) but I would thoroughly recommend it as an alternative to the long drive. Bear in mind though that although there is a bar, there’s no restaurant on board, so take a picnic! You are also advised to get there half an hour early.

And just a little to add for independent travellers without their own means of transport:

There is a bus from Zagreb to Veli Lošinj  Bus Zagreb to Veli Lošinj which takes about 7 hours all in and costs 210 Kn. Generally these inter city coaches are pretty luxurious with all mod cons but you’ll normally get plenty of well timed comfort breaks. The bus stops at many places along the way including Ćunski and Mali Lošinj.

If you do go direct to either of these two locations you will find you have all the essentials you need though they are very different in size. Ćunski has a shop, restaurant, post office and beach; Mali Lošinj has restaurants, bars and cafés galore, shops, ice cream parlours, etc. There’s a great walk from Mali Lošinj to Veli Lošinj and of course, if you can get a lift into Mali Lošinj, you’ll be able to hire most forms of transport and get a wide variety of excursions and trips.

You’ll find out soon what a great time I had in Ćunski  with The Croatian Language School but at least now you know the “how to get there” instructions are pretty sound!

Today’s picture (through a slightly dirty plane window I’m afraid) shows the islands as you come into Zadar. I sat on the right and I think that gives you the best view of the coastline and islands though, of course, it depends on the exact route and flight plan. For some reason the right hand side also seems to work pretty well going home too – not just for Croatia either but for a great view of the Thames estuary flying back into Southend Airport

And while we are on the subject of having a great time, I see that the  Croatian Language School staff and students are having a pretty good time on their annual language and culture course on the equally lovely Elaphite islands.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Lošinj – A Very Special Croatian Island: Getting There

Croatia Online - Ferry to Pag

My blog readers and Twitter followers may have already gathered that I am even more excited than usual about my next trip to Croatia for all sorts of reasons:

Firstly, I have the very serious challenge of improving my Croatian under the eagle eyes of the Croatian Language School. I must admit to being a little nervous about this as it's a while since I've subjected myself to serious scholarly pursuits, and there's nowhere to hide in small, or one to one, classes. However I know I am in kind and professional hands and, if anyone can teach an old dog new tricks, and make learning a hard language seem easy, they can! On top of all that, they’re a great bunch of people and I’m sure there will be plenty of fun as well as hard work.

Secondly, it's the first time I've flown for over eight years – my previous recent trips to Croatia have all been in my campervan, with my dog. The downside is that I’ve been used to taking everything and the kitchen sink with me so I’m having to relearn the art of judicious packing for a flight.

Last, but by no means least, I am going to one of the few inhabited Croatian islands I've never been to before – Lošinj – in the northern Kvarner region of Croatia. To get there I'll be travelling along two other islands I don’t know that well – Krk and then Cres, where, in a short space of time, you can see in the landscape the marked contrast between continental and coastal Croatia.

Getting There

It's not the easiest island to get too – nothing that good is that easy - and there are a few different ways of doing it. As the crow flies, my end destination is quite close to Zadar, where I am flying to. However to get there, I have to drive north west around the coast to just past Crikvinica, take the road bridge onto Krk island, then drive to Valbiska on the north-west coast of Krk and get the ferry to Merag on Cres island. Once on Cres it’s a longish drive south to Osor, where I cross the small channel, by road bridge, onto the island of Lošinj …. and then I'm nearly at my destination near Mali Lošinj, ironically bigger than Veli Lošinj [in the Croatian language, mali = small and veli = big].

I chose this route, partly because the Zadar flights worked out best in terms of timings and departure airport [Southend], and also because the car ferries from Cres are more frequent than elsewhere. However if you time it right, you can get a ferry all the way from Zadar, which stops at some lovely remote islands on the way, but takes most of the day to get to Mali Lošinj and does not run that frequently.

If you could find the right flight to Rijeka, that would be closer (Rijeka Airport is actually on Krk island), or you could head west, and then south-west, around the Istrian peninsula to Brestova, and get a ferry straight onto the very north of Cres island and drive all the way down from there. Pula airport is also quite handy for Brestova.

Below are links to the Jadrolinija Ferry site showing routes and timetables:

Rijeka District Map of Routes

Valbiska (Krk) to Merag (Cres) Timetable

Brestova (Mainland Istria) to Porozina (Cres) Timetable

Zadar Region – Map of Routes

Zadar to Mali Lošinj Timetable

And for those that would like to see some smaller islands while they are near Mali Lošinj, there's a ferry that takes a three and a half hour circular trip from Mali Lošinj to Skrakane Vele, Unije and Susak, where you'll really see Mediterranean island life as it once was. I think its a passenger only ferry (ie no cars) but it's a great way of exploring and always very cheap for foot passengers. Here’s the timetable link Local islands ferry timetable

Soon I’ll be revealing a little bit more of my research on the island itself.

***

Today’s picture is of the ferry from Prizna (mainland) to Žigljen on Pag island. Prizna is probably about halfway, along the coast road, between Zadar and the bridge to Krk island.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Croatia – Learning The Language

P1020696

Soon,  I will have the unique and privileged opportunity of an intensive week of learning the Croatian language, from a professional and experienced teacher, a native speaker. Such people are hard to find in the UK and the added bonus is that I get to do it on the stunning Croatian island of Mali Losinj. More about that part of it another time; today’s post is about the language itself.

It’s Not Essential

First of all, if you hate languages, and the thought of learning a few words of a new one are enough to make you stay at home, then don’t worry! You don’t actually NEED to speak any Croatian at all to enjoy a visit there. Most Croatians, especially the younger ones and those in the tourism industry, speak fluent English. English has been the first foreign language, taught in Croatian schools, for a couple of decades at least, though older Croatians may know German better - Austrians and Germans were holidaying in Croatia long before Brits and other English speaking visitors discovered what a great place it was.

Nearly all the tourism literature is translated into at least three languages, including English, as are the menus in the restaurants and cafés of any towns and villages that thrive on summer tourism. Sometimes you even get food photos with the menu, as well as or instead of translations. Foreign language films are nearly always shown – on TV and at the cinema – in the original version, with Croatian subtitles, and, as you can see above, important or interesting signs generally have an English translation; if they don’t a local will normally be pleased to help.

In fact, for someone like me who wants to learn more Croatian, it’s almost impossible to practice the language when you are there, so easy is it to get an English translation, and so eager are the locals to practice their already mostly perfect English. This is particularly so for beginners when a Croatian would need to be very patient indeed to allow a nervous student to get to the end of constructing a short sentence, working out what case the noun is in and therefore what its ending should be. They say it doesn’t matter; that you should just “go for it”; but if you get it wrong they want to help you by correcting you and if that happens too often it’s easy to lose your confidence.

When I was living in Croatia, I was told I sounded like a local when I ordered my “big coffee with milk” but, like anything else you do frequently, a short phrase like that is easy to perfect if you hear it and say it enough. Speaking it well can even get you into trouble if a “normal” conversation starts up at the same speed afterwards and quickly comes to a grinding halt! After nearly ten years living back in the UK, with only occasional visits back to Croatia, I’ve probably lost a lot of the Croatian I already knew, but my forthcoming trip has provided a real incentive to brush up on it!

Some Basic Tips

If you really want to get the most from any visit to Croatia you’ll want to try to and learn a little Croatian so here are a few tips.

1. If you do REALLY just want to learn a LITTLE then there’s probably not a lot of point trying to learn the grammar. Better perhaps to just learn some key phrases by rote.

2. If you are going to progress steadily then you might need to brush up a little on your English Grammar as, amongst other things, it may help you understand more easily the way word endings change. I bought a book called Rediscover Grammar by David Crystal, probably about 15 years ago and I see that it is still available though at about £20 on Amazon.

3. Be prepared for it to be hard to start with – it’s not familiar like French or Italian, there aren’t many words that you can guess, the variety and number of different word endings can be daunting, some words are very long and some have very few vowels (some are both as evidenced in the photo!). However, it’s quite a logical language, gets easier the more you progress, and pronunciation is very regular and consistent. It’s also quite a poetic language in a funny kind of a way (have a look at the literal translation of some of the months of the year as an example).

4. What is it like? Well I suppose you could say it is a little similar to Russian or Polish. Certainly eastern Europeans find it much easier to pick up than we do.

Resources

There are plenty of books and other tools around to help you get started or improve.  It pays, however, to do your research as some are better than others. For example some of the older or less diligently put together resources may contain a number of words that are more Serbian than Croatian and coming out with those won’t go down very well. Similarly, be prepared for some differences between the Dalmatian dialect and vocabulary, and that used in Zagreb. In fact there are many different local dialects though with fewer and fewer Croatians speaking them. The commonly repeated tale is that those who live in Vis town on Vis island, don’t understand the dialect of their neighbours in the fishing village of Komiža.

Of course the best way to learn, is to find a great language school like The Croatian Language School . Benefit from lessons face to face in London, or on Skype, or combine it with a holiday with a difference by joining the Summer School – not only will your language skills improve in leaps and bounds, you’ll meet some great people and get an insider’s guide to the part of Croatia you’re exploring.  Or go and meet a few like minded inviduals, and head teacher Linda, at the next coffee morning in London on 28th September.

The best books I found were for Croatian school children, purchased in Croatia, but then I had a local Croatian teacher to guide me through them.

Two of the best web based resources I’ve found are:

1. Croatian By Nemo – an App that introduces a few words each day and has various tools to help you practice and learn them. For example you can simply tap on the English word to get the Croatian one, or practice the words in the Player where you get a chance to say the Croatian word, after you hear it in English, and before you are told the Croatian word. It’s a few pounds for the full version and, though I think there may be a couple of more “Serbian orientated” translations and an error between the two “yous” (formal and informal) it’s really a very well thought out App and well worth the money. If you are challenged finding the time to learn, this takes away most of the excuses as you can play it while you are doing something else, or look at it while you are waiting for an appointment or something. It’s mostly for learning words though – you won’t get much grammar from it.

2. The Croatian Language School again but this time its Twitter feed -  Croatian Language School Twitter Feed – full of useful phrases which will introduce you to different tenses  and different elements of grammar once you have a small Croatian vocabulary at your command.

It’s worth the effort, so find the time, says the pot calling the kettle black! I will be asking Linda if that translates in Croatian once I have made my excuses for my lack of progress prior to my language sessions. More news on those soon. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Red Arrows Fly Past Croatia

Croatia Online - Fire Plane

Croatia looks spectacular from most angles but it’s only from the air that you can truly appreciate the scale and variety of landscapes. Recently the Red Arrows captured just a little snapshot of Croatia on their way to Zadar, for an overnight stop and to meet their Croatian counterparts, Krila Oluje, before heading off to take part in Exercise Springhawk in Greece.

The following link will take you to the video.

Red Arrows Approaching Zadar

For those who don’t know Croatia well, the landscape around Zadar, as pictured in the video, is not that typical of the Croatia coastline as a whole. Here the mountains take a step back whereas normally they are very close to the coast. Unfortunately the video stops just before you can see the Old Town peninsula so here is a aerial photo of that:

Croatia Online - Zadar Aerial

The main picture at the top shows a fire plane about to land in Kaštela Bay, near Split. I picked this, partly because I do not have a photo of the Red Arrows, but mainly because fire plane pilots also need a considerable number of additional flying skills though for different reasons – flying between the mountains, landing at sea to pick up tankful after tankful of water and accurately dropping their load wherever a fire happens to have broken out. Like the Red Arrow Pilots, fire plane pilots are drawn from the military.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Ancient and Magical Croatian Town Of Nin

Croatia Online - Nin Branimir

Nin has a very special place in my heart. It is very special, for a number of reasons, in its own right; however I happened to find myself there the day a very close friend and relative died. My aunt was in her nineties and, thanks to a thoughtful cousin, I’d known she was on her way out and I’d been able to say my goodbyes a couple of days before. I didn’t know, until later that evening, that this would be her last day on earth, but I had decided I would find somewhere spiritual to say a few words to try and help her on her way. And lo and behold, in Nin, I found a church that was named after the same saint that her house in England had been named after – St Anselm.  You can see the tower in the background of the above photo and below is the same tower with part of the garden where I sat and said my piece.

Croatia Online -Nin St Anselms 

It turns out that St Anselm, who was made Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the 11th Century, was born in Italy, and so it’s not so surprising that he was feted in Catholic Croatia. The church itself, built in the 6th century, was a cathedral during the rule of Croatian Kings. It was restored during the reign of King Zvonimir in 1070, suffered various further damage and assumed its present-day appearance in the 18th century. The Bell Tower, to the west of the church, was thoroughly restored a few decades ago but is believed to have originated in the 13th century and undergone reconstruction in the 17th century. All of which gives rise to a timeline anomaly I am trying to clarify since, clearly, the St Anselm who became Archbishop of Canterbury was not around when this church was originally built so was it renamed later or was there another St Anselm? Watch this space!

Nin itself is one of Croatia’s most ancient settlements and lies on a tiny island connected to the mainland by two stone bridges spanning a shallow lagoon. These bridges were severely damaged in the torrential rain of September 2017. The picture below is before the storm damage but you can see what happened by following this link Total Croatia News - Nin Bridge Damage

Croatia Online - Nin Stone Bridge

Founded by the Ilyrians in the ninth century BC, Nin became an important municipality under Roman rule, with plenty of Roman remains still clearly visible,  including those of a temple and villa. Nearby Zaton, now home to a large holiday resort, was an important port. Nin was ransacked and destroyed several times but went on to become the birthplace of the Croatian state and the seat of the first Kings of Croatia. In spite of all the destruction, however, the Church of the Holy Cross, built in the 9th century, survived intact, and is one of the most important examples of early Croatian religious architecture.

Croatia Online - Nin Church Of The Holy Cross

Nin has much more to offer – a salt works, medicinal mud, a museum, some good restaurants, the normal array of cafes, bars and shops, to name but a few. One of its most famous bishops, Grgur, who fought to preserve the national Slavonic language and Glagolitic script, has a statue in his honour in the centre of town. There’s another statue of him in Split and both have polished toes as rubbing them is supposed to answer wishes and bring good luck. By the way, that’s not Grgur in the first picture, but the much adored Duke Branimir who ruled Croatia from 879-892 and was largely responsible for Croatia being accepted as an independent country of the Christian west. On 7th June 879, in Nin, Branimir was recognised as the legal ruler of Croatia as a new nation state, and Nin was the centre of power.

Nin also has a replica of a traditional old boat, the Condura Croatica. They were found in 1966 and taken out of the sea in 1974 when the desalination, conservation and restoration work began in Zadar. They were in use at the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th century and are claimed to be the smallest but deadliest war ships in history.

Croatia Online - Nin Condura Croatica

For more information on Nin go to Nin Town Website

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 - http://www.airport-dubrovnik.hr/index.php/en/dubrovnik-airport-development-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 - http://www.airport-dubrovnik.hr/index.php/en/2014-10-27-10-40-49/statistics – 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:

http://www.visitnovalja.hr/sites/default/files/documents/vrtovi_lunskih_maslina_hr-eng.pdf

…. 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 (www.treatmentabroad.net) 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.

Directory

Adriana Hotel - http://www.suncanihvar.com/adriana-hvar-spa-hotel.html - offers one of the best Wellness facilities on Hvar Island.

Hotel Ambassador - http://www.remisens.com/en/hotel-ambasador - 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 -  http://www.losinj-hotels.com/en/accommodation/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 - http://www.krk.hr/en/offer/wellness/baska - 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 www.bizovacke-toplice.hr. 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 - https://www.bluesunhotels.com/en/wellness-package-deals-2016.aspx - 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 - https://www.medtrip.com/clinic/dentex-dental-clinic - 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 - https://www.falkensteiner.com/en/hotel/borik - 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 - http://www.hotel-adriatic.hr/en/- in Opatija, offers the full range of treatments and a spectacular view from its top floor terraced Wellness Centre.

Hotel Horizont - http://www.hoteli-baskavoda.hr/en/8/wellness - 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 - http://www.maistra.com/ - 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 -http://www.lemeridienlavsplit.com/spa - features a Diocletian spa and aroma grotto amongst its brand new five star facilities in Podstrana, just outside Split.

Treatment Abroad (www.treatmentabroad.net) 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  - http://www.spa-sport.hr/en/spa-wellness -  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 - www.ljeciliste-topusko.com - 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 - http://www.terme-tuhelj.hr/gb - 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 - http://terme-selce.hr/en/ - 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 - http://www.dubrovnikhotels.travel/ -  in Dubrovnik, has an infrared sauna amongst the many high tech facilities in its Wellness area.

Valamar Hotels - http://www.valamar.com/ - 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 http://www.tz-senj.hr/en/offer/sveti-juraj/

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