Friday, November 17, 2006

Croatia Online Destinations - Zadar

Zadar town and the surrounding region are not as “discovered” as other areas in Croatia for tourism. One of the reasons may be that there are very few international flights to Zadar airport, especially out of season. All that might be about to change as there are strong rumours that Ryanair will soon be flying to Zadar – see our earlier posting. However Zadar is less than a two hour drive from Split Airport and the new motorway makes the trip very easy. It’s well worth it, whatever time of year you visit.

The town itself was hit worse than most in Dalmatia, during the homeland war, but it’s recovered fast and the city centre is full of great history and architecture. It’s compact and cosmopolitan and there are a number of relatively new ventures that might help make it the “it” place to go in the near future. Add that to the sunsets that Alfred Hitchcock raved about, and the less developed islands of Ugljan and Pašman nearby, and you have a great base for a summer holiday or an out of season break.

A half hour walk from Zadar is Borik where most of the large hotels are located. However, much closer to the centre of town is the charming Villa Hrešć, a family hotel with all the mod cons, a great restaurant, a swimming pool and a lovely view of the bay. It’s open all year round and if you’re looking for a winter break to discover the real Croatia, away from the madding crowds, then this could be the place for you. The authoritative Time Out Visitors Guide to Croatia reports as follows “The three storey Villa Hrešć contains two rooms and six roomy suites, more like condominiums, with a kitchenette, dining room and modern bathroom, all finely furnished. The larger ones have wide terraces, with a stunning sea view, the same line of vision as you swim in the outdoor pool with its fierce water jet in the corner. Patris runs a friendly ship with a pretty restaurant on the ground floor where the inclusive buffet breakfast is served.” For more information, have a look at their website and if you decide to visit out of season, you may well be able to negotiate a great deal.

And if you’re visiting Zadar between late May and early September, don’t miss the Garden, a Brit owned lounge bar and club featuring well known DJ’s throughout the season. It’s set high up in Zadar’s Venetian fortifications and has a huge terrace equipped with loungers where you can just relax during the day with a cocktail before the music gets started. The Garden’s team has plenty of other projects on the go too, with a successful summer music festival already under its belt. Check out for the latest news.

Zadar is also a great place to eat out with the road to Borik lined with good restaurants – Albin, Rocco, etc. Lungo Mare overlooking Draženica Bay has a great wine list as well as good food, and the more traditional Foša (see photo) is in a great location by the city walls and much better value for money than you might initially think. Kornat, by the ferry port is also well worth a try.

If you’re travelling to Zadar by boat then you have a good choice of marinas – one very close to the city centre, one out in Borik, and a new one – Olive Island Marina, - just opposite, on Ugljan island.

Finally, if you do decide on that out of season break in Zadar, you’re less than an hour’s drive from Šibenik, another undiscovered jewel in the Croatian crown. Go to our earlier postings for more information on Šibenik.

Croatia Online - Sibenik

Croatia Online - Islands Around Sibenik

For more information on Zadar go to

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Croatia Online News - Rainbow Warrior in Split

Greenpeace’s flagship, Rainbow Warrior had an open day in Split today, prior to setting sail for Dubrovnik tomorrow. The reason for the visit to Croatia is the Tuna fishing conference in Dubrovnik. Greenpeace told Croatia Online that there just aren’t enough stocks left. They claim to have followed a number of fishing boats and saw at least one that didn't manage to catch anything. Ecological politics aside, it's a great ship and the crew are very welcoming to visitors who can wander all around once they've made it up the steep metal plank. The deck has a number of posters detailing the facts behind Greenpeace's fish stocks campaign and make worrying reading.

Rainbow Warrior was somewhat dwarfed in Split harbour by the ferries beside her and behind those was a huge cruise liner, Island Star, on her last voyage of the year. We chatted to a couple of passengers who had thoroughly enjoyed Split despite the fact that the promenade is a building site until April - see our earlier posting below on this subject

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Croatia Online - Expat Life

Unfortunately winter has finally arrived in Croatia, after an Indian summer in late October. However, even now that the cold Bora wind has started to dominate the weather, there are still exceptionally warm sunny days. Having returned from a longer than usual trip to the UK, Croatia Online has plenty of news to catch up on which we will be sharing in future postings. In the meantime below are a few thoughts on expat life while the contrast is still fresh.

BBC Five Live had an interesting feature on living abroad, around the time that recent immigration and emigration statistics were published in the UK. Although there’s much topical focus on immigration caused by the expansion of the EU, there are also quite a few “returnees” to the UK, disappointed or disillusioned with expat life. There are a range of reasons which include boredom, failure to integrate with the local community, inability to earn a living, rising prices, too many other expats, elderly parents back home, failing health, etc. The list is endless and it appears that for every person that finds the good life abroad, there are plenty who don’t.

Croatia has its share of challenges – bureaucracy, a difficult language and tight communities that are reserved towards strangers, to name but a few – but it also has a great deal to offer. Here are a few suggestions on how to approach that life changing move:

Try it First

Take as much time as you can to find out whether you’ll like it. See what life’s like in all the seasons. Your apparently deserted village in May might turn into a hedonistic paradise in the summer or alternatively, if you like to eat out regularly and the cheap restaurants of the summer are a major attraction, you may find everything is closed in the winter.

Talk to People Who Have Done The Same Thing

They’re not too hard to find and all with have stories, good and bad, about how Croatia suits them. Beware however of the persistent moaners. There seems to be a small breed of expats who move from place to place because they are never happy and can’t find anything good to say about their current home. It’s a huge discourtesy to their local hosts to continually criticise their way of life and, nine times out of ten, you’ll find that they left the UK for similar reasons and wouldn’t dream of going back. Every country has its problems and most share the major ones. Don’t expect Nirvana and you won’t be disappointed

Keep a Foothold in the UK Until You are Sure

If you find that expat life is not for you, and have committed all your resources into a Croatian property, you may well find it difficult to get back onto the UK property ladder, even if you can sell your foreign property quickly. It’s easy to find a property to rent in Croatia: there are so many holiday properties that don’t earn their keep in the summer months. Renting may be a strange concept if you are used to owning your own home but its difficult to argue against the logic of renting in Croatia and renting out your UK home, at least until you are ready to break your ties. Financially you’ll probably be earning three times as much in rent for a UK property of similar size as you pay for your Croatian home and the capital risk in the UK may well be lower. The Croatian property market is still very young and correspondingly fragile and volatile. Once you are sure that Croatia’s for you, you’ll be desperate to own your own home and the decision then becomes easy. By that time you’ll know the local property market a lot better and are far less likely to get stung, either on price or on paperwork.

Treat Your Host Country With Respect

Find out what the rules and regulations are and try your best to stick to them. If you buy a house by forming a Croatian company then you need a Business Visa and there are other complications; if you stay longer than three months (and there’s now a cumulative rule which you can’t avoid by taking periodic trips across the border) then you need residency papers. Enforcement might have been lax in the past but that’s changing. Find a lawyer that’s familiar with the practicalities.

Try and Integrate With The Locals

The language is difficult but most Croatians don’t seem to have any objection to speaking English. Any efforts you can make in Croatian will be appreciated but there’s nothing like a local’s view on the things that concern you. It’s very reassuring to know that locals experience very similar problems to expats. The difference is that they normally know someone who can solve them. Tap into that local knowledge if you can but you may well have to make the first effort.

Be Realistic and Thorough

“If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”. It’s an old cliché but none the less relevant to moving to a new country. The world is shrinking and Croatians are smart people rapidly getting used to foreign investors and tourists. A few are greedy and sometimes you’ll find property and other prices highly inflated. Shop around, stay smart, get good advice, pay for professional translations and read the small print. The era of properties getting snapped up before you’ve thought twice is largely over, so don’t rush into it.

Get Good Professional Advice

Find a good lawyer, accountant and translator. Word of mouth recommendations are best but the good ones are worth every penny.

Read Croatia Online

This site is intended to give you a real feel for what life is really like in Croatia and will help speed up your learning curve. We have links to a wide range of other resources – the best of information gathered over a period of four years. Here’s a sample of previous postings on expat life if you don’t have time to scroll through all the pages.

Croatia Online - The Living is Easy?

Croatia Online - Dogs and Other Pets in Croatia

Croatia Online - Croatian Beaches

Croatia Online - Cost of Living

Croatia Online - Travel Information and Holiday Tips

Croatia Online - Driving in Croatia

Croatia Online - Property News

Alternatively, click on the Postings Index link on the top right hand corner of the main page for a detailed list of postings.

Moving to a new country is not a step to be taken lightly so treat it as the important event it is if you don’t want to be one of the disillusioned returnees.