Saturday, June 30, 2007

Croatia Online - Learning The Language & The Cuisine

Regular readers will know that we've mentioned the Croatian Language School (CLS) a number of times before. This is where our editor first got to grips with the challenges of learning Croatian. Not only does the school in Ealing, West London, cater for every level of proficiency and ambition in the Croatian language, it has also held regular immersion courses in Istria, Croatia, for those that want a head start in the language, and also to enjoy the local culture. Now CLS has a new range of summer courses, taking place on the lovely Istrian island of Lošinj.
CLS's summer courses were always designed to provide the opportunity to balance rapid learning with time off to consolidate knowledge and explore the delights of Istria. The new courses have a little extra "je ne sais quoi" (and if you take one you'll probably find how to say this in Croatian!) Uniquely, the new courses in Lošinj also offer insight into Croatia's culinary skills and traditions by including the skills of top Croatian chef Mladen Marušic.
You'll learn Croatian either in the morning or afternoon, want to explore the sights and sounds of Istria for the other part of the day, and, in between, you can learn about the best of Croatian cooking and culinary traditions. Whatever your linguistic or culinary level, aspirations or needs, you can be sure to find the right blend of learning with CLS and, just as important, have a great time in Croatia as well.
Go to to find out more and thanks to CLS for today's photo.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Croatia Online - Destination, Travel and Tourism News for June

By all accounts, tourist numbers seem to be building up early this year. Dubrovnik hosted four cruise liners at the same time this week and the locals couldn’t find a spare piece of pavement.

Here are some snippets of news and updates on places we’ve revisited in the last week:

1. The Main Coast Road From Split to Trogir
Work is heavily underway extending this from a single lane road to a dual carriageway with safer left hand turns, etc. We’ve seen substantial progress over the last few months but it’s a slow process as the road needs to stay open to traffic. It’s also a challenge to the boy racers, with chicanes as you switch from one side to the other, some fairly flimsy unlit cones dividing the two traffic streams, and workmen crossing the road. This phase of the project will stop in the next few weeks, in time for the main season’s deluge of traffic, and resume in September.

2. Kaštela Road
This is the back road between Split and Trogir which is often used as a rat run for those that want to avoid the main road congestion. However there’s a fair amount of work going on here as well. The new sewage system works, which started a couple of years ago, means that this road is being dug up to lay the pipes. The sewage system will then run under water across to Ciovo, through Ciovo island and out the other side letting the treated sewage flow out to the open sea. That will hopefully mean that the strong smell on summer evenings, as you walk along the Kaštela seafront, will soon be a thing of the past. At the moment there are a couple of temporary traffic lights between the airport and Split, and one on Ciovo island.

3. Seasonal Hotel Bookings
Many of those in the tourism industry, particularly in the “resort areas” report an increase of bookings out of season but a decline in bookings so far for July and August. The inference being drawn is that the traditional eastern European “high season” visitors may now perceive that Croatia is no longer the bargain it was and are being replaced by higher spending western Europeans visiting out of season. This could be good news for the industry as a whole but perhaps a sign that hotels and tourist boards may need to focus on marketing to families with schoolchildren – see last week’s posting on Croatia With Your Family.

4. Hvar Town on Hvar Island
We’ve mentioned a couple of times that Hvar Town seems to be a lot more expensive than the rest of Croatia. Now that Sunčani Hvar have taken over 9 of the hotels there, and already refurbished many of them, hotel prices are certainly on the up, though the quality has also increased. There were also reports in the newspapers that coffee and tea in Hvar Town cost at least twice as much as elsewhere. This is the only place we’ve ever felt vulnerable as foreign visitors – almost impossible to get tap water rather than mineral water, “mistakes” on restaurant bills, etc. It’s certainly a chic and cool place to see and be seen in, and full of cultural treasures, but, for us, it doesn’t have the same welcoming feel as the rest of Croatia. If you want to have a look at it but don’t want the expense of being based there, try nearby Jelsa, Vrboska or Stari Grad, or go to the other end of the island and stay in the very photogenic Sučuraj (see picture).

5. Drinking Water in Croatia
There are a few small remote islands without their own mains supply. With these exceptions, Croatian tap water is perfectly drinkable, safe and very pleasant so don’t let the very few greedy restaurateurs persuade you otherwise. Sometimes the bottled variety is almost as expensive as wine. The foolproof way of asking for it is “voda iz spina”, literally water from the tap.

6. Split Riva (sea front promenade)
We’ve reported on the new look of the Riva in earlier postings – essentially the high tech lights and canopies are completely out of place with the traditional facades. Now we’ve had a few opportunities to “experience” a coffee there. The price has gone up a little – around 10 kunas (£1) a cup – but the main problem is the new trendy chairs outside the cafes. Like the lights, they’re probably the latest in design, but they simply don’t work. Firstly they discriminate against those of a larger constitution – anyone already self conscious about their size will be challenged to fit into them, and they don’t look too strong either; secondly the velcro used to keep the covers fitted over the back of the chair keeps coming apart; thirdly, and most importantly of all, they’re extremely uncomfortable - the cushions are thin and the thick metal bars stick right through them. Perhaps the cafes on Split Riva are taking a tip out of the western fast food book - make the place look nice, to invite people in and get them buying, then make them as uncomfortable as possible so they quickly make way for the next set of punters. And, sorry to add insult to injury to Split Riva fans, but the new ground covering seems to absorb heat, rather than reflect it as the old one did, and it seems to generate more glare. On the up side, the lighting does look very pretty at night. All in all though, it’s probably cheaper, more atmospheric and more comfortable having a coffee inside the Diocletian Palace or elsewhere.

7. Meridian Grand Hotel Lav
We paid another visit to the five star Lav (Croatian for Lion!) this weekend and were delighted to see some vintage cars outside, including a 1959 open top Mercedes, part of a rally to Croatia. Inside it was as quietly sumptuous and stylish as ever and we had a delightful coffee sitting on the veranda, just outside the Champagne Bar. There weren’t that many people there but quite a few around the pool area. Slobodna Dalmacija, one of the daily newspapers, reports that it costs 200 kunas (£20) to rent a sunbed, etc to spend some time by the pool, but that’s something we wouldn’t want to complain about. There’s got to be a price to pay for the sort of luxury and facilities that aren’t on offer in too many places elsewhere. It may be out of town, but there’s nothing else like it around. Go to for more information.

8. Hotel Park, Split
We’ve been entertaining this week so we also took our guest for an evening drink in Hotel Park, near Split’s Bačvice beach, about a ten minute walk from the ferry terminal, in the opposite direction from the city centre. At 20 kuna (£2) for a third of a litre (just under half a pint), the beers are about double the normal price but you really can’t beat the setting – a delightful terrace, lined with palm trees which are tastefully lit up at dusk, and a pianist tinkling away playing all the old favourites. For location and elegance, it’s hard to top Hotel Park and if you choose carefully, you can dine at their restaurant Bruna on a wide variety of budgets. It’s also one of the few places where you can get an early breakfast as the restaurant opens at 6:30 am. Check out for more details. Business travellers staying at Park should however note that there are no internet facilities in the rooms, surely something that is now taken for granted in four star hotels?

9. Stellon, Split
We finished our evening in Split with a meal in Stellon, in the small Bačvice complex. Despite being mid week, it was still packed, mostly with locals, and now we know why. It has a lovely but modest terrace looking towards Brač island, with plenty of activity from the ferries running to and from Split, and a menu to suit all tastes and budgets. The service is great too – attentive but discrete and professional. Tender, tasty steaks for three, a litre of wine, and some coffees and brandies set our host back a mere 400 kunas (£40) but if steak is not your thing the pizzas and the fish looked pretty good too.

10. Bačvice, Split
We’ve mentioned Bačvice a number of times above but it’s amazing how many people go to Split, “do” the Riva and Diocletian Palace, and don’t know this district exists. “Greater” Split is, effectively a long tongue of land jutting away from the mainland – a narrowish peninsula. The head of the natural south facing bay is where the Riva and city centre are situated. Just east of the ferry terminal is the smaller bay of Bačvice and it’s no wonder the locals want to keep it to themselves. For one thing it’s one of Croatia’s rare sandy beaches; for another it’s a hub of great restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s a haven for families by day - the gently sloping beach means plenty of shallow water for young children - and a mecca for the party crowd at night. In June and September it’s ideal for a night out for all ages.

11. Šibenik
About an hour’s drive from Split, it’s still a mystery how you can walk around this graceful, quirky and historical city centre, and still find only a few tourists. Early on Friday afternoon, we were about the only ones having coffee in the atmospheric and imposing cathedral square, and watching the not so small yachts go in and out from the Riva moorings. Don’t let the somewhat industrial and tatty approach to Šibenik put you off – it’s a gem!

12. Zadar
Yes, we’ve revisited Zadar too this week, about one and a half hours by car north west of Split. We had lunch in the huge historic Arsenal, now a vibrant Arts centre, and spent half an hour wandering round admiring all the sights. It’s another “must see” city and still not overwhelmed by tourists. See our earlier postings for more information and go to to discover the multitude of events and facilities this unique venue can offer.

13. Trogir
Unesco protected Trogir has been discovered for a while and there were certainly plenty of organised groups wandering around this week. However even large numbers of tourists can’t diminish the charm and stature of this all year round destination. Even better, the hotel stock has more than doubled in the last three years, and improved considerably in quality as well.

For more detail on the places mentioned above, browse through our home page or click on “Croatia Online – Index to Postings”, in the top right hand corner of our home page to see a summary of postings.

If you want to contact us, please leave a comment on the blog with your email address. All comments are subject to moderation before publication and if you don’t want us to publish your email address, or the comment, just say so in the comment and we will email you directly.

Today’s photo is Sućuraj on Hvar Island – go to for more information on this often overlooked village on Hvar.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Croatia Online - Travel News: Ferry Trogir, Split, Slatine

Inhabitants of Split, Slatine and Trogir will be pleased to know that the local ferry started up on 1st June and will be running, at least, until September. The “Sestrice” will make four return trips a day from Trogir to Split, via Slatine. Holidaymakers in Trogir and Slatine, on Čiovo Island, will find this a great way to visit Split rather than brave the traffic in the height of the tourist season.

Below is the time table for weekdays – apologies for the formatting - tables are not one of blogspot’s strengths:

A) Trogir (Depart) B) Slatine (Arrive/Depart) C) Split (Arrive)

A) 6:00 B) 6:25/6.35 C) 7:05
A) 11.15 B) 11:40/11:50 C) 12:20
A) 14:15 B) 14:40/14:50 C)15:20
A) 18:30 B) 16:55/19:05 C)19:35

A) Split (Depart) B) Slatine (Arrive/Depart) C) Trogir (Arrive)

A) 9:30 B)10:00/10:10 C)10:35
A) 12:45 B) 13:15/13:25 C)13:50
A) 16:00 B) 16:30/16:40 C)17:05
A) 20;00 B) 20:30/20:40 C)21:05

Timetables at the weekends are identical except that the first boat from Trogir departs at 7:30 rather than 6:00, leaves Slatine at 8:05 and arrives at Trogir at 8:35.

One way prices are as follows:

Split - Trogir 20kn (£2)
Split – Slatine 17kn (£1.70)
Slatine – Trogir 13kn (£1.30)

The contact mobile telephone number is 00 385 (0)91 727 1244

It’s a comfortable boat for maybe twenty to thirty people but we’d imagine it could get a little crowded in July and August.
For a sample of other postings on this area, direct links are below. Alternatively scroll down our home page or click on "index to postings" on the top right corner of the home page:

Klis Fortress and Slatine Apartment
Split Hotels

There was a snippet of travel news on Zagreb last week. Apparently the city council have just invested in 70 new trams at a cost of 800 million kunas and felt they ought to show the general public where the money had gone. All 70 new trams were paraded through Zagreb with the parade ending in the city centre. The trams then dispersed and set off for their regular routes.
Today's photo is of Trogir Riva

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Croatia Online - Croatia With Your Family

Our previous posting, on Krka waterfalls near Šibenik, mentioned that it made for a great family day out. We’re obviously in good company as Frommer’s recently published travel guide, Croatia With Your Family, includes Krka in its shortlists of best family experiences and best days out. Included in the piece on Krka is a little known fact reproduced below, © 2007 Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey:

“As you might expect, past Croatians were not slow to harness all this raw natural power. The river was long lined with water mills (some are still on display), and the Krka Hydro Dam, generating direct current, was opened in 1895, making Šibenik the first town in the world to be lit in this way. A similar project in New York State can claim the first hydrodam of this type (by two days), but delays in laying transmission lines meant that the city of Buffalo trailed behind Šibenik in actually harnessing the power. A massive turbine from those days lies among the ruins, and there’s a small modern hydroelectric scheme down by the river.”

Croatia With Your Family, written by Jos Symon, is a very welcome addition to Frommer’s With Your Family travel guides. The range is noted for providing the type of essential, first hand, practical information which will enable parents to keep children of all ages amused, happy and safe. Every listed destination, activity and accommodation has been tried and tested, and only the most family friendly are featured. Details include suitable age groups for various activities, essential packing lists and the low down on kids clubs and crèches. You can tell, right at the beginning, that the author got a good feel for the real Croatia, when he observes that, despite the fact that Croatia has not yet focused greatly on providing specific entertainment and facilities geared directly at children, in the positive attitude of its people, it couldn’t be more family friendly. Jos summarises “I’d personally trade a ton of institutional balloons and coloured pencils for an ounce of genuine child friendliness. And that’s what you get in Croatia.”

This book is all the more valuable for the fact that Croatia has yet to overtly target the childrens’ tourism market. We’re hard pushed to think of a single theme park, water or otherwise. A little more common are childrens’ playgrounds and wooden horses on springs, nailed to the floor on ferries. In Croatia, children play safely like our parents used to, without too much need for expensive gismos and theme parks – in the sea, on the beach, often in quiet back roads and normally under careful supervision. The family unit, often including a vast extended family, is strong, and children are adored and well cared for. They’re not, however, fussed over or restricted, like their western European peers, under mounting EU health and safety regulations, and genuine concerns for their security. You may be shocked to see the occasional five year old on a motor bike, in between his mum and dad, with no crash helmets anywhere in sight, and it’s not altogether legal, but everyone’s happy and the village traffic is not quite what you’d get in England. Above all, Croatia is a safe country, with very low crime rates, particularly outside the big cities.

So for those who are wondering whether Croatia is the right place for the next family holiday, and not sure where to go or what to do, Croatia With Your Family is for you. For more details, including where to buy it, go to Having last visited Croatia before the break up of the Yugoslav Republic, the author is a self confessed born-again Croatia enthusiast. Use his experiences, and those of his family, to plan and execute your holiday, and the whole family will probably fall in love with Croatia too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Croatia Online - Krka Waterfalls and Bribir Archaeological Site

There’s no doubt that the Krka waterfalls make for a great day out with the family and are certainly now much more accessible from the relatively new motorway. From Split, the NP Krka exit is clearly signposted, shortly after Šibenik, and there’s a great motorway café, just before, with good views to Skradin. Once approaching Skradin however, beware of over zealous entrepreneurs who will stand in the middle of the road, with official looking uniforms, and try and convince you that you have to park on their land. Perhaps because of our UK number plate, we were given little option but to turn into their car park and only then were we able to convince them that we weren’t gullible tourists. It would have been a long walk into Skradin though I guess they might organise some kind of transfer. The centre of Skradin is closed to cars in the summer but there is a large town car park right next to where the boats will take you up river to the falls and that’s your best option.

The summer season in Croatia has clearly started early this year and the inhabitants of Skradin were already smiling at the level of tourists. Be prepared for crowds but you will still enjoy the boat trip, the spectacular falls, and perhaps a swim in the cool water. There are seven waterfalls in all, with a total drop of 242 metres. Walkways surround the waterfalls and you’ll find café’s, restaurants and picnic areas. In Skradin itself, it’s hard to beat Restoran Zlatne Školje. A 2 hour excursion including the return boat trip, will cost about 70 kunas (£7).

15 kilometres inland from Skradin is the town of Bribir (also known as the Croatian City of Troy), a rich archaeological site and also a place from which to admire fantastic views of the mountains and Adriatic islands. A strategic location for over 6000 years, this ancient Illyrian site at the top of a 300 metre hill has already yielded a number of treasures including the ruins of an ancient temple, a Franciscan monastery, sarcophagi from the 4th century, Roman mosaics, and ramparts from 1200 BC.

For more information on Krka National park, go to

To find out more about Bribir and the rest of the area around Skradin, look at To discover more of the hidden secrets of the Šibenik region, including the delights of Šibenik old town, go to

Thanks to Martin Ripley for today’s photo of Krka Waterfalls.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Croatia Online - British Airways Travel News

The most disturbing news we have heard in the last week is that British Airways may be dropping their out of season flights to Split. British Airways only started flying direct to Split in 2005 and extended the daily summer service, to include three flights a week in the winter, in 2006. Whilst the winter flights may not have been that full to date, now seems to be the wrong time to stop the experiment. Just as we expats have started to count on being able to get to London easily from time to time, throughout the year, just as our friends are starting to realise they can have winter city breaks in Croatia at reasonable cost, and just as the Split region seems to be getting to grips with what is required to encourage all year round tourism - this is surely the time when the winter schedule might start to pay off for BA?

BA might argue that all year round flights to Dubrovnik are more than adequate but Dubrovnik airport is not at all practical for those wishing to visit central and northern Dalmatia which are both starting to boom. Ryanair are bound to benefit from the decision, having just started flights to Zadar. Split is less than a 2 hour drive from Zadar along the motorway but a 4 hour drive from Dubrovnik along the windy single lane coast road.

We will be writing to BA to try and confirm exactly what their plans are, and urge all readers to do the same. So far, we know that a winter schedule has yet to go up on their website and a member of staff at BA’s Split Airport office said they’re “probably won’t” be any winter flights to Split.
Go to "contact us" on to make your voice heard.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Croatia Online - A Dog's Life in Croatia

Regular readers will know that Rosie, our 9 year old Springer Spaniel, is as Croatian as they come. She’s been with us on most of our travels and there’s not much of the coastline or the islands that she’s left untouched.

We finally decided that it would be a good idea for her to have a haircut – her first ever. Not only does she get very hot in the summer but the wide variety of grass seeds are a menace. Some of them can get under the skin and grow, and some are very spikey. We’re also on continuous watch for ticks and fleas though Frontline, which protects against them for about six weeks a capsule, is readily available.

You don’t see that many dogs kept as pets in Croatia; most of them are tied up outside. Nor do you see too much evidence of well groomed pooches, especially outside the big cities, so we weren’t optimistic about finding a doggy hairdressing salon. We were wrong – there’s an enormous pet shop just before you get into central Split, with its own salon, and Rosie received a very professional cut. It took twice as long as a human hair cut and, at 180 kunas (£18), cost nearly three times as much, but then Rosie has a lot more hair than the average human.

The pet shop is on Velebitska, Split, telephone 021 377 707. After you turn off the coast road onto the main road towards Split, turn left at the first traffic lights, left at the next ones and it’s about half a mile along on your left hand side. There’s another good, but smaller, pet shop in the old town but it’s easy to miss. Walk away from the riva, through the market, with the clothes stalls on your left and the fruit and veg market on your right. Almost at the end of this pedestrian road, and just after the stalls on the left finish, are a couple of shops – one of them is the pet shop. This one doesn't have a pooch parlour.

For those thinking of bringing their dog to Croatia, see our earlier posting for full details - Croatia Online - Dogs and Other Pets in Croatia. Croatia is in the pet passport scheme, there are plenty of vets around of a high standard, and there’s not much you can’t find for them if you know where to look.

If you’re more interested in getting a haircut for yourself in Croatia, go to Croatia Online Lifestyle - Getting a Haircut.