Saturday, September 27, 2008

Croatia Online - Slavonia Part 2 - Đakavo

Đakavo is currently Slavonia's Cathedral town and about to become an archbishopric. That allows Osijek to become a bishopric, and ensures its church (see below) finally gets the Cathedral status it is due and has unofficially claimed for many years.
Đakavo's statuesque red brick cathedral has an equally impressive Bishop's Palace next door. The other perk of the bishop's job is an extremely well stocked wine cellar replenished from wine produced from the Bishop's vineyard and available for sale. However the stars of today's photo are the Lipizzaner horses featured hanging onto our editor's every word. Đakavo is the home of Croatia's national stud for these magnicent animals and, just a short drive away from the stud, accomodating the stallions, is a huge field of mares and foals.
There's much more to Đakavo than this - a good modern hotel of the same name as well as a pretty and unusual parish church which has retained many of its mosque features in honour of its long tradition and origins as a muslim place of worship for the Turks. However there's so much to report on, in a short space of time, that we'll have to move on to other aspects of a region that's full of surprises. We hope to return to some of the detail (hotels, restaurants, etc) at a later date.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Croatia Online - Slavonia Part 1 - Osijek

Osijek, close to the Hungarian border and the Danube, in fertile Slavonia, was once Croatia's largest city. Now it takes fourth place after Zagreb, Split and Rijeka.
The architectural style is hard to pin down in a nutshell and the Church of St Peter and Paul, pictured and known as The Cathedral, offers images of Birmingham (red brick) and Paris (the flying buttresses of Notre Dame) at the same time. Our local expert tells us that Osijek's buttresses are for aesthetic purposes only whereas those in Paris are structural, angled to support the arches against which they are placed.
Just a short walk away from this, the centre of the upper town, the area around the fortress of Tvrdja has a strong Baroque influence, and in between are some grand Secessionist Mansions in various states of repair.
So far, we've just scratched the surface but like what we've found: an eclectic mixture of old style hotels, perhaps a little daunting from the outside but well equipped inside with friendly staff and quiet but efficient service; spacious squares surrounded by buildings, many with plenty of space behind them for parking or gardens, modern cosmopolitan restaurants and traditional local ones, boutique hotels and equally comfortable larger or modern ones; a very different menu from Mediterranean Croatia, often featuring game (venison and wild boar) and influenced by neighbouring Hungary; lush green plains without a mountain in sight; and the cafes along the Drava, a wide River fed, in Spring, by the melting snow from the mountains to the west.
Whilst the Croatian Tourist Board's slogan "The Mediterranean that once was", is now an effective and strong brand, it is misleading in the extreme for about 50% of the nation's territory, does little justice to the diversity of Croatia, and an injustice to Slavonia which is continental, rather than Mediterranean. Whether or not coastal Croatia still has that undiscovered, undeveloped feel is a subject for a different posting but, from what we've seen so far, Slavonia is completely unspoilt, deserves more attention, and could be the next destination for discerning travellers seeking to discover continental Europe as it once was.
Cycling, birdwatching, hunting. horse riding and wine roads are just some of the activities that Slavonia lends itself to and it's also rich in history, culture and tradition. On the downside, so far, it's not so easy to get to from the UK but that could change soon as the small airport seeks new links. By road, the motorway from Zagreb has another fifty or so kilometres to go before it reaches Osijek, but it's a lovely drive.
Coming next...Lipizzaners and the Kopački rit Nature Park.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Croatia Online - Cycling Holidays

Fit readers may be interested to read about a cycling tour of Croatia reported on in the Telegraph. As the report suggests, cycling in Croatia is very different from somewhere flat like Essex or Holland - be prepared for some steep climbs. If you are a cycling enthusiast, a tour is probably the best way of getting your fix. The Croatian roads are generally not built or travelled with cyclists in mind and we've yet to see a marked cycle path!
Watch out for some new pages on inland Croatia in the next week or so as we meander slowly back to Dalmatia, from England, via Osijek and other hidden gems.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Croatia Online - News

We last reported on news available in English back in February 2006 - direct link Croatia Online - Keeping Up With The News. Much of that report still holds true though as far as English newspapers are concerned, in some city centre establishments you can find them printed on the day.
What has changed substantially is the amount of news available on the web, and thanks to our roving reporters, Diane and Roger, for alerting us to the Croatian Times, a great website for news, in English, about Croatia. Readers with property problems arising from the new residency rules introduced this year, and other factors, may be interested to read the section about the British TV producers looking for stories about holiday homes on the site.
Javno, a Croatian newspaper, also has English pages covering world and local news and the link will take you direct to these (or look for the small English button at the top on the home page). Similarly HRT the government owned television company.
Croatia Online will continue to highlight major news and events and don't forget to look at our sister site, Croatia Cruising Companion, for details of our cruising guide covering the Dalmatian Coast and Islands, and the latest nautical news.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Croatia Online - Supetar,....USA?

Today's picture shows Supetar on Brač Island. It's a nice enough town, the biggest ferry port on the island, and attracts its fair share of tourists as well as transit visitors. Readers may however be surprised to know that a US company has chose to use Supetar as the model for a new mixed use development in Texas, in the United States!
Adriatica is the concept of Jeffory Blackard, the Chairman of Blackard Group Inc, who became interested in Croatia after investing in a hotel and other commercial properties in Supetar. He's trying to stay as true to the original as he can, including building a replica of the bell tower and a traditional Dubrovnik galleon. The early stages also have a familiar ring - we read that building started "after more than five years of planning and a contentious year-long zoning battle". Read more about the project on
If you want to know more about Supetar, it's covered on pages 155-156 of our Croatia Cruising Companion. It's not one of the most sheltered harbours for passing yachtsmen but a good base for a few days.