Sunday, November 23, 2008

Croatia Online Celebrates 50,000 Hits

At the last count, before we started this posting, we were just 35 hits away from a total of 50,000 in the nearly three years that we have been blogging. Croatia Online's first posting was 21st January 2006 which, in some ways, seems like a lifetime away but in others seems like only yesterday.
In January 2006 we had no broadband in our part of Croatia so blogging was also quite a slow process. There have been a lot of other changes too. Croatia's first motorway makes travelling along the coast so much easier, the variety of produce and products in the shops continues to increase significantly so there's little to miss from England in that respect (mostly marmite, tea, bacon and Branston Pickle!), and the quality and choice of Croatia's tourism offer has also increased apace.
On the downside, the new rules and regulations are making life difficult for foreigners, the bureacracy is still a little frustrating, and it still seems to take a while to discover the true inner warmth, kindness and generosity of the locals. New Year's Resolution number 1 is to get fluent in the language - being able to discuss the weather helps but it's not enough!
Whatever the changes, and despite its renaissance as a tourist destination, Croatia remains one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in Europe, if not the wider world, and we feel very privileged to continue to have the chance to write about it. It's a particular pleasure to be able to explore it off season and discover some of the more hidden secrets, away from the crowds. Two days ago we revisited Krka National Park - Skradin and Roški Slap - with hardly a soul in sight. It was a crisp and mostly sunny autumn day, the falls were at their best and the wildlife was minding its own business, and probably as grateful as those in the tourism industry that the busy summer season was over. There's a full report on that to come but in the meantime, in honour of the occasion, we'd like to take the opportunity to revisit some of Croatia Online's highlights.
1. Publication of the Croatia Cruising Companion
We get very little sympathy when we try to explain what hard work it was to sail around Dalmatia in order to write a book on it. Suffice to say that this book was a major part of our lives for over three years and it was more of a relief than a joy when it went off to the printers. Croatia continues to change so quickly that it required a few months in itself to make sure that the earlier chapters we'd written were as up to date as the last few. Relief was also the main emotion on publication day and the launch at the Earls Court Boatshow - our publishers had done us proud on the quality and finish of the end product and most people that saw it seemed to like it. Slowly that relief has turned into a certain amount of joy at its continuing success and the luck we had in being asked to write it in the first place!

2. Readers' Feedback
One of the pleasures of blogging for fun is the feedback you get from readers when you have touched a certain nerve or provided something genuinely useful. Luckily for us, we have also made some good friends via Croatia Online. Our most commented on posting continues to be one of the more recent, on the new rules and regulations for foreigners in Croatia. Part of that posting's "success" is to do with the air of uncertainty regarding the situation and the apparent lack of hard information in the public domain. Since it was one of Croatia Online's initial aims to try and assist newcomers to Croatia to try and find practical information and hard facts, it's gratifying to see that there has been some success in this respect. When we first started Croatia Online we couldn't find anything similar on the net and experienced vertical learning curves in most areas of life; nearly three years later there are a number of bloggers on Croatia, and many more information sites in the English language, though relatively few "independents" like Croatia Online, that are not driven by, or attached to a business (with occasional apologies for plugs on our book!)

Other popular postings, inspiring multiple comments, are our cost of living reports and updates (for obvious reasons), periodic where to go summaries (and some of the comments here have inspired us to look at destinations not already covered), a detailed report on hotels in Split (though there is a more recent update), a 2007 report on the Croatian business environment (including detailed comments from Joel Anand, Co-Founder of the Adriatic Institute for Public Policy and International Leaders Summit on Economic Growth) and, on a lighter note there's always plenty of interest in reports on pets in Croatia, nautical tourism and shopping.

4. Destinations
The detailed research required to write our Cruising Companion has allowed us to inform readers on many of the more undiscovered island and mainland coast destinations, as well as the more popular ones. Occasionally, we have ventured away from the coast (not geographically easy in most parts of Croatia!) and one of our favourite holiday breaks was our Christmas in Lupoglav, inland Istria. We've also been the only guests in the only hotel open in Vis for Christmas.

Favourite destinations on the mainland coast and islands include Vis, Tribunj, Primosten, Sibenik, Krapanj Island, Krka, Trogir
Zadar and Brac. Revisiting these postings its clear that there are many more destinations to review in the next few weeks. Inland highlights are Varazdin, Livno and Kupres, in nearby Bosnia and Hercegovina, and of course the capital, Zagreb

5. Events and Entertainment
We've had the chance to visit some very out of the way places and see some great local skills and talent in the course of our travels. There are too many to do justice to in a short space but the following will give you a taste and flavour of Croatia's diversity in this respect:
Falconry Centre, near Šibenik
Cricket and Irish Dancing (yes, really)

6. Friends
We referred to the friends we had made along the way earlier in this posting and don't want to invade their privacy by mentioning their names "in public" but they know who they are!
Some of them also run businesses and we'd like to mention a few sites below, in no particular order, that have been either a source of inspiration, information, or that just do very interesting things in Croatia and/or do what they do well. Please note that Croatia Online has no commercial aim and is a not for profit blog. Sites that we refer to, in our opinion, just happen to deserve a mention on merit:

The Croatian Language School – learning the language and the cuisine
Marina Facility Solutions – Croatian marina experts
Etnoland – helping others to discover Croatian tradition and culture
Sokolarski (Falconry) Centre - dedicated to the protection, conservation and preservation of Birds of Prey in Croatia
Secret Dalmatia – unique and tailor made tours of Croatia to discover its hidden virtues
Sailing School Croatia – a wide variety of sailing courses including RYA qualifications

7. Professional Highlights
Apart from the Croatia Cruising Companion, we feel privileged to be working, for the fourth year running, on Time Out's publications for Croatia - their guide book and annual magazine, A Visitors' Guide to Croatia, and a number of projects for Boat International including, most enjoyably, authoring their Superyacht Owners Guide: The Best Of Croatia which allowed us a refreshing degree of editorial freedom to put together over 100 pages of what is best about Croatia if money is no object (and in many cases the best things in Croatian life are free!).

This is a long posting and has just a hint of self congratulation about it for which we apologise. Last time we celebrated our successes, was over a year and 30,000 hits ago so hopefully readers will allow us just a little self indulgence. More importantly it's a stark reminder of just how much more there is to say to keep Croatia Online fresh, informative and up to date, so any thoughts of resting on our laurels have quickly disappeared!

Today's photo is of the Split peninsula taken from Podstrana. In a tradition established in our last celebratory posting, we wanted to use a Croatian professional photographer's photo but thought better of it. However it's an opportune moment to mention Ivo Pervan, one of Croatia's best known and most successful photographers, but a true gentleman and professional. In one of life's many twists of fate, it turns out that our book front cover is one of his photos, originally sourced from the Croatian tourist board. We discovered this just before we asked him to help us out on two other projects and can't recommend him highly enough!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've been there for three years and you haven't learned the language? I know it's a difficult language with the three genders, declensions, and all. I grew up in the US and had to learn it from zero, but I did it because I've spent so much time in Croatia. You will always be an outsider in there until you learn the language. Then you get the benefit in learning how Gotovina je heroj when you're on the coast. Fun stuff...

7:17 pm  
Blogger Jane Cody said...

Happy to take the reprimand Miquel - already feel very guilty about it and keep trying different ways to accelerate the learning process. Practice is all, however!

It would be much easier if Croatians weren't so good at English - just as I'm getting confident enough to start off a conversation in Croatian, the reply comes back in English. An excuse, I know, but communication is everything and if it happens more easily in one language, why presume that your much more fluent foreign language communicator has the patience to wait for you to express yourself like a six year old, if that?

Guess I just have to take a leaf out of the new English Ambassador to Croatia's book and spend some time with a Croatian family that, in my case, has plenty of patience.

Personal language issues aside, I was very proud to hear David Blunt expressing himself on Croatian television in what I understood to be good Croatian? I hope that is a continuing sign for good anglo-croat entente cordiale.

In the meantime I'm doing my best to progress in the language, already understand a little bit about your learning example, and am waiting and working for a breakthrough!

7:46 pm  
Blogger Jane Cody said...

Our 50,000th hit made its mark at 6.42 pm UK time via the domain. If the relevant reader would kindly send us a posting with his name and address, we won't publish it but would be happy to commemorate the occasion by sending him or her a copy of our book, via Amazon.

Onwards and upwards to the 100,000th hit and fluent Croatian!

8:45 am  

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