Saturday, February 28, 2009

Croatia Online - Expats in Croatia

Ever changing and confusing rules on "aliens" in Croatia, don't make life easy.
However those of us that continue to choose to spend some time in Croatia, away from our homeland, have to take the rough with the smooth. And perhaps the rough isn't quite so unusually rough at all!
That fact was brought home to us after a short trip to England, visiting a relative in an upmarket care home, almost exclusively staffed by non UK carers. "Oh the bureaucracy" said one. "My friend is in exactly the same circumstances and got a completely different answer from the immigration officials" said another. Aged relative says "if they don't like it here why don't they go back home?" A simple, politically incorrect, question allowed from an 88 year old, who may not have remembered the short staffing before new countries came into the EU. But a good reminder for expats all around the world who occasionally feel moved to vent their frustrations.
The moral of the story is that it's not easy being an expat, wherever you are, wherever you are from, and whatever circumstances you are in. However, it's our firm belief that if you're a guest in someone else's country then you do your best to work with it and support whatever infrastructure you can, until you find that impossible and you "choose" to go home, or the decision is made for you. In between, you fight whatever battles you have to fight, in good faith, and according to the local customs and laws, as best you know and understand them. If you have a couple of good local friends to help you on the way then all the better!
Ex pats are an odd and varied bunch. Some are continually seeking something, some eternally escaping something, and some just find something so delightful, by accident, that they want to make more of it. We'd like to think that the small band of expats in Croatia falls into the last category, and good on Croatia for making it so hard on all of us, for the time being. As we've said before, many times, if it was easy everyone would want to live here!
In the light of current global challenges, a country like Croatia could do very well by spending some intelligent time to tap into the potential of its current and future ex pat resources. Those that have behaved in an exemplary fashion, trying to understand and meet the rules, and normally with the best to offer, have often been the hardest hit. Hiding under the radar still appears to pay.
It will be interesting to see if Croatia really is a dynamic transitional country that means business. It could do worse than offering an amnesty to current foreign residents, property owners, entrepreneurs and investors, on hard to understand residency and business visa rules, and spend a small amount of time tapping into the potential that this might reap.
Perhaps a little unfair on native entrepreneurs but it's a low investment, and easy short term step, for a long term goal. Tourism is a significant factor in Croatia's economy, and the small ex pat voice, wherever it comes from, has a history of being very loud around the world and can be the best or worst of ambassadors.
Today's photo is of Split Airport, a place for collecting all sorts of thoughts!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Croatia Online - Caves And Caving

Croatia is one of those beautifully frustrating places where you feel that, no matter how long you spend exploring it, you will only ever scratch the surface.
Today, thanks to our friends in Secret Dalmatia, a passing invitation to "go and have a look at a cave", turned into a very memorable experience which rendered us mostly speechless - a rare occurrence in itself!
Modrić Cave (Modrić Špilja) lies between Rovinsjka and the village of Modrić, about an hour's drive from Zadar. It was discovered in 1985 and, though there are several caves in the area, this one is special enough to deserve legal protection. Not only is it spectacular in its own geological right, but there are a number of archaeological and other finds that have yet to be fully researched.For someone that has only been caving once before, it's an experience not to forget.
The trip was made very easy and pleasurable by Marijan Buzov, an expert in speleogy who manages tours of the cave - due to its significance and safety factors, you can only visit it by arrangement (any time of year).The tour lasts about two hours but allow an extra half an hour for getting kitted out and a safety briefing - you'll get overalls to protect your clothes, an indestructible but lightweight helmet, complete with lamp and the small cannister that supplies the gas and water mixture to the lamp. You should wear comfortable clothes and a good pair of trainers/walking shoes. Inside the cave it's a constant and pleasant temperature of 17-19 degrees Celsius but it can be a little damp underfoot so you need some grip on your shoes.
It's a 10 minute walk from the cafe rendezvous to get to the cave and you can leave your bags at the entrance - you won't want to be carrying anything more than a camera with you.You don't need to be super fit and you will be helped all the way if you need it - there are a couple of smallish holes to get through but we're told a 120 kilo man made it through the smallest one.
The rest of the exploration just involves occasional head ducking and mild gradients, with plenty of foot and hand holds if you want some extra stability - but you won't be climbing in the true sense of the word - just walking with the very occasional easy "manoeuvre" that Marijan will painstakingly explain to you. Nearly all of it is big open spaces so those with a touch of claustrophobia needn’t worry either. Even the smallish holes are just that and not tunnels, with plenty of headspace at either end. Your lamps are so bright, and the vista so spectacular, that you just feel like your walking in the Santa's grotto of your childhood dreams, though without all the tacky presents!
Every now and then Marijan stops and tells you a little bit more about the formations and the history of the cave. For me, the biggest worry was seeing a "baby" stalagtite, a couple of inches long, that had "only" taken a few hundred years to form. You wouldn't want to be the one to wipe out a 2,000 year old one but there's no pressure there either.
The tour costs 180kn per person including all the kit. Children over 7 and under 10 have to be accompanied by a parent. It's a steal and a very unique morning or afternoon out! For more information go to Marijan's webite, Zara Adventure. Also on the menu are rafting, trekking and climbing.
Thanks to Alan Mandić at Secret Dalmatia for facilitating the experience - just one of the many special treats that he can organise for his clients - and a very warm thanks to Marijan for his care, patience, knowledge, generosity and enlightenment. You know you're going to be in safe and expert hands as soon as you meet him, and that gives you the confidence to get the best out of the experience and want to go back for more.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Croatia Online - Croatia's Natural Splendour

This week had many highlights, and two will go down as "bests" in the last six years of getting to know Croatia.

Sorry to tease our readers but the full story behind today's photo has to be reserved for the 2009/10 edition of Time Out's Magazine For Visitors' To Croatia, due out in April/May 2009. Suffice to say that we had a very good reason, and an excellent local guide, to help us discover all that is best and unspoilt about Croatia's natural splendour. If there isn't the space to do it full justice in Time Out, amidst all the other competing areas of interest, Croatia Online readers can be assured of many more postings on the subject later on in 2009.

The photo is of the source of the River Cetina, which flows to the sea at Omiš. The pool is around 100 metres deep and fed by the snow from the nearby mountains.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Croatia Online - Royal Visit

Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne, made an official visit to Croatia this week, taking in a number of functions and activities in Zagreb and Split.
According to the Croatian media, the visit seems to have been very well received.
To a Croatia loving Brit it's a source of great pride that "the powers that be" have organised a visit to Croatia from such a senior member of the Royal Family. It's also a matter of continuing amazement as to how the British Royal Family, in general, manage to fit so much into a short space of time, and still appear genuinely interested in everyone they meet and everything they see.
President Mešić’s present to the Princess Royal was also of some interest - a pair of earrings made from "Šibenik Buttons". These are very ornate traditional buttons, often used on Klapa singers' costumes, and revived as an original souvenir of Croatia.
You can see more about the visit on the following links:
Finally, for Royalty and Croatia lovers, below is an extract from a small book Croatia Online's editor wrote, on Croatia, for Boat International.
Royalty in Croatia

In the early 1100’s Biograd was the crowning place of Hungarian Kings, but fame gave way to devastation not once, but twice. The Venetians razed it to the ground in 1115 and it was demolished again in 1646 as the inhabitants retreated from the Turks.

British Royalty has many links with Croatia, starting with Richard the Lion Heart who was shipwrecked off the coast when he returned from the Crusades. Zadar’s Royal significance is by virtue of its Maraschino, the cherry liqueur made by Maraska. Queen Victoria and George IV sent warships for it and the Prince of Wales, later to become King George VI, made a personal visit to the distillery in 1887 to collect his. More recently Rab became notorious when King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson allegedly took full advantage of its naturist beaches in 1936, before the abdication.
Today's photo shows Princess Anne at the Regent Esplanade in Zagreb meeting Martina Žubčić, a Taekwondo Expert, accompanied by Tomislav Kaznačić of the British Embassy in Croatia - source