Monday, September 28, 2009

Croatia For Smokers

Fuji July 06 005


Our last comment on Croatia’s relationship with smokers was only a few months ago (Croatia Online - Smoking In Croatia) when we reported on the practical implementation of the smoking ban introduced in May 2009. For a country that has a higher proportion of smokers than many other parts of Europe and where cigarettes are still around £2 per packet, it was of some surprise that the ban had managed to stick quite well. However, with winter approaching and recessionary pressures still strong, the government has now bent to pressure from worried bar, cafe, restaurant and nightclub owners, and relaxed the rules a little. From now on, in most cases, designated smoking zones covering no more than a fifth of the premises will be allowed. Venues under 50 square meters will have to decide whether to be “smoking” or “non smoking”.

Non smokers will obviously feel this is a retrograde step but the decision has been met with a big sigh of relief from owners who have seen their taking go down considerably since the ban was introduced. That’s a similar story as elsewhere in Europe but Croatia shouldn’t be criticised too harshly for being practical in this way – don’t forget that England, amongst other western European countries went through a similar early compromise process and then reintroduced a more severe ban later on, after the brief reprieve. No doubt there’s a psychological process in force that will make inveterate Croatian smokers now more conscious and considerate of their non smoking compatriots and perhaps more open towards a total ban in indoor public places when EU pressures eventually win the day. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tribunj Revisited

Croatia Cruising Companion - Tribunj

We don’t have much to add to our last comprehensive review of Tribunj  in July 2008 – see Croatia Cruising Companion - July Update for nautical news and  Croatia Online – Tribunj for onshore news.

We did, however, check up on Villa Diana which had just changed ownership and was intending to refurbish and upgrade to improve on its already fairly harsh two star status. Villa Diana does now have a website of sorts – – and the refurbishment program is gradual rather than drastic. However the young Russian owners are charming, they seem to have been discovered by the independent travel brigade, and you can be sure of a good clean room. Bear in mind it’s closed from mid November to early March.

Tribunj remains a charming unspoilt town on one side, and a classy marina on the other side though the two do seem to complement each other quite well.


Today’s photo shows what we believe to be a reconstruction of a classic Dalmatian fishing boat in the foreground with the marina building in the background.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exploring Croatia In The Summer – Itineraries, Travel Costs and Cost of Living

Croatia Online - Sucuraj Sign

When we set out on our Croatian summer trip, we knew roughly what we had to cover but took our own advice (see previous posting) and didn’t plan the itinerary too rigidly. We were lucky enough to be able to make a base with friends on Čiovo Island, near Trogir, for the duration so explored much of the mainland from there and then bored our mates in the evening with all our new discoveries!

We chose to fly with Ryanair from Stansted to Zadar (see our earlier posting Getting There And Back) and though the basic cost of the ticket was only £59.99, by the time all the extras had been added (1 case check in, taxes, etc, the total cost was £145.73. In fact the flight is the cheapest part of the trip as the real expense on this sort of exploration is car hire at around £200 per week, and accommodation.

For the first few days we caught up with a few old friends and covered the mainland from Zadar to Šibenik and we’ve reported on most of that already in our previous postings. It could be said that some of this area (not of course Šibenik and Zadar themselves) is perhaps the least interesting part of Croatia’s coastline but, again we followed the tips in our previous posting and visited each destination with an open mind.

The next phase of our Croatian journey was to explore Hvar and Brač (or Hvach and Brar as they became after a couple of glasses of wine too many one evening!). With not even an idea of where we were going to stay, we got on the car ferry from Split to Stari Grad (cost 286 kunas for the car and 42 kunas for one person) and drove into Stari Grad (a long walk from the ferry – there’s a bus for foot passengers) where we spent some quality time with the Stari Grad tourist board Director. At that point we decided to make our base in Stari Grad on the grounds that the other main settlements on the islands were mostly in easy reach by car, Hvar Town would be way outside our budget, and Stari Grad is a comfortable size for a lone explorer. We’ll tell you more about these places in subsequent postings but we found a great double room in Stari Grad, with ensuite bathroom and private balcony, for €20 per night.

After two nights in Stari Grad, the days spent exploring Hvar town, Jelsa, Vrboska, and a few places inland, we drove the length of the island to lovely, photogenic Sučuraj. We toyed with the idea of getting the ferry back that evening, staying with our friends on Čiovo overnight and heading back to Split for the ferry to Brač the next day. However that seemed to be cheating and a bit of a waste of time so we had a half hearted look around Sučuraj for a room without much success and ended up in the one and only hotel. It didn’t look too promising from the outside, but the extremely helpful and friendly receptionist offered us a room and breakfast for the night for 220 kunas which seemed an even bigger bargain once we’d seen the large, clean and comfortable room.

The ferry next morning  from Sučuraj (95 kunas for the car and 13 kunas for one person) took us to the little known, and fast upcoming, holiday resort of Drvenik and we’ve got plenty of news to report on that. And from there we explored most of the Makarska Riviera, including Makarska itself, before getting another ferry from Makarska to the town of Sumartin on Brač (140 kunas car plus 30 kunas per person). Again we hadn’t really thought about accommodation but decided to head for Bol and make that our base. There’s almost too much accommodation to choose from in Bol but, by chance, we ended up stopping in one street behind the main town, full of apartments, and told the lady on the corner we were looking for a room. She tried (genuinely we think) to phone her friend next door but after waiting a few minutes said she had a studio apartment available for a couple of nights. Thinking this would be way outside our budget, we were even more convinced that it was when we saw it. A huge modern studio apartment with every mod con, it’s own terrace, luxurious bed and bathroom, etc. It was late, we were tired and ready to agree to anything reasonable. How much? €30 a night. Deal!

There were a couple of disappointments on Brač of which more when we get to them, and partly because one of them took up so much time, there are a few places that we didn’t get to see but already know well. Having said that, there were a couple of highlights too. In any event, three days later we were back on the ferry to Split from Supetar (140 kunas plus 30 kunas) and back with our friends ready to knock off a few remaining destinations – Trogir, Omis, Zadar and most things in between.

Cost of living comments? Not much has changed from our earlier reports - Croatia Online - Cost Of Living Update except for the ever diminishing rate of exchange. Hvar Town remains at least 50% more expensive than most other places but that’s the price of its celebrity status. We were pleasantly surprised by the reality of accommodation prices and the fact that room, villa and hotel owners appear to be far more flexible than of old in terms of letting for one or two days at a time. Food and drink are up just a little but the overall price depends on where you go. Also good was the fact that, on the whole, the ambience was good with those in the tourist industry somewhat relieved that the season had not been as bad as they feared.

The price of the first ferry ticket was a bit of a shock for some reason but after taking a few more, you realise what a wonderful ferry network Croatia has (state company Jadrolinija) . The ferries are mostly modern and spacious, reasonably priced (especially for foot passengers), pretty frequent and generally always on time. We were early for all of them (about an hour ahead of departure time) as the first ferry from Split turned a few cars away, but after that there was plenty of space. Above all, they’re very “easy” – well organised, cafes on most of them – and you could do worse than spending most of your time catching as many as possible to find new destinations. It’s a much better way to travel than by car on a steamy summer day!

Postings on the most exciting parts of our trip are yet to come so keep reading….

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Exploring Croatia – How Independent Travellers Can Get the Best Out Of It

Croatia Online - Omis Square

Croatia Online’s editor is living proof of how safe, easy and delightful it is to explore Croatia as a single independent traveller. Having just completed a nearly three week trip there, even as a seasoned Croatia lover, she’s still finding wonderful surprises and still feeling that however long she spends travelling around Croatia, it’s never long enough. There are a few rules however and below are ten of the best tips to help independent travellers get the most out of Croatia:

1. Don’t judge the book by its cover

We’ve heard so many people dismiss a certain destination because they drove past it on the way to somewhere else and it didn’t look very appealing. Many of Croatia’s best destinations don’t show themselves off at their best from the main road – in most cases the main road came along long after the destination developed. Before you dismiss anywhere, park the car near the city centre, amble around and discover a few secrets.

2. Make friends with a local

Even if you think you know somewhere quite well, take some time to chat to the locals and the destination will reveal several more layers. If you can’t find a friendly local, use the tourist boards – most of them are really helpful and delighted when visitors want to get under the skin of their home town.

3. Be flexible and don’t chase an itinerary

Preparation is important to get the most from your trip but don’t try to cram to much in and give yourself plenty of time at each place. With an open mind you’ll find plenty to interest you, even in the smallest of towns.

4. Leave your laptop behind and use internet cafés

They’re a great place for swapping travel notes and travelling without a laptop is liberating.

5. Get the best guide for your circumstances

If you’re backpacking it’s probably the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet, however Time Out’s Visitors Guide To Croatia is hard to beat for almost all independent travellers. Here we have to declare a vested interest as we write for them however, as objectively as possible, it scores high on keeping up with the trends, identifying the best restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs for visitors and locals alike, being bang up to date, and is written by people who live in the destinations they cover. If you’re a sailor or a landlubber travelling around the more remote Dalmatian islands then you’re unlikely to find much to compare with the Croatia Cruising Companion (vested interest again but we aren’t aware of any other book that covers this subject in so much depth).

6. Make use of the Croatia Tourist Board

We’ve already mentioned the local tourist boards above but many people just aren’t aware of what a wealth of information the main tourist board has. Whilst a few of the local offices seem to have almost no information at all, many, even in the smallest villages, have fascinating literature on things you might otherwise never discover. It seems that the proactivity of each local tourist board depends very much on its leader and who you talk to on the day so, as in 1 above, don’t be put off if you get the cold shoulder at the odd one or two. If you persist you will encounter encyclopaedic resources! And finally on this note, we were told by one enlightened local tourist board that it is not their practice to recommend or book accommodation – as part of the state run agency, they take money from the local businesses towards marketing the destination and thus deem it unfair to “prefer” individual organisations. Instead they pointed us in the direction of a private agency. If you have time, raid the local office for all the free information you can get, READ IT, and then go back and ask some questions.

7. Make a base for a few days

Instead of travelling around from a to b on a daily basis (tiring, often more expensive, and you normally only scratch the surface) find a good base for a few days and explore from there. You’ll have a better chance of getting to know a few locals and one place in depth, it’s much more relaxing and you’ll live a little more like the locals do.

8. Rent a room or studio instead of staying in a hotel

There are some remarkably comfortable and luxurious rooms available these days if you steer clear of the less scrupulous widows in black who greet you from the ferry. You can get the best of both worlds here – privacy, comfort, and a budget that stretches further, as well as the chance to try and engage your landlord or landlady in conversation. Again, we shouldn’t generalise, especially about the widows in black, many of whom rely on renting out much of their house in the summer to eke a living, and most of whom have more moral fibre than most of their guests . Their rooms are mostly clean and comfortable so don’t discount them entirely but don’t be rushed into any decision until you have seen them and had a chance to think about it.

9. Try anything (almost – common sense and rules of safety apply!)

Go with the flow and, as long as you’re sure its safe and fairly priced, take any opportunities offered to you to try something new. If you’re looking for a specific konoba (family restaurant sometimes in a private house) in a quiet village, the person you ask for directions may frequently offer to take you there. If there’s a chance to visit a cave or try a new sport, try that as well – just bear in mind that the western obsession with health and safety has fortunately not pervaded Croatia yet. Common sense rules here as well though, refreshingly, Croatians are like we were before the days of health and safety – ready to have a little adventure and take measured risks.

10. Remember you can always come back

If you don’t get everywhere you’d planned to visit, just book yourself another trip to look forward too. Better to get under Croatia’s skin over a number of visits than keep scratching the surface and never quite fathom the magic of what makes it tick.


We chose today’s photo as a great example of tips 1 and 2 above though we won’t be revealing all until a later posting. Driving through Omiš from Split, to Makarska or Dubrovnik, you’d be tempted to feel well shot of it. A busy road with a few market stalls, a small and not very appealing port, seems about all it has to offer through the passenger window. Step inside the old town and you’ll get an extremely pleasant surprise; sit down at a café in a square you’ve walked through a hundred times and you’re suddenly aware of the most fantastic view; spend an hour walking around with a local expert and you’ll live its colourful and unique history; visit during the annual klapa (multi part harmony singing) festival and see the place come alive as all the squares become “quartiers” for different groups of people and styles of music; drive along the Cetina river and discover another world….the list goes on and on. We thought we knew Omiš pretty well before we had the chance of a tour with a kind, generous and knowledgeable tourist board official. On top of everything else (and it also has a great city centre beach as well as a couple of great hotels) the pirate history of which we were already aware is even more fascinating when you get into the detail. Keep reading the postings on our summer trip – Omiš comes towards the end but it’s well worth waiting for. In our next posting we’ll give you a quick summary of our route so you have an idea what to expect.

Biograd – Gastronomy And Nightlife

Croatia Online - Biograd Cotonum

Below, in italics, are extracts from the last review we did on Biograd for Time Out’s Visitors’ Guide to Croatia. You can read more about Sv Filip i Jacov (see La Habana, nightlife, below) on the Croatia Cruising Companion blog.

Since last year very little has changed except that Carpy More is now providing food – anything from a children’s menu of Macnuggets, or small veal escalope and fried potatoes (32 kunas), to green pepper steaks with croquets at 96 kunas. There’s also a meat platter for two at 195 kunas, a variety of pastas and pizzas, calamare, etc. We are told that the kitchen is open every day, in all seasons, from noon to 3pm and from 6pm to 11pm.

The restaurants we listed remain popular with locals and visitors alike and shine out amongst many more. However we were also told that Konoba Vapor, serving up classic Dalmatian food, is also well worth a try – Obala Kralja Petra Krešimira IV 24, 023 385 482, (website in Croatian only at the moment), open noon to midnight May to October.


Where to eat and drink

A handful of venues have year-round activity, including the Marina Kornati Restaurant (Šetalište kneza Branimira 1, 023 384 505) offering anything from full-blown formal dining to a quick snack; Konoba Barba (Frankopanska 2, 023 383 087), a characterful, good value locals’ haunt that majors on fish, especially sardines; Casa Vecchia (Kralj Koloman 30, 023 383 220), a service orientated pizzeria in a converted stone house with a delightful walled terrace; and Carpy More (Kralja Tvrtka 10, 091 300 2009/, a Dalmatian Pub (no food) in a large, tastefully renovated stone building, with live music most Thursdays and Fridays. Konoba Bazilika (Ulica Sv Ivan 5, 023 384 451) is a cosy new restaurant, tucked away by the Basilica ruins, with an innovative menu that includes vegetarian dishes, salt cod pate, main meal salads and aromatic fig pancakes, and Konoba Cotonum (Josipa bana Jelačića 2, 091 520 6338) is newly refurbished with a Roman theme and lovely courtyard.

Summer highlights include Šangulin Kavana and Bar (Kraljice Jelene 3, 023 385 150), a crisp, chic seafront bar which also offers toast, croissants and ices; and Lavendar Bed Bar (Hotel Adriatic, Tina Ujevića 4, 023 290 700), where you can sip your cocktail from the comfort of a cool lilac bed surrounded by trees, flowers and sea views; or dine from a shortened version of Hotel Adriatic’s menu.


Pocco Locco (Dražica Beach, no phone) is the beach bar for serious partying. In Carribean style, with a few Chinese lanterns, the endless list of cocktails includes many which are sold by the metre. Hotel Adriatic’s pool complex has a live band or DJ at weekends but many locals head to La Habana (091 353 7332 mobile), a short taxi ride to the small village of Sv Filip i Jakov. Here there’s a large terrace and beach bar, cocktails, pizza by the slice, and a Cuban theme.


Today’s photo is of Roman themed Konoba Cotonum.

Croatia’s Undiscovered Treasures In The City Museum In Biograd

Croatia Online - Biograd City Museum

Tucked away a little, just opposite Biograd’s ferry terminal is Croatia’s lovely City Museum. We first discovered it back in late 2006 when we were lucky enough to bump into Mirko Čekop, an archaeologist, who gave us the full story behind the Gnalić wreck. Below, in italics, is the original write up we did for the second edition (2007) of Time Out’s Visitors Guide to Croatia.

We looked up Mirko again a couple of weeks ago to get an update. Mirko tells us that, eventually, the glass from the Gnalić wreck will have its own museum in Biograd. This could take as long as five years but the plan is to build a museum near where the existing bus station is and move the bus station a little out of town to ease congestion. The current City Museum will be housed there too – it currently occupies one of the oldest buildings on the Riva, an 18th century building that was first used as a courthouse. Unfortunately the building is now too small to display anything but a small part of the treasures and many of them remain in store.

As you might expect, Mirko is a mine of information on many things and told us about the latest discoveries in Biograd, the most important of which is the excavation that took place around the Basilika area of the centre. The excavation was completed in 2008 and though the material is still being identified, there were some fascinating discoveries of 10th and 11th century life when Biograd enjoyed its heyday as a grand city that challenged Zadar and Split. The area has now become a city square with the remains of the site covered with stone slabs. There’s also a good new restaurant, Basilika, nearby which serves up dishes that are a little bit different from Dalmatia’s normal offering.

We couldn’t write fast enough to note down all the fascinating information that Mirko imparted to us but here are some interesting facts about Biograd and related matters.

1. The Monastery of St John reveals the first use of money in Croatia

2. Biograd’s current name derives from the word white, in local dialect “Bilo” – the same deriviation as Beograd in Serbia. However, until 1921, Biograd was called Zaravechia which means “old Zadar”. Apparently, when it was discovered in ruins following destruction by the Venetians in 1125 and again in the retreat from the Turks in 1646, it was assumed that nearby Zadar had been reconstructed in its place.

3. Latin, as opposed to Slavic influence on the Croatian language is apparently most evident in building and nautical vocabulary. Of the hundreds of words in everyday use amongst sailors and fisherman, it appears that only three have a Slavic origion - “brod” (boat), “jadro” (sail) and “cesta” (road), the latter we assume receiving a wider, land based, use later. Mirko also told us that the last Croatian using Latin as their mother tongue died, as recently as the end of the 19th century, on the island of Krk.

As for the Gnalić wreck, since our original report the glass has all been analysed and you can read more about that by following this link to the Sheffield University website.

As ever, many thanks to Mirko for his time and enthusiasm in bringing the region’s history to life for us.

Zavičajni Muzej (Regional Museum)

Krešimirova Obala 22(023 383 721). Open Summer 9am-noon, 8pm-11pm; winter 7am-2pm Mon-Sat. Admission 10 kn.

The rusting anchor outside the sea front premises signals some of the quirky delights inside. A collection of urns and bowls from roman and other eras warms you up for the story of Biograd, told in a collection of pictures, relics and reconstructions. The highlight is upstairs – parts of a 16th century Venetian galley-ship sunk off the islet of Gnalić, south of Biograd in the entrance to the Pašman Canal. The ship was discovered in 1967 along with some of its treasures which include glassware, ceramics and textiles. Over 5,500 items of glassware were recovered, in the course of 6 diving operations, the last one in 1996, making it the largest collection of post Roman glass ever found from a single source. Only a small part of the glassware is currently on display here and most of it may end up in a purpose built museum in Zadar. It’s probably Murano glass but in 2005 a team of English and Slovene archaeologists undertook the first systematic analysis of it and, at the time of writing, ON Books were about to publish their findings - “Glass from the Gnalić Wreck” by Dr Hugh Willmott, Dr Caroline Jackson (University of Sheffield) & Dr Irena Lazar (University Primorska, Koper). The museum can be a little short of information in English but grab one of the helpful members of staff for a one to one tour if you can. The story of the wreck and its recovery is fascinating.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Croatia Online Celebrates 75,000 Hits

Croatia Online - 75,000 Hits (Supetar)

We’re interrupting our recent sequence of postings, covering our whirlwind tour round the summer hotspots of Croatia, to bring you a newsflash - Croatia Online has just celebrated its 75,000th hit. The big party comes when we get to 100,000 but in the meantime, here are links to earlier celebrations and landmarks:

First Posting 21st January 2006

10,000 Hits And First Birthday – 20th January 2007 

20,000 Hits – 2nd August 2007 (and a lovely photo)

30,000 Hits – 13th February 2008

50,000 Hits – 23rd November 2008

Our sister site, Croatia Cruising Companion, for nautical visitors to Croatia, and to accompany our book of the same name, launched on 21st October 2007 and is well on its way to its 10,000th hit.

Many thanks to all our readers, some of whom have become good friends, for their continuing interest and comments. Readership is becoming increasingly international with the last ten hits coming from Hungary, US, Sweden, Brazil, Turkey, Romania and of course the UK and Croatia. Visit number 75,000 was from the US.


Today’s photo was taken waiting for the ferry in Supetar on Brač Island a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately we had a lovely sunset to entertain us, setting over the cemetery and it’s notable mausoleum of which more later.

Biograd – Hotel “IN” The Fastest Hotel Construction In Croatia?

Croatia Online - Hotel In Biograd

Perhaps not a stunner from the outside, Hotel IN has been very nicely done out on the inside. It also has a great view over Biograd’s marina and surrounds which can best be admired from the sun terrace which sports a jacuzzi, a bar and a 360 degree panoramic view.

What really sets the hotel apart in our minds, is the speed at which it has gone from construction site to fully functioning 4 star hotel. We passed a half built concrete block when we visited the Biograd Boat Show last October and the Hotel was up and running by July this year. That’s surely something of a record as the fastest hotel construction in Croatia, given the delays that most projects of this kind experience due to bureaucracy and problems with permissions and licences.

We had a full tour of the hotel, which is already well booked and seems very professionally run. The Croatian interior designer has taken inspiration from the surrounds and a yacht theme runs through the decor and design – teak and blue all very tastefully mingled and occasionally interrupted by vividly coloured jigsaw patterned chairs. Our only criticism is the name which doesn’t work very well when googling in English or reading about the hotel - “New Hotel IN”…. demands the question “in where” or worse “New Hotel IN in Biograd” looks like a typo. So we’ve made sure to use the name in capitals as perhaps the owners decided upon for this very reason, once they translated their literature into English, and we’ve reproduced full contact details below.

Hotel IN

Setaliste Kneza Branimira 32, Biograd na Moru 23210, Croatia

Tel 023 385 700

Fax 023 385 710



Thanks to Hotel IN for today’s photographs which should give you a good idea of the style.



Our next posting on Croatia Online will be an update on Biograd’s lovely City Museum and some very special treasures.  On our Croatia Cruising Companion blog we’ll be reporting on the upcoming Biograd Boat Show.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pakoštane, Near Zadar

Croatia Online - Pakostane

Pakoštane, between Zadar and Šibenik, is another village we’ve been keeping an eye on but it’s not quite there yet as an upcoming seaside resort. The beach is good but facilities are underdeveloped and still somewhat geared to the low budget traveller of old. For the moment, the main attraction of the area is Lake Vrana (Vransko Jezero), Croatia’s biggest natural lake.

Declared a National Park in 1999, the park covers 57 square kilometres and the lake itself 30 square kilometres.  It’s a special ornithological reserve and a haven for several endangered species as well as providing the habitat for a vast number of different species. Apart from the diversity of flora and fauna, the area has a rich history, and there are some great cycling tracks. You can find out more about the park on, though unfortunately not all pages have been translated into English yet. Cyclists wanting more information on the routes click here or get a map from any of the tourist boards in the area.

For news on nearby Sv Filip i Jakov, have a look at this posting on the Croatia Cruising Companion website.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seget Donji, Near Trogir – An Upcoming Croatian Destination?

Croatia Online Seget Donji

Our latest posting on our  nautical tourism blog reports on a new marina that is finally open just outside Trogir in the sleepy village of Seget Donji. However, partly because of this and a few other recent developments, Seget may not remain sleepy for much longer.

Seget is actually three villages – Donji (lower), Gornji (upper, inland) and Vranjica – which have, to date, remained mostly outside the discerning tourist’s radar though Vranjica is a well to do residential area with some great apartments and villas, and Donji has a couple of good restaurants – Barba and Franki’s – which have been attracting locals and visitors in the know for some time.

Seget is off the beaten track as the main coast road from Split bypasses it. You have to head towards Trogir and, just before turning to take the bridge over to Trogir island, continue towards  Šibenik along a road that doesn’t inspire much of a desire to explore. However you will pass a number of notable establishments on the way to the heart of Seget Donji such as Barba, a good fish restaurant (on the right), a rare Chinese restaurant (of which we have very mixed experiences) on the left, Hotel Jadran and Hotel Astoria. The resort complex Medena, provides perhaps the most popular and closest beach for Trogir residents and we hear it has had a bit of a facelift. 

The compact old town of Seget Donji is still in something of a time warp, despite the new marina next door. You will find some locals and a very few tourists swimming off what can hardly be termed a beach next to the parking area, but generally there’s an air of quiet indifference. Frankie’s restaurant (pictured) is a popular haunt for business lunches and now there’s a new collection of apartments with a small swimming pool - Aqua Natural, not far from the centre and marina.

Seget seems yet to find it’s true identity – in particular the core itself seems to resist modern tourism offerings, leaving that to the sprawl that has developed around the road from the centre to Trogir. That may be no bad thing and the sea side of this sprawl reveals many pleasant surprises. We’ve heard consistently good reports of  Hotel Jadran as a good value family hotel, and friends of ours regularly choose the restaurant at Aparthotel Astoria for a more upmarket and less frenetic dining experience than might be available in Trogir.

Today’s picture shows Frankie’s  Restaurant and you can just see Trogir’s shipyard to the extreme right of the photo. Perhaps Seget’s true renaissance will come once the future of the shipyard is decided  and maybe the views improve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Croatia Summer Of 2009 – Hit Or Miss?

Croatia Online - Summer 2009 Snapshot

Judging from our trip around the hotspots in late August and early September, the verdict seems to be that Croatia’s summer of 2009 has been a qualified hit. Most of those we talked to in the tourism industry judge that they have fared far better than expected given the doom and gloom all around. This seems particularly so for a number of historically package destinations that have gone up market such as Makarska and Biograd. Anecdotally, it also seems that small niche hotels and restaurants have done well – not necessarily the five star variety but those that provide value for money and care about their reputation, whatever budget bracket they are in.

By all accounts the shoulder season seemed to start late, perhaps a factor of the unusual amount of rain, with Omiš counting sixteen days in June. However, when we left the coast on 9th September, much of it was buzzing with tourists, the flights were full, and a number of establishments were keeping their doors open longer than they anticipated, to meet continuing demand. Refreshingly, several small operators seem to have embraced entrepreneurship. Where once, only a few years ago, we could have wandered round for hours trying to find an apartment to let for less than three days, and would have paid a premium, now there are deals to be done. We had a great room, complete with balcony and ensuite, in Stari Grad on Hvar Island for €20 for one night, and found an enormous, superbly equipped studio apartment, in Bol on Brač, for €30 a night. The best find was a hotel on Hvar Island – perhaps a little jaded architecturally but clean, spacious and extremely efficient and friendly – for just over €20 a night including breakfast.

We’re sorry to say that the only destination we are aware of that seems to have had a bit of a “miss” is our first “home” town of Trogir, and particularly Čiovo Island. Normally its sign of success is that there’s a regular traffic jam to get on and off the island to get to the beaches and back again. This year there’s hardly been any congestion at all. Perhaps word is spreading about the dubious practices at Big Daddy’s café on the Riva, and rogue parking fee collectors as Trogir is also the only place that we were blatantly ripped off on our short summer tour. We’ll be naming and shaming those involved in these short sighted, and thankfully rare, profiteering practices as we write up our travelogues over the next few weeks

Weather wise, we were lucky enough to arrive the day after the heat wave abated though 32 degrees is not exactly cool. Towards the end of our trip there was a strong Bora (north east wind) which is quite unusual in the summer but resulted in a drop in temperature and humidity, and produced  great visibility.


We couldn’t start our travelogue with any other photo – Croatia’s iconic beach, Zlatni rat, in Bol on Brač island. Don’t be fooled by the relative lack of tourists as this photo was taken just after sunset in the first week in September. The water was as crystal clear as ever but we're sure that the small pebbles, which comprise most of the beach, are becoming more like the sand they look like!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Croatia – Getting There And Back

Croatia Online - Zadar Airport

We’ve now been back in the UK a couple of days from a real “visitors” trip to Croatia, unlike our normal wander around as a “nearly local”. That sort of a trip is a real joy – going with the flow, checking out all the hotspots, roaming from place to place with no fixed agenda, behaving like a tourist…., but more of that later. This posting is about getting there and back with Ryanair to and from Zadar Airport.

On the plus side, given the time of year (just after the high season) the flight was relatively cheap, we arrived at both ends more or less on time, the staff were delightful, and the departure and arrival processes were relatively painless. Weighing against that are:

1. The very strict and miserly baggage limits  - 15kg for hold luggage (for which you pay extra) and 10kg for hand luggage. Whilst you might get away with a few extra pounds in the hold, you will be swooped on at the gate if you have more than one piece of hand luggage. Duty free, laptops, newspapers, etc must all fit inside this one bag and all weigh under 10kg. We saw a number of people fall victim to this and, in Ryanair’s defence, they do make it very plain on booking emails, boarding cards, etc, but many of us are used to more flexibility and may not pay attention. We did but had to repack a number of times before leaving home and left our laptop behind (which had some benefits!), together with plenty of other work/travel paraphernalia. Gathering literature on the way as we do, we also had to post a number of parcels back to the UK en route. A number of others paid the excess and Ryanair wins in two ways - firstly it makes a little bit of extra money at the gate and secondly, there’s a strong incentive to buy your duty free on the plane rather than at the airport.

2. Zadar Airport, cosy at is, was struggling to cope with the number of passengers in departures with three Ryanair flights leaving within half an hour of each other. Many people queue as early as possible with Ryanair to get a good seat, otherwise it would have been difficult to sit down at the airport.

3. Smokers should get their cigarettes outside the airport. The Croatian brands such as Walter Wolf and Ronhill are around 18 kunas a packet, Croatian duty paid. The airport doesn’t seem to stock local brands and the cheapest duty free price was around 21 kunas a packet.

4. Don’t be alarmed to see blue flashing lights on the ground as you take off or land. The runway crosses a road which has to be closed for take offs and landings.

5. From Zadar, if you are brave enough, ignore the first yellow sign to the airport which takes you along the old road. The next one takes you on the newer faster road though it’s a bit unnerving to find yourself heading for the sea and then following a hairpin bend back inland.

6. If you’re hiring a car you won’t find a fuel station in the immediate vicinity of the airport so fill up in Zadar or on the motorway.

7.  Ryanair arrives in Zadar quite late at night so many people are looking for a one night stop nearby. Hotel Bastion is the main option in Zadar (see Croatia Online - Hotel Bastion, Zadar's Newest Hotel) but those travelling on a lower budget will find their money goes further in nearby Sukošan (again, more later).

8. Parking – it seems that Stansted parking (if you book ahead on the internet) is cheaper than Zadar!

9. Like at all airports, refreshments are not cheap at Zadar airport (18 kunas for a small beer compared with the normal 10 kunas) but probably cheaper than on the plane.

Hats off to Ryanair though for making Croatia affordable in the summer and adding to the choices, and to Zadar airport for coping relatively well with its new found popularity.


Today’s photo is the departure lounge in Zadar airport. If you need to sit, either get there early or late!


Coming up – our travels in all their detail – Dalmatian mainland, Hvar and Brač. However in our next posting we’ll try and give you a feel for the ambience this year and how Croatia seems to be faring amongst global economic doom and gloom.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Breaking News On Croatia

Readers may be reassured to know that they won't have to wait much longer to find out the hottest breaking news on Croatia.

We've been whizzing around the Dalmatian Coast and islands for the past couple of weeks and there's plenty to report. New hotels, restaurants and bars all over the place, plenty to be optimistic about in terms of tourist numbers, and a country that seems to be buzzing even though the high season is now officially over.

The weather has been great, apart from a fierce thunderstorm yesterday which produced hail the size of golfballs over our heads on Brać island. The cause of the storm was a battle between the Jugo (south east wind) and the Bora (north east wind). Fortunately the Bora won and the temperature is a little cooler today and the air certainly much fresher.

We'll be back at our desks next Friday, with a mountain of information and hundreds of photos to digest and distil to you in the coming weeks. Highlights include Škrip, Dol and Bol on Brać; Sućuraj, Jelsa and Stari Grad on Hvar; a rising star on the mainland - Drvenik; a new Gallery in Split; and much much more.