Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lošinj – A Very Special Croatian Island: Getting There Part 2

Landing At Zadar © Jane Cody

Since I’ve now actually been to Lošinj, Croatia, and put my original “getting there” instructions through their paces, I thought I should do an update, though I’m pleased to say they stood up pretty well to the test.

I drove from Zadar along the coast road, although the motorway would, of course, have been much quicker, because I wanted to look at a couple of new marinas in Senj. These were just breaking ground when I made my epic camping trip two years ago – see Croatia Camping Guide – but are now both open for business. That’s a pretty good achievement and I’ll be reporting on them both, soon, on sister site Croatia Cruising Companion

The Flybe flight from Southend Airport was great, arriving more or less on time at Zadar Airport. Unfortunately picking up the hire car was a slow process, more on which at another time, but I eventually left the airport at 12 30 pm. The two marina stops took about half an hour each and I guess I made another hour’s worth of stops for petrol, a few photos, etc. Following the signs for Rijeka, and then Krk island and Rijeka airport, I was on the Krk/Cres ferry at 6 15pm and at my final destination of Ćunski at about 8 30 after a few more stops for various photo opportunities. A long day, having left home at about 3 30 am, but a very scenic and interesting one.

Going back I decided to take the “slow ferry” from Mali Lošinj to Zadar, the afternoon before my flight. We left Mali Lošinj at 4 pm and arrived in Zadar about 10 stopping at a number of islands on the way to pick up and disembark passengers. It cost 250 Kn for a small car (less than 5 metres) and 59 Kn for one person, and I needed to stay the night near Zadar (lovely apartment in Bibinj – 300 Kn) but I would thoroughly recommend it as an alternative to the long drive. Bear in mind though that although there is a bar, there’s no restaurant on board, so take a picnic! You are also advised to get there half an hour early.

And just a little to add for independent travellers without their own means of transport:

There is a bus from Zagreb to Veli Lošinj  Bus Zagreb to Veli Lošinj which takes about 7 hours all in and costs 210 Kn. Generally these inter city coaches are pretty luxurious with all mod cons but you’ll normally get plenty of well timed comfort breaks. The bus stops at many places along the way including Ćunski and Mali Lošinj.

If you do go direct to either of these two locations you will find you have all the essentials you need though they are very different in size. Ćunski has a shop, restaurant, post office and beach; Mali Lošinj has restaurants, bars and cafés galore, shops, ice cream parlours, etc. There’s a great walk from Mali Lošinj to Veli Lošinj and of course, if you can get a lift into Mali Lošinj, you’ll be able to hire most forms of transport and get a wide variety of excursions and trips.

You’ll find out soon what a great time I had in Ćunski  with The Croatian Language School but at least now you know the “how to get there” instructions are pretty sound!

Today’s picture (through a slightly dirty plane window I’m afraid) shows the islands as you come into Zadar. I sat on the right and I think that gives you the best view of the coastline and islands though, of course, it depends on the exact route and flight plan. For some reason the right hand side also seems to work pretty well going home too – not just for Croatia either but for a great view of the Thames estuary flying back into Southend Airport

And while we are on the subject of having a great time, I see that the  Croatian Language School staff and students are having a pretty good time on their annual language and culture course on the equally lovely Elaphite islands.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Lošinj – A Very Special Croatian Island: Getting There

Croatia Online - Ferry to Pag

My blog readers and Twitter followers may have already gathered that I am even more excited than usual about my next trip to Croatia for all sorts of reasons:

Firstly, I have the very serious challenge of improving my Croatian under the eagle eyes of the Croatian Language School. I must admit to being a little nervous about this as it's a while since I've subjected myself to serious scholarly pursuits, and there's nowhere to hide in small, or one to one, classes. However I know I am in kind and professional hands and, if anyone can teach an old dog new tricks, and make learning a hard language seem easy, they can! On top of all that, they’re a great bunch of people and I’m sure there will be plenty of fun as well as hard work.

Secondly, it's the first time I've flown for over eight years – my previous recent trips to Croatia have all been in my campervan, with my dog. The downside is that I’ve been used to taking everything and the kitchen sink with me so I’m having to relearn the art of judicious packing for a flight.

Last, but by no means least, I am going to one of the few inhabited Croatian islands I've never been to before – Lošinj – in the northern Kvarner region of Croatia. To get there I'll be travelling along two other islands I don’t know that well – Krk and then Cres, where, in a short space of time, you can see in the landscape the marked contrast between continental and coastal Croatia.

Getting There

It's not the easiest island to get too – nothing that good is that easy - and there are a few different ways of doing it. As the crow flies, my end destination is quite close to Zadar, where I am flying to. However to get there, I have to drive north west around the coast to just past Crikvinica, take the road bridge onto Krk island, then drive to Valbiska on the north-west coast of Krk and get the ferry to Merag on Cres island. Once on Cres it’s a longish drive south to Osor, where I cross the small channel, by road bridge, onto the island of Lošinj …. and then I'm nearly at my destination near Mali Lošinj, ironically bigger than Veli Lošinj [in the Croatian language, mali = small and veli = big].

I chose this route, partly because the Zadar flights worked out best in terms of timings and departure airport [Southend], and also because the car ferries from Cres are more frequent than elsewhere. However if you time it right, you can get a ferry all the way from Zadar, which stops at some lovely remote islands on the way, but takes most of the day to get to Mali Lošinj and does not run that frequently.

If you could find the right flight to Rijeka, that would be closer (Rijeka Airport is actually on Krk island), or you could head west, and then south-west, around the Istrian peninsula to Brestova, and get a ferry straight onto the very north of Cres island and drive all the way down from there. Pula airport is also quite handy for Brestova.

Below are links to the Jadrolinija Ferry site showing routes and timetables:

Rijeka District Map of Routes

Valbiska (Krk) to Merag (Cres) Timetable

Brestova (Mainland Istria) to Porozina (Cres) Timetable

Zadar Region – Map of Routes

Zadar to Mali Lošinj Timetable

And for those that would like to see some smaller islands while they are near Mali Lošinj, there's a ferry that takes a three and a half hour circular trip from Mali Lošinj to Skrakane Vele, Unije and Susak, where you'll really see Mediterranean island life as it once was. I think its a passenger only ferry (ie no cars) but it's a great way of exploring and always very cheap for foot passengers. Here’s the timetable link Local islands ferry timetable

Soon I’ll be revealing a little bit more of my research on the island itself.


Today’s picture is of the ferry from Prizna (mainland) to Žigljen on Pag island. Prizna is probably about halfway, along the coast road, between Zadar and the bridge to Krk island.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Croatia – Learning The Language


Soon,  I will have the unique and privileged opportunity of an intensive week of learning the Croatian language, from a professional and experienced teacher, a native speaker. Such people are hard to find in the UK and the added bonus is that I get to do it on the stunning Croatian island of Mali Losinj. More about that part of it another time; today’s post is about the language itself.

It’s Not Essential

First of all, if you hate languages, and the thought of learning a few words of a new one are enough to make you stay at home, then don’t worry! You don’t actually NEED to speak any Croatian at all to enjoy a visit there. Most Croatians, especially the younger ones and those in the tourism industry, speak fluent English. English has been the first foreign language, taught in Croatian schools, for a couple of decades at least, though older Croatians may know German better - Austrians and Germans were holidaying in Croatia long before Brits and other English speaking visitors discovered what a great place it was.

Nearly all the tourism literature is translated into at least three languages, including English, as are the menus in the restaurants and cafés of any towns and villages that thrive on summer tourism. Sometimes you even get food photos with the menu, as well as or instead of translations. Foreign language films are nearly always shown – on TV and at the cinema – in the original version, with Croatian subtitles, and, as you can see above, important or interesting signs generally have an English translation; if they don’t a local will normally be pleased to help.

In fact, for someone like me who wants to learn more Croatian, it’s almost impossible to practice the language when you are there, so easy is it to get an English translation, and so eager are the locals to practice their already mostly perfect English. This is particularly so for beginners when a Croatian would need to be very patient indeed to allow a nervous student to get to the end of constructing a short sentence, working out what case the noun is in and therefore what its ending should be. They say it doesn’t matter; that you should just “go for it”; but if you get it wrong they want to help you by correcting you and if that happens too often it’s easy to lose your confidence.

When I was living in Croatia, I was told I sounded like a local when I ordered my “big coffee with milk” but, like anything else you do frequently, a short phrase like that is easy to perfect if you hear it and say it enough. Speaking it well can even get you into trouble if a “normal” conversation starts up at the same speed afterwards and quickly comes to a grinding halt! After nearly ten years living back in the UK, with only occasional visits back to Croatia, I’ve probably lost a lot of the Croatian I already knew, but my forthcoming trip has provided a real incentive to brush up on it!

Some Basic Tips

If you really want to get the most from any visit to Croatia you’ll want to try to and learn a little Croatian so here are a few tips.

1. If you do REALLY just want to learn a LITTLE then there’s probably not a lot of point trying to learn the grammar. Better perhaps to just learn some key phrases by rote.

2. If you are going to progress steadily then you might need to brush up a little on your English Grammar as, amongst other things, it may help you understand more easily the way word endings change. I bought a book called Rediscover Grammar by David Crystal, probably about 15 years ago and I see that it is still available though at about £20 on Amazon.

3. Be prepared for it to be hard to start with – it’s not familiar like French or Italian, there aren’t many words that you can guess, the variety and number of different word endings can be daunting, some words are very long and some have very few vowels (some are both as evidenced in the photo!). However, it’s quite a logical language, gets easier the more you progress, and pronunciation is very regular and consistent. It’s also quite a poetic language in a funny kind of a way (have a look at the literal translation of some of the months of the year as an example).

4. What is it like? Well I suppose you could say it is a little similar to Russian or Polish. Certainly eastern Europeans find it much easier to pick up than we do.


There are plenty of books and other tools around to help you get started or improve.  It pays, however, to do your research as some are better than others. For example some of the older or less diligently put together resources may contain a number of words that are more Serbian than Croatian and coming out with those won’t go down very well. Similarly, be prepared for some differences between the Dalmatian dialect and vocabulary, and that used in Zagreb. In fact there are many different local dialects though with fewer and fewer Croatians speaking them. The commonly repeated tale is that those who live in Vis town on Vis island, don’t understand the dialect of their neighbours in the fishing village of Komiža.

Of course the best way to learn, is to find a great language school like The Croatian Language School . Benefit from lessons face to face in London, or on Skype, or combine it with a holiday with a difference by joining the Summer School – not only will your language skills improve in leaps and bounds, you’ll meet some great people and get an insider’s guide to the part of Croatia you’re exploring.  Or go and meet a few like minded inviduals, and head teacher Linda, at the next coffee morning in London on 28th September.

The best books I found were for Croatian school children, purchased in Croatia, but then I had a local Croatian teacher to guide me through them.

Two of the best web based resources I’ve found are:

1. Croatian By Nemo – an App that introduces a few words each day and has various tools to help you practice and learn them. For example you can simply tap on the English word to get the Croatian one, or practice the words in the Player where you get a chance to say the Croatian word, after you hear it in English, and before you are told the Croatian word. It’s a few pounds for the full version and, though I think there may be a couple of more “Serbian orientated” translations and an error between the two “yous” (formal and informal) it’s really a very well thought out App and well worth the money. If you are challenged finding the time to learn, this takes away most of the excuses as you can play it while you are doing something else, or look at it while you are waiting for an appointment or something. It’s mostly for learning words though – you won’t get much grammar from it.

2. The Croatian Language School again but this time its Twitter feed -  Croatian Language School Twitter Feed – full of useful phrases which will introduce you to different tenses  and different elements of grammar once you have a small Croatian vocabulary at your command.

It’s worth the effort, so find the time, says the pot calling the kettle black! I will be asking Linda if that translates in Croatian once I have made my excuses for my lack of progress prior to my language sessions. More news on those soon.