Categories
Blog

Step by Step to an Unforgettable Holiday

Opatija

With its temperate climate, increased accessibility to the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and excellent medical facilities, Opatija became a prominent health tourism destination in the 1880s, and the construction of the town’s famous Lungomare dates back to 1889, as a means for its convalescing visitors to enjoy the pure air and recuperative climate. Today, this picturesque seafront stroll stretches a full 12 km, from Volosko to Lovran, a delightful public walkway which has become the centre of local social life, as well as a relaxing and healthy way to explore the coast.

Kostrena

Not far from the most famous Lungomare in Kvarner, another scenic promenade awaits you just a short drive away from Rijeka. Kostrena, a small town that is home to multiple generations of seamen and captains, lovingly preserves the long-running tradition of maritime affairs in the region. Its 3-km promenade curves along the coastline, overlooking Kostrena’s many gorgeous beaches that are often visited by locals from neighbouring towns. Take a walk, and maybe afterwards a bath!

Kaštela

Equally as impressive, and steeped in history, is the seaside promenade of Kaštela, just north of Split. Home to the vines of the original Zinfandel, as well as a Game of Thrones film set, keen walkers can explore these seven stunning coastal villages, each boasting their own castle and individual history and heritage. Reward yourself afterwards with some terrific Croatian wine!

Makarska & Crikvenica

There are numerous outstanding walks along the coast without official promenades – the Makarska Riviera never seems to stop and is full of life, while the Crikvenica Riviera further north has plenty of entertainment to take in.

UNESCO

But for a chance to appreciate the true magic of Croatia’s natural beauty and astonishing history, there is little to match walking the promenades of its fabled stone towns. UNESCO World Heritage Site enthusiasts need only to wander along the rivas of Poreč, Šibenik*, Trogir and Split to marvel at the Euphrasian Basilica, St James’ Cathedral, Trogir Old Town, and Diocletian’s Palace, respectively. These places even have a long history of amazing all those who take a walk here!

Dubrovnik

Or head into another UNESCO site, the old town of Dubrovnik, for two strolls of a very differing nature – Stradun, Croatia’s most exclusive street in the heart of the Old Town, but perhaps no longer the most famous walk in Dubrovnik, for Game of Thrones followers will recognise the Walk of Shame close by. Walkers are coming!

Zadar

Another old town promenade walk you must not miss is in the former Dalmatian capital of Zadar*, home to the best sunset in the world (Alfred Hitchcock’s words), the unique Sea Organ, and Greeting to the Sun, to accompany the picturesque stone buildings that line the route.

Islands

The islands, of course, offer their own treasures, with countless coastal routes which leave you at one with nature and the raw beauty of the Adriatic, such as leisurely strolls from Jelsa to Vrboska on Hvar, or Poljana to Preko on Ugljan, while its riva offerings are no less impressive. The glittering Hvar Town waterfront in summer is an A-list celeb hangout, the place to see and be seen, while the more sedate waterfront of Vis Town offers a tranquil but equally fascinating alternative.

Beach or coastal walk? It is for you to decide – Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coast and islands have something for everyone.


*Šibenik’s fortress of St Nicholas and Zadar’s city defence walls have also been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Categories
Blog

The Sweetest Part of the Adriatic

Take your Pick

From Istria in the northwest to Konavle in the southeast, one can find the ever-popular kroštule (shortcrust pastry mainly “tied” in the form of a bow, deep-fried in oil, and dusted with sugar); fritule (small round yeast dumplings with raisins, deep-fried in oil, and dusted with sugar); pandišpanj (sponge cake flavoured with prošek and dried citrus fruits); sugared-coated almonds; paprenjaci (hard cookies made with honey and spices); bobići (shortcrust almond cookie balls); and arancini (orange peels marinated in water, rolled in sugar, and dried). Something for everyone, or even better – everything for everyone!

Croatian Combination

If you like rakija, you will love smokvenjak. The smokvenjak is basically a type of cake made solely from dried figs with an addition of walnuts or almonds and other aromas. The island of Vis is known for its smokvenjak which they call hib, or hljeb. On Vis, they add roughly chopped almonds, dry anise, and travarica (herbal brandy). The hib mixture is then dried in the bura wind or in the oven. Smokvenjak is traditionally served with travarica or liqueurs.  Cheers and bon appétit!

The Mystery

If you are more into shortbread cakes with a rich filling, then head to the central Adriatic region. For instance, amareti are a baked rich mixture of ground almonds, egg whites, butter, and sugar, while klašuni have a similar structure, but the outside coating is made of shortcrust pastry, while the almond filling is additionally seasoned with mandatory rose water or liqueur (rozolin) made from the petals of a special type of rose. You will never be able to know all the ingredients for the most irresistible klašuni from the city of Korčula, because they are kept a secret by the greatest masters of the trade. But it is no secret they taste wonderful.

The Dessert from Heaven

The Dalmatian classic is the paradižet whose roots originate in Austrian cuisine. This dessert has a thick liquid base, which is a mixture of milk and cooked egg yolks, to which are added shortly boiled spoon-sized dumplings made of whisked egg whites that resemble fluffy white clouds. And you will feel like you’re in seventh heaven when you try it, for sure.

La Caramel en Rose

Rožata is today probably the most popular sweet on the Adriatic, and it is easiest to compare it to crème caramel. Our traditional recipe calls for a mandatory addition of rose water or rose petal liqueur which is how it got its Croatian name, and what gives it its originality and special refined taste.

Special Treats for Special Occasions

On special occasions such as weddings and other very important family celebrations, the Croatians show off an unbelievable extravagance of divine cakes. Perhaps the most luxurious such cake on the Adriatic is the hrapaćuša from the island of Brač. In addition to the abundance of orange and lemon juice and maraschino, it is overflowing with almonds. The cake has a dense top layer of roughly chopped walnuts that resemble the rock formation found in the caves above the place it was named after.

Saint Cake

The Rab Cake is made with similar ingredients, except that its tantalising and incredibly delicious filling is wrapped in a wafer-thin dough. The history of this sweet goes back to the end of the XII century when Benedictine nuns made it for Pope Alexander III for his sea travels along the Adriatic. And holy moly, it is delicious!

Last But Not Least

In this trio of finest cakes, the Skradin Cake boasts a very different flamboyance and must have drawn its inspiration from the Viennese Sachertorte. The Skradin version is a bold interpretation resulting in an even better cake (yes, we said it!). The Viennese original is replaced with an extravagance of flavours where the marmalade is substituted with honey, an abundance of walnuts, and hardly any flour, as well as rose petal liqueur and a generous chocolate glaze.

We know what you’re thinking now and yes; you’ll have to try them all.

Categories
Blog

6 Epic Cycling Trails

Escape from the Crowd

The Croatian capital has become one of the country’s hottest destinations, but how easy is it to get on a bike and explore? Head to Medvednica Nature Park, just 20 minutes from Zagreb, where the land climbs to 1,000 m, providing a natural haven for adventure cyclists – both road and MTB – just minutes from the bustle of downtown Zagreb. If you’re tired with the city rush hour why not replace it with Medvednica rush hour – a challenge when you have to RUSH down the mountain and get to the bottom of it in an HOUR’S time. And you’ll get a rush while cycling on the Medvednica routes because they are amazing!

Road of Gold

Croatia’s smallest and most northern county is known as home to gold panning and the world’s first oil well. Međimurje offers dozens of branded and marked routes throughout the county. A major wine producing region, the concept of bike and wine is well developed, allowing visitors to experience two of the region’s major attractions in one.

Road to the Centre of the World

Bike your way to the centre of the world! Fascinating Ludbreg claims to be the official centre of the world, so get ready to conquer it by bike! The oldest and best-known cycling route in the area is the Drava Route, whose 80-kilometer course follows the river Drava through a series of picturesque, interesting villages in the lowlands of the Drava basin.

Continental Croatia by River Roads

Looking for a little water to accompany you on the ride? Continental Croatia is rich in rivers, and their accompanying roads afford some great training routes for more experienced road racers. Start in Varaždin or Čakovec along the Drava River and Mura estuary, towards Koprivnica, Pitomača, Virovitica, Valpovo, Osijek, and end in Vukovar to the east. That’s over 300 km of road next to the rapids of the river Drava. When in doubt where to go, just do as Bear Grylls does – follow the river!

Cycling in WOW

By WOW we mean the World Of Waterfalls, and by WOW we also mean WOOOOW that place is amazingly beautiful! There is no greater symbol of Croatia’s attractive nature than UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes, which are visited by over a million people a year. But not so many do it by bike. Around the Plitvice Lakes National Park* there are well-developed bike trails for all levels of cyclists, many of which take you to parts of the park out of reach of the regular tourist. Want to make it truly a day to remember? Start from Karlovac and cycle the 70 km or so over the pre-motorway mountainous route via Josipdol. Wow, what a challenge!

*To tour the National Park, park your bike and take a walk along the picturesque trails!

Find your Prince(ss)

If you’re looking for your prince(ss) maybe try this castle! A jewel near Croatia’s Slovenian border is the imperious Trakošćan Castle, one of Croatia’s most important, and a magnet for tourists and cyclists alike. Maybe one of them could be your “the one”. If you are not into prince charming stories and you just want to find a good old fashioned man with traditional manly skills, there’s no better place than Krapina – home of the impressive Neanderthal museum. A popular circular route to the castle starts and ends at Đurmanec, a 38 km ride over Mount Macelj, some 380 m above sea-level.

Challenge(s) accepted? Ready, steady, go!

Categories
Blog

The Food that Amazed Anthony Bourdain

The Chef Recommends

Anthony Bourdain famously pronounced himself an idiot for not discovering Croatian cuisine sooner and delivering the magic of Croatia’s gourmet offer into living rooms all over the world. And one of the biggest secrets of this cuisine? Simplicity. Simple as that!

The Changing Menu

Freshness is another key factor in the changing seasonal menu , with its roots back in the harsh realities of life on the coast and islands. The family diet was totally dependent on what one could source locally. Peasant food, made at home based on grandma’s recipes that were passed on for generations. Perhaps your grandma was right; everything really used to be better!

The Natural Influence

The proximity of the sea was of course a major source of gastronomic treasures, and the fresh fish and abundant seafood remain one of the top attractions of a visit to the Croatian coast today. Other key ingredients, such as olive oil and wine, continue to be produced by almost all families for their home use. So wine-hopping around the neighborhood should definitely be on your to-do list.

The Beloved Ingredients

Come in spring, and you’ll see locals disappear into the wilds in search of wild asparagus, while in November you can find a sea of orange in the Neretva Valley, whose 1.4 million tangerine trees send quality fruit all over the world. Another key ingredient that makes up the Mediterranean diet includes the essential ‘blitva’ (chard), which combined with potatoes, garlic and olive oil, is one of the most popular side dishes. Meat lovers will be entranced by the sensational lamb on offer, usually prepared on the spit, then lightly flavored and served with a side dish and salad. Simply prepared, full of flavor.

The Comeback of the Century

Ancient recipes, which used to combine these ingredients to make popular peasant food, are today celebrated as gourmet wonders which contribute to the region’s culinary diversity. What a comeback!

The Gourmet To-Do List

Here are a couple of tips&tricks for foodies! Don’t miss out on soparnik (a tasty pie with chard) – the ultimate peasant food from the Poljicka Republic region and today protected as part of Croatian cultural heritage, Viška pogača – a pie from Vis, gregada – seafood heaven from Hvar, or vitalac,- lamb offal from Brač which is also protected as cultural heritage are just some of the unique Croatian offers which are a MUST.

The Markets Catch

Lemons from Vis, the Marasca cherries, Ljubotovica garlic, ubiquitous honey are some of the ingredients you should look for at the local markets. And let us not forget the flavors to be added by the wide range of herbs to be found in this natural paradise. Of course, you need to include some home-made rakija in your gourmet vacation. Cheers or as we Croats say: živjeli!

In a fast-moving world, take some time to slow down the Croatian way. A healthy lifestyle at a relaxed pace, with local food and vibrant tastes, simply prepared.

Categories
Blog

Where the Mountains Meet the Adriatic Sea

Nature at its Best

One of Croatia’s eight national parks, Risnjak (named after the lynx) is located here with a plethora of unspoiled forests, meadows, streams, rivers, caves, and mountain peaks with unique flora and fauna. This includes the source of the mighty River Kupa, whose upper stream is known as the ‘magical butterfly valley’. But Risnjak is not the only protected area; the park-forest of Golubinjak and its coniferous forest and numerous caves and rocks earned its protected status in 1961, while Zeleni vir and Vražji prolaz in Skrad were declared a special geomorphological reserve in 1962. What a fantastic foursome!

There is much to entice cave lovers, including the 300m-long Vrelo cave, which is not only rich in cave formations, but also one of the most accessible in Europe, with no access problems for children or disabled visitors, while the Lokvarka cave, 1200m long, is one of the longest caves in Croatia. Its artificial lake of the same name adds to the stunning setting of the conifer forests around it.

Activity at its Peak

With such an array of natural goodness to explore, it is little wonder Gorski kotar is a haven of activity. Hikers, walkers and especially cyclists will be more than pleased! With over 400km of marked cycle routes, cyclists can set their own challenges; why not connect the mountains and the Adriatic in one breath-taking adrenaline ride? The winter season brings its own sporting challenges, and while people come to enjoy that fresh mountain air, many do so by sledding or visiting one of several ski resorts. While there are thousands of possible activities, one thing is for sure; you can’t get bored in Gorski kotar.

Culture at its Highlight

While nature is king, there is plenty of heritage and tradition to explore, including castles, museums, churches, sacral heritage, ethno houses, mills and sculpture workshops. Not to be missed is the Zrinski Castle in Brod na Kupi, which dates back to 1651, and today houses a museum of hunting, forestry and fishing, while the Rački Ethno house, Palčava Šiša, Delač House and the Lič Ethno collection all serve to illuminate the region’s rich past. Of the 12 churches in the Brod Moravice area, the Orthodox monastery in Gomirje is one of the religion’s most western-located, and has always been a spiritual centre of religious life of the Orthodox population.

Cuisine at its Finest

With such a vibrant collection of plant life, the availability of an outstanding selection of flavoured rakijas – from juniper to pine – is perhaps no surprise, just one example of the rich gourmet offer. The specificity of Gorski kotar can be seen in the culinary offer that focuses on local availability such as a rich array of mushrooms, and even dormice, which are an uncommon specialty of the region. From May to November, an ongoing festival, ‘Plodovi Gorja’ celebrates and promotes the indigenous food and traditions of the region. Meat lovers in particular will indulge in local meat specialties, including bear, wild boar and deer, often served as game stew with gnocchi and forest fruit condiments. And while the fresh catch of the Adriatic may be all the rage in coastal restaurants, here the pristine rivers and lakes provide an array of fresh water fish, with trout being the most common.

Yes, this is also Croatia. A world of natural forests, mountains and lakes, a world away from the tourist hotspots, where one can convene with nature, relax or exercise, experiencing traditions and cuisines unique to a region that few tourists visit. But one which is among the most accessible in all of Croatia.