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Colourful Croatia – thank-you and taste of things to come:
So, I am now a confirmed lunatic. After my visit to Portugal a few weeks ago and then Abruzzo to speak at Blog-Away, I thought I’d have a week or so to catch up on sleep, work and generally settle back down again before I went to Barcelona. And then I got an email asking if I’d like to go to Croatia. Well of course I wanted to go. And of course I said yes. The catch? I needed to go before 15th June, outside of peak season. That meant I had a small window of opportunity with less than a week after I got back from Abruzzo and just 12 hours back in the UK before I had to leave for Barcelona.
My journey started at Zagreb Airport. It was pouring with rain and although it was slightly warmer than the UK I was just a little dismayed. But, we drove inland to Slavonski Brod to learn about Fis and then on to Osijek, where I met Darko Mrkonjic who was to be my guide in Slavonia. Drinking coffee in the sunshine looking out over the stunning city square the next morning things seemed a lot more promising. This part of Croatia is not well known but, packed with wonderful Austro-Hungarian buildings and off the tourist trail, it’s definitely worth visiting.
We went on to see wine cellars, organic farms and traditional food preparation. This carp was cooked on the edge of a wood fire, slowly so that it picked up a rich smoked flavour. More of the food and wine of Slavonia later though, this post is just a quick summary of the colourful experiences throughout the trip.
After Slavonia, we traveled to the Plitvice Lakes. I was astonished. Even with my rather dubious photography skills, I’ve collected a stunning set of pictures of what is sometimes considered as the eighth wonder of the world. I’ll try my best to recreate what you might see on a visit to Plitvice in a more detailed post and to explain a little of how the lakes are formed and how the National Park is maintained.
My first glimpse of the Dalmatian Coast was at Pag, a stony Island just off the mainland . There I discovered that there was more to the Island than the famous cheese – a wealth of history dominated by salt.
This is the old church in Pag – in the town centre there’s a newer, grander version. And each has it’s own story and a rich history, all entwined with the salt production that made this part of Croatia wealthy. Of course there’s also a tale to tell about why in the fifteenth century the inhabitants moved from their hill-top vantage point to the ‘new town’
Many thanks to Bernard Marzic and the other guides for bringing the story of this little island to life for me.
Trogir, further south along the Dalmatian coast proved to be rich with history. And who better to bring it all to life for me than Dino Ivancic. Apart from an Encyclopaedic knowledge of the city, his vibrant explanations of columns, rounded corners on churches and how to spot a nobleman’s building will, I hope, stay with me for ever (If you want to know, you’ll have to keep reading!)
And then, on to Split. A City that somehow manages to combine a real party spirit with a great heritage and a maze of historic sites. These Klappa singers were strategically positioned in a part of Dioclitian’s palace where the accoustic let their voices ring out through the square.
And where else would you find a beautiful belfry tacked on to a Roman Mausoleum to create the smallest Cathedral I’ve visited. Ana Vuletic whisked me through the City showing me everything from medieval rubbish chutes to the fish market before treating me to fabulous lunch of local hams, cheeses and fish at Konoba Varos.
This is, of course, just a tiny insight into the week’s activities. My plan is to write in more detail about some of the places and post more photos. But, since I have over 500 to process that may take some time.
I hope you’ll visit for yourself and find out more about this vibrant and colourful country.
With many thanks to the Tourist Board of Croatia for inviting me to visit their country and for organising this trip.