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(E) The indescribable Croatia
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  06/4/2003 | Letters to the Editors | Unrated
(E) The indescribable Croatia

 

Croatia, Europe’s hidden gem

 

Letters to the Editor: On Croatia, Europe’s hidden gem 
Best seaside towns, driving tips, restaurants in Dubrovnik and much more 
ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL 
June 3 — 
To the Editor:
I went to Croatia last year and spent two weeks in Dubrovnik. It knocked my socks off. My biggest problem since coming back is to find words to describe the indescribable.

I Was 56 at the time and went alone — something I would ordinarily not do. But I was told by so many people how safe it was and how basically honest and, well, nice the people are that I took a chance. Not once did I ever feel the least bit uneasy. 
I am a music professor at a Midwest university, and have a deep love of all the arts. Between the Italianate architecture, the history, the many music venues, the food, the art galleries, the blues and greens of the sea, the warmth of both the weather and the people, and hearing that beautiful Slavic/Latin language every day, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
As a musician, I’ve been to a lot of places. And I’ve really loved some of them. But after this, I’ve been touting Croatia all year, to everyone I can. I am going back this year to see more places, and am taking a friend. I hope to go back many, many more times and I hope that anyone reading this will also go.
Young people will love the beaches and the night life (you’ve just GOT to hear Croatian rap music). Families will love the old city, which is completely pedestrian (kids are everywhere and universally adored). But I also want to encourage travelers of “a certain age” to take the advice I was given — just GO! You will not regret it.
Dr. Suzanne Lord

To the Editor:
My wife and I spent a wonderful two weeks in Croatia about 10 years ago— it was during a cease-fire. Part of our visit involved a bus trip from Zagreb to Zadar and then up the coast to Italy. The coast was magnificent (orange/white rock and brilliant blue water) and the bus was very comfortable, with a driver’s assistant that passed around cleaning towels and water. But this trip and our other experiences in Croatia would take pages...
While on this bus trip, we stopped at the town of Zadar and took a ferry to the island of Iz. We stayed a private guest house on the island at the port village of Veli Iz for seven days. It cost around $10US per day and was only a few steps from the edge of the Mediterranean. Every day we would wander around the streets of the stone village, walk along the rock walls through the olive groves or simply relax along the waters edge, watching the fishermen. We “discovered” a cave just up the hill from the village and spent a bit of time exploring it, though we needed ropes to really have a look around.
The local people were very friendly and we were given all kinds of food— potatoes, lettuce and other vegetables. (There is not a lot of choice in the tiny ‘grocery’ store.) Our strongest memory of the trip was the freshly squeezed olive oil that was given to us by one of the ladies, whose garden we stopped to admire. This olive oil was incredible and my wife and I have never tasted anything like it since. By comparison, the “extra virgin” olive oil that we get in the US tastes like water. We ended up slowly working our way through the bottle of oil as we made our way backpacking back to France, trying to make it last as long as possible.
We haven’t been able to make it back to that part of the world, but we really miss Croatia and especially that bottle of Olive Oil.
Ian Butler

To the Editor:
On our honeymoon, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Dubrovnik on our Orient Lines Cruise. The Captain of our ship was from Split, Croatia and gave us a heads up on what a beautiful country Croatia was.
Though only there for a short time we were completely impressed by Dubrovnik’s old world charm and the beauty of the walled city. We had the pleasure of taking a walk on the Wall towering above the Adriatic Sea and it was just sparkling and breathtaking. We had the most fabulous meal at Atlas Club Nautika where the owner’s son was our waiter and gave us special attention, bringing us homemade specials. We were blown away by the delicious food, impeccable service and unbelievable views. We hope to make it back sometime and take in more of the beautiful country.
Beth P. Zoller

To the Editor:
Just a few notes about the wonderful article about Northern Croatia (to read that piece, simply click here). 
Zagreb did suffer some shelling and bombing during the war — notably, Yugoslav jet fighters bombed the Presidential palace in 1990 just as the leadership of the Croatian government was meeting with then-Yugoslav Federal Prime Minsiter Ante Markovic (a Croat). The targets escaped unharmed, but the upper town suffered some considerable damage. All has been repaired. 
The Jadranska Magistrala, (“magistrala”, as it’s generally called by the locals) is a two-lane road which winds its way up and down the coast. It is shared by tourists, trucks and buses. It can be congested and slow. There are few straight-aways for passing. Croatian drivers are somewhat aggressive. The view, however, is breathtaking. If a person is, say, driving to Dubrovnik and needs to return up the coast to, say, Zagreb, I would recommend driving one way and returning via ferry in the other direction. Jadrolinija runs car ferries up and down the coast on a regular basis, stopping in Rijeka, Rab, Zadar, Split, Hvar, Korcula, Dubrovnik. It is reasonably priced, and you can sleep just about anywhere — on the deck, in the bar, or you can rent an airline-type seat, or an interior or exterior cabin. The southbound ferry leaves Rijeka in the evening, stops in Zadar at midnight, Split at dawn, and Dubrovnik in the afternoon. The northbound ferry leaves Dubrovnik in mid-morning, reaches Split at dinnertime, and reaches Rijeka at 6 am. Very convenient. 
By about 2005 or 2006, there will be a 4-lane superhighway from Zagreb to Split through the interior of the country. 
If you don’t stop in Korcula, you’re missing out on the prettiest little coastal town next to Rovinj. It is the reported birthplace of Marco Polo, has crystal clear beaches, and is the home of the Moraska sword dance. Definitely worth a side trip (It is about 3 hours north from Dubrovnik, including a short 15 minute ferry from Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula to Korcula. 
The Peljesac itself is the heart of Croatian wine country. In fact, Miljenko (Mike) Grgic, who co-owns Grgich Hills winery in Rutherford, CA (Napa), owns his own winery in Trstenik, the home of Plavac Mali and Dingac wine varieties, among others. Again — worth a stop en route to Korcula. 
Your writer may even consider hopping on Jadrolinija from Hvar and getting off at Korcula — the next stop down, then crossing to Orebic, stopping in wine country and proceeding through Ston (ancient walled city) to Dubrovnik. 
Makarska is also a beautiful town on the coast, with the towering mountains of the Velebit range above it. Breathtaking. 
There is little in the way of interaction with the people in your writer’s article. The people are remarkably gregarious, generous and friendly. A few choice words, and he’ll be drinking rakija as if he were a long-lost relative. 
Cheers, and thanks for the great write-up. 
Alan J. Bedenko 
Buffalo, NY

To the Editor: 
‘It is a country the size of West Virginia, that feels as if it has four or five miniature countries within it.’ 
— IVICA
Toronto, Canada My name is Ivica and I live in Toronto, Canada. I first backpacked my way through Europe in the summer of 2001, and I am now a travel addict. Since then, my only purpose in life has become saving up enough cash throughout the winter months, here in Canada, and taking two-month vacations backpacking throughout Europe (most notably, Croatia). I’ve seen Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, etc. but for some reason, I am drawn to Croatia. Okay, my parents are of Croatian descent, but I was born and raised Canadian and whenever I go to Croatia, I’m still a tourist. The multiple cultures that clash within that country makes it impossible to simply blend in no matter how Croatian one may be. But that’s what makes it so great.
It is a country the size of West Virginia, that feels as if it has four or five miniature countries within it. Whenever you’ve had your fill of one of these cultures, just travel an hour or two in another direction and find yourself in an equally fantastic, yet totally different, place. 
The reason why I am writing, is to give out some tips while travelling to Croatia. I have just read Jason Cochran’s article on his current travel experiences in Croatia, and I noticed that Mr. Cochran sure loves his hotels. As a student, the main issue with travelling is cost. Although there are many quality hotels in Croatia that cost half as much as those in western Europe, Croatia also has the “baba’s”. A “Baba” is Croatian slang for a Granny. There are a lot of these grannys who make a living renting out their apartments to travelers for an unbelievably low cost. They are listed under the Croatian tourist bureau under Private Accommodations, but you could just as easily find these grannys walking the streets, sitting at cafes, or walking their dogs on any of Croatia’s famous resorts. You don’t need to speak Croatian to them, because they will know what you’re looking for when they see you with your backpack. All you have to say is “Rooms?”, and they will definitely understand. The most I paid for a private room in Croatia throughout my whole trip was $20 Canadian (approx. $13 U.S.)! These rooms aren’t bad too! I’ve had rooms with balconies, refrigerators, even kitchens, and if your clothes are a little wrinkled from your travel, the nice little Granny will insist on ironing that shirt for you! (The Grannys usually live next door to the apartments that they rent).
Croatia is filled with everything to do from children to seniors. Whenever I want to just go out to relax, they have bars and cafes with scenic beauty. Whenever I feel like partying like a drunken teen in Cancun, I’ll hit all the clubs (the best time being in August when all of the Italian tourists take their vacations in Croatia as well). 
So in conclusion, remember the “Baba” for private accommodation, the wild parties take place in August (just watch Wild On the Adriatic), and that beer is cheaper than water, literally!
Ivica
P.S. Must-see places: Bol, Hvar, Makarska, Korcula, Dubrovnik, and Opatija

To the Editor:
In April 1981 my husband and I were in the middle of a one year sabbatical just kicking around Europe in our VW camper. On a whim, we booked a ferry from Corfu for an overnight trip to Dubrovnik. At the time, we knew nothing of Croatia. 

We were amazed by the beauty of the place and the warm welcome of the citizens. To reduce this story to a few words, we then spent the next six weeks slowly moving up the coast and enjoying everything that Croatia had to offer. Sitting on the beach at night, enjoying a local wine and watching the lights of the fishing boats just off shore, is an experience we will never forget. Our view of the world was forever changed by those wonderful six weeks.
The report in today’s Travel Newsletter brought back all the memories. I have often wondered how badly the civil war damaged that beautiful part of the world.
We are now retired and manage to travel 6-8 weeks every year, but none of our travels have treated us to the same “discovery experience” we had in Croatia.
Ann & Richard

To the Editor:
I read the article on traveling to Croatia. Let me add that we went there in September 2001 for a seven-day cruise, and loved every minute of the trip. Amazing scenery, good food, nice people, and incredible value for money. The sea is this amazing color—it is hard to describe, and very clear.
We’re planning another cruise, and an extended land stay this September to the southern half of the Adriatic coast. If ever there was a hidden gem, this is it. 
I also suggest adding Slovenia to any traveler’s stay while in that area. As pretty as any alpine country, but at half the price, and also exotic in the sense of discovering something different.
Julian 

To the Editor:
The islands off the Croatian coast are well worth exploring. My favorite was Korcula where some say Marco Polo was born. You can climb to the tower of his house for a lovely view of the island and the Mediterranean. When I visited pre-war, Kornati Island boasted lots of rocks and one restaurant where dining on fresh whole fish under the grape arbor felt more Greek than I imagine Greece to be. (I’ve never been to Greece.) 
Croatia is gorgeous. Don’t miss it.
Joan M. Anderson

Dear Editor,
I read with interest and pleasure Jason Cochran’s May 22 article on his travels in Croatia, as it reminded me of my trip there in March, 1996 with my father. We arrived over six months after the completion of ‘Operation Storm’, but though many a friend thought we were foolish to go so soon after that offensive, we had no sense of insecurity while there, though we did see a number of signs of war that even Mr. Cochran has noted still lingers to this day. 



I am so pleased your reporter is writing these travel articles, and hope it inspires others to give the beautiful Dalmatian coastline a chance to enchant them. We saw some of the sights your reporter visited, such as my favorite Plitvice Lakes national parks. We arrived while winter was still in force (though I have since seen it again in summer), and the many half-frozen falls cascading down in many steps, with streams you could often reach down to bath your hands in from the boardwalk, was a treat I’ll never forget. I would love to visit again in autumn, when the leaves are turning, for more picture perfect photographs.
Another park I wish we had time to explore it the narrow canyon of Maslenica northeast of Zadar. I am told it is a rock climber’s dream, but even what little we had time to see suggested many delightful hours of hiking in this little known treasure. 
‘Tourist keep-sakes and nick-knacks are plentiful, but often on the tacky side, but the earnest shopper can find many good things to buy, such as the noted fine lace from the island of Pag.’ 
— ADAM CONDIC
Kalamazoo, MI There are so many places I wish I could mention, but I should try to keep this letter short. Some other brief highlights: The city of Split (especially the old quarter), the islands of course (I personally visited Vis, but am told the island of Hvar is even better—almost any is a great way to spend a day), the resort town of Makarska under the imposing heights of Mt Biokovo, the arboretum at Trsteno just north of Dubrovnik, a perfect place to picnic right off the road, and of course, the walled city of Dubrovnik. Try to hike along the walls (we missed our chance), and outside just to the north is a beautiful blue bay to take scenic shots from, especially the small fort guarding its entrance.
Of course, it helps to be a native speaker, which my father was, but people are accommodating, and many speak English in the tourist areas who will gladly make recommendations on places to eat, of which there are plenty of good quality and prices. You’d better love seafood along the coast, though!
Finally, remember Dalmatia is known for its moderately priced wines of good quality. My favorite was a red one called “Ivan Dolac”. A dinner without wine in Croatia is simply unheard of, and a missed opportunity for any traveler.
Try to wander many of the historic areas of any town on foot to get a feel for another European country with a rich history and heritage. Remember in the markets that friendly haggling in the open air markets is to be expected, though rich Westerners should be on the generous side, and not drive a hard bargain with such good prices. Tourist keep-sakes and nick-knacks are plentiful, but often on the tacky side, but the earnest shopper can find many good things to buy, such as the noted fine lace from the island of Pag. On a final note, bargain hunters should consider a visit in early September. The weather is still excellent, but with the tourist season just over, prices and crowds drop considerably.
Adam Condic
Kalamazoo, MI

To the Editor:
While in Split, Croatia, you may want to consider the Hotel Kastel Luksic, located a short ride from Split downtown but a very nice cozy hotel with terrific food. Owner Gotovac built the hotel to Canadian standards but with European charm. His daughter Anita Matic helps run the hotel, phone number 21 228 455.
We had a group of 35 kids and parents spend four days for a soccer visit, and were treated royally. Group was hoping for a shellfish and fish specialty, so owner had staff out fishing during the day to be able to prepare a fantastic meal at night. White wine was terrific with the fresh seafood. 

On your way to Dubrovnik, be sure to stop in at Makarska and get a view of the beach and the mountain and the old town. 
Mike U

To the Editor:
I was in Croatia in 1968 during a 15 month odyssey around Europe, India, Afghanistan, etc. The Dalmatian coast remains embedded in my memory as very beautiful and one of the highlights of the trip. 
I was with three Englishmen in a van and we would stop any where and sleep by the side of the road or on the beach and go for a dip in the AM and PM. We took five days going down the coast and it was delightful.
I remember the Roman ruins in Split, Sveti Stephen, Dubrovnk, and the trip up the mountains to Kosovo. Little did I realize at the time that such a peaceful land could have such a tragic future ahead of it. Kosovo was great for the yogurt that they sold in the stores. Skopje had street cars from Washington DC still running. 
Near the Albanian border we listened to Radio Tirana and the propaganda that they were putting out in English. Tito was still in power and the county seemed to be very peaceful.
I highly recommend the Dalmatian coast as a very beautifiul and place “not to be missed.” 
John 

To the Editor:
I was in Croatia last October and had a marvelous time. I flew from Houston by way of New York to Zagreb then down to Split. I took the ferry to an island called Brac. What a beautiful setting. The complex is called Supetar. It was started by the communists and is now run by an American from Crotia and Texas. Well worth the trip.
Gerald Smith
Maurertown, VA 

To the Editor:
My Grandfather left Croatia for the US in 1907. He came from the tiny town of Drnis in central Dalmatia. Over the years we lost track of our relatives back in Drnis. But one day I noticed that this little Croatian town of 4000 people had its own web page!! It was run but a local businessman/computer enthusiast (www.drnis.com). I went to the chat room and said hello. 
I had a trip to Europe coming up, so I made a stop in Croatia. The folks from the Drnis web page threw me a warm welcome and escorted me around for the days I was there. They even managed to dig up my long lost relatives. We had a much overdue family reunion at my cousin Kata’s house. It was great to meet them. One day they took me over to the house my grandfather grew up in. It was in a hamlet of 7-8 homes all built of hand hewn stone out in a remote valley. I had a chance to walk the fields where my grandfather had tended sheep as a young man.
The people in Croatia are exceptionally warm and friendly. I was taken by the beauty of the countryside and Dalmatian coast. I’ve ended up describing Croata to friends and potential visitors as “Italy without the crowds and 1/3 the price.”
Ed Brakus
Son of Drnis

To the Editor:
My wife and I went to Croatia for our honeymoon last year. It was beautiful, mellow, full of history, and the food was excellent. We stayed on the island of Rab in the north. There are plenty of guest houses as well as hotels, but no American tourists. One warning: the Germans, Austrians, and others swarm the place when their summer break starts at the end of June, so prepare your accommodations ahead. The people were friendly, everything is well priced, and the water is warm. Get there before it changes!
Jay Newk

To the Editor: 
Advertisement

My ex-husband was born and raised in Croatia, actually on a small island on the Dalmatian Coast called Mali Iz, which means little island. You should tell your readers to go there — it is the most beautiful place, very relaxed and the food is the best!! 
The best time to go is in late July because Mali Iz is actually on a string of little islands and most vacationers island hop to attend the nightly fiestas (fezda’s). Dancing all night in the warm air.
Check it out!!
Evelyn Shegich 

To the Editor:
When I was in High School (I am now 30) I visited Dubrovnik while on a cruise with my grandparents. I visited Venice, Florence, Rome, Dubrovnik, Malaga, and Lisbon on my trip. I fondly remember Dubrovnik as my favorite on the trip. 
Later on in life I went to college on a water polo scholarship and met a guy who was a year or two older than I that also played polo for my university who just happened to be from Dubrovnik. He frequently lamented the destruction of his home town. He didn’t have any pictures of the beautiful harbor or the ancient church that apparently had been ruined in the war. I called my mother and told her his story and she happily sent him all of my pictures. Someday, I want to go back.
Chris Hood

To the Editor:
Thank you so much for writing an article about Croatia! I am the child of Croatian immigrants (my older brothers were born there) and it is one of my most favorite places in the world. I have been there four times in my life (I’m 22) and it’s always a wrench to leave it. 
Although you paid good attention to Plitvice and the coastal towns of Rijeka and Opatija, you didn’t mention the rest of the Gorski Kotar region, which is beautiful as well. There is a lot of woodland and mountains to hike, you can go horseback riding, and hunters can find lots of game there as well. It is a very lovely area, and as full of culture and history as the rest of Croatia. Please look into it if you have the time, and thank you again for the wonderful article!
Joanne Kunce 

To the Editor:
As a Croatian American I am glad to see that someone has taken the time to write an article about Croatia. I have traveled in Europe several times and I still find Croatia to be the most beautiful place. 
My family is from Dalmatia on the Island of Ugljan. It’s a small island off the coast directly across from Zadar, one of Croatia’s largest cities. The food, the spirit, the dancing, the festivals, the wine, the people of Croatia is what makes it a wonderful place. Sure it’s beautiful, but the real beauty is when you see the treatment you will get when you visit Croatia. Thank you for this article, it is fantastic.
Klaudio Sarin

To the Editor:
I had the pleasure of traveling through Yugoslavia in 1972. As the grandson of Croatian immigrants I looked forward to the opportunity to see the homeland. While in Dubrovnik our Renault 4 was struck and then dragged by a city bus for about 50 feet. The attempt to get some satisfaction from the state owned (communist) bus company was, to say the least, frustrating. Ultimately we reached an agreement and I returned to my sightseeing. Several days later while driving through the city, I noticed the same bus and driver attempting to turn onto a very narrow street. Stupidly (I was 18) I was in a position to make it difficult for him by pulling out into the intersection. Unfortunately I was spotted by a traffic cop and had to surrender my passport or pay him $50. Later I was able to bargain the police captain down to $30, paid and moved on to Greece.
I do remember Dubrovnik as a beautiful city. The countryside however was incredibly poor.
Dennis K. Ring

To the Editor:
I visited Croatia — specifically Dubrovnik — for the first time last September 2002. I’m going back again this September to Hvar. The bar which is located outside the Old Town walls, on the Adriatic side, is called Buza. I spent numerous afternoons and evenings there — the wide expanse of the Adriatic in front of me, the Old Town walls behind, the sunlight glinting off the calm waters of the blue-green Adriatic, the occasional yacht going by, 1960s Dean Martin and Croatian folk music being played, a bottle of Croatian white wine, a gentle breeze through the palm fronds, watching the moon dive beneath the horizon. Pure bliss. Occasionally I went further down the stairs and took a swim in the Adriatic. The view looking back at the Old Town from that vantage is terrific. 
Mark Tyner
NY, NY

To the Editor:
Thanks so much to Mr. Cochran for his wonderful description of his travels through Croatia. It made me homesick! It is indeed a beautiful country and as an American Croatian I am especially glad that he mentioned that Croatia is not an Eastern European country, as it really belongs to Central and Mediterranean Europe. It is a shame that politics and politicians can make decisions grouping a country where they wish it to be, ignoring historical facts. I hope the visit to Croatia will forever be a memorable one for Mr. Cochran and inspire American tourists to visit.
Hilda M. Foley
(born in Zagreb)

To the Editor:
I was in Dubrovnik in 1992 after the destruction of the Serbian army invasion, and I can tell you first hand, that the destruction, ranging from Zadar down to Dubrovnik was unconscionable. What kind of politicians would allow the total destruction of such a beautiful country? I hope that Croatia stays and is allowed to stay independent of their neighbors greater aspirations. I hope that the world learns of its beauty. I hope that the world has the opportunity to meet some of the wonderful Croatians who make up this hidden treasure.
Linda Hurley

Copyright © 2003 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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