Yes, Croatia !
France, Greece, Italy, fine but …. Croatia, really?
We, at Savors Of Europe, faced this question countless times and, although quite a few North American tourists are familiar with Korčula and Hvar, islands on a par with Ibiza and the like, we wanted to share our experience of Croatia and why we think it has a say also when it comes to eating well.Split is an incredible city. It hosts and actually is the palace of Roman emperor Diocletian, (295 A.D. ) The medieval city was built on and around the huge palace that is extremely well preserved and a Unesco world heritage site. Walking the streets of the old city literally takes you close to two thousand years back in time, especially off the summer season.
Split is also, of course, known for its famous soccer team, Hajduk Split, which is celebrated on many walls of all the cities in Dalmatia.
A couple of miles north of the City are the very extensive ruins of the roman city of Salona that was destroyed by Avars and Slavs during the invasions of the 6th and 7th Century A.D. The ruins are relatively unvisited, and quite spectacular although no building stands erect anymore.
As for history, the old city of Trogir is very close to Split and definitely worth a visit. It occupies the whole of a small island that has been a city for 2300 years. It is full of romanesque, renaissance and baroque buildings, testimony to Venetian rule that lasted from 1420 to 1797, and is a Unesco world heritage site as well.
Finally, Šibenik, located at about an hour drive North of Split, is well worth a visit. The cathedral is…on the Unesco world heritage list. Incredible concentration of monuments, right ?
What makes Split and the region of Dalmatia in general such a great touristic destination are of course also its beaches, sometimes sandy, its islands, the incredible blue pure waters of the Adriatic Sea. You can find pictures from the island of Brač on the map, a pale reflection of the beauty of these settings.
We recommend two places where to stay with much to enjoy : Judita palace in the heart of the old town, with a feel of 19th Century Europe, and Villa Adriatica on the island of Brač, in the city of Supetar, one hour by ferry just in front of Split.
One can’t stay in Croatia without a trip by ferry with the national company Jadrolinija. Both places are awesome for very different reasons. Also, we recommend a tour to Milna, where you'll learn about the amazing contest that takes place each month of July for "possession" of the tiny island of Mrduja
Click on the pins, awesome pictures by Savors Of Europe !
As for food, there are many traditional local dishes that introduce you to Croatian culture in the best possible way and share many characteristics of southern Europe food cultures. Maybe the most famous product is the so called dalmatian ham (Pršut), cut in thin long slices and served with cheese as an entrée. We’ll post recipes of traditional dishes soon. The products we offer with our partners Solana Nin and Stella Croatica, flower of salt, jams and preserves based on citrus and figs, traditional cookies, are all representative of traditions, with a modern twist. Both organize visits in the summer for tourists, at the salt fields and an ethno-village.
Many local wines from the islands south of Split are worth a try, and more. Especially strong red wines like Dingač from the local grape Plavac Mali. They tend to be way too expensive in the US, to be honest, but we hope to be able to have recommendations for our customers to purchase some at a decent price soon.
The Split restaurant scene's development is a recent phenomenon and still booming. Not everything is good, by far, even among traditional dishes, prices are sometimes excessive in high season, there are certainly turist traps, but there is a lot of choice and it is fun trying and testing.Three restaurants to enjoy :
- Bokeria in Split, yound and dynamic
- Konoba (tavern) Tomaseo in Sibenik
- Konoba Vinotoka in Supetar, beautiful setting (that’s where we were recommended by the waiter to buy the cheaper of two wines on the list, there was no reason to spend that much money, he was probably right)
Everything is on the map. It is worth noting by the way that Google Maps is not very accurate w/r to the dalmatian shores so you’ll have to exerce some judgement and talk to the locals (speaking most of the time perfect English).
Finally, it is certainly not a prerequisite to know a lot about the recent dramatic history of Croatia in the aftermath of the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 90s. But knowing about it adds a dimension to interactions with Croatians, at least those born before 2000. (You will look less silly than we did when they showed us the tunnels on Brač where the the warships were sheltered and we asked if they were referring to WWII...).
A quite unacademic way to learn about modern Croatia to read two books by second generation immigrants to North America who learn about the story of their homeland:
- a graphic novel, Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac
- a novel, The first rule of swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic
And, of course, Chasing a Croatian Girl: A Survivor's Tale by Cody Brown.
A funny and at the same time serious resource for news: total-croatia-news.com
How to go there ? Various low cost airline companies, notably EasyJet and Ryan Air, are bringing you to Split from most european capitals. Leaving by Split International Airport in the peak of the season in July - August is quite an experience when maybe 15 flights are concentrated within 3 hours. Just keep calm, do like the locals, we know it's hard to believe it when you're in the midst of it, but everybody will board timely in the end.
To leave, we recommend a cruise by night with the Italian ferry line SNAV, leaving Split by 8p and arriving in the port of Ancona in Italy, on the other side of the Adriatic by 7a. This is cool, clean, a cruise after all, and very convenient to go and see our friends at Filotea.
If you can't travel, enjoy Croatia with us anyway !