Croatia Highlights

Vrnik

My body has been back from our Croatian getaway for a few days, but my spirit is still very much there, on a deserted pebble beach, reading in the late afternoon light, twiddling my toes, and examining the possibility of going back in for one last dip.

My mind refuses to believe that, in the morning, we will not be feeding part of our breakfast to the wild kittens that roam everywhere; that our toughest decision today will not be whether to watch the sun set from the balcony of our hotel room or from a seaside terrace; and that, unfair as it may be, figs do not grow on trees around here.

So, in an effort to come to terms with the fact that our paradisal vacation is officially over, I have listed a few highlights below. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the readers who generously responded to my call for Croatia recommendations — the list, collated and slipped into our guidebook, proved immensely helpful, as always.

And now, for the highlights, also illustrated by this set of photo from our trip:

Visiting the greenmarket in Split (on the Eastern rim of the Old City, outside the Palace walls), ambling along the aisles, and buying wild blackberries and ripe-to-bursting figs from the stalls that had the tiniest crops. (Compared to the glories of the Split market, those of Korčula Town and Dubrovnik/Gruž were a bit of a let down.)

From the center of Split, walking westward and uphill through the tortuous streets of Veli Varoš and watching the sky blush from the terrace of the café at the top, a glass of chilled white wine in hand.

Driving down the coast from Split, discovering the sort of beauteous landscapes you’re going to live in for a week, and stopping for a splendid lunch of shellfish and octopus at Konoba Feral, in the village of Brela.

On the island of Korčula, quickly understanding that the best bathing spots are the ones you have to fight for, i.e. the ones that require a drive down the steepest, narrowest, rockiest dirt paths, until you discover the hidden cove at the bottom. (The trick then is to try and forget you’ll have to make a U-turn and drive back up; you have some swimming to do.)

Hiking up Kom, a small mountain in the middle of Korčula (elevation: 508m/1700 ft), meeting absolutely no one on the way up or down, except for a few butterflies and one elegant owl, and gorging on the 360-degree view from the top. Not really minding the bramble scratches on your shins once you realize they match the color of your toenails.

Eating figs right off the tree; finding it exceedingly difficult to stop. Learning to detect the presence of a wild fig tree just from its honey-sweet smell.

Eating house-smoked pršut (Dalmatian ham), grilled lamb, and goat cheese ravioli under the vine at Konoba Mate, a restaurant in the village of Pupnat where everything is homemade and the owners are kindness incarnate.

Catching a taxi-boat ride from Korčula to Vrnik and spending the day exploring the quieter-than-quiet island, getting Myst flashbacks, and having no trouble imagining you’re on your own private islet.

At every restaurant, ordering a side salad or a platter of grilled vegetables, and marvelling at how fresh and well prepared they are — something to be grateful for when one travels, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Having lunch at the famous Kapetanova Kuća restaurant in Mali Ston, and, out of curiosity, trying the Makaruli, a sweet macaroni cake that reader Hana recommended. Finding it to be an outstanding confection, and vowing to try and reproduce it (recipe, anyone?).

Walking the walls of Dubrovnik and trying hard to ignore the obnoxious crowds, the better to concentrate on the fruit trees (pomegranates! lemons! figs! pomelos! quince!) that seem to thrive in every garden of the city.

In Dubrovnik, going for a drink at Buža, a bar whose open terraces cling precariously to the cliff outside the City walls, offering a wide-angle view of the sea. Loving every minute of it, and going back the next day to get one last shot of Adriatic beauty before flying home.

~~~

Konoba Feral Obala Kneza Domagoja 30, in Brela, a coastal village to the South of Split, +385 (0)21 618 909.
Konoba Mate at the center of Pupnat, a village on the island of Korčula, +385-(0)20 717 109.
Kapetanova Kuća on the waterfront in Mali Ston, on the Peljesac Peninsula, +385 (0)20 754 555.
Buža Bar on Ispod Mira, at the Northern edge of the Old City of Dubrovnik; follow the wooden sign that says “Cold Drinks.”
Also recommended:
In Split: home-style Croatian food at Buffet Fife (Obala Trumbićeva 11, +385 (0)21 345 223).
On Korčula: pizzas at Doris (Ul Tri Solara in Korčula town), smoothies at Fresh (opposite the bus station in Korčula town), old-fashioned cookies at Cukarin (outside the city walls in Korčula town), Croatian cuisine at Konoba More (on the waterfront in Vela Luka, on the Western tip of Korčula, +385 (0)91 812 768).

Read more Croatia recommendations, as shared by C&Z readers, and view a selection of pictures from our trip posted on Flickr.

  • David

    Thanks for sharing Clotilde. Looks to have been a marvelous break for you two!

  • Laura

    I’ve been wanting to go to Croatia for awhile…now I especially want to go now I’ve seen your pics! Maybe someday…

  • http://shopeatdrink.wordpress.com/ Alison

    Now it looks like I have to go there. Everything I want in a vacation: ocean, hiking, octopus and vegatables, and drinking at a bar on a precarious terrace. The picture of the macaroni cake is tantalizing.

  • http://www.loremipsum.si oolong

    What do you think about čevapi? Did you eat them with kajmak (creamy dairy product, similar to clotted cream)? They were a little heavy against sea food and salads. Btw: Great pictures. And you just catched the last days of summer :)

  • http://thezest.wordpress.com Trisha

    It’s so hard to re-enter the routine after a vacation, especially such a lovely one as this. Thanks for giving us a peek.

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    I love that you learned to follow your nose to a wild fig tree. Sounds like a very useful skill!

  • http://playdaze2home.blogspot.com SAS

    I want to go too! I can feel your “missing it” spirit a little bit here. In some small way you will be forever changed because of this wonderful trip — your mind just hasn’t quite caught up with where your body is. Thanks for this wonderful recap!!!!

  • http://appetiteforchina.com Diana

    Wonderful Flickr photos, especially of the markets!. Croatia is high on my places to visit.

  • http://questcequonmange.blogspot.com Hélène (Cannes)

    Je comprends bien ce genre de retour où l’esprit traîne encore un peu en arrière … ;o))
    Bonne journée !
    Hélène

  • Joan

    Clotilde, we travel via your words ‘n images. The “Just another day on Vrnik” photo I particularly enjoyed ~ the charm of things weathered!

    I wonder if anyone has a recipe for Makaruli.

    May your memories of this delightful trip stay with you…

    Welcome back!

  • http://unabridgedhaiku.com Vitor P.

    Thank you so much for the tips, Clotilde. They’re especially timely, considering I’ll land in Zagreb next Tuesday.
    It seems like it was a lot of fun. I hope you are well rested and recharged for more wonderful posts like this.

  • http://shewhoeats.blogspot.com/ chika

    Hello Clotilde, welcome back and glad to see you guys have had a brilliant holiday after all. :)

    Croatia has long been on my list of dream destinations, and more so right now than ever, having seen/heard about the place everywhere including here.

    Food all looked fab, but yes, I’d love to try the funky macaroni cake – I guess I might have seen some Italian pasta cake kind of resembling it somewhere, a long time ago… should have saved the recipe!

    Take care and hope you are slowily (albeit not so willingly perhaps) re-adjusting to the post-holiday city life. x

  • Maja

    recipe for makaruli in croatian,

    for the vlečno testo (the strudel dough, the one you need to stretch):
    1 egg
    a bit of salt
    a bit of sugar
    500 g flour

    for the filling:
    300 g almonds
    100 g walnuts
    600 g sugar
    50 g bread crumbs
    1 tsp coffee
    1 bag (25 g) vanilla sugar
    grated skin of 2 lemons
    10 eggs
    250 g butter (it says margarine, but really, everything tastes better with butter ;))
    500 grams macaroni

    Make the strudel dough. Cook half a kilo of macaroni. Butter the mold, cover it with strudel dough and put on layers of nut filling, cooked macaroni and wet it with lightly beaten eggs, continue layering until you ran out of all the ingredients. Cover with the remaining strudel dough and bake for an hour at 180 degrees celsium. Let it cool in the mold, then take it out and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut almonds.

    Hope this helps :), you can twick it then if it’s no good. :)

  • http://www.livingtastefully.weebly.com/-passions-to-pastry.html Eileen

    Thanks for this beautiful post on Croatia. I know nothing about it, but after reading about your visit it has peaked my curiosity.

  • http://www.teaandfood.blogspot.com Aaron Kagan

    I hope that’s ham from the Dalmatian region as opposed to ham made from a dalmatian.

  • vailhou

    I was in Croatia this summer, and I’m still thinking about it ! So I understand you so well ! thanks for the pictures, so “croatian” !

  • hana

    Darling girl, I am so glad that you had great time, I cryed reading your impresions…
    We came to Zagreb three weeks ago from island Brac, and I stil cannot find myself in the city. You tryed the Makaruli!!!!
    My recipe is very like the one Maja posted- same ingridients, but diferent measures. Just one very important thing! Cinamon. It wouldnt be the same without cinamon!Put half of little spoon together with walnuts, almonds, vanilla, lemon rind, coffie, bread crumbs, butter, sugar and eggs.Cant wait to read about your take of Makaruli.Now spend lot of time with friends and family, it helps with transition. (And making all sorts of jams also helped me a lot. Love!

  • http://www.judyoz.com Judy

    Your trip sounds fantastic, Clotilde. Beautiful photos. Another one to add to my must-visit list.

  • http://artandaioli.blogspot.com/ Nicole

    It all sounds so lovely. I hope to visit there one day!

  • http://www.discoverunearthed.wordpress.com Discover Unearthed

    Great stuff! I’m starting up a small Mediterranean (and Adriatic!) food brand in the UK and we’re kicking off with olives. I had some great olive oil when I was in Croatia and my other big memory of backpacking there was sleeping on the beach on Hvar because there were no rooms left on the whole island. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise (lovely and cool) until the mosquitos arrived in the early morning!

    Has anyone bought good Croatian olives in the UK? Click on my name to let me know. I’d love to bring some over…

  • Phaedra

    Welcome Back!
    I just wanted to say that your pictures are absolutely mouthwatering! I am in Houston, Tx still living on peanut butter awaiting power and the arrival of fresh veggies after Hurricane Ike!
    I can imagine that you are recharged after your breathtaking vacation. Thanks for posting the beautiful pics and great recipes, of which I am anxious to try once I am able to cook again.

  • http://www.starrybluesky.wordpress.com Rhiannon

    Love that calm scene you picked for your post and really enjoyed seeing the other glimpses of Croatia. Looks beautiful :)

  • Andrew

    Clotilde, welcome back.
    You have returned from holiday to a place many people, including me, dream of.
    If I ever win the lotto I will buy a small place in the city and a home in the south, somewhere near Nîmes.
    In any event, courage, there are worse places in the world to live.

  • http://blog.arendezvouswithstyle.com Kelli

    Good luck re-entering the world from vacation! It is always a bit difficult so be sure to give yourself a break.
    Love your books and blog. Croatia looks absolutely amazing!

  • Tess

    Clotide – it was great to hear about your travels! I lived in Croatia for a year and it has stolen my heart. Nowhere else I’ve traveled has made me fall in love quite like that place. Funny thing, I tutor Croatian and one student’s entire family lives in Brela and offers wine/gastronomical tours in the area. Also, I believe I’ve been to Buža – it’s the open-air place hidden at the very edge of the labyrinth of old stone walls, looking out onto the sea with the thatched roofing? I sat at that place for hours, imagining the song “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin. It was marvelous. I hope someday you’ll get to go back and travel the area further… Snorkeling in Cavtat south of Dubrovnik; the Plitvice Lakes in their unearthly blue, linked by cascading waterfalls; the idyllically pastoral region around Varaždin; the grittier cities of Zagreb and Osijek, fascinating and filled with things to see, do and eat… The only thing that makes me sad is that even when I lived there in 2003, mass tourism hadn’t become so rampant. It’s good for the country because their economy depends greatly on tourism, but I just hate the fact that it’s become a tour-boat kitsch stop for the hordes. Anyway, I’m glad that you had a great time. Croatia is meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Živjeli!

  • http://www.helengraves.co.uk Helen

    It sounds like a truly wonderful trip and for some reason is somewhere that I have not thought of visiting before. I will definitely consider it now. The thought of eating those figs right off the tree…We have fig trees nearby they never ripen properly!

  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    Our building’s janitor has been telling me to go to Croatia for years, you’ve just doubled my desire.

  • Lalila

    My mom is from the Ston region where you ate Makaruli my favorite dessert…in the filling she also puts the grated chocolate. If you want I can type her version later as I do not have it on hand. I saw your post for recommendations too late, otherwise I would have given you some of my favorite places to visit.

  • Chelsea

    I just got back from Croatia as well and echo all your comments. Restaurant Murvica in Jelsa on the island of Hvar was amazing. Everything is homegrown and homemade. The mussels made me want to be adopted into the family.

  • Marovich

    Loved your impressions of Korčula. We love it there to the point we bought a house in Smokvica. (follow our progress here.

    You were spot on with your recommendations for dining. Ranć Maha, outside of Zrnovo, is also a great agrotourism dining experience. In Vela Luka, there is a cafe called Cafe Riba on the bay between downtown and the ferry docks. Try them both.

    John and Katie

  • http://nuttykitchen.com Josephine

    I have so very much enjoyed reading your post, thank you for that. I was born in Zagreb, but grew up in Austria and then moved to the US. Every year we would spend at least 6 weeks on the Adriatic, so for you to describe it so lovely is spot on. Wish that I could visit myself soon. Did you have any Zupatac (fish encrusted in sea salt and baked?) so very delish. Anyway…thank you for the great post!

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