Croatia is a magnificent place, I’ve fallen in love with it and I’m really pleased I ventured further afield to the islands to discover pastures new. It’s extraordinary island unspoiled coastline is its main attraction and feels like how I’d imagine the early 70’s were in the Mediterranean with no real tourism infrastructure, still totally unspoiled but completely charming. It truly feels like I have travelled back in time and their tourism slogan ‘The Mediterranean as it once was’ is spot on.
Of course there are plenty of very touristy places such as Dubrovnik which is a wonderful Adriatic coastal town steeped in history with its old city walls, and then there’s also the super glam Hvar but once you head out to the lesser known islands the feel is very different. The landscape and the scenery is very much an old school Italy meets Greece with an Eastern European twist. The cuisine is generally very simple there’s plenty of fresh grilled fish or meat with vegetables but a good selection of traditional Italian staples around too, pizza and pasta are in abundance. Sharing food and drink is such a large part of their culture.
Before travelling here I was told by a few people that I’d be disappointed in the local wines available, I’d like to completely squash that myth and tell you that I’ve tasted some of the best wine in the world here in Croatia, especially in Korcula. Allegedly they don’t export their wines excessively and quite frankly I don’t blame them for wanting to keep it all for themselves and their visitors; plus it must be a tough sell to close neighbours, the wine-abundant Italy.
Whilst writing this I’m on a tiny perfect island called Lopud in the Adriatic Sea, it looks and feels like an eastern European town but it’s on the coast. To access it you fly to Dubrovnik, Croatia’s old southern town, make your way to the port and jump on an old slow ferry to the island. The journey itself was spectacular, the seats on the ferry were full and the only space was on the floor near the edge of the vessel.
There were absolutely no health and safety regulations and only one beverage available on board… which was beer and not water as you’d expect. Being very thirsty after the air conditioned flight I opted for the beer, there was no choice of brands either just Ozujsko and it was served beautifully cold. I lay on the top deck with my feet dangling over the side looking out to crystal clear turquoise sea and deep blue skies, it was paradise.
The people are wonderful, not because they bend over backwards to accommodate you and impress you with their customer services but because they are real; they tell it how it is. For many locals the small window of a few months where trails of tourists appear and disappear is nothing but a disruption to their happy traditional lives and I can see why.
Croatia is a very special place; I’m privileged to have met some very interesting people (now friends) along the way, witnessed some incredible scenery and had the chance to go to places I’d never considered going before. For anyone out there pondering where to try next for your summer holiday pop Croatia on your list, getting to the islands may be more travelling than you’re used to but it’s well worth it. I feel Croatia will start to go through some major changes over the next decade so don’t leave it too long to visit this very unspoiled wonderful country of sapphire waters and ancient walled towns.