Why Your Next Flight Should be to Croatia

The town of Dubrovnik.

Croatia is a country not to be missed. The clear, turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea are comparable to anything you would experience along the Côte d’Azur of France. The generous, proud people throughout the country are inspiring, especially since many of them were witnesses to a war that wreaked havoc to their economy and country not that long ago. Then there is the food. Oh the food. A delicious mix of fresh produce, olive oil, seafood and pasta. What wouldn’t you like about it?

In recent years, the country has seen an increase in tourism. In part, thanks to both Dubrovnik and Split playing an important backdrop to many scenes in the hit series “Game of Thrones.” Yet, it still remains somewhat unknown as a must-see destination, especially for North Americans. Perhaps it is the long flight(s) that puts people off, but that is changing with more frequent and easier ways to get there. Especially now with direct flights from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik. So, even for Americans, there is really no excuse not to go.

A Little Bit About the History of Croatia

Geographically, Croatia has always been an important country ever since us humans decided trading and conquering lands was a thing. With its miles of coastline nestled between Italy, Turkey and Greece, what is now known as Croatia has always been important to those seeking access to trading routes and power in Europe and the Middle East.

Croatia’s history is long and filled with conquering forces. After Croatia was settled by ancient tribes the Greeks moved in, quickly realizing the area’s geographical importance for their expansion.

The Roman Empire spread to the area after that. Byzantine rule took over after, then the Ottoman Empire. Hungary and Austria laid claim to the region, then the Venetians. It later became part of Yugoslavia. The Croatian war for independence started in 1991 and ended in 1995.  In 2013, she became part of the European Union.

Cuisine

Needless to say, all this mixing of cultures created an incredible gastronomic experience. Delicious pasta and seafood dishes are found in most parts of Croatia, but especially along the coast.

Before describing just a few of the delicious Croatian dishes that I was lucky enough to try, let me talk about olive oil. Honestly, it is the best olive oil that I have ever tried. It is rich and hits you in the back of the throat. I would be quite happy finishing out my days just eating bread dipped Croatian olive oil, perhaps with some of their balsamic vinegar mixed in too from time to time.

Crni Rizot

One of the most famous Croatian dishes is a black risotto called Crni Rizot in Croatian. The risotto is colored by the squid ink that it is cooked in. It is rich and quite fishy, so you have to really like seafood to eat this one. Make sure not to smile too much after eating this dish unless you brush your teeth!

Typical Croatian food.

Soparnik is a typical Croatian flatbread that is filled with Swiss chard or onions and topped with chopped garlic and olive oil. It is absolutely delicious. What I said earlier about just eating bread and olive oil? Well, I think I would be pretty happy just eating Soparnik for the rest of my life.

Due to it’s geographical proximity to Italy, a lot of the desserts are similar to what we think are typical Italian ones, like cannolis, cured fruits and custard dishes.

Arancini, otherwise know as sugared orange or lemon peel, is very popular dessert and/or a pick-me-up snack.

For dessert,  try rozata,  a dessert native to the Dubrovnik area, which is similar to a custard or flan.

Geography

Croatia’s geography is diverse. Near the Bosnian and Herzegovina border, some of the mountains in the Dinaric Alps reach elevations of up to 6,000 feet (over 1800 metres). The flat lands of Slavonia are where the Danube, Drava, Kupa and Sava rivers cross the country. The coastline offers thousands of islands and inlets, perfect for cruising in and out of. Many parts of the shoreline rise dramatically from the vivid blue waters, where thousands of stone walls criss cross the landscape. It is incredible to look at those walls and think that they have been there for hundreds, and perhaps some cases, thousands of years.

Biodiversity

Croatia has a wealth of flora and fauna, with new species discovered in recent years. The climate along the coast is mild and usually with plenty of sunshine. Unfortunately, when I was there, there was unusually high rainfall that lasted several days, but even in the rain, it was still beautiful. The waters along the coast offer tons of scuba and snorkeling spots. There are also many forests inland and thousands of caves to explore. In the winter, there are mountain ranges to ski, although from what I heard, many Croatians prefer to travel to Bosnia or Switzerland for ski trips.

 

Views from Dubrovnik’s Fort Lovrijenac.

Economy

Croatia’s economy is considered a “high income economy” by the United Nations, although it is a relatively cheap country to visit for westerners. Tourism is an important sector of the economy, and has been since the end of the war in 1995. In recent years with the added fame of the Game of Thrones Series being filmed in Dubrovnik.

Marine tourism, meaning boat charters and cruises, are especially popular. There are many beautiful islands to explore including Hvar, Vis and Bisevo, which has a famous, partially underwater cave that glows blue known as the blue grotto.

Hvar is an island that provides a little bit of everything. There are beautiful beaches, a vibrant nightlife, vineyards, olives and a history dating back to the ancient Greeks.

The town of Hvar is a popular holiday destination and offers great nightlife, beach clubs and shops. Stari Grad, on the other side of the island, offers a more historical experience as it is one of the oldest towns in Europe. Founded by the ancient Greeks in 384 BC, the town is located in at the head of a very protected bay. There are numerous restaurants to choose and a stroll around the harbor is an absolute must.

The town of Starigrad on the island of Hvar.

Korčula is the sixth largest island in Croatia and, it is alleged that the famous explorer, Marco Polo, was born on this island.

Its town is known as “Little Dubrovnik” because of its medieval buildings. A walk up a very narrow staircase in the city’s church will provide you with breathtaking views of the city surrounds and the channel between the island and the mainland.

The view from one of the many vantage points from the bell tower of Korčula’s main church.

There are numerous restaurants and bars, especially along the waterfront.

Currency

The Croatian Kuna is the official Croatian currency. Although Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, there hasn’t been much movement toward switching to euros. There are .15USD to 1 Croatian Kunas and .13Euros to 1 Kuna.

The old city of Dubrovnik.

 

Needless to say Croatia is a pretty cool place to visit with incredible places to visit, meals to eat and history to learn. Make the journey.

 

Must-See Places and Harbors Along the New England Coast

Newport Bridge at sunset.

The ideal way to explore New England in the summer is definitely by boat. You have the ability to explore beautiful harbors and towns yet escape the crowds that so often flock to these areas during the warmer months. Whenever you feel like it, simply escape the crowds and heat by setting off for an isolated anchorage, where you can left at peace.

 

There are hundreds of towns and harbors to choose from, but for a start, here are a few must-see ports-of-call that exude what New England summers are all about.

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport is world famous as a yachting destination. Some know her as the city that hosted the America’s Cup, while others know her as a protected harbor with plenty of night life and delicious provisioning. Newport is a great jumping off point for cruising to Block Island, the Elizabeth Islands, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. All of these places are just a day sail away, and depending on the point of wind, you can make sure that the sail (or motor) is a comfortable one for everyone onboard.

 

Newport is a great city to walk around and take in the history of the place. From the Loeb Visitor Center where you can learn about the day-to-day living of one of the older Jewish communities in the U.S. to watching the sun set over Newport harbor at The Lobster Bar, there is plenty to do and see for all ages. And of course there are the Newport Mansions. Rosecliff and Marble House are definite must-sees, while the Cliff Walk is a great way to get a little exercise and take in the mansions on one side and the surf on the other.

Fort Adams overlooking Newport harbor.

Block Island

Great Salt Pond is the main harbor here. It is fully protected on all sides. It is quite shallow in parts, so caution and a good guide is necessary if you are navigating this on your own. There are moorings, slips and a 75-acre anchorage available. Ashore, a visit to The Oar and Payne’s Dock are a must. There is nothing that tastes of summer quite like a rum punch while sitting outside, looking out at the harbor.

 

You can walk into town, although it is a bit of a trek. Another option is, taxis are generally standing by along the docks and it is a quick and painless ride into town. There, you will find quaint shops, a couple of decent places to eat and drink as well as the famous (or infamous depending on who you talk to) Ballard’s, which serves food, drinks and plenty of sights to behold. Many people come over for the day on the ferries from Montauk, New London, Newport, Point Judith and Fall River and party it up on the beachfront of Ballard’s.

 

There are beaches in every direction on the island, so if you want to surf, kayak, or have a tranquil swim, there are plenty of options.

 

Cuttyhunk Island, The Elisabeth Islands, MA

You will definitely be shifting gears when you anchor off of Cuttyhunk. A year-round population of under 50 people, this island provides a nearly 360-degree protected harbor with tons of beachfront. The Elisabeth islands offer miles of protected waters to explore, whether by dinghy or sail/motorboat.

 

There isn’t any nightlife to be had on Cuttyhunk, but the town is fun and easy to walk around, and you can always pop in to the Cuttyhunk Historical Society to learn about the island’s unique history dating back to the 1600’s when Bartholomew Gosnold first visited.

 

 

Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Vineyard Haven has a nice, protected harbor to pull in to on your way around the island. The Black Dog Tavern is a great restaurant to try. They offer brunch, wine tastings and weekday dinner specials. The Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway is a cool boatyard to check out. It is world famous for classic boat building and restoration.

 

Oak Bluffs is just around the corner from Vineyard Haven and is an easy drive or boat trip. Steamship Authority ferries arriving from Woods Hole are regularly entering and exiting both Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, so be sure to stay vigilant when crossing their routes.

 

Oak Bluffs is famous for its cute Gingerbread cottages, similar in style and coloring to those found on Caribbean islands. Martha’s Vineyard has a rich African American history and Oak Bluffs was once a vacation mecca for African Americans during racial segregation. The African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard offers tours of the island and of Oak Bluffs, which provide insight into this history.

 

The Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs is one of the country’s oldest functioning carousels and not to be missed if you have children in tow. You can actually rent out the whole carousel during the months of April, May, September and October (after normal carousel hours) for birthday parties. Make sure to try and grab the brass ring as you go around!

 

 

Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard

Edgartown is larger than Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, with many more restaurants and shops to choose from. It is a great place to rent a bike and take a spin around to the nearby beaches including Katama and South Beach.

 

There are moorings available in the harbor as well as an anchorage. This place can get filled up pretty quickly in the summer, especially on the weekends.

 

Nantucket, MA

No one can really talk about cruising the New England coast without making mention of Nantucket. There are moorings and anchoring is also allowed in certain areas. There are, of course dockage available too.

 

The island is ideal for biking around, considering how flat it is. Sankaty Head, Great Point and Brand Point Lighthouses are great to visit. There are also plenty of beaches like Madaket and Dionis.

 

The Company of the Cauldron is an amazing restaurant. The French-trained Chef Joseph Keller has worked in some of the best restaurants in the country. The cuisine is primarily American in taste, but with French nuances. Make sure to make a reservation! CRU is also a great restaurant located right on the wharf front. Oysters and all other seafood are a must try here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Island Resort, Villas and Spa – getting greener

Peter Island Resort, Villas and Spa is getting greener. This was a pleasant surprise on my visit last week to see two wind turbines spinning away and generating electricity for the resort. Andres the Villa Manager who was our tour guide shared that approximately 25% – 50% of the resort’s power needs are supplied by the wind turbines. There is no other resort in the British Virgin Islands doing this. Also P Peter Island is recycling which is also outstanding. Continue reading “Peter Island Resort, Villas and Spa – getting greener”