Today I have a special treat for you. I asked Ellen to share with me her experience as a foreigner in Croatia. She wrote to me to tell me everything she thinks about our people, food and scenery. Don’t forget to check out her blog Eat with Ellen …food porn galore over there people! You can also follow her on Twitter, pinterest and Instagram just don’t eat your phones while drooling 😛
Croatia has a special place in my heart. My husband and I went there on one of our early holidays together and fell in love with it. Beautiful scenery, fabulous food, and polite, laid-back people everywhere. We loved it so much that when we were planning our honeymoon, we knew exactly where we wanted to go.
Our first visit to the Dalmatian Coast was like summer love. A brief, but intense romance. We visited the island of Brac, one of the many beautiful islands off the coast of Split, where we swam in the clear water, explored the island, dined on fresh seafood and local dishes, and watched one of the most spectacular storms we’ve ever seen. It was as we watched forked lightning over the mainland that we discussed getting married there. We’d found the perfect spot where we staying in Supetar – a restaurant called Punta right on the water’s edge, where we wiled away many an evening eating the freshest seafood, glugging on delicious local red wine, and chatting into the night with the family who owned it.
When it came to planning our honeymoon, we considered the stereotypical options – a beach somewhere exotic and picture-perfect, a safari, a road-trip somewhere crazy and cool. But each time, we found ourselves pining like lovesick teenagers for the islands we’d fallen for. This time, we planned more than a brief romance. We wanted to get to know the islands, to see all their different personalities, and to immerse ourselves in Croatia. We planned our two-week trip meticulously, narrowing our adventure down to three very different islands, creating a mini island-hopping tour that would end up cementing our love for this part of the world.
Our first stop was Vis – a longer ferry journey than the rest, but well worth it. In my mind, Vis is the ‘strong, silent one’ of the islands. It was only opened to tourists like us in 1989 and it still has all the charm of a newly-discovered place. Vis Town is a collection of winding, deserted streets, and just a short walk away we found secluded coves and rocks for hours of sunbathing and swimming. The harbour is a sight to see for anyone, tourist or local, with the discerning yachters choosing to moor here for an evening rather than some of the other, more popular, islands.
Vis is the foodie island, with a stunning array of restaurants packed with fabulous treats. For me it’s a fabulous cuisine – fresh seafood, Italian influences in beautiful pasta and gnocchi dishes, fresh, sun-kissed vegetables, and simple but flavour-packed traditional dishes. Not to mention some great local wines.
We explored the island on the back of a shiny moped, checking out deserted coves and beaches, relaxing in rocky inlets and quiet beaches. I tell no lie when I say this is pretty much the closest I’ve got to paradise.
From Vis, we moved to the ‘party boy’ of the gang – Hvar. More beautiful scenery, more fabulous food, but in personality, what a contrast! Hvar is where you come to live it up. Gourmet cuisine, upmarket bars, and celeb culture – in fact we arrived the night after Tom Cruise was spotted in the island’s well-known restaurant and bar Carpe Diem after sailing in on his superyacht. By day we mooched round the island on a quad bike, finding more of the Dalmatian islands’ picture-perfect sights. We hired a boat and tootled around the Pakleni Islands, dozens of tiny islands that lie just off Hvar, where we were romanced by their beauty while enjoying a long lunch of mussels and white wine. By night we drank cocktails in swanky bars, eyed up boutique hotels, and dined on fine food, enjoying gourmet meals tucked in impressive surroundings of the old town and all its architecture.
Between each island, we spent time in the city of Split, one of my husband’s favourite cities in the world. “It’s the people”, he says. “Even in a busy place like this, they’re friendly, they’ve got time for you.” For us, Split is the perfect mix of cosmopolitan and historic. We took in the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, learned about some of the area’s history on a Segway tour, and finished our day at a cheese and wine bar trying fine wines and local cheeses. How better to spend an evening?
To finish a magical two weeks, we returned to our first love, arriving on our familiar island of Brac with the same feelings as falling into the arms of the one you love. Its warmth, its beauty, and its familiarity and fond memories, made it the perfect place for us to end our honeymoon before we returned to the real world.
We returned to all our favourite haunts – ‘that restaurant’, our favourite spots by the sea, the evening walks that brought back so many memories of our first flush of romance with Croatia. But this time our relationship grew – we explored further afield, finding fishing villages packed with restaurants, hotels and villas. We discovered more hidden spots, beautiful beaches and stunning scenery. It sealed the deal, much as we had when we tied the knot just a few weeks before.
There’s so much more to Croatia than just a picture postcard. Like a person, there’s different layers to it, different views, and it’s somehow just, sort of, real. So yes, Croatia has a special place in my heart. I fell in love with it for its beauty, its atmosphere, and its people. But I stayed in love with it for the way it helped me enjoy experiences and create memories of one of the most special times of my life.