Something has being bugging me lately and it’s all do with Dubrovnik in Croatia.  I just want to put it all out there folks and say there is more to Croatia than just Dubrovnik!   Whenever I visit Croatia, everyone assumes I’m going to Dubrovnik and every blog that I seem to read at the moment talks about Dubrovnik and only Dubrovnik.

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Don’t get me wrong, Dubrovnik is beautiful and WAS truly amazing way back in 2001 when my sister and I first visited Croatia to meet our family however roll forward a number of years and the city just feels like one giant Disneyland with no soul now, full of day trippers from the very large cruise ships that visit each day.

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I remember our first two visits to Dubrovnik when locals were still living in the old town and there were little shops selling every day items like fresh fruit and vegetables to the locals; that’s now all changed as the shops just sell tourist tat and very expensive tat at that!

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I wrote a post a very long time ago comparing Split vs Dubrovnik and if I had to choose between the two, Split would be the winner by a country mile.  For some reason tourists just don’t like Split and use the city for a meeting point only for their tours – Split is amazing and I love it; please please please spend some time discovering this great city!  Tourists and locals mingle together and the Riva is like a catwalk (you will understand if you ever stop for a drink in one of the cafes on the Riva).

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^^The Riva in Split!

The tiny villages along the Makarska Riviera are spectucular and unspoilt – something that most tourists never discover as they are too busy spending all their time discovering Disneyland…sorry I meant Dubrovnik!

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^^ The cute little port in the tiny village of Zivogosce on the Dalmatian coastline.

I visted Dubrovnik a few years ago with a friend and we made the error of staying in Dubrovnik for two nights rather than just taking a day trip from my family village….we realised our mistake when we were greeted by all the crowds and how expensive the city was.  You will want to pack every credit card you own when you visit Dubrovnik as you will pay over the odds for everything….a Pivo (Beer) on the Makarska Riviera will set you back just over a £1 a bottle…but think London prices in Dubrovnik.

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I’m not saying don’t visit Dubrovnik however what I want everyone to understand is that there is more to Croatia than just Dubrovnik.  In my personal opinion you won’t get the authentic Croatian experience unless you visit smaller villages and towns in the country.

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Have you visited Dubrovnik before?  What are your thoughts on the city?

xx

P.S. Apologies for the slightly blurry photos of Dubrovnik; they’re oldies!

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I don’t think I’m the most spontaneous traveller in the world however after a few messages from my folks in New Zealand on the Monday morning, I was booking a flight to Split in Croatia for that Saturday so I could visit my family in Zivogosce, Croatia for a long weekend.

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Mum and Dad almost make an annual trip to Croatia from New Zealand to see our family in Zivogosce. Mum’s father was born in the family house in the mountains just above Zivogosce before he left as a very young man to live in New Zealand as a gum digger (everyone used to live in the mountains many many years ago due to the threat of pirates but they were moved closer to the sea after a horrible earthquake).  Mum’s grandfather was bringing out each child from Croatia to New Zealand starting with mum’s dad but unfortunately when mum’s father arrived his own father had passed away; a sad and stark reminder of what many folks endured when they moved to other side of the world for a better life.  Mum’s father was the only child that made it to New Zealand which means we have a rather large family still remaining in Croatia.  (Phew, hope you are still with me after a lesson in my family history).

As I arrived quite late into Croatia thanks to the easyjet pilot taking three attempts at landing into Split airport; even I could tell on the first two occasions that he cocked it up but we won’t judge as he eventually got the plane down safely.  You could have heard a pin drop on the third landing….

Anyway I had a lovely dinner and my favourite…prsut and cheese!  And hey hey it’s gluten free…it was a good start…

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…but the following morning I had gluten in the shape of a chocolate donut…if you want to know how good these babies are you need to read Lisa’s post on them! (I did have a belly ache and a food baby after eating the said donut).  And as the mean older sister I did send Lisa a photo of the donut prior to scoffing it just to make her jealous.

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You can’t beat this view on a Sunday morning overlooking the island of Hvar in the distance.

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Sunday was spent with family doing what Croatians do best…eating! and then me having an afternoon nap (the hot weather and a hearty Croatian lunch did me in) before we hit the beach (and yes all croatian beaches are pebbly bar one on the island of Brac)…

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…where we waited as the golden hour approached…

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…then waited a bit more for that giant sun to set…

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…until we received the sunset that I was waiting for all witnessed from my Auntys balcony.

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We consumed some more food on the balcony which honestly would win the award for the best placed washing line in the world!

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The next morning my family went to work while I skyped my folks back home before heading out for a walk down to the port and along the Riva (the waterfront and normally treated like a catwalk by the leggy and very beautiful croatian women).

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The old port is one of my favourite places in the village as it’s normally a hive of activity of men playing with their boats…

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…it just always looks so picturesque!

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I love all the old buildings down at the port…I sat on my hands not to instagram the crap out of the village, trust me!

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Truthfully I hadn’t worked up much of an appetite from my short walk but I hadn’t had breakfast and doctors tell you all too often that we aren’t eating our five a day so of course I did what any 35 year old would do….I ordered a banana split with lots of cream for calcium (the wafer was promptly removed on arrival as it’s not gluten free).

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My view with my banana split, just in case you wanted to know – Monday’s can be the pits right!

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After consuming fanta and a banana split for breakfast and lunch, I felt a tad guilty and decided to walk a bit further around the Riva and check out the changes to the village (as this was my first visit in over two years)…

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…and I took the opportunity to paddle my feet in the cool water of the Adriatic sea, my feet had puffed up like a blow fish!

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It’s all about the afternoon nap in Croatia…so after a cheeky little nap while I waited for my Aunty to finish work so I could take her out for dinner (I didn’t want to poison her with my bad cooking).  We headed over to Blato which was just a bit further down the coast from Zivogosce and this was a first time visit for me and I wasn’t disappointed as it was just so stunning and peaceful…

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…and just in case you wanted to see our dinner which costed a huge £20 for the following; a four cheese pizza, a seafood platter, a feta salad and four glasses of wine plus a free panna cotta…I had to ask the waiter to check the bill as I thought he under charged me…things are rather cheap in Croatia but not if you are visiting Dubrovnik.

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I think it was pretty safe to say that we were both pretty relaxed…I think the vina might have helped us slightly….

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…then came the hardest decision that I faced while I was in Croatia….what flavour!

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but shock horror I declined and let my aunty and cousin to enjoy the creamy ice cream that was screaming at me…EAT ME!

As we made it back to Zivogosce, a storm started passing overhead breaking the humidity that had covered the Dalmatian coastline like a blanket over the weekend.  Croatian storms are the best; the thunder and lightning is just incredible.  Until the power cuts out and you only have 10% charge left on your phone and you’re getting picked up at 7am in the morning for your rather long commute to work and just how would I cope with 10% battery life.

Eventually the power turned back on about ten minutes before I left the following morning so that I could charge my phone…seriously how did we ever survive without mobile phones?!

It was sad leaving behind my family but I have vowed to return before the year is out for more Croatian cuddles.  And I think it’s safe to say…we wish New Zealand and Croatia were just a tad closer to each other!

Do you visit your family in far flung places around the world?  Have you ever traced your family roots?

xx

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Every Friday my sister Lisa takes over the blog and today is not exception as she’s sharing her guilty pleasure…the Croatian Donut.  Just setting the scene with a photo of our family village on the Dalmatian Coastline in Croatia.

Guilty Pleasures: My Croatian Donut Addiction Revealed!

I awoke from a hot summer slumber with one goal in mind that morning – a chocolate donut from the bakery at the bottom of the stairs.

Now these are not your typical Dunkin’ Donuts or western donuts these are the most amazing, awesome, brilliant donuts ever created. They are circular balls of heaven with a gooey chocolate centre. I cannot sufficiently describe how much they are the food of the Gods, you have to try one of these for yourself.

So I awoke, showered and attempted to leave the house quietly without waking any of the guests to find…holy heavens…I’ve been locked in! but is it for my safety or the villages?

Panic stations started, Oh My God! a morning without a chocolate donut. Hyperventilating, sweats this can’t be happening. Someone is going to buy them all. Can I climb off the balcony, over the downstairs guests balcony and shimmy down the giant olive tree in the courtyard without breaking my neck?…hmmmm yeah, maybe not! This called for the big guns…mum on What’s App to sufficiently describe my distress.

And the hunt for the keys began. High, low, in every bowl, table, bench…then a miracle after twenty minutes of hunting and telling myself I could not climb out my bedroom window (coverage over the apartment below was mainly decoration and wouldn’t hold me) I found the now beloved keys and then it became a game of finding which one unlocked the door while still trying to be as quiet as possible. Then once that door was open I practically slid down the 98 steps to the bakery, I moved that fast.

And glory be there was a chocolate donut left for me, OK so I got two but a girls gotta eat and that hunting around really worked up an appetite. I then headed back up the steps at a much slower pace, remembering it was 98 steps, stopping for a couple of short breathers. I then headed into the kitchen, shut the door and devoured those donuts without prying eyes watching how fast they disappeared.

Guilty Pleasures: My Croatian Donut Addiction Revealed!

My name is Lisa and I am addicted to Croatian donuts. How about you?

You can follow more of Lisa’s adventures on twitterInstagram or Pinterest

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Every Friday I let my sister Lisa go wild on the blog and today is no exception with her delightful tale about Two Very Different Croatian Valentine’s – sit back and get ready for a giggle!

Valentine’s Day – you either love it or you hate it, so last Valentine’s while in Croatia I did a bit of both. So here I present two options for a Croatian Valentine’s Day.

In Zagreb there is a little museum called the Museum of Broken Relationships and this is where my day began. The premise is pretty much what the name says, and for all of you singles I guess it could kind of be the place to be. None of those super romantic loved-up couples shoving themselves in your faces, no red roses lining the path. Here you see the remains of hopes and dreams that ended badly, sadly or just plain ended.
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And when you have had your fill of what might or could be at the end of the road for some of those super obnoxious couples who are giving you those faces full of sadness at how alone you are you get yourself to the bus station for the picturesque bus ride from the country to the coast and little old Zadar for some romantic at heart magic.
Now on Valentine’s night the place to be after you have of course watched Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite sunset from the super brilliant Sea Organ is to get yourself to the forum for the magic time.
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At 8pm or for those that can’t wait (this is Croatia) a little before you can see thousands of lamps (or lampioni in Croatian) float into the sky with wishes and hopes written on them. Filling the forum and in turn the night sky aglow with a multitude of floating stars in a variety of colours with ‘Love is in the Air’ (I love Strictly Ballroom so it’s OK) blaring in the background.
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At 20 kuna they are a bargain (and luckily my accommodation the Boutique Hostel Forum was selling them so I got a couple, well 5 really) and the atmosphere is amazing. You can then go towards the sea and watch as they float (if you are a real romantic don’t look down at the ones that didn’t make it) out towards the islands filling the night sky with pure magic that no camera can truly capture (trust me I tried).
And for a trendy room with a view for Valentine’s you really can’t beat the Boutique Hostel Forum from which you can take in all the action.
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The Museum of Broken Relationships in located in the Upper Town in Zagreb, while the Lampioni in Zadar takes place on the evening of the 14th February (Valentine’s Day) in the Forum. And while the Museum is 25kn the Lampioni are free to watch and enjoy.

So what are you doing for Valentine’s? and please try not to be too smug…

You can follow more of Lisa’s adventures on twitterInstagram or Pinterest

xx

If you liked this post on Discover Croatia: Two Very Different Croatian Valentine’s then why not come and join me on TwitterGoogle+Instagram and Pinterest – I won’t bite!

Once a week, I’m letting my sister Lisa loose on my blog and this week she’s talking about the fabulous festival of The Feast of St. Blaise in Croatia!  So without further ado..

To the uninitiated (including me) this is a Catholic feast (or festa in Croatian) that is undoubtedly one of the most authentic events you can view in Dalmatia.

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I had the pleasure of a window (or three) from in my humble opinion the best place you can stay to watch the feast unfold before you in Dubrovnik, The Apartments Martecchini, which is a historic gem itself.

With wood beam ceilings and green shuttered windows (green is the traditional colour in Dalmatia for these things) opening onto the square you have a birds eye view of the proceedings without elbowing for a good position or missing a moment while being able to sit, relax and have ample room and perhaps have a little feast of your own while you do.

So what is the Feast of St Blaise (Sveti Vlaho in Croatian) all about. Well according to the childrens book I bought (as research I assure you) one night as the Venetians were about to attack the city St Blaise came and woke up the parish priest and alerted him to the impending danger and thus saved the city. And if you now walk Dubrovnik you will see many statues or carvings of the Saint holding the walled city of Dubrovnik in his hands.

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This is in my opinion one of the most authentic events you can witness in Dalmatia. How so? well for a start it hasn’t been moved to summer to accommodate the tourist season, there aren’t people peddling tourist items just stuff for local families like candy floss and balloons, most shops shut and the streets once again fill with spoken Croatian (the tourists don’t run the Stradun today).

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Well what exactly will you see? tradition, joy, Dubrovnik in all its glory. While many locals have been pushed from the old city to make way for tourism during the festa it is theirs once again. With authentic traditional costumes, locals from outside the walls carrying their banners, spontaneous local dancing and music and who can forget the wine fest at the same time. But without doubt I would come just to see the Dubrovacki Trombunjeri (who for me are up their with my favourite Evzones, Mostar divers, Csikos and any Polish military) to see them fire their many old guns and tiny cannon. Trust me you hear them before you see them.

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But don’t forget this is a religious celebration with a mass held outside the church with political leaders in attendance. The relics from the Church make their way around town and are kissed and touched by a multitude of people. There is even a bingo game whereby while the man attempts to take the numbers down as he is pelted by kids and teenagers with oranges – supplied by the adults. There is definitely something for everyone and a lot going on to keep you busy all day.

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The Feast of St Blaise has an opening ceremony on the 2nd of February where a procession along the Stradun goes to the St Blaise Church and is officially opened when two doves are released by the Bishop of Dubrovnik. The main part of the events take place the following day, the 3rd of February, when church banners are paraded into the city by surrounding towns and villagers in costume and the mass is held. Ending in the evening with the carrying out of the banners from the Pile Gate.

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The Feast itself is free of charge. While in Dubrovnik I stayed at Apartments Martecchini in Apartment Baldo which faces the church and accommodates four people. I arrived in Dubrovnik by bus which still has a frequent service in the winter to the main bus station and caught the local bus which goes every 10 minutes to the Old Town Pile Gate and back.

You can follow more of Lisa’s adventures on twitterInstagram or Pinterest

xx

If you liked this post on Discover Croatia: The Feast of St. Blaise, Dubrovnik then why not come and join me on TwitterGoogle+InstagramPinterest and Bloglovin’ – I won’t bite!