Croatia is both a central-European and Mediterranean country, most popular for summer vacation. As the majority of our clients enjoy the less crowded period of the summer generally in September, I was curious to discover if the shoulder season during the final months of the year has more to offer than it seems. As a Croatian stationed in the US, this long trip during October, November and December has brought me pleasurable business moments, family time, relaxation, and lots of fun. Read below to get a glimpse into the highlights of this trip.
Zadar and Biograd Boat Show
After landing in Split and a quick drive to #Zadar, I had the pleasure to spend several days basking in the warm October sun that honestly gave out a late-June vibe. It is no news that the coast stays warm significantly longer than what the calendar implies, but even for me, this was a surprise. Sailing trips were still in full swing, and the locals seemed to be enjoying the most out of the Indian summer. The streets of Zadar were bustling with tourists getting artisanal gelato at one corner, and roasted chestnuts just across from it because hey, it IS that time of the year. Zadar is a lovely city in Northern Dalmatia known for the Roman and Venetian ruins of its peninsular Old Town, surrounded by several Venetian gates on the city walls. After the busy summer months and record-high temperatures around the globe, this felt soothing and like a true vacation.
Biograd Boat Show is the largest in-water yachting show in this part of Europe, held each year when professionals from the industry wind down and recap all the past events and experiences while getting ready for another busy season to come. It was lovely to meet partners, learn about innovations in the yachting-charter industry and green initiatives, as well as tour the newly produced sailing catamarans and monohulls. During the period of my stay, a traditional sailing regatta took place in Zadar, "Zadarska Koka", and I had the pleasure to see and chat with old friends and colleagues from my "on-field" boating days when I worked as a chef and cruised every single island and bay while working.
Moving north to the Cres/Losinj archipelago
You may or may not have heard of this part of the coast yet, but it is where I grew up and fell in love with the sea and boating. Sort of hard to reach and abundant in biking and hiking trails, it remained popular with families and sports enthusiasts visiting by car from all over Europe. Hopefully, the island of Losinj will soon get its long-promised airport and attract tourists from far-away destinations, but for now, we are enjoying the low-key, nature-oriented neighbors.
Once a prominent vacation spot for the Austrian aristocracy who built remarkable villas all over the island, it was also an important maritime center with eleven shipyards back in the 1800s and the first nautical college in this part of Europe. The island was proclaimed a national climate resort back in 1892, thanks to its specific microclimate. The person who made it happen was an enthusiastic botanist, Ambroz Haracic, who started an initiative of planting the entire surface of the island with Aleppo Pines. To this day, we thank him by breathing in the freshest of naturally produced aerosol particles and witnessing asthmatic patients leaving with significantly improved health after a retreat on the island.
Olive harvest in November
As the time of the year was just right, I joined my family in our smallish olive grove for a four days long hand-picking adventure. The extra virgin olive oil that came out of it is just enough for family consumption throughout the year, but the joy of knowing where it exactly came from and how little natural or no treatment the trees receive, is an immense reward. Slightly peppery and rustic, it is already being enjoyed drizzled over salads, vegetables, different tapas and snacks, as well as a marinade base for game. I must admit that climbing a 500-year-old olive tree overlooking the perfectly blue Adriatic sea had a therapeutic effect after spendings significant time in New York City...But make no mistake, it is a labor-intensive activity, especially when done on the rocky and barren terrain of the island of Cres!
Zagreb Christmas Market in December
The long awaited and award-winning Zagreb Christmas Market is finally back in full swing, and we couldn't be happier. I just returned from a two week long visit to Zagreb, and the city seemed to be livelier than ever after being hit with covid restrictions and a devastating earthquake in 2020. The Christmas market decorations along with the music and theatre program on every city square were lovely, and it all overlapped with the FIFA Mundial where the Croatian team placed 3rd, a huge sports accomplishment for such a small country of nearly 3.8 million inhabitants. The joyous cheering and singing were heard all over the streets, the smell of hot mulled wine overwhelmed the air, and other Christmas market food staples such as wursts and traditional sweets - fried dough fritule and boiled plum-filled dumplings knedle were enjoyed thoroughly. Zagreb is certainly one of my all-time favorite places to stroll a Christmas market, mostly because it is so cozy and walkable as opposed to some of the popular Christmas destinations in Europe which are essentially large metropolitan cities. Highly recommend!
Another highlight of my trip to Zagreb was the final yachting event for us this year, the established B2B International Charter Expo at the Zagreb fair. Already immersed in the holiday spirit, I got to meet literally everyone who makes things happen in this gigantic and nearly flawless machinery of the nautical charter industry. From established shipyards and multiple yacht and service providers to small travel businesses like Anchor & Wine, this well-organized expo outdid itself once again, always mindful of throwing some fun in there after our busy schedules, like the traditional party and several other networking events.
This was, of course, my 2022 fall program, but Croatia truly has so much to offer after the summer months; From the gastronomic and historical delight of Istria to all the well-known parts of Dalmatia which gain a quiescent charm, to other under the radar parts that we will happily mention in our future posts.
Anchor & Wine wishes you a joyful holiday season and all the best in the upcoming year of 2023!