A big congratulations to Tanja Polegubic for submitting the winning entry of our Be My Guest: Travel Blog Contest! Read about and see some great photos of her travels through Croatia below. Thank you again to everyone who participated. We loved living through your adventures!
Viola: What country, friends, is this?
Sea Captain: Illyria, lady.
Viola: And what should I do in Illyria?
- Twelfth Night, Shakespeare.
This must be the place Poseidon sleeps.
Beneath a blanket of cerulean blue, the Adriatic Sea covers the seabed between Croatia and Italy’s coastlines. Marco Polo navigated these waters. Divers are drawn to its depths. And, when it went by the name of Illyria, Shakespeare washed up his cast on its shores. Here Viola defied Poseidon, god of the sea, charmed her way into the palace and won over the heart of the resident Duke.
For modern day Violas (and Dukes), Croatia by catamaran weaves from the port of Zadar to the island Mali Lošinj and onward to hilltop Rovinj.
A SALUTE TO THE SUN
Croatia’s coastline is dotted with ancient ports, islands and seaside villages; Zadar sits in its center. Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman architecture testify to conquerors past. Noon nears. Sunbathers lay atop sardined towels. Mediterranean menus flutter open as waiters unfurl napery and a multilingual spiel tailored for each party. Locals take to shaded squares for a third cup of Franck coffee. Like most things in Dalmatia, the ritual is slow and social.
Occasionally, a superyacht sails by.
George Bernard Shaw was enamored of the Kornati archipelago, 15 nautical miles from Zadar. Fabled as created from divine tears, stars and breath, they are a place to drop anchor, dive and dine on an island restaurant reached only by open water. Inland, the UNESCO listed Plitvice Lakes are awash with cobalt and turquoise palettes.
At sunset, audiences mingle at two of local artist Nikola Bašić’s creations on Zadar’s west wharf. The Sea Organ instrument plays on, under stone steps edging into the ocean. Humbled listeners sit, stroll or hover an ear over the symphony. As he slumbers, Poseidon conducts a serene lullaby; when roused, the waves and winds are conjured up to perform a haunting aria sung by sea nymphs. As the stars emerge, Bašić’s Salute to the Sun, a circular solar paneled stage, trips the light fantastic on its all hours, all ages dancefloor.
The rooftop bars open as Poseidon, and mortals, mix up mellow tunes with some local maraschino cherry brandy.
Stay: Hotel Bastion, private guesthouse in seaside Sukošan or aboard in a Kornati cove.
Dine: Late lunch at Canzona. Marina Kornati for a casual to refined dress code– and wines.
Drink: Open air and rooftop bars Ledena or Garden. Coffee by the Roman Forum. Seated.
Do: Sail: Charter a yacht to the Kornati islands.
Shop: UNESCO listed lacework from Pag Island. Sold at the foot of St Donatus.
See: Skradin. Harbor town where Formula One drivers, billionaires and royalty dock. (Namely, Michael Schumacher, The Gates’ and the Crown Princess of Norway).
The four o’clock ferry leaves Zadar for Mali Lošinj, arriving early evening.
Mali Lošinj (pronounced Loh-Sheeyn)
AN AIR OF VITALITY
Likened to a mini Monaco (minus the casino), yacht masts interlace Mali Lošinj’s horseshoe shaped harbor. Visiting seafarers emerge from their berths bronzed, barefoot and in bathrobes– the orchids on the back deck prompt you to imagine the bedding inside. Even as Croatia’s most populous island, the additional guests appear veiled; the island always exudes a spacious and airy feel, adding to Mali Lošinj’s reputation as the island of vitality.
Apparently it’s the pines.
Planted over a century ago by a physician, they yield a fresh air phenomenon. Yogis come to indulge in pine-scented pranayama, child asthmatics recover, and a Croatian free diving champion resides here. Winding paths thread through private coves and the grand villas inspire a lifestyle change on sight.
Leaving Mali Lošinj calls for one lasting draw of air– and a vow to return soon.
Stay: Hotel Apoxyomenos or a villa on any cove. Book ahead.
Dine: Self cater. Produce is pricier than on the mainland, but there’s a regular fish market.
Drink: Aboard the repurposed ferry (Summer only). Turkish coffee in your courtyard garden.
The catamaran sails in both directions via Mali Lošinj. The evening catamaran reaches the port of Pula at 9pm, enabling the connection by road to Rovinj.
CRÈME de la CROATIA
Hilltop Rovinj has drawn Europe’s elite for centuries. 20 miles from Pula– the peninsula state capital, it continues to attract honeymooners, artisans and even homebuyers. Strung from window to window like bunting, tablecloths, towels and bed linens billow over balconies and show off the city’s style. Cocktail hour presents a seaside champagne bar. Romantics overlook the sea, atop cushion-strewn stone ledges, as their crush (on the city) intensifies.
It’s a living John Robshaw catalogue.
The cushions, washing lines and cobblestone streets coil up to St Euphemia’s wind vane statue on the church’s hilltop peak. Along the way, ateliers display handicrafts, prints and ceramics for study, appreciation and purchase.
Rovinj is a happy marriage for all the senses, set where forest meets sea.
Stay: Hotel Lone or Cuvi beach guesthouse. Motovun: House of Gold B&B.
Dine: Seafood in family run Porta Antica. Motovun for truffles to-go.
Drink: Valentino: Seaside Cocktail & Champagne bar atop cushions.
Do: Sail: batana boat ride at sunset– Rovinj’s answer to the gondola.
Shop: Explore the ateliers for handmade jewelry, prints and ceramics.
See: Outdoor film festivals in Motovun, Brijuni islands or Pula’s arena.
Stay on or sail four hours across the Adriatic to Venice.