As our friend’s car propelled us up the jagged slopes of Kozjak Mountain in Croatia’s Dalmatia region, we struggled to steady our cameras enough to document the increasingly-magnificent view. Simultaneously fearing for the health of my friend’s tires which risked being ruptured on the rocky dirt road, I marveled at the panorama along this stretch of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. In the late-afternoon sunlight, the Adriatic Sea twinkled, and despite technically being wintertime, it called us to take a plunge. The limestone hills overlooking seaside Split and Kaštela wore a blend of foliage. Some trees sported withering, rust-colored leaves from the past season, and others prematurely exhibited pastel blooms and berries. As our Croatian friends had been telling us for weeks, the winter had been unusually warm, raising concern that the flora would be adversely impacted should another cold snap roll in. Given that so many locals dabble in the Mediterranean tradition of winemaking and olive oil production, this did not come as a surprise.
During a journey along Croatia’s twinkling Adriatic Coast one winter afternoon, I concurred with astronauts who’ve professed Croatia to be the bluest place on earth.
Along with our friend, Damir, we’d left our home away from home within Diocletian’s Palace in seaside Split, and headed northwest on a day trip. We had plans to stop at Krka National Park, the risotto and yachting town of Skradin, and finally the island village, Primošten.
By day’s end, I’d add a postscript to the astronauts’ claim: Croatia’s coastline and rivers aren’t simply brilliantly blue, rather they’re a magnificent blend of teal, turquoise, and aquamarine hues.
With stunning seaside views and streets overflowing with visitors, it might be easy to overlook Dubrovnik’s impressive Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Yet Dubrovnik’s quirky maskerons and fanciful flourishes adorning palaces and cathedrals, are the city’s defining elements, and they are details in which to delight.
When it was a powerful city-state that rivaled the Republic of Venice, Dubrovnik was called Ragusa. Thanks to the maritime trade that thrived in Ragusa for nearly 500 years, the city grew into a formidable power. Studded with ornate cathedrals and palaces, as well as intricately-carved fountains, the city was protected by imposing walls that still wrap around it for roughly 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles).
About 1,700 years ago, Roman Emperor Diocletian spirited away a set of granite sphinxes from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. The mythical creatures found a new home in the emperor’s retirement palace in present-day Split, Croatia, where we are lucky to be enjoying the winter months.
A young girl, carrying a cherry-colored balloon, explores the entrance to the Cathedral of Saint James in Šibenik, Croatia, as lion statues seemingly look on. During our café break, across the square from the cathedral, we actually saw a steady stream of local little ones climbing atop the lions and playing hide & seek.
This Gothic and Renaissance cathedral was built completely out of stone between 1431-1535. Its history and architectural style was influenced by 15th and 16th century art movements of northern Italy, Dalmatia, and Tuscany.
One of the most popular meals in Croatia’s Dalmatia region is peka, a blend of vegetables and meat drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and then baked to perfection under a bell-like dome, or ispod čripnje. You’ll see it listed on menus throughout the region, and if you are lucky enough to be invited into the home of a Dalmatian family, it’s likely that you’ll feast upon it for dinner. It is traditional for Dalmatians to cook peka in their fireplaces at home. Many Croatian families, especially those in the countryside, even have a special oven outdoors for cooking.
When spring returns to Croatia, residents do what they’ve done for centuries: take to the fields and forests in search of wild asparagus, known in Croatian as šparoge. The asparagus-hunting season has just begun here in central Dalmatia, and last weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited by Croatian friends to go foraging for it in the countryside, about 40 minutes’ drive from Trogir.
Trogir was our Croatian home away from home for two memorable months. This picturesque old town has a fascinating history that goes back more than 2,300 years — in fact, it’s actually situated on an island!
During our first weeks in Trogir, we preferred to soak up the town’s details bit by bit, leaving much to imagination. However, when the opportunity presented itself to go on a walking tour with Natalija, a new friend and certified tour guide, we decided it was time we properly unravel the mysteries of the ancient town.