Ana’s guide to Croatia*

*By “Croatia” I specifically mean the Dalmatian coast, and even more specifically the city of Zadar, located almost smack bang in the middle of the Croatian coastline on the Adriatic Sea. This is where our family is and where we base ourselves, so it’s definitely the part of the country I know best and feel most able to speak about. And even though Croatia is a beautiful country with so much natural beauty, in the Summer every man, woman, and child heads for the sea. 

Going off the grid isn’t as easy here as it once was. Great for tourists wanting to upload all those sun-soaked beach shots to Instagram. Where you stay will also determine how great or how frustrating that internet connection is, however. AirBNB’ing it in a big city will give you true 4G, while staying with your grandmother’s sister in a small village will have you pulling your hair out as the connection drops in and out. The plus is that all city centres and towns offer free WiFi and local SIM cards come with really cheap prepaid options. Might I suggest you head for a cafe, order yourself a G&T {strong and cheap 😉 }, and do all your social media’ing and emailing while there?

If you are staying in a village expect the following things:

  • Livestock will be all over the place, including the neighbour’s rooster with their crack of dawn cockadoodledoo. Someone will inevitably have chickens and will provide you with freshly laid eggs as well as vegies harvested while you slept off those G&T’s.
  • Church bells will ring throughout the day at seemingly random times. Think 8.45 on a Sunday night, 6.15 on a Tuesday morning, or 3.15 on a Monday afternoon. As well as on the hour and before every Mass.
  • People will openly stare at you, because you know, who the fuck is that stranger? If you have family ties to the village and relatives still living there expect a million questions, usually revolving about whether or not your are married and where your partner is from {meaning what part of Croatia are their parents from}.

Alcohol is cheaper than Coca Cola,  juice, tea, or a bag of chips. And you can order an alcoholic beverage at a cafe at any time of the day. That’s because cafe’s are for drinking at rather than eating at like we’re used to in Australia. Coffee, soft drinks, and all kinds of alcohol along with ice-cream is what you will find at most cafe’s. Head to a restaurant {known as a restoran, konoba, or gostionica} for a meal.

Cafe bar Forum, next to the massive old church of St Donatus and the bell-tower of St Anastasia. Good for mojitos and people watching.

When it comes to smoking this is still far too socially acceptable in Croatia, so if you have little ones you will definitely be faced with people around you smoking, pretty much anywhere. You will also have to deal with people smoking while you eat, especially at any open air or outdoor restaurant or cafe. I heard that the government tried to ban smoking at cafes a few years ago and were met with such an uproar that they had no choice but to reverse the ban. As a former smoker and coming from Sydney where you can no longer smoke anywhere but your own backyard, I have to say that I hope this changes one day here too.

Almost everyone under the age of about 40 speaks enough English to help you out. Sometimes people here are embarrassed because they think their English isn’t great, but often times it’s better than the Croatian spoken by tourists, and considering that almost all children learn three languages in primary school I reckon the only ones who should be embarrassed are the people who visit a country and make no effort to at least try to speak the local language. Croatian is 100% phonetic, so each letter of the alphabet has only ONE pronunciation. It’s not that hard.

Summer means sales, so if shopping is your thing keep that credit card handy. Prices are insanely good, and you can find all the big brands. The capital city of Zagreb also has high end brands like Mac and Chanel. {I’m not sure how much cheaper Chanel might be though, because it’s Chanel and I didn’t even go in because who am I kidding?}

Political correctness does not exist here. Much like smoking wherever the hell you feel like, you might well see parents actually smack their children when they’re misbehaving, usually just a light whack on the backside along with some choice Croatian swear words of the blasphemous variety. Little girls do not wear a bikini top because they basically don’t sell any for them because they’re little girls and I guess if little boys don’t wear a top then why should a little girl? {And fair call too}. Vegetarians will be laughed at {as for vegans, wtf are they?}, and you could be forgiven for thinking that feminism does not exist here.

The beaches are beautiful, the weather is reliably hot all Summer long, and tourism is everything to the local economy, making for the kind of destination that has something for everyone, from a chillaxing family getaway to a group of twenty somethings looking for Croatia’s answer to Ibiza.

The pizza’s: amazeballs…

Things to keep in mind:

  • Cars will be parked wherever there is even the remotest suggestion of a parking spot or even just pulled over by the side of the road and even jutting out onto the road at times, and drivers will not always stop at a marked pedestrian crossing {and if they do it will almost always have a number plate from another country on it}.
  • There are A LOT of international licence plates, and when you see cars from France and The Netherlands you will freak out before being jealous at how accessible European travel is.
  • Petrol is the one thing more expensive here than in Australia, but public transport is excellent. The bus network will take you all over the country as well as almost anywhere in Europe. The trains and ferries are also a great way to cover large distances. Flights are available between Croatia and all major European cities but are not cheap, unless you manage to grab a special. The freeways are also excellent, making rental cars another good option. {Village roads: not so great.}
  • Did I mention that it doesn’t get dark until after nine at night? Or that while here you’re likely to “bump into” every random Australian-Croatian you haven’t seen in forever? In fact you will hear that familiar Aussie accent almost everywhere.
  • Dalmatians are really good looking people whose aim is generally to cut a fine bella figura and be checked out from head to toe appreciatively. So ladies, feel free to give other women the once over up and down, trust me, they will be doing it to you and not subtly either.

Most of all Croatia in the Summer is about sun, sea, and fun {however you like it served up}. Go on, go nuts.

😉

  1. Sounds devine….even being given the raised eyebrow once over (sigh!). Enjoy xx

    Reply

  2. Darn – dIvine….stupid winter cold fingers.

    Reply

    1. Lol. It is divine. And I’m going to pretend that I won’t be back home all too soon with my own cold winter fingers…

      Reply

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