Showing posts with label Croatia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Croatia. Show all posts

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Istrian liquid gold tasting

No harvest is complete without sampling some fruits of labour. It is no different with olive harvest. As it is evident from the previous post, we recently participated in an olive harvest in Istria, Croatia.

After all the work for the day was done olives were taken to the press. Since picked olives soon start to oxidise it is essential to squeeze the oil out of them as soon as possible.

Luckily for us, this meant we had a chance to try out some of the freshly produced oil. Any extra virgin olive oil tastes good in its own way but this was extra delicious. The colour, the smell and the taste of it were very strong and fresh.

I just could not resist and had to make myself a little gourmand snack. It consisted of home grown cherry tomatoes, small pieces of goat cheese and a healthy dose of olive oil. A piece of bread and a glass of good white wine fit in perfectly.

I guess you will believe me when I tell you it was all gone and the plate cleaned with a little piece of bread before I could snap a photo of it. Simple and delicious!

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them both in a more flattering resolution.


Friday 8 November 2013

Olive harvest in full swing

We spent last weekend in Istria, Croatia - near the charming little hill town of Grožnjan. We have visited Istria many times before but this time the main reason for visiting was to get an insight into secrets of the Istrian liquid gold. That is a local synonym for olive oil which symbolizes healthy lifestyle and longevity.

At the time of my visit, olive harvest was in full swing. Those of you unfamiliar with the olive business might not know this, but November is usually the time for olive harvest throughout the northern Mediterranean.

I am a huge fan of olive oil - the Extra-virgin olive oil that is. For olive oil to obtain that title it can contain no more than 0.8 percent of free acidity and is judged to have a superior taste. Some fruitiness in its taste is common and it can have no sensory defects.
Since it contains unsaturated fatty and oleic acids, it is rich in antioxidants and polyphenoles that were proved by modern medicine to have significant impact on the overall well-being.

The taste of the final product also varies depending on the olive varieties used. Varieties grown in Istria are: Buža, Istarska Bjelica, Leccino, Pendolino and also some others.

Despite my affection to the delicious product this has been my first time to participate in an olive harvest. I guess apart from some mechanical equipment involved, the picking procedure has not changed a lot since the ancient times.

First we laid nets and large cloth sheets around each individual olive tree. Than olives were shaken off from branches to the ground using small rakes, various mechanical tools and last but not least our hands. Afterwards it was quite easy to gather them into large boxes to be loaded onto a tractor trailer.

Back at the farm olives are sorted with a use of a special machine. In this way olives are separated from leaves and little branches and put into bags. They take them to the press as soon as possible and get olive oil ready for immediate use. There are a few modern presses nearby and they make sure everything is kept under the highest standards.

For olive oil to be of top quality (and to earn that extra-virgin title) it is essential not to be heated over 27 degrees Celsius at any time during the pressing procedure.

After a day of picking olives we were lucky enough to also sample some fresh olive oil. It had a very strong, fresh smell and was a bright green colour. It might be pretty obvious but I just have to put it in writing - It was delicious!

If you ever find yourself in that region do not let those famous local truffles take all of your attention. Take some time to also taste some of the local liquid gold. It is a safe bet to wander to a random farm in the Istrian countryside and find some top quality olive oil. If you do not strike gold, they will definitely kindly point you in the right direction.


Tuesday 27 August 2013

Ever considered adoption?

You might be wondering what this is all about. Do adoptions have something to do with travel? Actually in this case there is a link between the two...

During my last trip to the Croatian island of Lošinj (also successfully marketed as The island of dolphins), a sign promoting adoptions caught my attention. As some of you might have already guessed by now, it was not about regular child adoptions - it was about a dolphin adoptions.

As I found out after a short investigation, on Lošinj you can actually do just that - adopt a real dolphin!

After days of swimming and relaxing on the beaches with M., on one of the mornings we decided to visit the town of Veli Lošinj for a change. Among other things, The Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation definitely deserves a visit. It is located in the very centre of the town and was our main target of the day.

The place definitely has a strong environmental feel to it. It mainly focuses on local marine life and its preservation. Visitors can interact with many exhibitions, which makes it also perfect for children.

Since it is located on the island of dolphins, the marine centre obviously has a large section dedicated to sea mammals.

If you are planning a visit to the island I strongly recommend you stop at this place. If you do not have a trip for Croatia scheduled for the near future, you can visit their website instead and maybe sometime in the future end up spending your summer as a volunteer with them.

All information regarding dolphin adoption can be found on this direct link.


Friday 23 November 2012

Day trip to Zagreb

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to take a day trip to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Since it is the largest city of a neighboring country it is actually pretty strange I have never visited it before.
I am not counting a couple of times going through or flying from the nearby airport.

Since I arrived quite early I was a bit worried about getting to a scheduled meeting on time due to the morning rush hour. City traffic in Zagreb can definitely be quite challenging. Besides cars there are also trams and buses rushing through busy streets.
Even for a seasoned driver like me this could have proved to be too much of a challenge. At this point I just have to thank my Android powered mobile navigation for getting me to the desired destination on time without a sweat. In times like this it really is a handy tool.

I found a nice seafood restaurant where I treated myself with a great lunch and a good glass of local white wine. Gastro Mare restaurant (on the second floor of a modern building at Trg Petra Peradovića 6) is not cheap but offers great quality sea food. I definitely recommend it.
Unfortunately after a good and relaxed meal I did not have much time left for other things I would love to check out. A short stroll I did around the center was hardly enough to really see the city. I did however get to feel the vibe.

I must say the city center had a really nice and lively feel to it, with all the people walking around on a Thursday morning.

Many cafes with outside tables gave away there is probably quite a lot of action also in the evening. Sadly I could not stay long enough to check whether my predictions were correct.
Similarly there was also not enough time to visit a local museum or two.

With all of that in mind I will definitely return sooner or later to have a deeper look into this charming and lively city.

These few photos were taken near the main city square. Ban Jelačić - a Croatian hero, is watching over the crowds of people from his saddle high above.


Wednesday 24 October 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Fishermen at Sunset


Friday 31 August 2012

A week on Lošinj island

This summer there is something going on all the time and it looks like M. and I will not get to go on a serious vacation. The good side of this is we are doing many shorter trips.

Since we both fall into sea-lovers category, hardly any summer vacation goes by without at least a short trip to the seaside. After all this year will not be so much different - we are heading on a short (one week) trip to Croatian island of Lošinj.

We have been there quite a few times before and we always love going back. It is relatively close to Slovenia and it offers a unique combination of hiking opportunities, crystal clear waters, lots of shade and that great smell of pine trees. As usually we are going camping - we love camping!

These two photos are from one of our previous trips to the island. I guess it is quite obvious we can hardly wait to head back there. You can expect some more details about the trip when we return.


Monday 25 April 2011

The streets of Vis, Croatia

On a recent sailing trip we did in Croatia, we also spent a night and the following morning in the town of Vis on Vis island.

The whole island has almost 4.000 inhabitants and lies the farthest from the coast of all inhabited Croatian islands.
In the time of Yugoslavia it was one of the countries main naval bases and only partly accessible to public.
During World War II it was heavily mined and still in 2008 34 mines were cleared from the island.

Vis is a picturesque Mediterranean little town, offering many opportunities for a good photo or two. So I took the chance and went on a slow stroll through the narrow, stone cobbled streets. These are a few of many nice ones I took in a quarter of an hour.

The first one is taken from the boat moored on the seafront of Vis. A Franciscan monastery looked really nice across the bay but I unfortunately ran out of time to take a closer look.

The other two photos are from one of many narrow streets. I hope you like them.

For those of you in doubt about the object on that last photo. It has obviously seen better days but it is still a door knocker.


Friday 22 April 2011

Dolphin encounter in Croatia

Seeing dolphins in nature is not something that happens every day. I consider myself very lucky for encountering them quite a few times.

If you have been reading through my previous posts, I guess you guessed it already - my last encounter with these beautiful animals happened during my last sailing trip in Croatia.

While we were on a course for Jabuka island, they suddenly appeared in the distance on our port (i.e. left) side. Unfortunately a few moments later they were gone. When we already thought that was the end of it, they reappeared just next to the hull of our boat. We were sailing at around 6 knots without the motor. It seemed they liked this fact and swam with us for a while. There were around 10 dolphins in this group - some small and some quite large ones.

After five minutes of playing around and under our boat they decided to get back on their way.
I had just enough time to take a few photos, but none of them came out very impressive. It is quite hard to guess where and when is a dolphin going to come out from under the water. When it does swim to the surface, this happens just for a moment and then it is gone again.
This means luck is quite a factor when trying to take a good photo of a dolphin.

I hope one day I will be lucky enough to actually swim with dolphins in their natural habitat.
This time water was not really all that warm (it was just under 11 degrees Celsius) and I didn't even think about jumping in.
I am not sure doing that out on the high seas is such a good idea anyway. After all, those are wild animals I am talking about and anything can happen.


Wednesday 20 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday: View of Hvar seafront


Monday 18 April 2011

Sailing to Jabuka island

One of the goals of our last sailing trip was to sail around Jabuka island. Actually it is not so very special. This rock in the middle of the Adriatic sea can hardly be called an island. It really is small.

Jabuka in Croatian language means Apple. So if Apple corporation will ever be thinking of changing that bitten apple logo of theirs - a silhouette of this Apple island might be a good idea. I should probably put copyright on that one...

We tried to sail there a couple of times before but never made it all the way around.
Well this time I am proud to say we did it.

When we were closing in on the island we noticed an interesting thing... Some of the navigation devices on our boat started to act weird. For instance autopilot kept loosing direction. At first we thought it was some random electronic fault but after a while we realized only compass-based devices were having problems.
It was not a coincidence. Jabuka island was to blame.
As we learned later on, it is a volcanic island and one of its main building materials is magnetite - the most magnetic of all naturally occurring minerals on Earth.
When they hold a sailing regatta in those waters competitors even have to switch between radio channels because some of them simply stop working around the island. I guess this is a bit like what the Bermuda triangle must feel.

As I said all of this didn't stop us and we made it around there and back without much trouble. We had perfect winds and nice sunny weather. Nevertheless this trip took most of the day. When we were looking for a place to spend the night it was dark already.


Wednesday 6 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset fishing


Wednesday 30 March 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ready to set sail


Sunday 27 March 2011

Sailing the Adriatic

I am finally going sailing again! It was a long pause, during which I was invited to join a group of friends for more then a few times but there was always another priority to take care of.

Now I have decided I have had enough of it. Everything will have to wait for 5 days. It will not be a long trip, but I am sure we will have a great time.

End of March is still quite early in the season for a sailing trip, but this means we are not going to spend a fortune on boat rental.
I am hoping for some sun, but I guess it is all up to weather gods and their generosity.

We are starting at Rogoznica (Croatia) and will probably be sailing in the direction of islands Vis and Jabuka. Precise sailing plan will be based on actual weather conditions at the time of departure.


Monday 21 December 2009

The hidden beach of Lubenice

It might have been snowing here in Slovenia for the last week or so, but I just have to finish my short series of posts about a trip to the Croatian island of Cres a couple of months ago. As I mentioned a few posts back, Lubenice is a village well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself on the island.

St. John (Sveti Ivan) beach bellow the village of Lubenice on the island of Cres is one of the loveliest hidden beaches in Croatia. It is not easily accessible from land - the descent from the village 378 meters above takes 45 minutes and the climb back even a bit more. The little bay can be approached only from two directions - one is a steep, narrow path we took and for the other you need a boat.

When we were still at the top, in the Lubenice village, we thought about not doing the whole thing at all. Dark clouds were starting to role in from the sea. We figured the worst thing that could happen would be some kind of a thunderstorm. Since we were going to get wet in the sea anyway, we decided to go down the path.

The path offered great views of the village above and also the idyllic beach below.
We went by a sports climbing area which was also chosen by an eagle family as a nesting place. An eagle cry could be heard every now and then.
When we were half way down, we saw a lightning which was followed by a loud thunder. Shortly afterwards it started raining heavily. The narrow path momentarily turned into a soil coloured stream. For a few moments we tried to take cover under some bushes, but all we got from doing that were dozens of scratches. As we learned a bit too late, the bush was full of thorns and its little leaves didn't give almost any protection from the rain.
After a few minutes we decided it would be best to just keep going.

When we got to the beach we were soaking wet. There we were greeted by a few other adventurers crowded under a small roof trying to stay dry. We joined them and waited for the storm to pass. After five minutes it was all over and sun was shining again. Time to dry wet clothes and to take a swim. It was great!

The afternoon went by all too quickly and it was time to get going. On our way up we saw a person meditating alone on the picture-postcard beach during a magnificent sunset (if you look closely you can see him on the above photo). If that isn't an idyllic way to end the day I don't know what is!

Since the winding path is pretty steep the climbing time depends heavily on ones physical condition.
I guess since we needed almost the same amount of time for the climb as we did for the descent, we are not in such a bad shape after all.

This trip was really lovely and I recommend it to anyone with taste similar to ours. However if you try to do this in top summer season, you might be disappointed with hordes of tourists rushing in on charter boats from nearby towns. Luckily we didn't see any.


Wednesday 16 December 2009

A perfect day in Lubenice

On our second day on Croatian island of Cres we decided to visit another picturesque little village. Ancient village of Lubenice. This time we were following a recommendation and were not sorry to do so.

Lubenice literally translates into English as water melons. I don't know what is the connection between the name of this settlement and the fruit, but we definitely didn't see any watermelons while we were there.

It is believed that this village has been continuously inhabited at least for the last 4.000 years. Yes, that is old - Bronze age old. I guess the natural setting of the village has always been a decisive factor. From a view of a strategic position, it has always been really well protected. The side facing Adriatic sea drops straight down towards the sea - 378 meters below. Enforced with a stone wall with only two entries during the Middle Ages I guess this was an unconquerable stronghold.

Today it seems there are more churches in this villages then any other building types. When walking through the streets of Lubenice everything really feels old. In clear weather it offers magnificent views of northern Adriatic.
Local taverns are known for their excellent lamb dishes (jagnjetina ispod peke). I must say it really was delicious! The small tavern also has delicious local vine, cheeses and prosciutto on offer.
Apart from enjoying a meal in a couple of very good taverns and visiting a small museum, there isn't much to do in the village itself.

However there is a steep winding path down to the sea. Of course we went to explore it. But more about that in one of my following posts...


Sunday 29 November 2009

Exploring the island of Cres

After spending two days in central Istria, road led us to the island of Cres in Croatia. On our way to Brestova - our ferryboat link to Porozina, we passed by Plomin. There was a tall thermal power plant chimney piercing low clouds in this narrow bay.

Not an idyllic seaside destination by my standards, but it looks kind of nice in this photo anyway.

After an uneventful, 30 minute ferry ride across to the island of Cres we spent an easy day planning our stay and settling in a small apartment in the town of Martinščica.
We have been on this island many times before, but usually just to get to it's southern neighbor - island of Lošinj.

As we have discovered, Cres offers many interesting locations that are worth visiting.

Since we were hungry, we decided to visit the fishing village of Valun and taste some fresh fish. We weren't disappointed with grilled cod and relaxed setting at the restaurant Toš Juna.

The restaurant walls are covered with replicas of ancient stone tablets (Valun tablet) the village is famous for. Tablets are believed to have served as an 11th century gravestone. Written in bilingual (Old Croatian and Latin) and digraphic (Glagolitic and Latin) writing, the tablet truly is special.


Monday 23 November 2009

Charming hill towns of Istria

As I already mentioned a couple of posts earlier (click) I recently visited some charming hill towns of central Istria, Croatia.

If I had to pick one of them, Groznjan (Grožnjan in Croatian) would be my favourite choice. Ancient feel of this town is really hard to ignore. It seems like time has stopped on that particular hill. When we were driving towards it, I wasn't sure we were on the right way at all. When we finally reached the town, parking lots were full of cars - only a few license plates were local. This seemed a bit strange, since from a distance it really looked like a small and peaceful medieval town.

Today Groznjan is an artist colony, which is a result of the Croatian government’s effort to save hill towns from abandonment by offering cheap rents to artists. This seems like a good solution since the town was abandoned by its mainly Italian inhabitants after the Second World War. That happened when Istria was given from Italy to Yugoslavia.

It is a small town but offers many beautiful vistas and picturesque narrow stone alleyways to wander. Every corner is filled with flower pots and various examples of local art. Definitely a right place to just wander around and soak in the positive vibe. I think the artistic touch on the above photo captures the atmosphere of this town perfectly.

On one of the many town squares we found a promising tavern called Bastia and enjoyed a great meal topped with a glass of superb red wine. All that for a very reasonable price. Since M. is not too fond of truffles, we left them for our next visit. I definitely recommend you visit this place when in the neighborhood.


Monday 9 November 2009

Truffle days in Istria

For as long as I can remember, we have been vacationing in coastal towns of Croatian Istria. I guess that's mainly because Istria is a really close to Slovenia. Now this peninsula is a part of Croatia, but when I was still a boy, Slovenia and Croatia were both parts of Yugoslavia.

I drove through the Istrian peninsula many times but I can't say I have spent much time exploring the central part of it. Lately it is marketed as “the new Tuscany” and I must say there definitely is a resemblance. Unfortunately until recently I was always speeding past those charming old hill towns, just to get to a seaside destination of choice as quickly as possible.

A couple of weeks ago I had a different plan. Together with M. we decided to taste the land of truffles. It was a two day trip and we are not sorry we did it. We saw some great stuff and enjoyed delicious local food.

We started with a visit of Motovun - a town where once a year a film festival takes place. The town sits on a highest hill in the neighbourhood and is surrounded with lots of smaller hills. I guess that is the strategic advantage its founders many centuries ago were looking for.
That's also the reason we spotted it from far away. We parked our car on the slope of the hill and walked into town (only residents are allowed to drive into town). Charming, narrow streets are literally impregnated with the smell of truffles.

If you don't know that specific (almost unique) truffle smell, it is really hard to explain it. The closest description I have heard so far is: "a combination of musk, nuts, and ozone". If you think you have a better description, please share it with me.
We took a chance to compare black truffles to famous white ones. Almost every shop offers free samples of truffle paste and wine. I couldn't say the two kinds of truffle paste tasted all that different. However I am not an expert on this, so I might have overlooked an important detail or two. For the truffle ignorant people out there, let me just point to the financial side of this delicacy.
A kilogram of black truffles costs a couple of hundred Euros (usually around 400 EUR), which is nothing compared to it's white relative. Since it is considered to be superior in smell and taste to the black truffle, a kilogram of white truffles can cost a couple of thousands of Euros (usually around 2.000 EUR).

The financial part aside, dishes seasoned with truffles are definitely not one of those things everyone would like the first time. Well... we found out M. was one of those people. Let's just say she didn't like the smell of Motovun. At all.

That was one of the reasons we decided to move on without enjoying a proper meal. We headed for the town of Groznjan (or Grožnjan) and after that we also visited supposedly the smallest town on the planet - Hum (more about that in the next post). The nearby town of Livade was left for our next visit.

Before we left it, we also stopped at the town cemetery, which offers a great view of the town.

If you have a chance to visit these parts, this time of year might be the best time to do it. There are many things going on at the moment in central Istria. For more information check out this official list of truffle events.


Monday 1 September 2008

The sun and moon on Losinj

Sunset photos can be very romantic, but since we have all seen so many of them, they can easily fall into the boring department.

I hope this almost-sunset photo is not among the boring bunch. I was hoping a sail boat and a pine tree branch would take care of that, but I am not sure whether I succeeded.

If I am not sure about the first one, I definitely like the second photo. It was taken on a ferry trip from mainland to the island of Lošinj. The full moon is reflected on the sea surface. It looks like the photo has been corrected using Photoshop or some similar software but that is not the case. The photo is published just the way it was taken. I guess the strange reflection is a result of the moving ferry and slightly longer exposure.


Tuesday 26 August 2008

Veli Lošinj in sepia

One of the trips we went on, while on the the island of Lošinj, was to the town of Veli Lošinj. It is quite a picturesque little town that just calls for photos. Its center with a little marine is actually quite colorful, but that was not my focus this time.

There were some clouds gathering that afternoon and that's what made these photos interesting. I thought the best way to emphasize those clouds would be with the use of sepia technique. So I took the first photo in sepia.

The second one was taken in colour and converted to sepia afterwards on my computer. The difference between them is easy to spot. I like more the motive and composition of the second photo, but in my opinion the colours are far better on the second.
Maybe it is time to upgrade some of my old software...

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