A Terra Madre Winery – a breathtaking view of  the Neretva Bay

 

Everywhere you turn, there’s nothing but boulders and thickets on the hilly terrain by the sea. Will this meager land in Komarna, near Dubrovnik, ever be able to bear juicy fruits ripened in the sun? A few wondered, many doubted, but not the bravest, Stipe and Damir Dominikovic and Davor Martinovic. After a series of business successes in the partner company “Poljopromet”, they decided to take on a new business challenge – the reclamation of karst on hillslopes. They wanted to plant new vineyards on that rocky soil and grow their own vines.

From the rocky terrain to the Decanter award

The rocky, steeply sloping terrain wasn’t too promising, but they wanted to cultivate at least 5-6 hectares. The venture began! Heavy machinery occupied the hill. The crushing of the boulders started on a wide area surrounding the hill, first cautiously, and then more and more resolutely. Day by day, their idea took on a more and more concrete form.

 “We had to dare, resist the conventional belief that nothing can grow on this rocky terrain. The most important thing was to beat this hard, long-neglected soil and prepare it for planting new vines” – director Davor Martinovic began his story.

Today, the vineyards cover a total area of 16.55 hectares and have 125,000 vines.  Perched on top of a small hill is the contemporary Terra Madre winery, occupying 800 square metres and equipped with giant wine containers and wooden barrels to store wines. The upper floor occupying 400 square metres is intended for wine tasting. It is the gastronomic paradise for all who are eager to savor delicious wine and domestic food: prosciutto, cheese, marinated and salted anchovies. The terrace offers a magic and unforgettable view. The clear blue sea of the Neretva bay merges with the azure blue sky, green vineyards of the Pelješac peninsula, one of the best-known wine-growing regions in Croatia, and Mali Ston Bay, a gastronomic destination renowned for oysters.

Thanks to several hardworking and persistent people like Davor, Damir and Stipe, Komarna has become the youngest Croatian terroir. The endless rows of vines at the foot of the hill merge with the craggy shore. This harsh rocky environment is where plavac mali grows. “That autochthonous Croatian variety gives excellent sugars and acids, as well as sharp flavors and bitterness,” continues Davor. “But in addition to plavac mali, we also planted smaller quantities of the French syrah and cabernet sauvignon varieties, which give plavac extraordinary gentleness and softness”.

“This is limestone, dry area with minimal fertile land. Therefore, we irrigate the  plavac vines in the initial stage of ripening, which repays us manifold in quality. Bora, scirocco, triple insolation, karst, sea, and sun affect the grape yield and wine quality”.

Silver will soon be replaced by gold!

Wine Plavac Mali Premium
Wine Plavac Mali Premium

The Terra Madre winery produces five types of wine, including two reds made from the plavac mali variety. This production requires aging in wooden barrique barrels for up to three years. Plavac mali premium wine is made from plavac grown on selected terrains. “Yields are lower in quantity because pruning is regulated, and the fruits are partly removed. Due to this, the wine is of special quality. The silver medal won at Decanter, a prestigious London wine fair, testifies to this”, says Davor proudly. His daughter and trusted associate Vedrana Martinovic Trutina (32)  joined our conversation, too.

“When we exhibit at wine fairs, especially at the biggest ones such as ProWein in Dusseldorf, it becomes clear to me where we are and what we do, and how strong our competition is. It is great to be in the company of winemakers from around the world. We are constantly working to be as close as possible to them in terms of offer and quality. But we also have our powerful aces up our sleeve – organic production, indigenous varieties, new vineyards, and a God-given location”, says Vedrana, also revealing that her biggest desire is to place the wines on new, still undiscovered international markets.

Dubrovnik guests drink Terra Madre rosé

In addition to red wines, plavac combined with syrah gives an extraordinary mild Rose. “That is the wine most sought after in Dubrovnik area, especially popular among female guests who like to drink it as an aperitif wine or in combination with light seafood. Pošip is a white wine that pairs well with Adriatic white fish, swordfish, John Dory fish, dentex fish and shellfish, and especially with oysters from Mali Ston”, Davor shares his abundant experience.

K7 wines are drunk in prestigious American restaurants

Overseas markets also recognized the quality of wines from Komarna. The enterprising American woman of Croatian roots visited the Terra Madre winery as a guest. She liked their wines so much that she wished to offer them to all Americans, and she succeeded! As other winemakers from Komarna joined this project, she grouped them all under the unique K7 brand. The market’s differences and administrations were reconciled successfully, and Americans can drink that wine in more prestigious restaurants.

How to drink and stay on your feet?

The oenologists Marko Šuman and Gorana Dominikovic are influential wine experts. They have been taking care of young and aged wines for a long time.

They are continually checking the quality and maturity, especially of red wines aged in barrels and bottles, for up to five years before tasting. We cannot relax until we get positive quality ratings. We do this from day to day, from year to year, because mature wines get consumed, while at the same time new ones are being produced”, says Marko and continues:

“We taste wine every day. We have to feel all its flavors, and at the same time, memorize that taste from yesterday. Every sip of wine must be clean, rinsed with water so that the flavors do not overlap and mix. The palate is our most important ‘tool’ for assessing the quality, dryness or hardness of wine.”

These two young people make a great team, although Gorana is still learning next to Marko. Next year he will let her take care of the cellar, while he plans to devote himself more to the vineyards where, in his own words, “the quality of wine stems from.” They are always supportive of each other. The greatest pleasure for them is recognition for a job well done and high-quality wine. Terra Madre winery is undoubtedly at the forefront of the wine-making business, side by side with well-known wine producers.

An unforgettable vacation in a vineyard by the sea

But this is not where the story ends! These hardworking people do not stop planning and dreaming new dreams. Director Martinovic has retired, but he is still developing new projects with his partners.

The soon-to-be-opened luxury restaurant will provide special delicacies, grilled Adriatic fish, traditionally cooked meat, and homemade cakes. Apart from the wine tasting, the terrace with splendid views will offer a new gastronomic experience as well. Enjoying the small stone-lined Dalmatian houses surrounded by the green vineyards and drinking wine under the starry sky is bound to lift each spirit. What more can one wish, except to visit that magical place?

 

Romance in the Trogir Noble House

The bell from Trogir’s city tower strikes twelve. The sun shines on the old town, inviting the tourists to take a short break because, after sunset, many of them eager for discoveries and new experiences will revisit them. Curious, they will walk the streets, peeking through half-open wooden windows whose lace curtains hide the intimacy of Trogir families and the charming spirit of the surrounding restaurants.

That is so good, what a pleasant smell! The fish is grilled somewhere nearby! I follow a street lined with stone houses, built several centuries ago.  Curious, I enter through a wooden door to one of the most beautiful stone courtyards still only seen in nobles families’ houses.

I have to sit and enjoy the sumptuous court’s ambiance. I imagine tender tones of the harp and dancing ladies dressed in lavish crinolines in arms of sleek nobles. Delicacies from the richly set tables sweetened their mouth and stolen kisses in one of the dark corners of this courtyard.

That place is magical! Happy people are sitting around the tables full of excellent food. Lobster on buzara, grilled white fish, shrimp wrapped in bacon, black cuttlefish risotto, pasta with seafood. Meat, grilled, cooked in a real Dalmatian sauce.  I can’t even talk about imaginatively prepared cakes, especially Dalmatian rožada, because while I’m just looking at it, I want to feel its caramelized taste in my mouth. I feel so good while my imaginations wander through,  from the past to the present.

Unbeknownst to me, thanks to the fantastic smell of grilled fish, I came to the well-known restaurant and hotel Monika, located in the noble, Cega family house’s historic ambiance. The restaurant, with its fifty years of gastronomic tradition, does not lag behind the rich past.

I wonder who owns this hotel and restaurant, who had the strength to make this splendor in the middle of the old urban city and restore it to its former aristocratic splendor? Each piece exudes with luxury and carefully selected details,  with a specific style and taste.

It would be best to meet Jasminka Vranješ, the owner who belongs here with her charming and engaging behavior. Only a woman with an uncompromising will, inexhaustible energy, professional experience, and personal wisdom can build this “empire.” She had the pleasure to refurbish this space for herself and guests worldwide who have been faithfully returning to her for half a century.

She started putting together her catering story back in the seventies with her husband Vinko. In an instant, she had to continue their familiar story on her own, fighting like a lioness, all to make their dreams come true. “There have been ups and downs, crisis years, but I always went forward, believing in myself. If I had succumbed to bad thoughts at any moment, my dream would never become shattered.” She did it! She kept her promise!

In the beautiful authentic the ambiance of the old Trogir stone court, there is an open part of the restaurant with a hundred seats, accompanied by an interior space, specially decorated for romantics who want a unique atmosphere and intimacy.

Visiting the hotel means experiencing Trogir as it once was, the style and way of life of the Cega noble family, whose tradition collapsed in a historically turbulent and relentless moment. But new times have brought new opportunities as well. Jasminka had a mission! Renovated the house and gave it back the look and sophistication of a noble home. “For twenty years, I bought part by part of the house. When I put all the torn parts back under the same roof, I started renovating the space. After three years, I opened a hotel with sixteen spacious rooms, decorated in a synergy of a traditional and modern style”.

Luxurious, soft beds covered in red satin and velvet dominate the space, facing the windows that each overlook their part of the old town. Unique charm is given by refined, imaginative decorations that fill the rooms, giving them dreamy warmth and harmony. The terrace between the roofs of Trogir houses and the view to the surrounding city gardens, the old town, and the bell tower of The Cathedral of St. Lawrence intertwined with the blue sky and sea is a new experience that I will remember for a long time.

Jasminka has given her whole life into the restaurant and hotel, past, present, and future. “I have nurtured this hotel as a child, giving all my best. I can see that I am successful by the guests’ reactions who are delighted with what they feel. I am happy and grateful when I see a smile and shine in their eyes; it means that I have fulfilled my mission. ”

Even today, after fifty years of working,” My every new day is my new beginning, I work there with equal passion, paying attention to every detail.  There is a vast love for work, long-term  staff, and this building that I have renovated, to the pride of myself and the city of Trogir!”

She has successfully built and edited, but she has always primarily cared for the guests’ wishes, desires, and comfort. Grateful for the hospitality, welcome, and goodwill, the guests give it to her back with kind words and selfless attention, proposing that everybody must experience it in person.

 

 

 

Brač best vinery

Enjoy wine, champagne and prosecco tasting on  the Brač Island!  

It was time to pick grapes! Berries hovered over the vines, and many pickers at the vineyard worked diligently. The Senjković wine cellar workers were ready to accept the crop and turned grapes into tasty champagne, red and white wine, or prosecco drops.

Winery Senjković Brač
Winery Senjković Brač

Returning from the vineyard to the Dračevica in Brač, I started to explore the village. After a few steps, I heard the voices. I saw some men in the narrow street who transported grapes from the truck to the cellar.  Although I didn’t know who they were, I entered a spacious courtyard located between the houses, impatiently waited to start talking with them. I liked the similar places! They stirred the past and present times, traditions, customs, and habits of the local people.

A pleasant surprise! The hosts invited me to sit and taste the original homemade wine and food. Refined flavors alternated in nine courses of wine, champagne, and Dalmatian prosecco. Fifteen sequences of various delicacies were prepared from the highest quality island ingredients, served in the most modern ways. It was a gastronomic feast created by Magdalena Senjković.

A layer of pate with a full, intense aroma in which the taste of liver parfait prevailed, dark chocolate, and bitter orange on toasted brioche was so delicious. ” The island’s ingredients, tradition, and my living atmosphere are base for all my prepared dishes. I also use modern techniques, and that give the food a refined and sensual taste “- explained Magdalena, who led me little by little to the new Brač experiences. Her husband Saša Senjković, an excellent wine connoisseur and producer, joined us in our conversations, pouring wine in my glass. So I tried the best food and wine drops at this hospitable island’s family.

Along with liver parfait, Saša served me Pošip – Tristeca, vintage 2018. The wine was macerated for six hours during production and aged for a year in Bosnian oak.

Wine with butter and peach notes aged in wood has a more decadent taste and a powerful character, and deeper taste. It goes better with more robust food” – said young Senjković. This unique wine has dedicated to his father, who has inherited his ancestors’ huge wine culture.

I looked around the yard, partially covered with eaves overgrown with greenery and only a few tables with twelve seats reserved for the guests eager to taste good food and wine.  I was thinking about Senjković family members who have been working hard for four generations, their work, and customs, but Sasha’s voice moved me to reality.

“This is Spoža, vintage 2019, our best Rose made from Plavac mali, a very aromatic, aperitif wine. Aroma sets of light summer flavors of fruit, strawberry, and watermelon give it a sweet taste that goes the best with white fish, shrimp, and fruit. At the same time, Spoža, vintage 2018, characteristically loves more decadent foods.”

Magdalena served the fragrant food that went best with it. “Now you’re going to try the shrimp elements and turnip crude. The cappuccino made from shrimp shell is in the cup. On the plate are tails stuffed with mousse from the head and pliers. Crude, in its mild and delicate texture combined with bread toasted with pink pepper, prefers young wine from 2019. Cappuccino and tails go best with wine, vintage 2018.”

In such a pleasant atmosphere, Saša recalled his childhood and youth time.   “I didn’t work in the vineyard, I ran more in the field and climbed the nearby olive branches. My family members worked hard all day arranging vineyard and picking grapes,” he said with a laugh. “But now as an adult, I know that staying and playing in the vineyard has determined me. Thanks to that, today I am what I am, a lover of viticulture and winemaking,” – says Saša, briefly returning to his memories.

I watched him assess how deep he stepped at that time, didn’t want to interrupt his memories. It was an excellent way to quench my curiosity. I wanted to introduce as much as possible local people’s customs and traditions.

But Saša didn’t give to become confused! He started to present his another pride – “This is red wine Bročka rič, vintage 2018, made of a mixture of Plavac mali, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine in its taste is powerful and elegant with fruit and summer flower aromas”. Saša served this wine with gnocchi prepared with sheep cheese and lamb.

Princess under the glass bell
”Princess” under the glass bell

“I inherited a passion for work from my father and great-grandparents, and the least my family and I can do to work hard and achieve our goals. We built a new winery and have renewed the plantations, knowing in advance what kind of wine we will make. We want to meet certain expectations of our guests. Their months-long pre-orders and desire to taste our wines are a confirmation of our good work and efforts. Honor, but also a big responsibility! In gratitude to my great-grandfather, we made Bosso, savory red wine, of strong and musculin aroma of paper and tobacco. This wine goes well with  Brač lamb and steaks.”

Dita is an intense and structure, full-bodied red wine. Senjković produced this sort of wine only in their most fertile years. Only twice in the last ten years, in 2012 and 2016. It was an honor! I tried the best wine whose collection consists of only 2000 bottles. The wine kept for three years in French oak and almost the same number of years in bottles. The combination of Plavac mali, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon is wine nectar that is hard to find and repeat! It went so well with soft pieces of lamb stabbed and roasted on the spice, with potatoes fried into lamb fat. I was eating a lamb with hands, like the locals. It was profound my connections with the island and its people.

After a series of milder and more salty dishes, Magdalena successfully surprised me with sweet delicacies. Creamy “princesses” were carefully served under a glass bell to keep all sweet flavors.

However, pear-shaped white chocolate was the queen of this gastro evening. In my opinion, it was a Magdalena gastro masterpiece. The chopped pear pieces, flambéed in pear and lemon juice, with almond praline, was shaped into a pear and topped in white chocolate. The soft texture, tenderness, and aroma can delight even the pickiest gourmet, additionally stimulated by the sweet drops of homemade Senjković prosecco.

Let’s explore Jordan with Joanna!

A strong wind is mercilessly raising the sand all around, obscuring the beauty of this magic land! Deceptive and unpredictable in desperate rage! Huge and strong sand clouds rushing across the air making an ominous silence and uncertain over the desert.  Sandstorm is coming! Nothing to see than a pile of sand! Only a fear, a beating hearts,  and desire to stay alive!

But Bedouins – “kings of the Wadi Rum desert” wait peacefully,   knowing that the sun always rises after the storm. They have already learned how beautiful can be that demanding, seemingly wild and unfriendly desert.  Like nomads, they have already met its temper.  They had not a safe life, home, constantly changed the dwelling place for moving cattle through the desert, but they have survived! Today they are modern hosts who welcome guests in the middle of the desert, accommodating them in modern luxurious capsules, serving them a delicious dish specialty zarb. That is meat roasted for long hours in a special underground hole, covered with sand. All that background enables an unforgettable travel experience to “modern nomads” wishful exploring strange ambiance and boosts adrenaline.

Morning’s rays over the desert bring them a new revelation. Sun rays play mischievous light and shadow games overlapping the space, illuminating orange sand and unique landscapes. New sightseeing encourages them to uncover yet unknown feelings.

Yes, you guessed, we are in Jordan, Middle East Islamic country which with Syria, Palestine, Lebanon creates a region called the Levant. Jordan is the country where the beauty of the desert, valleys, mountains, Death salt sea, rich cultural heritage deliver the new sense. It comes from the “high energy voltage” of local people, and their temperamental ancestors’ souls.

Amman - Jordan's Capital
Amman – Jordan’s Capital

Impact of two cultures, Arabian and Mediterranean, give them hot temper, talkativeness, and warm hospitality gift.  “Jordanians take pride in hosting guests”- explained Joanna, my virtual host, young Polish woman, happily married to Jordanian and his faith. “Jordanian hospitality is an old tradition rooted in the times when people here were still Bedouins. The rule was that a stranger could be hosted in a Bedouin household for three days without telling the host the reason for visiting. Even the host couldn’t ask for the reason himself during those three days. It was against the Bedouin honor code. Till now Jordanians proudly mention their three-day rule.”

In the north-central, there is Amman, Jordan’s capital. The busy town that never sleeps and its streets are always full of life. The locals in their daily routine smoke shisha and drink tea or coffee. Young guys like to play cards and dance dabkeh on a street while girls like to visit restaurants or enjoy a cozy café near Paris Square in Weibdeh.

Amman-Jordan’s Capital

“Do you want more fun in the places by the seaside?”- Joanna asked me.  “Well, let’s go to Aqaba, the town on the Red Sea coast. It is a great place for it. The luxurious hotels occupy the beach. At that area tourists can enjoy bikini on private beaches since the public beach, in the central part of Aqaba city is reserved for more conservative locals. There are also Ayla and Tala Bay, closed districts with lots of hotels and well – kept beaches where you can enjoy bikini, drinks, and good music”.

The Dead Sea coast is also a place with lots of resorts and private beaches where tourists can swim and never sink due to salty water, enjoy the SPA treatments based on amazing Dead Sea mud. “But be careful” – Joanna warns,  “the temperature during the summer passes 40 degrees so the best time for visiting is before mid-June or after mid-September”.

Wow, what a beautiful and interesting kingdom!  Joanna is a  great cultural ambassador of her new country.  While I was talking with her I was feeling like I was there, impatiently waiting for new stories.

Petra town!  It is a fantastic ancient city carved in rose-tinted stones, hence it’s called ‘Rose City’. It was established by Nabataeans in 4th century BC, a mysterious civilization that is still being discovered thoroughly to this day. The city is strategically situated in a canyon and the only way to go there is through a narrow passage called siq. There is the most known site of Petra, Al-Khazaneh  -The Treasury building. According to the legend, there is a treasure hidden on top of Al-Khazaneh. “So if you are courageous enough, climb to the top and check it”- suggested Joanna with a smile, continuing more seriously:  “The Nebo mountain is special, too. It is a well-known place already mentioned in the Old Testament.”

According to the Bible Moses reached the peak of Mount Nebo to see the Promised Land – Canaan  and God told him at that time that he would die before entering it.

There, from the top is an amazing view of the entire Holy Land. Those who reach the top can still feel what Moses felt. “That’s why the place is so special for the believers. People stay exactly at the same place where Moses was standing and look at the same view as he saw” – explained Joanna.

The View from the Nebo Mountain
The View from the Nebo Mountain

After visiting all of those beautiful and interesting places it is time to rest and enjoy Jordanian cuisine. Mmmmm! The best Jordanian national dish mansaf-  tender lamb cooked in a white sauce made of jameed and shaneena served with rice and shrak, very thin, almost transparent bread must be tried. The same goes for Levant specialties grilled lamb, magloubeh, dawali -stuffed grapes leaves, kofta – minced meat baked in an aromatic sauce, hummus, and falafel at Hashem Restaurant in Downtown Amman, and mezzeh, a variety of cold and hot appetizers.

“Oh yes, don’t forget to buy some souvenirs there for long memory of that amazing trip.”  Joanna “took” me for a walk along Downtown Amman street to show the best place to buy souvenirs.

Shemag definitely must be bought. It is the traditional red and white scarf that many men wear here along with egal, the black band that used to be a rope used for catching camels, but now it’s just worn for aesthetics purposes. If you want an outfit, then buy  madraga, a traditional folklore dress worn by women still till this day to events like weddings and other parties.

Downtown is so big and packed with many interesting shops, but souq – marketplace gives a special experience.

Always try to haggle and negotiate the prices because it’s a part of Jordanian culture as well! Don’t be afraid when the seller greets you in his shop with coffee. IT’S THE WAY OF SAYING “WELCOME”.

 

 

 

 

 

paris holiday

Come With Me And Feel Paris Vibes!

Written by Anita Palada

Photos by Pixabay

Paris, Rome, San Gimignano!

Can you guess what is common to those places? They are tourist destinations but not very ordinary, as well-known, special ones.

Paris by night
Paris by night

Those cities aren’t only simple places with many buildings or properties built many centuries ago, where people luxuriate in every moment. Those spots have unique and magic vibes.

Paris is a magical jewel, an extraordinary destination, a place that transforms the spirit, that leaves indelible memories — Paris a timeless destination that remains a cultural wonderland and romantic idyll.

“When I am there, I feel welcomed.  Something exceptional is in the air. I love Paris, especially during Christmas when all is so magic,”–my friend, a life traveler, said to me many times, describing Paris’ atmosphere.

“There are special sentiments that circle “three feet above the sky’—the stars on the sky sparkle with beautiful luminosity, inspiring lovers to open, passionate affection.  The magic vibes make them more amorous, happy and fulfilled.  Those places enchant and intrigue, make people experience particular moments, provoking them to talk about their pleasant feelings.”

Montmartre Paris
Montmartre Paris

What can be better than a walk-in Paris along Montmartre, sitting in the small café, eating a delicious croissant, looking at walking people and enthusiastic painters? These graces make guests grateful to God to be alive and be there. When they travel to Italy and stop in Rome, they “run” to throw the change into the  Fontana di Trevi with powerful desires to return. In San Gimignano, they are curious to taste the best ice cream flavors in the world and traditional Italian pasta at the small, traditionally decorated restaurants in the narrow streets.

Tourists prefer to go to those cities, stay at their hotels and restaurants, walking along the streets than to the other ones? Do you know why? Why are those places so memorable? Because of delicate senses that float between land and sky, making an unforgettable harmony of body and mind.

Places and buildings without impressive vibes are the same as a handsome person with an “empty soul,” without personality, warmth, and charisma. Because of that, somebody is more liked and adore than other ones. The same is for cities and buildings.  Only good vibes can attract, charm, and stop people at the same place.

Fontana di Trevi Rome
Fontana di Trevi Rome

How to achieve it?

If you are the city’s mayor, a hotel’s owner, entrepreneur, wine producer or manager, immerse your feelings into your city, heritage, tradition, and customs. Write, speak, and present it with love. Don’t be ashamed!  Be loyal and passionate! Remember that love and engagement can move the world!  Do your best to tell the best STORY about you and your city!  Create exciting content, highlight pretty photos with smiling and joyful people,  charming places, and picturesque landscapes of your region.

The suggestion is to create a story and publish it on different media, boosting pleasure, emotion, and desire. In this way, your material properties “wrapped in love” will achieve higher value. In effect, it will present you, your energy and passion.

If you don’t know how to create artistic, emotional, and dynamic stories, I am here.  Just call me, and I will do it for you. 

Stradun Dubrovnik
Stradun Dubrovnik

I am Anita Palada, a travel journalist from Croatia.

My journalism experience and creative writing skills allow me to describe the best of all I see and feel. I am fortunate that I have had the possibility to write original stories about various regions, cultures, travel, recognized and undiscovered touristic destinations, luxury hotels, restaurants, chefs, traditional and modern food, wineries and quality wine, fun, and adventures. 

As a writer, professional photographer, and successful digital content creator, I attract over 10000 people per day over my online channels and much more in association with clients.

We will create and share out your best story. Dare to be different from your competitors!

Contact me!!!!

My imaginative writing stories can evoke each person to visit your country, your hotel, restaurant, winery, and other exciting places among it.

paris vacation

 

 

 

 

The Drama Queen

Written by  Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Zrinka Balabanić

Much like any love affair between a man and woman, it is often fiery, wounding and devastating.

At other times it is inspiring, enchanting and nurturing.

Bora on Sea
Bora on Sea

Its’ ups and downs are always surprising and whimsical. Never predictable, and prone to be unremittingly mysterious, its’ unleashed forces are wild, untamed, certainly reminiscent of unchecked passion and love.

Nature can be tempestuous, dispiriting, even dangerous, yet it’s also soothing at times, a presence bearing sublime gifts. It must always be seen as a threat with explosive potential, yet Nature also has its’ forgiving side, a gentility and caress that  offers the prospects of abundance, discovery, and new fertile horizons.

Such is the dual nature of this “Drama Queen,” the Bura, the legendary Croatian winds that sweep through the Dalmatian Coast at different times during the year.

Heavy Clouds Over the Island of Pag
Heavy Clouds Over the Island of Pag

It can be a blessing to cheesemakers on the barren island of Pag, delivering salt from the sea to the isle’s pastures—and to herbs such as thyme, sea fennel and sage—which eventually give the sheep’s milk a distinct salty flavor. That saltiness has increasingly earned Paski sir cheese numerous international awards.

Watching this robust cheese being produced in family-owned farms—and sampling several homemade recipes—are certainly a delight. It’s a fabulous family outing, a way to really savor authentic Croatian culture—and to have a “farm to table” experience.

But the “Drama Queen” still looms. While adventure-seeking sailors welcome the gales and gusts, the Bura is also notorious for closing bridges and disrupting life all along the Dalmatian Coast with its hurricane strength 170 km/h winds.

The Sea Stirred by the Bora
The Sea Stirred by the Bora

Again like a lover, its’ bursts can be short-lived. Let still ferocious.

These winds gather strength in the east over the mountains ringing the coast, then roll down the slopes and spin towards the Adriatic flinging outdoor furniture and trees wildly in the air.

That’s the dark side. Funnel-shaped winds. Uproarious seas that challenge even the most skillful sea captains. Swelling gusts coming from very direction.

Colorful Sky
Colorful Sky

It’s that changeability which makes the Bura particularly troublesome. Like some partners or lovers, there’s no reading this Queen—and in Croatia where sailing between magical sun-kissed isles is a chief allure for international travelers, boating can mean great derring-do adventures.

Such spasmodic gusts present (especially in the winter when the Bura rages most intently) bouts with V-shaped winds of incredible speed.

As the “Croatia Full of Life” website advises, “the Bura spreads like a fan. The larger the bay, the larger its’ blowing fan.”

So take heed. Sailing is not easy in the “clash of sea currents.”

No one ever said love is clear sailing.

The Rainbow Over the Sea
The Rainbow Over the Sea

Yet the drama can be taken out of your relationship with this tumultuous Queen.

Simply retreat to a small cove—or a roadside haven when the winds rise up. Watch the storm swirl and then dissipate while enjoying the scenery and the predictable bonding over some refreshments.

With all that energy in the air, the pure electricity, all sorts of intriguing prospects become possible.

Memorable moments amid blackened skies. And yes, even love!

 

Martinis Marchi Room

Escape to Paradise

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Martinis Marchi Hotel

The tastes of heaven begin with a tangy soup spiced with locally-grown herbs, a “time honored speciality” featuring a rich mix of ravioli and delicacies from the sea.

The Island of Šolta - Maslinica
The Island of Šolta – Maslinica

Always hoping to stir emotions, thoughts of culinary wizardry, and to be faithful to intensely-flavorful homemade” recipes, the young chef looks at me expectantly. Only after I praise the soup, and smile, does he seem relieved, even buoyant.

The consummate host, waiting for my every reaction, Toni Miloš, 35, one my engaging hosts at the Martinis Marchi seaside restaurant on the idyllic Croatian island of Šolta, says “our menu is quite simple…dating back 300 years. We have adapted dishes to modern times but we still use ingredients that are specific to this island. They are very special.”

Martinis Marchi Heritage Hotel
Martinis Marchi Heritage Hotel

So is chef Miloš, and his “simple” yet still creative, Mediterranean dishes— from the brujet cooked in tomato sauce with onions, garlic and parsley; popara with potatoes, carrots and pieces of white fish; to the pheasant prepared in a locally-sourced red wine.

Insisting “all my dishes have their roots in local traditions, the culture close to the magical blue Adriatic (Sea),” Miloš certainly wants to prepare memorable “gastronomic experiences” in his Martinis Marchi castle hotel kitchen.

Listening to the Wind at the Pool
Listening to the Wind at the Pool

But such specialties as homemade ravioli, beef tartare with fermented garlic and chocolate soufflés are also meant to  appeal to travelers “seeking a glorious escape removed from time.” He hopes each dish will inspire lasting emotions, a sense that Croatia is a unique time capsule devoted to intoxicating surprises and pleasures

He succeeds triumphantly. So does this luminous 7-suite boutique hotel that boasts 1500-square meter lodgings, a heated pool, hammam, sauna, and a marina where private excursions can be arranged to whisk you to numerous secluded coves and sandy beaches.

Here indulgences thrive along with a tranquility that first attracted the three  Marchi brothers to Šolta in 1703. Hoping to build a calm, soothing oasis—a bounty of “simplicity combined with pristine nature”—they won permission from Venetian authorities to build a sumptuous summer retreat above the bay of Maslinica one hour from Split.

The Outside Terrace
The Outside Terrace

Intent on creating a shelter against marauding pirates, the brothers wanted a refuge of “light and stillness”—and in that Wellness spirit the hotel is a veritable cocoon surrounded by the sea and a lush Mediterranean garden resplendent with herbs and flowers.

“Our place has a unique historic past and soul, a very positive energy,” says Tihana Mravak Sivić, the hotel manager. “We want guests to really feel at home. We try to honor every request, to turn the impossible into everything is possible—with a smile.”

Such pampering makes it remarkably easy to forget the outside world, to be content simply from listening to the wind at the pool, or to stroll in the adjoining village. Yet if feeling “adventurous,” guests can take the “Martinis Marchi I” Sunseeker Superhawk 50 to the island of Pag to sample its’ internationally-renowned salty sheep cheese. Or they can visit  one of the glorious beaches on Hvar, Brač, and perhaps a winery or two.

Relaxing Terrace Ambient in Evening
Relaxing Terrace Ambient in Evening

Eyeing the ships docked close to the restaurant, Marina Captain Frane Cecić Acosta insists, “Always looking to give guests exciting experiences, we welcome sunsets with champagne, listen to songs when appropriate, and anchor in bays to allow guests to swim.”

Ever nervously looking out towards the Adriatic, Acosta knows the sea is often capricious, yet he adds, “Guests come back. That is a confirmation we are doing our job very well.”

His taking tourists island hopping is a delight. Yet so is Šolta with its’  beekeeping apiaries, olive oil factory, and vineyards with prized Dobričić grapes.

Such exploring allows guests to meet local people, to really immerse themselves in Šolta’s island culture.

Grilled Lobsters
Grilled Lobsters

“We hope guests can connect with  our local surroundings, experience the pristine wilderness,” says Sivić. “We want guests to find total joy there.”

But the greatest joy, if not sitting by the pool, or luxuriating in the hammam, is basking in the comfort of one’s suite. Each of these 7 air-conditioned suites has been tastefully-decorated with armoires, paintings and other furnishings that are meant to rekindle the spirit of the 18th Century. They speak to a refinement the Marchis’ brothers relished—an elegance sorely lacking in most hotels today.

Martinis Marchi Yacht
Martinis Marchi Yacht

So discover the unforgettable.

Escape to the Martinis Marchi.

Olive Oil Škrip

The Beauty of Olive Island

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Anita Palada

Long before the Mediterranean Diet became a health-enhancing trend, Kruno Cukrov, 50, would stand in his olive tree grove watching scores of sheep eating the grass, and appreciate their giving a special “blessing” to his land.

Proud that he’s using totally organic cultivation methods dating back to the Romans, he insists, “We are respecting a great past, no chemicals, the sheep’s natural fertilizer, picking by hand…”

Olive trees and stone on the island of Brač
Olive trees and stone on the island of Brač

As Kruno bites into a few olives, and shares this bounty with me, it’s understandable why he works slavishly everyday to produce the highest quality extra virgin oil.  Along with feeling a special reverence for his land, he hopes to continue another trend.

His grove on the sun-swept island of Brač, and other small family Croatian cultivators are winning increasing international recognition for their limited quantity oil.

What does Cukrov and his counterparts on the island of Krk, and in the northern region of Istria, have in common?

Kruno Cukrov
Kruno Cukrov

They share a passion for the land, for the verdant trees, for handpicking each olive and pressing them the same day to guarantee the utmost taste.

Recognizing that his 1000 olive trees are a legacy from his grandfather that must be honored, Cukrov calls these trees “mothers.” He feels they give birth to oil with the best balance of fruit and bitterness, along with prized distinct aromas.

So he works. Continuously. Relentlessly. Lovingly. Digging the land around the trees, picking grass and sprouts, even encouraging the sheep to come visit, to give their “blessings.”

Olives trees at Cukrov field
Olive trees at the Cukrov field

As we talk about Brač’s riches—one million-plus trees (mainly Oblica which fare well in drought and wind), and his own trees, Cukrov pauses for a few moments to look at the shimmering blue Adriatic. The views from his elevated property are stunning, certainly part of the excitement that accompanies any visit to the Olive Oil Museum he and his wife Katija built in a charming, restored stone building in Škrip.

His museum, a tribute to 1800’s hand-made production methods, is graced with olive presses, spindles, a fireplace for heating water, and numerous wooden casks.

“This is not just a building that has been declared a cultural asset by the Republic of Croatia,” says Crukov. “It’s a former gathering place of social life that has been completely restored to the spirit of life and customs (of the past)…a spirit best reflected in Katija’s kitchen.”

Katija Cukrov
Katija Cukrov

Yet this cozy kitchen presents a major dilemma. When is it best to savor her sheep and goat cheeses along with olive spreads adorned with almonds, garlic and anchovies?

At the start of a visit to Brač or at the conclusion of a six-kilometer walk that is known as the “Olive Trail”?

Take that excursion. It winds past numerous groves where oil and the local wine can be enjoyed.

Then meet Katija, a maestro in the kitchen. Faithful to traditional recipes, yet still willing to add modern nuances, she combines olives with “capers, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and other Mediterranean ingredients.

Delicious food at Oil Museum

“All these foods and spices are here from time immemorial..but our ancestors ate and combined them differently…we are left to follow tradition and upgrade antique dishes. We just want to give our visitors good taste.”

And good memories of a genuine “farm to table experience.”

Olive Oil Museum
Olive Oil Museum Škrip

So come meet this hard-working couple desperately trying to provide glimpses into authentic Croatian life. Wedded to the soil, and its’ riches, they too are a treasure.

 

 

 

    Welcome to the Love Boat

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada

Always the rogue, the lover of women and their most stunning attributes, the Captain mischievously laughs at his feeling helpless in a “sea of confusion.”

“I kept marveling at the sight in front of me, it was so beautiful, so heavenly,” recalls Tomislav Mravičić – Mito, the captain known throughout Croatia and the Balkans for his “party boat” and wild, often ribald storytelling.

Captain Tomislav Mravičić Mito Makarski Jadran
Tomislav Mravičić Mito

“I couldn’t move. I had gone to get my work permit, told I couldn’t get one, and here was this secretary in a low-cut blouse with this unbelievable cleavage.

“Seeing I was persistent, she took pity on me and gave me a cup of coffee. When handing it to me she bent over me, and seeing so much of her, I had to say, ’they are so beautiful…the most beautiful I have ever seen. So wonderful, so amazing!”

Makarski Jadran
Makarski Jadran

The Captain got his permit—even if the startled secretary spilt her coffee, yelled unprintable words at him—and his life on the sea, looking for mermaids and adventures, began.

That was 30 years ago.

Now Captain Mito is a free-spirited fixture on the alluring Dalmatian Coast. Plying the turquoise waters near Split, Hvar Island, Korcula and Brac, this 70-year-old libertine is known for steering passengers to uninhabited dance parties, gluttonous food feasts, and other wild merriment aboard his ship, the Makarski Jadran

“I can’t talk now,” bellows Mito into the phone, smiling devilishly at me. “Go, go, get some delicious grilled sardines on deck. Can you please put on a new (sea-faring, blue-striped) T-shirt?

Adriatic sea
Life is Wonderful

Then returning to his phone call, he adds, “There is a beautiful lady in my cabin. We are busy. She needs all my attention. Let me take care of ship’s business.”

Laughing uproariously at his own humor, he abruptly ends the phone conversation, and ushers me to the top deck where scores of female passengers have jumped onto tables. Their hips swaying wildly to the beat of loud music, and waving excitedly to onlookers on Bol’s Zlatni Rat beach– a long white sandy expanse—these dancers have ripped off their tops, and exchanged for fo tight-fitting T-shirts. They only want to party, to feel totally liberated.

“I dance too, I know how to create a good mood with giving out T-shirts, but now I must take care of the ship,” says Mito, grinning. “My young sailors also know how to treat  women.”

The Best Life Nearby Sea
Best Life Near the Sea

The sea is so transparent at Zlatni Rat many people on board jump into the water once the ship anchors offshore. I, too, couldn’t resist these warm waters that are so calm, so soothing. So as the seagulls flew over me, and the music from the ship continued to tickle my senses, I swam and swam, never wanting to stop.

Once this swim-n-sardine interlude ended, Mito was again up to his old tricks, shouting at a woman waving from her house.

“Ivanka, here I am, wait for me, I am coming, soon, wait, wait,” he yelled, obviously trying to entertain passengers with his joking, trying to be the King of the Sea.

Between Biokovo Mountain and Adriatic Sea
Between Biokovo Mountain and the Adriatic Sea

“I have a very beautiful, very dangerous wife,” he admits, a woman who is his constant North Star. “I always listen to her. She provides me with wonderful food, a warm bed, and the inspiration to show everyone on my ship memorable good times.”

As the ship sails towards Makarska, and Mito begins to think of the “adventures” that await him at home, he continues to talk about his ship.

“Of course sailors want action. They must keep their distance on the ship, but the summer passes quickly. If they need a day off for love I never ask a question. I just tell them to agree on who will do what, how, and that’s it.

“We have had several cases on board that resulted in marriage. Love flared up, really flared up on this ship. Even my son found love on this ship. He met his wife onboard”.

The suggestion is clear. Mito’s  ships a “Love Boat”

Good Mood on the Boat
Good Mood on the Boat Makarski Jadran

 

Though momentarily at a loss for words, I could understand what Mito meant. This was no ordinary cruise to gorgeous islands. It was a passage that took me back to my past, to my youth, a time when I ached to be in love-to find a soulmate.

Not an ordinary companion, but one I shared my dreams with – one which made that fire flare up. That would be real companionship, exploring and finding joy together.

Don’t we all need that now? Real togetherness, sharing our humanity together. Wouldn’t that help us get though the current storm?

Captain Mito, along with all his jokes and stories, certainly knows all about love. He has certain wisdom. So as I headed home from this momentous day at sea, I kept smiling. I knew I would soon return to the “Love Boat.” Very soon!

Can you catch the sun?
Can You Catch the Sun?

 

Wonders from sheep island!

Written by: Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Tourist Board Kolan, Cheese factory MIH, Cheese producer Šime Oštarić

Grandma Tonica was a risk taker, a woman with a “secret recipe” which she shared with her family—a recipe that is now winning international acclaim.

Back in the 1990s Tonica Pernjak owned a small restaurant on the Croatian island of Pag, otherwise known as “Sheep Island.” Farmers, salt producers and other local people showered her with praise for the hard sheep cheese she hand-made in her basement.

MIH's prized sheep
MIH’s prized sheep

That chorus inspired her. Tired of simply cooking, and hoping to launch a more profitable business that would use old-fashioned cheese production methods, and be environmentally-friendly, Tonica taught her son Dubravko, and later her grandsons, the intricacies of that remarkable recipe— and to have a “passionate” relationship with cheese making.

While she attributes her good health at age 88 to eating “lots of Pag cheese,” Dubravko and his sons learned their lessons well. They devoted themselves to following her recipe to make an indigenous Promenka sheep cheese that is naturally flavored by salt. They also strove to give their cheese various aromatic qualities influenced by the sheep’s grazing on pastures which contained thyme, sea fennel, sage and other herbs.

Treasures await at MIH
Treasures await at MIH

“Tonica had this wonderful dream, the special hands needed to adjust the moisture in the milk, to mold cheese, to really create magic,” insists Šime Baričević, the CEO of MIH SIRANA KOLAN, the Pag company that Tonica’s grandsons Šime and Marin now operate.

“Even though producing cheese on this barren island that is buffeted by strong Bura winds is very difficult work, she remained faithful to her dream. She always prized quality, doing everything by hand, keeping cheese on wooden palettes, not plastic, to increase flavor, and she always preached these lessons to her son and grandsons. She had the dream, they made it happen.”

Now appealing to Paksi Sir cheese connoisseurs in Croatia and other European countries, MIH has grown into a dairy with 550 sheep and 27 employees who are scrupulously schooled to respect Tonica’s revered production techniques. They painstakingly filter, cool, filter again the milk, add dairy cultures, and finally mold the cheese.

But as another Pag Island cheese maker Šime Ostarić says, “anyone making hand-made cheese must inject special energy into cheese, put yourself into the cheese. Cheese making can’t just be for money. Your hands must show love.”

MIH Beauties on Display
MIH Beauties on Display

Baričević is certainly passionate about MIh’s “unique” and highly-lauded Tartufin, or black truffle cheese.

“While all of our products are the result of our special environment close to the sea, our truffle cheese is unrivaled. We only use the choicest black truffles from Istria, so the smell is fantastic. This hard cow cheese made from Pag curd has black truffle aftertaste that is just superior, a cheese that shows our commitment to pure old-fashioned quality.”

MIH Cheese Makers
MIH Cheese Makers

Compared to the island’s largest cheese company Paksi Sirana, MIH with its’ 550 sheep is a relatively small company. That allows MIH to maintain the highest quality, and to make other artisanal cheeses such as Otancan, a cow and sheep cheese, and Kolanjac, a cow cheese. Both are also highly-regarded by aficionados.

Yet on Pig  where scores of small producers offer tourists a selection of homemade cheeses on their farms and in Kolan houses, Šime Oštarić is a one-man, boutique cheese maker.

“Of course I want to profit from my work,” say this 31-year-old who only owns 50 sheep on his small farm near Kolan. “But i do this very hard work because I really do love the whole process.”

Artisan Šime Oštarić at work
Artisan Šime Oštarić at work

“My mother Maria taught me everything I know about cheese making. I’d come home from milking the sheep, and she’d patiently explain all of her secrets to me. That’s what cheese making is, secrets, your hands, your love, and also knowing the wind here, the ferocious wind here.

“The Bura can be very cruel, drying the land, and making it hard for the sheep to eat. Then I have to buy corn for them and hope. Hope to survive, and to show people that my cheese is made my way with the greatest of love.”