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!

 

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.”

 

   Pig Heaven

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada, Hotel Marmont

Mr. Pig is very muddy.

It’s been raining in this heavily-forested, northeastern part of Croatia near  Lika, and finding acorns on the pastures close to the Korana River means lots of scampering through the mud.

Black Pig
Black Pig

He runs, jumps, sniffs a lot, burrowing his pink nose deep into the ground. Mr. Pig is very determined, seemingly aware that being a member of his very elite Black Pig fraternity carries great responsibilities.

My Secret and Secluded Cove

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada

How do I escape the madness, soothe my restless soul? What do I do when the world seems upside-down, torn from its’ axis, and feel like many of you do right now, that the stress keeps mounting, and is too overpowering?

I flee.

 

Determined to be child-like again, to play, and to discover an entirely new reality, I escape to a place that is all mine.

My secret and secluded cove. My very own smooth stone on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia.

It’s a stone that allows me to be free, at least for some precious moments. A stone that even lets me follow the paths of mermaids swimming offshore. I am so alive here, so entranced that I can see the long tails of these mermaids flapping in the deep blue sea. Her hair shines in the blazing sun, and she glides so beautifully, it’s easy to understand why passing fishermen yell to her, desperate to embrace her magic.

Yet this cove with so many other-worldly powers is still secret. It is not so easy to get to. There are so many large boulders in this wild, untamed place, so many rocks blocking my path. They make it so difficult to see the transparent sea, and its’ playful, glimmering fishes.

We all encounter boulders in our life, insecurities and various obstacles—so there is only one choice—we push ahead, we remain determined, ever courageous.

I jump from boulder to boulder, and my imagination gives me new confidence. I can’t fall, and so with each strong leap, I edge closer to my cove, my stone.

Once I finally feel its’ warmth, its’ hugs, my eyes start to wander, to explore all the shades of gold, blue and green surrounding me.

Pine trees.

The clear, uplifting blue sky.

The limitless horizon.

My soul soars, comes alive. So do my secret desires and fantasies.

I am young again. Reborn and renewed.

Of course I never want to leave this paradise.

But there is still one unresolved mystery.

As I sit on my stone, and watch the golden sun caress the water, I keep wondering,

“Will she appear today and take me to places only a mermaid can visit?”

There is only one answer. I better stay here a little longer, just a bit longer, to wait for her. To dream.

Authentic Fish Market Trogir

        The Cat and Mouse Game at the Trogir Fish Market

Smiling flirtatiously, the blonde, elegantly-dressed woman approached the man behind a table lined with mounds of anchovies, sardines, squirming lobsters and bright-orange shrimp.

Immediately the seductress, playing a “cat and mouse” game in this Trogir, Croatia fish market, she mischievously asked, “What can you offer me that is  right out of the sea, something really good for my husband?”

Trogir Fish Market
Trogir Fish Market

A place for gossip, romantic liaisons, and heated arguments, Ribarnica is more than a mere market. This historic, red-tiled institution only a short drive from Split on the Adriatic Sea, is a raucous, often salty-tongued “playground.”

Beyond the shouts of “fresh fish, fresh fish scallops that will change your life tonight,” the emotional, passionate, and even volcanic temperament of Croatian people becomes very evident.

“Pretty lady, I have something very delicious for you, I am here just to please you,” laughs the fish seller, grabbing a lobster and rather provocatively dangling it close to the woman.

“I am here just for you, speak to me, how can I help you,” he quickly adds, reaching for a long knife, and adding, “try this swordfish. So perfect for grilling. So are these sardines. Believe me. Eating them with some good wine will make your husband a new man.”

The thinly-veiled innuendos—and acerbic repartee that eventually entails haggling over prices—evokes the fun and entertainment of a Middle Eastern bazaar.

Very crowded around the stand
Very crowded around the stand

“It’s always a knockdown fight, a contest of wills between egos and pocketbooks,” observes an elderly man in between sips of coffee from a nearby cafe.

“Everyday it’s different here. Who knows, always exciting, sometimes a dog barks, and sometimes a rabbit runs. Tomorrow that money thing could change. The rabbit, not the seller, will have a good day.”

Visitors win everyday. Ribarnica is theatre. There are so many verbal acrobatics, jousting for position, give-n-take over tables filled with exotic-looking creatures, this colorful market has a distinctly earthy Mediterranean flavor.

But “dangers” still lurk. Especially from stampedes.

Provoking this wild, very amusing spree, a fisherman yells, “Skuša, skuša, mackerel, the freshest, heavenly mackerel. Come! Come! Now!”

Dozens of housewives and men over-burdened with packages start dashing towards the fisherman’s stand.

“What’s the price of your unbelievable mackerel?” scoffs a wry skeptic.

“100 Kuna (13 Euros). That’s nothing. Very good price!,” barks the fisherman.

“100 Kuna? Are you crazy?”

“You don’t like? Then go home to your wife with no fish. See what that gets you tonight”

The banter continues. Soon there is no more mackerel. It’s been  good day for this particular “barking dog.”

One more day is over, one more Ribarnica story has been written.

A meeting place for women to secretly talk about their husbands; a rendezvous point for lovers; and a convenient, relaxed setting for arranging business deals; Ribarnica is all about anger, love and mystery.

If only its’ stone walls and tiles could talk.

Or perhaps not.

Maybe it is far better to savor some grilled sardines, and to allow those mysteries to remain hidden.

What do you think? Please let us know!

 

The Sweet Seduction

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Anita Palada, Goluzarije

“The seduction, the magic, begins with the hands, the kneading, the stretching,” laughs this modern-day Michelangelo sculpturing another sweet masterpiece in his cozy Split patisserie.

“Of course my perfect strudels also need eggs, vanilla cream, the top ingredients, the very best almonds, nuts, yogurt mix and how I interpret various secrets, Croatian recipes from the past,’” continues Ivan Matić, 43, frenetically reaching for heaping amounts of sugar and gloriously-tart cherries.

 

“But the real secret to making great strudel is the hands. Mine are filled with love. They are very sensitive. Perfect for making wonderful Strudel.”

His colleague, baker Eleonara Višić, enthusiastically agrees. Standing alongside him, his partner in sweetness, she emphasizes just how critical hands are to preparing dough for kneading. An equally-experienced artisan, schooled by her beloved mother and grandmother, she compares her work to a much-revered painting, the always-crowded, sweetly-scented Guluzarije bakery to an artist’s studio.

 

“When I see dough I see a blank canvas in front of me,” she passionately explains. “I’m a painter with a brush in my hand. I have an image of the dough, how I will transform it with creams and fillings, how I will mix these vivid colors. I completely immerse myself in the dough so my hands and spirit are giving life, love. The dough then gives me a lot of great scents in gratitude.”

But this duo’s deeply-felt passion—and ambitions—go far beyond strudel. While they meticulously sift flour, mix sugar, and stretch the dough into just the right flaky thickness for strudel, these tradition-minded Croatians are also faithfully “recreating the specific smells and tastes of people’s childhoods in Dalmatia”— offering classical desserts that have long disappeared from bakeries.

Welcome to Goluzarije Patisserie
Welcome to Goluzarije Pastry Shop!

“The real people of Split are proud of their culinary traditions, rich and full of sweetness,” insists Ivan. “Fritters are a traditional cake in our country, made for hundreds of years, but they could not be bought anywhere. I want to evoke happy moments spent in homes with families, so I am making Brač Hrapoćuša, Trogir rafioli, apple and cherry strudels, vanilla rolls. Menus from a lost time.”

Matić’s devotion to the past has spurred dreams about the future. He hopes to open two more “fairy tale” patisseries. In the meantime, patrons animatedly chat with Eleonora about concocting a strudel crust coated with melted butter, and seek out more than baking advice from Ivan.

The Best Fritters In Split
The Best Fritters In Split

“People know I have a big heart like a bus, that I know all about love,” says Matić proudly, keenly eying his oven to make sure the dough bakes for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.

“I tell them that love goes through the stomach first. Eating fine food, it is one of the ways to seduce a woman, and to maintain love beloved woman is smiling and happy, and I always want to see her that way. I want to treat my guests to the same beautiful experience, to eat deliciously, and to love each other.”

Now that people are increasingly flocking to Guluzarije, Ivan thoroughly enjoys seeing people laugh with every flavorful bite of his strudel. Their smiles are making him—and Eleonora-even more committed to offering “absolute perfection.”

“Pastries are happiness, so here dough is our love,”says Eleonora. “When I prepare cakes I am transported to a different dimension, another state of mind. I am happily divorced from reality.”

It’s a wondrous realm both of these bakers want to share with each of their strudel lovers.

Goluzarija Joyful Team
Best Regards From Goluzarija Joyful Team!

 

Šibenik

The strange disappearance of Brad Pitt

Asked if she had seen Brad Pitt, the waitress in the Fafarinka cafe just looked at me as if I was crazy.

Šibenik Archipelago Dalmatia Croatia The best beaches
Šibenik Archipelago

“A man told me Pitt, the actor, had been here, have you seen him?” I continued, waiting for the waitress to put my ice cream on the table, and to stop staring at me as if I had been out in the sun too long.”

“He’s disappeared, has he been here, to Šibenik?”

Still looking amazed, the waitress  responded, “I like him, he is an interesting person, but nothing special. He is blond, I don’t like this kind of man. I prefer black-haired ones, tall with muscles. They are very seductive.”

What a revelatory moment! Now this woman’s deepest love life secrets were being revealed to me. She started to laugh, but I was no closer to solving the mystery.

Šibenik
Visit Šibenik

After Brad Pitt had visited the Croatian coastal city of Šibenik a few years ago, the rumors and speculation swirled. TV reports. Newspaper stories. Everyone was abuzz here and in the neighboring beach towns.

Brad Pitt, the winner of last year’s Oscar for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, was considering investing in a beachfront, 800 million Euros tourist-residential complex that would transform the outskirts of Šibenik.

The area was divine, a rather undiscovered retreat known as the “gateway to the Kornati islands”—a place for discovering Adriatic lobsters, fine wines, and secret coves with crystal white sand.

Šibenik Archipelago Dalmatia Croatia The best beaches
Šibenik Archipelago

But Pitt was not just scouting lovely and secluded area beaches like Tijat, Zmajan, and Žirje where swimming with the fishes in the transparent sea is bewitching—or savoring the homemade chocolate ice cream with hazelnuts at Fafarinka.

According to the gossip, unproven stories circulating among the townspeople, Pitt wasn’t just thinking about real estate. It was rumored that he had fallen under the spell of a Croatian beauty.

“Yes Pitt was here, it was interesting because of  the rumors, that he had found a real secret gem in Šibenik, real secret,” laughs Fabijano Baranović, the manager at the luxurious King Krešimir Heritage Hotel.

Heritage Hotel King Krešimir The best hotel in Šibenik
Heritage Hotel King Krešimir Šibenik

Handing me a menu and insisting, “We make special dishes from black pigs in Lika, pig medallions, prosciutto, and sausages are our specialties.” A true pig lover, he finally adds, “gossip, gossip, we made fun of discussing Pitt’s feelings.”

But despite Baranović’s ardent passion for pig sausages, the mystery still lingered—where was the elusive actor? Could he be at the Michelin-starred Pelegrini restaurant famed for its’ lamb and veal dishes? Or would he be found admiring the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gothic cathedral, or just strolling through Šibenik’s charming winding streets?

Not finding any clues, I headed to Zablaće, a seemingly-endless white beach about 5 km. from Sibenik. Dotted with stunning villas, it is just the storybook type of escape mega-investors could be attracted to.

“Have you seen Brad Pitt here?” I asked a swimmer. “You know, the actor, the blond in Ocean’s Eleven with George Clooney?”

“Brad Pitt? No, I didn’t see him.”

“That’s a pity,” I sympathized. “He might be interested in talking to you. Maybe you could tell him where to find an authentic locally-prepared Šibenik lunch.”

“HaHa, meet me? He’s a big movie star. He likes the best restaurants, not meals in my simple home.”

Pelegrini restaurant Šibenik The best restaurant in Šibenik
Pelegrini Restaurant Šibenik

I moved on. Maybe I could find another sunbather who had seen this very socially-conscious Hollywood heartthrob.

Only receiving some more astonished looks, I returned to Šibenik, questioning my detective skills.

To boost my spirits, I stopped at Koka, a clothing shop near the famed St. Jakov cathedral.

After admiring the dresses, I had to ask, “Have you seen Brad Pitt? A woman told me that he had been here. That he bought a dress here.”

The owner looked confused, and gave me another of those unsettling looks that suggested I was mad. I feigned a smile, but before I left, a well-dressed woman looked straight at me, and said, “Of course I saw him. I came here to buy a lovely dress just for him.”

“What?” I could only mutter.

“That’s right. I must look beautiful!He’s at my home now. I am going to make lunch for him, shrimp and mussels.”

It was now my turn to be dumbfounded. Speechless for a few seconds, I finally summoned the courage to ask, “And what will the side dish be?”

Typical of the welcome awaiting visitors to Šibenik, the woman quickly laughed.

“Me! What do you think? Me!”

Thanks a lot for collaboration and photos to:

Tourist Board Šibenik, Heritage Hotel King Krešimir, Koka Boutique,

Pelegrini Restaurant, Farfarinka Cafe, Ms. Jasenka Ramljak, Ms. Brankica Dominis Mišić

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

 

split dalmatia croatia

        Split continues to be enjoyed for its’ high-voltage

Beware, once seduced by the floral scents and “secret recipe” sensations, temptation quickly takes over. It’s all too easy to feel bewitched, even helpless.

Marinko Biškić made one-ton chocolate bar
Marinko Biškić made one-ton chocolate bar

Casting a spell that promises only joy and playfulness,   Marinko Biskić, a former Guinness World Record holder, boasts a special gift. In Nadalina, his pint-sized Split boutique, this artisan meticulously and zealously creates hand-crafted pleasures—chocolates infused with lavender, rosemary, fig and olive oil.

“They are love and passion,” extols Biskić, standing behind a counter filled with pralines and chocolate bars. Ardently discussing how his concoctions are made from the choicest Peruvian and Domincan Republic cocoa beans, he continues, “We are the only ones in Croatia to roast the beans, to not use ready-made chocolate. We mix spices, sage, anise…always experimenting with new flavors, to me chocolate is for the palate and the soul.”

Mirroring Biskić’s infectious enthusiasm, a wild and artistic bent that compelled him to celebrate Nadalina’s 25th anniversary by producing a 101 sq. meter, one ton chocolate bar, Split is similarly mischievous, unpredictable and exciting. Unlike that devoured chocolaty slab (which was the Guinness record holder in 2015), Split continues to be enjoyed for its’ high-voltage, adrenaline-fueled nightlife, partying and festivals, especially the Ultra Europe music fest.

Always throbbing with laser lights shows and cocktail extravaganzas, Split has had a pronounced BUZZ ever since Roman Emperor Diocletian sought refuge on these sun-caressed, Adriatic shores in A.D. 295. He built a must-see palace (a UNESCO World Heritage site stuffed with treasures), along with a labyrinth of bedeviling cobblestoned passageways—and to appreciate strolling,  first find some sustenance.

At Krafne kod Mate—where marmalade, vanilla creme, or chocolate donuts are artfully baked by Mate Bajamić. Using only choice flour, he insists donuts “expressing love” can only be made by bakers “coming to work in a joyful mood.” So feel the energy in this minute space, and discover that the chocolate donuts are pure happiness.

Arterija brings other types of dazzling pleasures. Located inside the palace, this bold, cutting-edge “concept store” attracts modish fashionistas hoping to find attention-grabbing necklaces and earrings, simple yet provocative and unconventional dresses. Here there is a powerful, even defiant feminine aesthetic—and under the ownership of Gorana Gulišija, “fashion is passion.”

Arterija Shop

Instead of breaking with tradition, the Uje Deli Shop pays tribute to the past, particularly Croatia’s rich  agricultural heritage. Besides offering a dizzying array of locally-sourced olive oils—there are savory, golden-green varieties from Hvar and Brac—Uje boasts an abundance of carefully-curated wines from Dalmatia to Istria, Slavonija and Zagorje. Enjoy one of them with some sardines and the shop’s famed anchovy pie.

Adjacent to the Diocletian Palace, the always-thronged Bokeria Kitchen & Wine offers its’ own alluring specialties. Here the vibe is decidedly young and casual, and the gastronomic flourishes from the bruschetta to the grilled octopus and swordfish are a wonderful mix of Croatian and Mediterranean influences. The Red Roga, a type of pepper with minced meat and creamy mashed potato must also be savored. It’s divine!

Bokeria Kitchen&Wine Bar
Bokeria Kitchen&Wine Bar

So is Dvor Restaurant.

Dvor Restaurant

Commanding views of Solta and Brac islands from its intimate outdoor terrace, the serene, highly-acclaimed Dvor is a Michelin Guide favorite. This restaurant/bar is surrounded by towering pine and tamarisk trees, and its’ very diverse menu also reaches flavorful heights. Especially the seabass pate, freshly-baked olive bread, the mushroom risotto, fish dishes wrapped and roasted in salt, and of course, the fudgy and heavenly chocolate lava cake. It’s a taste Explosion!

But Split’s delights never seem to end. There’s also Os Kolač, Tea Mamut’s pastry shop that is renowned throughout Croatia for its’ green violet cake made with pistachios and blueberries. Every bite of this sweet-sweetie is a thrill, and the same can be said about her vanilla and chocolate cream cakes.

Oš’ kolač – Pastry shop

They sparkle, just like Split!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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