Eating like locals in Croatia

Many travelers ask us where to get true local dining experiences but we do not always offer nor suggest those places. Several reasons to that but main is that “normal” restaurant offer in Croatia is fairly plain and boring: meat and potatoes is what is all about. Many places also serve great grilled fish but that became too expensive for most locals in the recent years.

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Lamb on a spit with scallions, Torcida

Another reason is that the service is not always there so we prefer really nice places serving more imaginative dishes based on local traditions. Peka, lamb on a spit, grilled meat… this is most of the cuisine of the region served in the restaurants. Grilled fish I get better at my own gradele so I rarely eat it in the restaurants.

Of course, there are a lot of great places that are very popular with locals for the quality of food. Here, I will name just a few that I like to visit for consistent quality.

Torcida in Vrpolje near Šibenik is THE place for lamb on a spit. People from Split will argue that Klis is better but that is simply not true. Torcida rules and their home baked bread is another reason to stop or to make a detour. The place itself is nothing to write home about but the consistently great lamb is simply spectacular! Combine it with Velebitsko pivo and you will proper and authentic Croatian food experience to remember.

Next place I know I will have a good meal at is Propeti Poni (or the The Prancing Pony from LOTR) in Šibenik.

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Constant quality of their meat dishes, fast service and great selection of pre-cooked meals, make Propeti Poni one of my favorites.

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Tripe
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They used to have a great selection of international beer…

There are several great places in Split like Pimpinella near Firule hospital but I really like Ćiba. A friend of mine took me there last spring and as soon as I noticed the owner carrying a banana box full of home grown potatoes, I knew I found my local favorite.

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This place is known for its grilled dishes selection.

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Stuffed burger

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Most of these meat dishes are found in the entire region and are common all over the Balkans. Pljeskavica, čevapčići, ražnjići..all classics!

Besides these few places, I am regular for tripe at Veseljak in Sukošan as well as at Joso just across Skošan marina.

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Of course, these are just a few places in just one region but I will be adding more as the season approaches and we start exploring more places for our restaurant recommendations. As one can see, not very creative cuisine but surely seriously tasty dishes! Tastes worth exploring if you are interested in real local cuisine.

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Diomede’s Cape or Punta Planke

Two kilometers south-east of Rogoznica, near the village of Ražanj, Cape Planka (or Punta Planke as locally known) is located. This very unique spot is also known to be a a geographical and climate divider of the north and south Adriatic. It is a place of strong  collision of north and south winds and sea currents.

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Some of the biggest waves of the Adriatic crash there and it is really a great experience to see all those waves crash over the tiny warning sea light and spraying the salty sea dust over the chapel located there.

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It was jugo (wind blowing from the South – ESE to SSE)  in the forecast just around New Years when I headed from Split to visit and take some photos. One should just drive to Ražanj and head in the direction of this point to find a trail that will eventually end next to the chapel.

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http://loverogoznica.eu/

The Chapel of St. John is a protected site of national heritage. This is a very basic little chapel with no decorations mixing pre-Romanesque tradition with Romanesque and Gothic features. It is oriented East-West and is rectangular in shape with a semicircular apse. The interior is also very basic and is typical to our coast. It also served as a good shelter while I was there shooting 🙂

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One of the miracles attributed to the Christian saint John, the bishop of Trogir from the 11th century is related to Cape Planka. According to a local legend, after the shipwreck by Cape Planka he walked on the waves and saved the lives of King Koloman and all the sailors. In memory of him and his miracles, a votive chapel was built back in 1324.

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Behind the chapel
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I also managed to see a beautiful kestrel battling strong winds!

In the distance, beautiful lighthouse Mulo can be seen enduring massive waves.

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It was built in 1873 and it was continuously inhabited till most recent days when it was completely automatized. Generations of lighthouse keepers and their families lived at this very unique spot. Today, there is no one to listen to massive waves slamming against the walls…

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Cape Planka is also called  Diomede’s Cape as it was first mentioned in the oldest preserved descriptions of the eastern Adriatic coast. Homer, in his work ‘Iliad’ reveals that after the Trojan war Diomedes himself, who was one of the greatest Greek heroes of the Trojan war, sailed around it. A Greek historian Timaeus, as early as in 4th century BC described the unusual weather circumstances that surround this cape. This specific description of weather conditions over the Diomede’s Cape belongs to the oldest descriptions of a meteorology phenomena in all of Europe.

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Diomedes and Athena attacking Ares

Diomede’s Cape was also mentioned by Greek scholar Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC as well as Pliny the Elder in his ‘Naturalis Historia’, which was envisioned as a book about the whole natural world.

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Interesting history and a beautiful spot, Punta Planke is definitely worth visiting!

Lergina Gradina – Secret Dalmatia donation 2017

As our readers know, each year we donate funds to archaeology digs and last year, to a caving action saving bones of ancient bear and deer (https://secretcroatia.blog/2018/01/04/rescuing-the-bones-of-prehistoric-bear-and-deer/)
and our past funding made some serious discoveries few years back: https://secretcroatia.blog/2014/07/11/underwater-archaeology-in-croatia-with-secret-dalmatia/
This discovery is now fully supported by Ministry of Culture and local municipality but we still provide logistics support. It was time to move on and open some new stories.

So, when we asked where next, our friends recommended Lergina gradina near Slivnica: a tiny village just few miles from Posedarje in North Dalmatia.

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The fortress defense ring still visible

Why this hilltop and note some other? There are several hundred of hilltop towns in Croatia but this was convenient enough to Archaeology department of Zadar University we work with and it is also known that it has very little or almost no Roman traces on top of Liburnian settlement. A rare find!

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Velebit is just across the narrow channel

The gradina or hilltop fort, was a settlement or a refuge during the pre-roman period and some of them date back 4000 years. Most of the interesting ones are much younger and have been built by an ancient Liburinan tribe that lived in this area before Romans. After the Roman conquest, most of them were abandoned as people moved to towns during Pax Romana. Liburninas are still a mystery to us as very little is known about them. Very little written records, limited archaeology materials… so every excavation counts!

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The winter was very mild this past year so digging outdoors was simply a lot of fun. But also a lot of serious work. Students had a great practice in the field and abundance of great finds!

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Lergina gradina is a nicely preserved fortress of about 3,5 hectares in size and it had one section of really finely done carved rock wall. The wall was abandoned soon after it was started. Probably they all left for the city…

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Fine work on stone blocks for the wall
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The abandoned fine wall and later rough addition with some thorn branches to keep the sheep inside

The archaeologists excavated two ancient houses – better say remains – and found a plethora of really special finds:

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The seal on one of the amphora
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Amphora
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Carthage coin

There is a great number of coins from Carthage found on these shores of North Dalmatia and that is still a curiosity. Carthage always had horses on one side of their coins and there is a theory they got here through trade during Hanibal’s Second Punic War campaigns on Italian soil.

In general, lots of great finds and details on artifacts that will help give some answers but also give a lot of new questions!
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I got there just in time of the first break and the sheep were calmly eating grass among the students. Perfect harmony in a classical Dalmatian landscape.

So, this year we will repeat our donation for the same location as it seems that the archaeologists have found the chieftain’s home so it would be a pity not to explore it and see what stories newly dug artifacts will be telling us.