Olive Groves of Modrave

One of the last untouched parts of our coastline is beautiful Modrave region between Drage and Pirovac villages in North Dalmatia.          modraveblog008

Historically, this area belongs to the people of Murter Island (since 1880) and it is known as one of the largest olive groves in the country. However, originally, this was the area known for its vines who were all taken out and olive trees were planted. The area is long 8,5 Km and wide between 750 meters and 3,1 km. It is the only area in the country that has shores on the lake (Vransko jezero lake) and on the Adriatic sea making it a very special and valuable natural preserve.

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Today, only about 5% of the olive trees are cared for of 200 000 estimated trees in the region.modraveblog003

Today, Modrave look like a maze seen from above due to an intricate network of dry stone walls, piles of rock and narrow, ancient trails.

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The area has several small harbors that kept locals safe during the bad weather and the huts were open to all who needed a shelter. They were often used by the sponge divers from Krapanj as well and several of them now are set up for accommodating guests and there is also a small and charming restaurant La Spuž in the largest bay with several buoys.

modraveblog011modraveblog004Aggressive nature of tourism and greed almost moved in heavy machinery to build a resort or, even worse, cheap apartment buildings but that was stopped thanks to the effort of the locals from Murter and Betina aware of the beauty of their heritage.

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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.

European bee-eater in Croatia

There are quite a few lovely birds living year round (or in different seasons) in our region. The most beautiful – and most colorful of all European birds – European bee-eater (Merops Apiaster)  lives in numerous colonies near our coast. One such colony is found in the heart of Ravni Kotari region and is well known for it’s size and importance.

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European bee-eater resting

The colony is fairly strong and numbers over 30 couples. The number of bee-eaters grows stronger year after year in Croatia but it is still a protected species with about 900 USD fines for each bird killed… The bee-eaters can do a lot of damage to bee colonies so beekeepers try to keep their beehives away. Apparently, one bee-eater can eat up to 250 bees a day and they first remove the sting by beating the bee against the hard surface. Besides bees, that are usually only 1% of their diet, bee-eaters also feed on wasps, dragonflies and numerous other winged insects. According to some reports, they feed on bees mostly during cloudy days…

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Successful hunt

European bee-eaters are a migratory species and spend April to October nesting in Europe and rest of the year they spend in tropical Africa.

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Art by Aracana

Their nests are located in the sandy, easy to dig soil. The birds dig a long tunnel, in which they lay 5 -8- white eggs around the beginning of June. Both male and female care for the eggs for about three weeks.

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Nests (holes) of bee-eaters

The colony in Ravni kotari has dug hundreds of holes in the sandy soil but most of them are not in use. I still have to return before the end of their summer to see how strong the colony got over the summer. Pčelarica – how the bird is called locally – is one of the most beautiful birds and pure pleasure to photograph.

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Birds usually have only one partner during their lives

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The wonderful and bucolic settings of Ravni Kotari are a perfect home for this wonderful bird!

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