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!

Rescuing the Bones of Prehistoric Bear and Deer

A year ago, my friend Tonči Radja of “Špiljar” speleology club, informed me of a very curious find in one of the pits of Biokovo. Unlike something he has ever seen, he found complete skeletons of bear and deer at the bottom of one hard to reach pit near Biokovsko selo.

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Snow on Biokovo

To get the bones out and to finance research, we were asked for some funds but had to wait till November to make the donation. It is not a big donation but every little helps in the situation when our economy is struggling. So, after we made a donation, all that was left was to set the date for action!

The day chosen was Sunday, December 10th and we met in Split till the entire crew gathered. It was a good day for practice for younger members of “Špiljar”, too! The pit Zovine is about 60 meters (cc 180 ft) deep with a small lake at the bottom. It is REALLY difficult to find it without a guide!

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Meeting point

The entire terrain is extremely inhospitable and difficult but, at some point in time, people lived even here. At least for some part of the year while there was pasture.

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Abandoned hut

Once we were all the meeting point and everyone who would be going down was ready, we headed into the woods.

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Not exactly a forest but a labyrinth of thin trees and limestone rock formations, deep pits and small amphitheaters. Basically, the terrain is very difficult to move through and you really have to know where you are going and have a local guide to get to the pit.

 

Which is good. As the pit is hard to notice and fairly easy to fall into if coming from a different direction.

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The pit

Once at the location, the group set all the gear and ropes and assigned the roles and sequence who is going first, second…and so on.

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The pit is also great for training young crew so there was a number of beginners with us. There is also a small lake at the bottom and I wish I am able to get down. It did not take long, for the rest of the team, to get to the bottom and soon, the first remains started coming up. There were 5 full bags with bones of both animals quite nicely preserved.

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Next stop was Biokovsko selo where we were supposed to meet with the biologists from the Museum of Natural History of Split.

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Biokovsko selo

This is a tiny hamlet with only few inhabitants left. The traces of hard life are evident everywhere. Closed doors that open rarely.

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And soon we all met in front of our host’s place to show what was found and for biologists to pack it properly and send for analysis and conservation.

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The finds were extraordinary according to biologists! Apparently, at least 10 000 years old but a proper dating and analysis are needed. Quite proud that we enabled this and hope to be able to help even more in the future.

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Deer antlers
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Bear scull and jaw

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It was an exciting day and a proper way to finish this successful operation was to have a small party at our host’s home. It does not go without grilled meat prepared the classic way.

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And it was great to see our host’s pride and joy!

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The sun slowly set behind Biokovo. In this part of Zagora (hinterland), days are short as massive Biokovo casts a long shadow… Shadow that will soon very few notice.