HEALTH RULES FOR ENTERING CROATIA

Croatia is following EU measures related to COVID19 that apply to United Kingdom as well.

If you come from areas declared “green” there are no restrictions.

If you come from other areas, you must present one of the following 3 elements:

A COVID test carried out within 48 hours

A certificate that you have recovered from COVID19

A vaccination certificate

To facilitate your passage, it is also recommended to fill in the entry form to Croatia on the website . of the Croatian police:

https://entercroatia.mup.hr/

For further information, we invite you to consult the site:

https://reopen.europa.eu/en  if you come from UE countries where you can entrer your country of departure and your destination.

https://mup.gov.hr/uzg-covid/english/286212 if you come from other countries as United Kingdom, Canada, United States…

To return to your country of origin, you must also check the measures on the site of your ambassy or if you come from UE countries you can check on the site https://reopen.europa.eu/en

STAFE STAY IN CROATIA

Croatia received in March 2021 the SAFE STAY label attesting that since the start of the pandemic, the country has instored all the necessary measures for a stay in the best possible sanitary conditions guaranteeing the safety of travelers. For more information, we invite you to visit the site:

https://www.safestayincroatia.hr/en

Since April 15, a wave of vaccination for the staff of tourist structures has been initiated.

SVETI VLAHO / SAINT BLAISE

Saint Blaise or Sveti Vlaho has been the patron saint of Dubrovnik since the 10th century. In the year 972, he appeared in a dream to a local priest to warn of an attack of Venice, Dubrovnik’s great rival for control over the Adriatic Sea. The city was thus saved. Since Saint Blaise protects the city and is celebrated every February 3 until today.

This moment is very important for the city-state Dubrovnik because it obtains not only its own bishopric but also its own archbishopric, which is a great sign of independence in the Middle Ages. A new saint marks a new political era. As he was a martyr, Saint Blaise precisely conveys an image of freedom and free will.

The choice of Saint Blaise is strategic because it corresponds to the diplomatic and commercial positioning of Dubrovnik between the West and the East. Indeed, Saint Blaise is a saint whose cult is widespread throughout the Mediterranean, from Minor Asia to western Europe.

Saint Blaise lived in the 3rd century AD in Sebaste in Cappadocia in the first Christian state. Coming from a wealthy family, he studied medicine. He treated both humans and animals. His great miracles are to have saved a child who was choking on a fish bone and to bring back a piglet led by a wolf. It was for his first feat that he became the protector against sore throats. On February 3, the inhabitants of Dubrovnik have their throats blessed by the priests who place two candles arranged in a cross around their necks.

He was martyred by being flayed alive with a wool comb. This instrument has become one of its symbols. Thus, Saint Blaise also protects the shepherds and the flocks. In many towns in France, cattle were blessed on Saint Blaise’s Day. Here we find a strong parallel with the ancient Slavic mythology where Volos, god of shepherds and prosperity, was venerated. Moreover, the word Volos has evolved to give Vlaho, the Croatian word for Blaise. Due to the mountainous configuration, the inhabitants of the interior of the Balkans were traditionally shepherds.

Saint was introduced in France by the Benedictine nursing monks, first along the valley of the Rhône, then in Lorraine, Burgundy and Alsace. It was always linked to the protection of flocks, the work of wool and medicine. We find traces of the cult of Saint Blaise in Milly la Forêt and in Orléans. It was particularly popular during the Great Plague in the 14th century.

The city of Dubrovnik boasts many relics of its saint, including his skull. On Saint Blaise’s day a mass takes place in Dubrovnik Cathedral, that ends with a procession with the relics. The inhabitants of all the territories around Dubrovnik still come today to parade in traditional costume in the old town decorated with laurel garlands. It is a magnificent celebration rich in emotions and colours.

 

 

 

COVID19 ASSESSMENT – EXCURSION IN THE VALLEY OF SAMOBOR AND PLEŠIVICA – BACK TO LIFE

The situation related to the COVID19 pandemic has been developing positively in Croatia since the start of the year. During Christmas Holidays Croatia has experienced movement restriction by region. Christmas school holidays lasted 3 weeks. Gatherings were limited. Cafes and restaurants were closed. Shows and cultural events were prohibited. The movement restriction by region ended on January 4th. At the start of the school year, on January 11th, only small classes up to level 4 were open, the other classes were held remotely online. Since then the situation has been improving with small localized waves. In February schools up to the baccalaureate opened. However, health institutions follow regional realities and close schools in the most affected areas. Cinemas and museums are open. Sports halls and the terraces of restaurants and cafes opened on March 1st. The size restriction for cruise ships in ports has been lifted. The return to “normal” with the opening of cafes and restaurants is scheduled for the month of March, so for Easter Croatia will be ready to receive its visitors without any other limitation than the obligation of a PCR test at the entry into the country, wearing a mask and distancing rules in closed spaces and transport. Discussions are underway to organize tests at the airports themselves. Thanks to its rapid interventions and adapted measures, Croatia has proven to be one of the safest destinations in Europe since the onset of the disease.

My wife, her cousin and I took advantage of the open terraces to take a nice hike around the Okić fortress in the West of Zagreb. Mountains peaks are still covered with snow. After a sunny hike with beautiful views of Zagreb and the start of the Pannonian plain, we drove a scenic road to the village of Plešivica, famous for its viticulture. A winegrower’s restaurant welcomed us on its terrace overlooking the wine-growing hills and plains, a splendid landscape. The village is known for its sparkling wines and its fruity red wine called Portugizac. So, a glass of sparkling wine opened the lunch, then a boletus mushroom soup, followed by a deer stew accompanied by Portugizac. To end the day, we went to the baroque main square of Samobor to taste a Kremšnita, a mille-feuille cake filled with whipped cream, a recipe classified as a protected Croatian heritage. A delight that will rejoices the whole family! The place was very lively. After all the restrictions related to COVID19 it is very pleasant to finally be able to return to a restaurant and see the cafes terraces full in a public square, to see cultural and social life start again …

 

 

 

 

 

HOW I DISCOVERED THE NATIONAL PARK VELEBIT

I was on the road at the end of July 2017. I left Zagreb for Dubrovnik. It took me 2:30 to get to the highway’s junction Bosiljevo, which takes usually 1:00, because of the touristic traffic jam – this was in the era BC (Before Corona) when the traffic jams existed. Outside, the sun hit with more than 30 degrees Celsius. Even with the air condition in the car, I was already well cooked.

I went south at last entering in the mountains of the Lika region. The radio announced a traffic jam of 12 kilometers at the tunnel Sveti Rok, that marks the end of the plateau and the entrance in the coastal region of Dalmatia. I was at the level of Otočac, a town that I know being nearby the national park of Velebit mountain range.

I took the exit almost instinctively, as called by nature. I was eager for freshness, to get out of this metallic oven on wheels, which I am closed in, in the same position, for hours. My original plan was to have a walk then continue the trip to Dubrovnik, when the heats went down, and the road was cleared.

The park is well indicated from the exit of the highway, so my plan seemed to be achievable without hitches. Only the road became more and more narrow as I drove on it. Nevertheless, it crossed small, picturesque villages with mountain houses. I was not Switzerland with perfect sceneries, but the authenticity, the simplicity that flew from them offered a refreshing contrast. I crossed mountain passes opening on majestic valleys while the Velebit mountain range came closer… but slower than I expected. I thought it was closer. Or it was the road with serpentines that gave this impression to me.

I reached the entrance of the Velebit national park, paid the ticket and the ranger informed me that I should still drive on a road without asphalt to get to the parking at the beginning point. What an adventure, here I am doing a Rallye in the forest! When I stopped, all my body was shaking for 5 more minutes. However, the pure air abashed me right away.

 

I walked on the renowned track of the forestry engineer Premužić, the great attraction of the park. I first crossed nice forests. I breathed deeply. But when I entered in the stony context, I was so fascinated, that I lost control. It was so beautiful that I could not stop trekking on the track. It passed around dolmens which surfaces were carved by water. Around me, forest covered mountains spread to the horizon. The path is a human achievement, snaking between the rocks. The rocky summits caught my sight, playing with the sea and the islands of the Kvarner Bay. I was on high mountains and admired maritime landscapes, fantastic! Everything was so wonderful that I could not cease to go farther to discover more of this savage landscape. I was feeling one with nature.

 

I finally came to the wooden hut Rossieva Koliba, fully equipped for overnight. Two young men from the coastal city of Senj got ready to sleep in it. I had a talk with them, and they gave me a little water. By luck, because I moved on the tack with no equipment and begun to be quite thirsty.

Up to this point, I still stuck to my plan: I thought to take the road for Dubrovnik in the night. The young men informed me however, that there were one or two pensions in the Krasno village at the foot of the Velebit, that I crossed coming here. I could get food and accommodation. One of them told me that their cheeses are excellent. The word echoed deeply in my ears and my stomach. I realized that as I was thirsty, I was also hungry. I totally forgot myself, transported by the beauty.

 

I returned on this magnificent track. I did more distance than I thought. Night was falling when I reached the car. Again, the off-road part to the exit that finished me. I felt the assaults of weariness. While I was thinking that I was no more in shape to carry on with a 6 hours drive (in normal time), a doe crossed the road just in front off me, forcing me to brake suddenly. My heart beating, I decided to stay in the village if I found an accommodation.

In the village, the first inn recalled to the Yugoslavia times that got old without investment. They could give a meal to me but had no rooms for overnight. However, a little bit farther, there is the Jure pension.

The family that welcomed me in the Jure pension was charming. They had a bed for me and no problem for eating. It is the grandma that cooks and the has a specialty: burger filled with local cheese. When this one landed in front of me: it took all the plate. The French fries were on a tray on the side. As for the Velebit, it was gorgeous, and I could not stop the “degustation”. I ordered another one, entering in the home legend. Since then, I get a double portion every time I get back there.

 

After having a belly full of food and drink, I spent one of the best nights since a long time ago, rocked by the deep silence and the restorative freshness.

From then on, I come back regularly in the Velebit mountain range to connect to wild nature, far away from everything. Each season has a particular magic. From the flowers covered mountains after the melting of the snow at the end of April – beginning of May…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to the explosions of colors of the forest in autumn.

 

Roger

RESOURCING GETAWAY ON HVAR

The year 2020 caused a great stress, more important than in normal touristic seasons. Le fight of COVID is mainly to remain clear in the mind. Because of the fear of the second wave and especially because of the cancellation game of the airline companies, a great number of groups booked for autumn were cancelled. My wife also closed the restaurant she is holding with her brother before the usual time.

She and I turned on the car and left Dubrovnik for the island of Hvar for 4 days. Even if we passed mid-September, temperatures were above 30 degrees Celsius. The sea was clear, hot, delicious as always on the islands and at the end of the season.

Not knowing what to expect, we preferred to go before all the restaurants and coffees close because of the fall of the number of visitors. Even in normal time, the season is shorter on the islands.

We got on the island using the ferry boat from Drvenik, on the continent, to Sućuraj at the East of the island. We crossed the island by car, and I was happy to see that the roads improved. The East is flat with savage landscapes. It is the low altitude of a great part of the island that explains its appellation of “the sunny island”. The clouds do not snag on it, causing few precipitations. The road is quite narrow to the village Jelsa, crossing vineyards, olive trees fields and authentic tiny villages. From Jelsa on, the terrain is hillier and more various.

We decided to discover first the Zavala Beach, looking at the South. Indeed, the North wind, bura, was blowing. We wanted to protect from it. The crossing of the Hvar mountains goes by an
impressing tunnel, that enables to reach this part of the island. On the side of the main beach with a coffee, we found a micro-beach just for two, looking at the islands Šćedro and Korčula. In our back, dominated the Hvar mountains. A magnificent scenery. So began our well-deserved rest. Beautiful gravel beach and picnic.

Our accommodation was the villa Mališko, situated in Hvar itself, at the Bonj beach, at 10 minutes’ walk to the center along a nice promenade. The balcony offered a splendid view on the Pakleni Otoci archipelago. This superb apartment was spacious, the owner very nice.

In the evening, we visited Hvar, a charming dalmatian city with stone palaces. Most of the bars, that do the celebrity of its night life, were open and animated. We were positively impressed to see that the city was lively with travelers from France, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, England, America … also an important number of Croats, even if school had already begun. A quiet, light atmosphere swayed on the city instead of the usual intense tourism. Those who travel this year have really an exceptional opportunity. The only positive point of this situation. We dined a grilled fish plate in the courtyard of the restaurant Paladini. Ideal intimate mood.

The next day, we took a small wooden line boat to get to the island of Palmižana, an island in the spirit of the elite tourism that is promoted in Hvar, with a sandy beach surrounded by restaurants. It is part of the Pakleni Otoci archipelago, just in front of Hvar. The small cruise lasted about 30 minutes. The bay was full of yachts. After a lunch of pasta with seashells and shrimps, we settled to sunbath. The borders of the bay are full of urchins, witnesses of the purity of the sea, so it is better to stick to the beach. The music, the comings and goings of the transfer zodiacs and the party makers on their yachts created a dynamic, eclectic, and joyful atmosphere. On the way back, we met the brother of my wife with his family and friends, who also came on Hvar by chance, at the famous Hvar beach club Ula Ula, at 2 minutes’ walk from our apartment. When they left, we starred at the magnificent sunset sitting on long chairs. Dreamful… with a cocktail for madame and a glass of wine for my humble self.

The next day was dedicated to the sightseeing of the delightful village Jelsa on the North side of the island. Then, we went for swimming and relaxing in the neighbor bay Vrbosko. The sea water was turquoise with magical light effects. The flat rocks permitted an easy access, so everybody could find its peace area.

Delighted, at the beginning of the evening, we went to the beautiful village Pitve. It seemed like an organized chaos of old typical stone houses, in the inland of the island. After a stroll in the curved streets, we dined in the famous rural restaurant Duboković: octopus salad, then grilled lamb with vegetables and potatoes with rosemary. Prices were affordable and the quantity fabulous. A delight to lick your fingers.

The last day, we did a last walk in the city of Hvar. We took the ferry boat in Starigrad to Split, where we finished our week-end with an activity that is not recognized in the world of sports : shopping.
Back to reality.

5 (très très) BONNES RAISONS DE VENIR EN CROATIE :

La mosaïque de petits terroirs et d’identités marquées (et jalousement préservées) que compose la Croatie se ressent naturellement aussi dans sa cuisine riche, abondante et très variée avec de fortes originalités qui surprendrons assurément même les palets les plus fins. La Croatie est un pays qui se déguste !

LA REGION CONTINENTALE DE ZAGREB : LE LUNGIC, ESCALOPE DE PORC ROULEE, FARCIE AU JAMBON FUME ET FROMAGE AVEC ŠTRUKLA (FEUILLETE AU FROMAGE BLANC)

Pour commencer dans la joie et la bonne humeur, nous vous recommandons un verre de mousseux rouge de la sorte autochtone Portugizec, un goût léger et fruité qui fait la fierté du pays. Le Portugizec pousse sur un terroir particulier constitué d’amphithéâtres aux pentes accentuées et argileuses offrant un micro climat qui fait sa particularité.

 

La région de Zagreb ouvre sur les plaines pannoniennes connues pour leurs grands domaines agricoles et viticoles. Nous vous recommandons de commencer par le Kulen, salami au poivron rouge et piment typique de Slavonie, la région continentale à l’Est du pays avec un bon verre de vin blanc Traminac, typique de la région.

Ensuite, revenons vers Zagreb pour déguster un Lungic, une escalope de porc roulée et farcie avec du jambon et du fromage avec un bonne sauce aux ceps. Pour l’accompagner, ne manquez pas les Štrukli, très original, il s’agit de poches de pâte feuilleté au fromage blanc cuites au four nageant en sauce blanche. Pourquoi pas avec une bière artisanale issue d’une microbrasserie…

En dessert, dégustons une spécialité de la ville Samobor, à l’Ouest de Zagreb : la Kremšnita. Il s’agit d’une sorte de mille-feuille local dont la mousse doit être pratiquement liquide et fondante dans la bouche…

 

LA PENINSULE DE L’ISTRIE : LE BŒUF BOŠKARIN GRILLE AU FEU DE BOIS AVEC DES FUŽIS A LA TRUFFE

 

L’Istrie est connue pour ses vins, notamment le vin rouge Teran poussant sur la côte méditerranéenne, son espèce de bœuf autochtone : le Boškarin, ses pâtes enroulées nommées Fuži (on sent la proximité de l’Italie) mais surtout pour les truffes. Les forêts de chêne au centre de lapéninsule, autour de ses anciens villages fortifiés comme Buzet ou Motovun, abondent en truffes noires et blanches. D’ailleurs la plus grosse truffe au monde fut trouvée à Motovun avec 1,3 kg.

Nous vous recommandons de découvrir l’Istrie comme elle l’est : avec deux visages, un qui regarde vers la mer, l’autre vers la montagne Učka.

En entrée, régalez-vous d’asperges sauvages au fromage blanc des montagnes ou en omelette, nommée Kajgan. Ensuite, nous vous recommandons un bon filet de Boškarin grillé au feu de bois avec des Fuži, le tout flottant dans une sauce aux truffes. Parfumé d’un bon Teran du littoral, c’est un délice inoubliable !

 

LES MONTAGNES DINARIQUES : LE VEAU ET L’AGNEAU CUITS A L’ETOUFFEE SOUS LA CLOCHE

 

Les paysages de la côte croate sont constitués de montagnes se jetant directement dans la mer. Cette configuration génère de forts vents, idéale pour le séchage du jambon, qui est aussi salé deux fois au cours de ses 9 mois de séchage et légèrement fumé. Nous vous suggérons donc après l’apéritif traditionnel d’eau de vie de marc de raisin aux herbes aromatiques et figues sèches, un plat de jambon fumé nommé Pršut avec du fromage de l’île de Pag.

L’île de Pag présente un phénomène particulier : les vents générés par les montagnes dinariques soulèvent des embruns dont le sel va brûler la végétation des îles. Dans ces contextes pratiquement rocailleux, seules quelques plantes aromatiques pionnières survivent. Les bergers y laissent paître leurs troupeaux ainsi le lait et la viande sont naturellement imprégnées par les herbes et le sel. Le fromage de l’île de Pag est mondialement reconnu. A ne pas manquer !

Attention, vous allez maintenant découvrir une grande originalité avec la cuisine sous la cloche : les viandes de veau et d’agneau avec des pommes de terre sont posées sur une assiette en métal, le tout sur un lit de braise et recouvert d’une cloche en métal avec un anneau permettant de maintenir les braises sur celle-ci. Le tout cuit durant 3 heures à l’étouffée. Les aliments deviennent croustillants en surface mais fondant à l’intérieur. Le mêt arrosé du bon petit vin local glisse sur le palais pour un plaisir total… c’est un vrai régal!

LE LITTORAL MEDITERRANEEN : HUITRES MEDITERANNENNES, MOULES CUITES A LA BUZZARA ET RISOTTO A L’ENCRE DE SEICHE

 

Allons maintenant tout dans le sud du pays, dans la région de la merveilleuse Dubrovnik. Ce terroir est un des rares en Méditerranée à avoir conservé l’huître d’origine. Sans omettre de louer ses vertus aphrodisiaques, elle se couple agréablement à un verre de blanc du territoire viticole de la presqu’île de Pelješac.

Sur la côte, les poissons grillés baignés d’huile d’olive à l’aïl et au persil et les fruits de mer dominent la cuisine. Je vous suggère de faire passer les huîtres avec des moules cuites à la façon buzzara (un fond d’huile d’olive, de l’aïl et des herbes, en s’ouvrant les moules donnent l’eau de la sauce).

Ensuite un risotto à l’encre de seiche ou un plat de langoustes constituerait une bonne confirmation pour ce festin de roi annonçant une bonne sieste.

Et pour la touche finale sucrée : la rozata, une crème caramel à l’eau de rose.

Pour bien digérer ce met, venez avec moi dans les vignes du Dingač, vin rouge comptant parmi les plus renommés du pays. Son cépage se trouve sur les versants abrupts de la presqu’île de Pelješac, directement en bord de mer. Il profite ainsi d’un triple ensoleillement avec la lumière directe, la réverbération sur les graviers dont le sol est couvert pour conserver l’humidité en été et la réverbération sur la mer. A l’ombre d’une gloriette, bercé par les vagues et les violons des cigales, la sieste s’annonce bien.

ET POURQUOI PAS GOUTER LA RICHESSE CULTURELLE DES BALKANS AVEC UN FESTIN EN BOSNIE ET HERZEGOVINE : FEUILLES DE VIGNES, OIGNONS ET POIVRONS FARCIS AVEC DES ĆEVAPČIĆI

 

Jouez la carte de la multiculturalité en faisant un saut chez nos voisins proches en Bosnie et Herzégovine avec un monde complètement différent et une cuisine aux influences orientales.

En entrée, nous vous suggérons une pita aux légumes.

Ensuite, un plat varié avec des feuilles de vignes, oignons et poivrons farcis et les rouleaux de viande hachée aux herbes au grill : les fameux ćevapčići ! Un monument de culture gastronomique à ne pas manquer.

Et pour finir, ne manquez pas le célèbre gâteau aux noix et miel : Baklava avec bien sûr, un café à la turque avec un Lokum (pâte de fruits sucrée). Sans oublier une bonne pipe de tabac local pour participer en douceur au délicat processus de digestion… qu’il ne faut surtout pas perturber.

Mais ces terres recèlent encore de nombreuses raisons de venir les découvrir…

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