Sun, Sand and Colonia: Tales of Croatia

Hello Everyone!

Em here with my monthly blog! Can you believe it, it’s SEPTEMBER already! Where’s the summer gone? Let’s face it, we had a dragging, long Winter but we’ve had a pretty good Summer this year-compared to summers past!

I have to admit, Summer 2013 has been one of the best Summers I’ve had since at least 2007 back in the day when I was a littleton at 13 years old (oh the cliche memories of the past). Now, ever since I was a baby I have been on holiday, every summer for two weeks may that be in the-land-of-the-scones-Devon or surfing it up in Cornwall.

England is beautiful. People come travelling far and wide to see its beauty and I love travelling to the West Country; but sometimes one needs to spread their wings, (if you’ll excuse the pun) hop on that aeroplane and travel far away to somewhere warm, enticing and just somewhere with whole new adventures in sight and new experiences to discover!

I did just that.

This summer holiday was a whole new adventure for me. It was off to CROATIA for two weeks of intense heat, long nights on the beach and laying on the roof terrace watching the sun go down while relaxing with a good book and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I knew I would enjoy Croatia, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did!

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Flying high in the clouds. Don’t look down!

Admittedly, I was anxious as I’ve not been abroad since 2007 but I was ready to take on this experience. The flight was a breeze and took around two hours to fly to Croatia’s, second largest city of Split. The views as we were flying over Croatia were absolutely beautiful, so many small and unique islands which held so much beauty in their own ways- particularly a small island in the shape of a loveheart! The moment we stepped off the plane, the warm and moist air instantly hits you. You can smell the heat, feel the dampness on your skin as you step off the flying airbus packed in with as much air con that you can imagine! It was a welcoming sight, beautiful palm trees lined up in a row, the first glimces of stars beginning to show. It really was a pretty sight for our first few minutes in Croatia. We stayed on the island of Ciovo in an area called Okrug Gornji, which is small but just as beautiful!

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Got that Med feeling the moment you touch ground!

Undeterred, we made our way into the apartment to be welcomed by the Croat owner of the apartment with a selection of bread, cheese and salami! What I soon learned about Croatian bread, is that apparently Croats are renowned for their delicious fresh bread… Only to realise that a lot of their bread was sweet. It was certainly intresting having pizza with a sweet dough base!

The first thing I did stepping into the apartment was to gaze out over our private balcony at the most beautiful view ever of the Adriatic Sea; which was even more beautiful with the warm setting sun! That night after re-fuelling we went for a walk around the local area of Okrug Gornji, where we were staying. You know you’re abroad when you can walk round in shorts and t-shirt after midnight, it was beautiful and a great feeling! Really gave that Med-feeling, which I love and crave!

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Beautiful view from the balcony at sunset

 Where we were staying in Okrug Gornji it was practically situated at five minute walk to the beach, which we visited everyday if not twice a day. The sea was beautifully clear and oh, wow- did we take advantage of it! No day in Croatia was complete without swimming in the stunning Adriactic Sea, but beware of those pesky Sea Urchins… but we came prepared with beach shoes, which everyone on the beach was armed with! It was great swimming along the seabed, swimming in and around the fish and witnessing what was known as the ‘danger zones’ of the unseen colony of black sea urchins. Luckily, me and my family got through the whole holiday without directly stepping on these little balls of spiky evilness! Years ago, a friend stepped on an Urchin and ended up with 12+ spines in her foot! Ouch- wasn’t what I had planned for in Ciovo!

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Rocky, local beach in Okrug Gornji

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The hidden blue paradise.

My all time favourite part of Okrug Gornji was what I named the ‘Croatian Strip’. It’s a section along the beach which is full of open bars only a couple of feet off the warm sandy shingle. This is definitely the place to be for the young people, bar after bar after bar, along with individual food stands including Crepes and uniquely made swirly potato chips on a stick- very odd! We spent every night walking along the Strip, the atmosphere was brilliant! People dancing in the open bars, locals chatting, laughing and of course drinking! On thursday’s they had a small Croatian band performing in one of the more quieter bars, which was great to watch and rather funny at parts when people were really getting into this band! I felt a little out of place at times as a foreigner, who had no clue what this band was signing about! Croat is definitely an interesting langauge! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into this holiday as a total Brit, I did make some effort to learn the basics of Croatian including hello, please and thank you.

“Bog” – Hello

Dobar dan” – Good Afternoon

“Molim” – Please

“Hvala” – Thank you

I figuered I could survive two weeks with these basics in Croatian. Sometimes locals aknowledged our efforts in speaking their language but some of the time it wasn’t appreciated, unfortunately. Funnily enough, in one restaurent we visited a couple of times- the staff though we were French so only spoke French to us, which was rather amusing and my sister totally played along with it, while my parents were speaking in English and I was speaking (trying) in Croat. All of a sudden we were a multi-lingual family!

The first week we spent going on many walks around Okrug Gornji, as well as visiting the equally beautiful neighbouring town of Trogir. The unique thing about Croatia is that they have water taxis to get to and from each destination. I’m not the number 1 lover of boats but it was pretty cool going from one part of the island to the other via a boat as opposed to getting a real taxi or a bus. It was interesting looking at the other islands and mountains in the distance, along with the boat drivers playing authentic Croatian music- it really added to the feel of the whole experience!

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Travelling along the Adriatic Sea admiring the distant Islands.

I think Trogir was one of my favourite places that we visited during the holiday. The whole atmosphere really felt very Medditterean with multitudes of palm trees lined up along the harbour-side cafes, bars and restaurants! It was awesome, watching the locals dine at their favourite restaurant along the warm and sunny waterfront of Trogir.  We visted Trogir a couple of times while staying in Croatia. The whole setting was just so unique, with the natural stone pathways and small side streets filled with little boutiques- it was beautiful!

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The beautiful water front in Trogir

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Wandering lazily down the side steets in Trogir

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Yummy fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Couldn’t resist taking a snapshot of the beautifully, bright colours of the local produce!

 After a long day we’d spend the late afternoon/early evening on the beach in Okrug Gornji, with a cafe on the beach it was very relaxing- having a lazy swim for a couple of miles, then relaxing on the shingle with an ice, cold Coca-Cola with interesting Croatian names written on them- which I collected! Instead of sharing Coke’s with Emma or Sophie in England, I was sharing my daily Coca-Cola’s with ‘Frendica, Carica, and my most regular Coke-sharer ‘Iljepotica’. Certainly interesting and made Coca-Cola drinking all that more authentic in Croatia!

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Perfect partner by the sea

At the start of the second week we visited the second largest City in Croatia, called Splitska- or Split as the locals know it as. To get to Split we had to take a boat ride to Trogir, then take a connecting boat to Split, which took just over an hour (wasn’t too pleased about that). Once again, despite having a s trong dislike of boats- the views of distant Islands were stunning and made the nauseating swaying of the boat (just) about worth it.

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View of Splitska from the boat whilst travelling into the harbour.

The buildings in Split were very beautiful- tall, unique and quite grand! I could have spent hours and hours wandering in and around the small side streets admiring the buildings and archetecture of the City! They’re very big on their outdoor markets in Croatia, which I like looking round- especially at all the local produce and handmade jewellery! What was great about the market as well was the beautiful, under-estimated shade that was provided by the market shades of the individual stalls. Highest temperature whilst we were in Croatia was around 34 C degrees! As nice as the heat was, sometimes it did just get all too much and there was quite a bit of complaining over the intensity of the heat, so as you can imagine going to the beach at the end of the day was just pure heaven!

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Stunning buildings in the heart of Splitska

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Stunning view of Split whilst munching on the most delicious slice of Pizza made with fresh Croatian cheese and vine tomatoes.

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Enjoying the cool, lazy walks by the harbour in Split

Our day in Splitska mainly consisted of looking around the market, walking along the harbour looking at the beautiful views and the boats, munching on delicious food and relaxing in cafe’s filled with plenty of  locals, the odd British family here and there and beautiful, Croatian music playing in the background while a water fan is supplying a constant fresh breeze on your face as you sit and relax, whilst watching the population of Splitska go by. Unfortunately, it was soon time to wave goodbye to Split and hop back on the boat to go back to Orkug Gornji, while narrowly almost missing our connecting boat from Trogir back to Okrug! The welcoming sights of the Croatian Strip was awesome, the Strip to me really felt like home- it was beautiful, seeing the pretty fairy lights of the Strip light up as we approached the harbour in Okrug! Mind you, I think I was more happy getting off the boat than anything else, once again I reiterate- I. Don’t. Like. Boats.

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Watching the sunset from the boat on our way home from Splitska
Was a tourist attraction in itself!

So I’ve raved about the beautiful sights and places to vist in sunny Croatia, which really are stunning, but I’ve saved the best experience of the whole holiday ’till last, which am very excited to share… even though a lot of people are already quite fed up with me raving about this, but you all deserve to hear about it as it was one of the highlights of the holiday, if not certainly a highlight of my life!

Everyone loves music, weather it’s Rock music or Indie or Country…the list goes on but everyone simply loves music. I count myself very lucky that I was able to attend a gig in Croatia, situated in Okrug Gornji directly on the beach on the Croatian Strip, witnessing a Croatian Dance band called Colonia. I’m just going to come out and say it right now, Colonia are amazing! No, I don’t speak Croatian and yes I have no idea what they are singing but it was truly a one-of-a-kind experience to be dancing and singing along with over 300 Croatian locals on the beach, in 29 C degree weather! The vibe was just truly immense at this gig, and cheap too- it cost 40 Kuna to get in, which equals to £5 in English money. I would easily have payed triple that to see Colonia play!

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Probably one of the only decent shots I got of Colonia. Simply too much time spent dancing to get a good photograph!

Colonia are a dance music band who’ve been around since 1996 originating from Croatia. They’ve realased 27 singles and 9 albums with various albums have reached Platinum status. Obviously, I had no idea who Colonia were up until I kept seeing their gig posters around Okrug! I took a listen online and instantly fell in love with their feel-good dance tracks and knew I had to attend their gig! Thanks to my small height, I managed to squeeze in right to the front of the barrier which was awesome in the sense that I was so close to this band but not so great that I was so close that the lead singer’s (Indira) sweat could be felt dripping off from her onto the keen gig-goers.. but hey! No complaints here, it’s all part of the Croatian-gig-vibe!

That’s one of the things I love about going on holiday abroad and hearing the local bands that have originated from that country. I don’t go on holiday to hear all the British and usual American bands. If I go to Croatia then I want to hear Croatian music- I got just that! It really did add to the whole experience of the holiday in Croatia, it didn’t matter if I couldn’t understand the lyrics- it’s the whole vibe and experience that made it all immense!

That’s what you go on holiday for to gain new experiences and search out new adventures! 

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Never seen such beauty in a flower! My love of flower photography grew in Croatia, what with these beauties!

Unfortunately, our two weeks was drawing to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Okrug Gornji. But not before, having one last walk round the Croatian Strip and going out for our last meal in Croatia. The weather was beautiful- warm, still and tranquil- it was the perfect weather for our last night. I felt quite sad walking down to the Strip on our last night, knowing that I wouldn’t see Croatia again and all its stunning Med beauty! We went out slightly earlier on our last night, during sunset- so I managed to capture this beautiful shot of the mountains in the distance, surrounded by the oh-so-calm and peaceful Adriatic waters.

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Sunset over Okrug

Our last night was a mixture of good company, beautiful scenary (when is Croatia not beautiful?!) and delicious food of mouth wateringly yummy fresh Pizza with a mixture of locally grown vegetables. Trust me, I ate pretty much a ton of Pizza during my holiday in Croatia- screw that the dough base was sweet, it was pizza, this was Croatia and I enjoyed my fill of it! No arguments. On our last night we made sure to dine in our favourite restaurent, named Leonardo’s. This restaurent was always super busy, with locals and foreigners qeueing up to sample the delicious fresh pizza and pasta, along with freshly caught grilled fish from the Adriatic Sea. It was beautifully authentic, once again the whole restaurent was filled with the beautiful sounds of local Croatian music while everyone was devouring their favourite dishes!

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Pizza anyone?

After a long night of trying to get to sleep (did I mention I was sleeping on the sofa for most of the two weeks? Don’t know about you, but I’ve always found beds abroad really uncomfortable!!). Saturday morning came and it was time to leave Okrug Gornji to travel to Split’s airport to come fly home back into British airspace! The airport at Split, was an utter nightmare with trying to check in etc- so much chaos and a lot of unorganised staff, but we got through eventually!

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Back flying up in the clouds

We made it home safely (just) after a few dodgy moments of slight turbulence, an awkward landing and unfortunately a man having a seizure mid-flight (eek). But we made back to Gatwick safe and sound, fortunately! So glad we had morning flights, later on that day there were awful electrical storms- that would not have been fun for an already slightly anxious flyer- although saying that, it would have been amazing seeing lighting strike while up in the clouds above the choas down below! I’ve always had a fascination with extreme weather conditions!

Hands down, I miss Croatia. Especially on the wet and drizzly days in England- it makes me miss the warmth and beauty of Croatia. I miss the pot-luck chance of ending up with a sweet pizza or switching it up Croat-style and eating chips out of a cone on the Strip- I’ve a fascination too with oddly boxed food products! Above all, I miss swimming in the clear,warm sea everyday (despite ending up with an ear infection when I got home due to all the swimming) to cool down from the intense heat! I miss the amusing faces of the locals when I’m attempting to speak their language but end up getting the pronounciations completely wrong. I missed the language so much, that I actually went into the supermarket and spoke 100% Croatian- oh the poor checkout woman had no idea what I was saying!

Croatia is always there though- I’d love to return some day in the future so I can experience its beauty all over again! For now, it’s back in England, (unfortunately) back to College but what thing I am looking forward to is getting back together with Circle of Life again, we (CAMHS) have been apart for a while now- I miss the CLR gang, so I can’t wait to get back into the woods with them once again!

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Throwback to Autumn 2012. Can’t wait to be reunited with everyone again back in my second home that is the beautiful woods

Goodbye Summer, hello Autumn!

Greetings to the cosy nights and warming hot chocolates with mini marshmallows by the crackling fire. Hello to the beauty of the golden orange leaves and fresh Autumn, crisp air- I can’t wait! Autumn and Winter are my favourite seasons!

Let the Autumn adventures begin!  

Emma x