I've just finished up a very special trip to Croatia. My families Croatian, so I've been lucky to venture there a few times and get in touch with my roots. It's such a beautiful place. It's also a place I can go to where my name isn't wildly mispronounced (a recurring childhood memory throughout NZ schooling). Whenever we go back we bring the whole family, grandparents too, though this time my boyfriend also came along - he had fun, especially when gifted 5L of wine, a bag of walnuts, tomatoes, onions and some potatoes by one of my uncles, simply because he came over to say hi. Welcome to Croatia.
Eating in Croatia
Depending on where you’re situated will determine the style of cuisine you can except to eat – it’s very region specific. The coastal cuisine is very different to the mainland, given distinct geographic, historical and cultural influences. On the coast you'll find plenty of seafood, with Italian and Greek flavours, while higher up in the country, dishes are heavier and heartier, favouring Slavic and Hungarian cuisine - think slow-cooked meats and stews. We stayed in Dalmatia, which is coastal and very Mediterranean, with fresh seafood, herbs and olive oil on literally everything.
The food here is to be enjoyed, slowly and mindfully. Ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and there's an emphasis on cooking from scratch. I loved the colourful markets - for many people living here it's not outside their daily routine to pop down to one and pick up fresh produce from local growers, homemade cheeses or preserves, fresh fish, cured meats or baked breads. My eighty-two year old aunt does it every day - and she is so healthy!
A Day on a Plate...
When staying with family they'd serve summer fruit (lots of juicy nectarines and figs), freshly baked bread from the local bakery with preserves or cured meats and cheeses for toppings, and a very strong black coffee for breakfast. We'd eat this all together on the balcony in the warm morning sun - a relaxing, happy way to start the day. When we were travelling I'd usually pick up a pottle of plain probiotic yoghurt from the local supermarket and pair that with fruit. The yoghurt here was exceptional, so creamy and thick.
The main meal of the day in Croatia. Lunch would typically include a soup or antipasto platter to start, followed by roasted meats or grilled fish, potatoes, cooked leafy greens, a big fresh tomato, cucumber, red onion salad covered in olive oil and vinegar, and then a sweet treat to finish - usually a slice of homemade cake. Coming together around a table here goes beyond the need to refuel - it's a time to reconnect, catch-up and enjoy the moment.
A light meal, usually leftovers from lunch. We'd often eat out at the local restaurants, one of my favourite things to do when visiting different countries. I loved the beautiful homemade pasta dishes and fresh grilled fish with vegetables.
And, a culinary adventure
...because no holiday for a foodie would be complete without one, right? I was determined to learn how to make pita, a type of filled pastry. It's insanely fun to whip up - after prepping a ball of dough you flatten it into a coin shape and hang it over a stick, which you then furiously shake to stretch it out - it gets really big. You then place the dough over a table and using the back of your hands you further stretch it, until it's super thin and covers the entire table. You can then fill it with whatever you want - potato and onion, a mix of cheeses, apple and cinnamon, we tried it all - and then roll it up to cook. The pastry is beautiful and delicate, and crisps up perfectly in the oven.
We were based on the coast + islands of Croatia, where my family are from. There's lots to see and do - Dubrovnik, Trogir, Hvar and Korcula Island are favourite spots, with gorgeous historic sights and ancient-walled towns to explore, beautiful beaches and amazing food. The scenery is out-of-this world - both the natural landscape and the man-made architecture are breathtaking. The picture directly below of Dubrovnik shows how well the two merge together.
The best way to explore a new place is always on foot, which coincidentally makes for great exercise (just make sure to keep hydrated under the hot summer sun!). To help with resetting our circadian rhythm we'd always do a good morning walk before the sun would get too hot, and would make a point to walk a lot throughout the day wherever possible, checking out the town and historic sights. Walking the uber-popular wall of Dubrovnik (the wall that encloses the old town) was a highlight, as was wandering the pebbled maze-like streets of historic towns Korcula and Trogir (an UNESCO world heritage site).
When on the islands/coast of Croatia you have to make the most of the water - it's so beautiful and crystal clear. We spent time both in the water, swimming and diving, and on it, sailing around the islands.
One eve my cousin surprised us with a sunset boat ride on the Neretva river, a channel my grandparents used to use to fish and as transport to take produce to the markets. She organised sweet treats to enjoy while we were on the water - Croatian rozata (creme caramel), nutella cheesecake, and a few bottles of sparkling water. We glided through the water, reeds and willowy trees framing both sides of the river, birds flying over head - it was magic.
And of course, spending time with family is always a highlight. Everyone is so warm and welcoming. It's neat visiting the house my grandparents grew up up in, wandering the church they got married in over fifty years ago or swimming in the spots they used to spend their summers. Below is photo in the orchard outside the house my mother lived for the first part of her life.
It was such a great trip! x