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Zagreb Croatia’s New, Modern Airport with Airplane Views, Food and More

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Pizzeria, meats, freshly squeezed orange juice made fresh. I would just suggest bring an empty bottle through security to fill your bottle with water. It was super expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Countdown to Croatia Direct Flights 2017; Plus Must See, Do, Experiences of the Adriatic Coast-Selce-Crikvenica to Rijeka

It’s not too late to get a great deal flying direct to Zagreb with Air Transat airlines now servicing Croatia’s capital Zagreb twice per week in 2017. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to fly to Croatia for around $1000 direct! 20160621_221009(Above, image of Kava Tava, Zagreb, all images photographed by Paula Erskine)

(Smart travellers booked end of season last year, around September, October and took advantage of round trip fairs for around $800 for 2017, by booking in late 2016!) Book as soon as you can for prices that still are very decent for truly direct flights to Zagreb, averaging 8 and a half hours flight from Toronto to Zagreb (although the flights are blocked for 9 to 9 and a half, it is less than that.) The new Zagreb airport will be open in 2017 and many are looking forward to landing at an airport built to accommodate the volume of tourists that have just discovered Croatia, or are introducing their kids and grandkids to the mother land and keeping them connected to familial roots.

Let’s take a photographic journey through the Primorje Region (pronounced Preemor-yeh) of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline and discover great things to see, do, eat…starting with Selce and the Crikvenica villages, and later heading towards Rijeka for a dessert bakery with ancient evidence of a mill displayed from under the floor of the café. We will also enjoy the view of Selce has of Krk island and its treasures. Selce behind the scenes, behind Marsala (Marshala Tita) street has many unique alleys and vignettes that please the artist within.

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Inspired artworks can be found by Marijan Mavric, local Croat artist in this Art Laundry Gallery in the village of Selce. Just walk up the hill of Slavka Jelicica street (left, and behind the Tourist Agency on the Riviera) for a local Croatian artist with real talent. It is my mother’s childhood friend, and without prejudice, has many stories expressed in paint and canvas. A great place for contemplation away from the madding crowd of the Riviera. After doing and visiting Art Laundry, head further up the hill to Marsala Tita on your right (single file as the sidewalk is tiny), take a right then first left and get lost in the alleys of Selce. Find your way back to the sea by walking downhill towards the Adriatic sea and panoramic Riviera.20160926_10502920160926_105900Marijan Mavric, Croatian Artist can sometimes be found in the evenings in Selce, at Art Laundry, or his gallery in Grizane . His landscapes capture his surroundings, resembling in some paintings the island of Krk just across the way, where many Selce residents have simple farms with stony-stacked fences, fig trees, potatoes, tomatoes and many other crops. My mother asked him if he is in front of these places when he actually paints them…he said, “It comes from my head, my imagination, my memories…” Having visited many of these corners of Krk island and other Adriatic gems, I can affirm, these places exist, and they are beautiful.

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Selce has a variety of beaches, you can watch Mihuric Scuba Divers suit up and set out to explore a shipwreck. In the distance past the campground, is the beaches of Slane, Selce, and up the campground steps, follow the forested trail to one of Selce’s many pristine beaches.

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Selce’s beach in front of the Tunar Restaurant shaped like a boat is great for families who want to ease in to shallow waters with kids and eat at Tunar’s restaurant. I enjoyed the generous, protein packed salads grilled with salmon (lots of tasty options at Tunar) and along with Kava Anka (kava means coffee, café) on the other side of Selce, are two of the best places to eat locally home-made ice cream. Both places also do coffee very deliciously, and the combination of them both, is quite decadent. Café Bonino in Selce has delicious food and a beautiful view of the beach and the docked boats of locals, with generous sized pizzas and fried squid (ligne, or calimare in Italian) all on Selce’s Riviera.

Next, we peek at my mother’s childhood home in Selce, a place I got to know and love as a child enjoying home-made morsels cooked by my grandmother and my mother with love oozing straight from their hands to my satisfied belly.

Be sure to buy fresh figs while on the Adriatic coast or you can sneak a fig from many of the houses that enjoy their fruits. Then enjoy the home-made jam and bring it home. You can bring anything back into Canada that does not grow in Canada. But a fresh fig, is mouth watering. Below the fig jam beginnings, potatoes coated with spinach, garlic and lemon, grilled zucchinis, and chufte (breaded meat-burgers), any meat you like, with delectable garden spices and parsley. Don’t forget the sautéed garlic and onions!

Also my mom’s cabbage rolls (sarma, similar to the Romanian style) with slabs of pork juices on top melting into the flavours of mixed meats and rice. I always make my mom add extra water a little at a time to make it soupy for me. I just love that sour-savoury combination. And don’t forget that other than home-made, the best place to eat Croatia’s seafood delicacies such as lignje (leeg-nyeh) or calamari or squid, grilled or fried, is Venus on Selce’s Riviera which is always packed with locals and tourists. Their grilled squid is drizzled in olive oil, parsley, garlic and melt in your mouth. Café Bonino and Rokan across from Tunar have good squid too, but Venus is the best.

Krk island has at least 3 great places to eat fried squid in the village of Vrbnik, including Lucy’s up the hill (very generous portions), the port restaurant, and in the many restaurants for a lunch time trip across the Bay of Kvarner.

My grandmother’s home…also known as my baba…

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Selce’s artistic and quaint corners…

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Savoury cabbage rolls only mama can make…

Fried squid, or grilled, or both…worth a try…if they are too big or too chewy, you got “tultsi” which are cheaper, and not real squid. Many good restaurants do have pictures to explain the menu and accommodate the many world-wide travellers that enjoy the Croatian cuisine. 20160927_192733

Selce’s Riviera…just park that convertible and stroll, swim, eat, explore…

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On the border of Selce and Crikvenica (Selce being the beach town portion with superior beaches and atmosphere, a Zabavna (Fun/Arcade) Park and Crikvenica being a bit more of a city with more variety of shops), right next door, is Duga Mall which houses a café veranda view of a section of Krk Island’s rocky coastline that will take your breath away. You can park underground, go above ground level, and this photo does not do the view justice. The cappuccinos and drinks are good but the view is priceless. It was very hard to leave the serene vista, so we took our time. Duga Mall has a few shops and groceries, but in general, Croatia is very affordable.

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Around the corner from Duga Mall is Café Ognjisce (Ognishchyeh) which has the best, most tasty cevapcici (chevaps, or chevapchichi) I have ever had in the area. My local cousins took me here and we ate these barbecued meat morsels with Ajvar (mild red pepper chutney) with such pleasure. We took the rest, to go. We fed lots of relatives with this platter. It was heaven. Ask your Taxi driver to take you here, then go for coffee at Duga Mall upstairs on the veranda (write down the names, show the driver). Well worth it. Come hungry. You know it’s a good place when you see Construction employees and locals frequenting Croatia’s restaurants, it fits their budget too.

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Another wonderful place to enjoy is the bakery Cukerin in Rijeka (take a bus or get a ride from Selce to Reeyehkah. (also known as Fume, Foohmeh in Italian). Cukerin (comes from the word meaning “sugar”) and has wonderful pastries and coffee (kava). Unique to Cukerin, is that when they constructed it, they discovered evidence of ancient wheat stores below, so they gave the café a glass bottom to enjoy a history of a wheat mill in this very spot. The atmosphere is creative, colourful, and well worth navigating the tricky alleys behind Rijeka’s bustling shopping streets. There are very unique shops hidden behind the main promenade. I personally know the bakers at Cukerin, who bake with lots of love and care. You can taste it! We pre-ordered lemon cookies, cinnamon cookies and chocolate pie to bring to friends back in Canada. The chocolate pie is one of my favourites! And it kept very well.

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Beside Cukerin in the old town part of Rijeka is Konoba Volta, their fried squid was absolutely delicious. It has a very romantic atmosphere with outdoor dining and candlelight, and you can go to Cukerin for dessert afterwards. Then meander the alleys and cobblestone streets of Rijeka and soak up the historical architecture.

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Back in Selce, we explore the back alleys behind the smallest church in front of the tourist agency near Kava Anka (arguably the best coffee and icecream in all of Selce). Be sure to visit behind the church all the alleys of 13th division and beyond for surprisingly charming vignettes.

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Crikvenica (below) has more of a city vibe, but a small one, beware the one way streets when driving! Shopping and groceries and the Crikvenica aquarium as well as the promenade and famous “dog beach” and of course “people” beaches are here. Selce-Crikvenica are often paired together, as Selce is a simple, small town that swells in the summer, and reverts back to small village after October. (Selce also has a “dog beach” for those with pets, in a small area near the campground.)

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Selce sunset, a monument to the Tunar perch that honours the tuna fisherman of yore and is lit up at night, like a stairway to heaven. A great view from most of Selce, but Café Bonino has a nice vibe any time of day, as well as Tunar which is the “tuna boat” restaurant just 100 feet away.

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My mom, a “Selcanka” (Selchanka, person raised in the village of Selce, Croatia) enjoying the spectacular view of Krk’s rocky coast from the café veranda of Duga Mall, on the border of Selce-Crikvenica.

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Selce’s walking promenade is very long with a lively panorama of lights, music, fashion and people watching.

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Vrbnik village on Krk island, accessible by boat from Selce, a great day trip.

Croatia Day Trips

Selce’s kupaliste (Kupah-lishteh) beach, (below) great for families with fine rocks added to ease your way into the Adriatic with a larger shallow end. Tunar’s boat shaped Restaurant in the background.

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Mihuric Scuba diving outfit in Selce is a great place to participate in some interesting dive sites at least one of which is a shipwreck. Ahoy! Hope this gives you enough reasons to visit Selce, Crikvenica, Rijeka and Krk. Explore this blog for many more places to visit in Croatia such as Plitvice Park, Rastoke, Zagreb, Krk Island and more!

Don’t forget to leave yourself at least 24 hours after diving before you fly to decompress from the effects of the dives which can interfere with your body’s ability to adjust to flying’s extreme altitudes of 30 to 40,000 feet.

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Scuba diving was my first foray into meditation…a world of beauty, just beneath the surface. Hope this blog inspires you to visit Croatia, leave a comment, meditate or share.

Thoughtless Peace, Andaman Sea, Thailand

curb appeal

Vrbnik on Krk Island across from Selce, a great day trip

Croatia Direct Flights from Toronto and Montreal Continue into 2016-2017 with Air Transat

All photos and article by Paula Erskine

One can book an Air Transat ticket for a direct flight to Zagreb, Croatia right now for as early as next year, for example, May 30th, 2017 at a price of approximately $871 Canadian dollars and enjoy the comfort of Air Transat’s Airbus 330 fleet. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to book ahead and take advantage of cheap flights to Croatia flying directly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Air Transat will likely add a second flight weekly to Zagreb, Croatia as of May 2016. Book early to get the deals! Here are some places to visit in Croatia that may delight your senses.

Below, Plitvicka National Park, known to visitors as “paradise,” is less than 2 hours away from Zagreb and enjoyed year round. Easy hiking, hundreds of waterfalls, 16 turquoise lakes.

Rastoke Village, in Slunj (above), is 1 and a half hours from Zagreb, Croatia on the way to Plitvice Park. Imagine opening your window shutters and overlooking a waterfall below your window, with the sound rushing through your veins and the fresh, cool mist rising up through the atmosphere. In this valley, one is surrounded by trees whose roots run deep, taking a drink from the rivers they call home. Eat at Petro, visit Unique Rastoke park (just that part is closed on tuesdays) and eat there too,  the food is fresh and authentic throughout the village…or stay at many of the apartments built on waterfalls in this fairy tale mill town on pristine waters. Simply unmissable and picturesque, any time of year. A peaceful place. Take advantage of the pleasant off season weather with more elbow room than mid-summer to enjoy Croatia even more.

If you are still on the fence, wondering if Croatia is the right destination for you, let me share with you some favorite places to visit that are off the beaten path. Even within the usual hot spots, there are great tips to be shared on how to get the maximum value and enjoyment from your Croatian vacation. For those who travel yearly to the motherland, direct flights to Croatia this summer of 2016 have been a dream come true. In addition, Zagreb has proven to be a great hub for native travelers of Serbia and Bosnia and bordering nations visiting their families. It is very moving to see people of all these nations “going home” to introduce their children and grandchildren to the beautiful lands, lakes, rivers, mountains and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea which were their playgrounds.

It was especially convenient for the older generations to travel “home” on direct flights, most of them wanting to look out the window or watch the air show rather than the individual movie screens at each seat. The atmosphere on board is one of gratitude, appreciation and social friendliness without borders. Although the blocked time of the flight is 9 and a half hours, depending on head and tail winds, the average flight to Zagreb, Croatia from Toronto on Air Transat’s Airbus 330 consistently took only around 8 hours!

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! Below, Ozujsko Pub in Zagreb, beside the Naive Art Gallery Egg in Upper Town serves tasty meats stuffed with cheese and prosciutto (pershuto), grilled vegetables and chicken shishkebabs wrapped in bacon. Tender, fresh, tasty and very reasonable!

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Vinodol Restaurant, lower town, superb eating, Zagreb Croatia

Vinodol Restaurant (lower town), Zagreb Croatia above was absolutely superb eating, with a wonderful indoor skylit atmosphere and outdoor seating too. Below, Kava Tava (upper town)…find an excuse to eat palacinke (palachinke) the Croatian stuffed crepes, dessert, cappucinos, breakfast or sandwiches. Then,  for all you airline buffs, Kava Tava’s decor boasts passenger seats and airplane tables. 20160621_192442

Zagreb’s Upper Town can be reached by Funicular or stairs and is full of incredible places to eat with no lack of creativity, history, architecture, naive and modern art, fountains museums, bird’s eye views, Lake Jarun, shoe shopping in particular in the lower town, and delicious food everywhere. To say Zagreb is hip would be an understatement.

A hidden gem in Zagreb is MS Grill run by Olga who will cook like only a mother can, and specializes in Bosnian dishes such as cevaps (barbecued chevaps are mixed meats, usually lamb, on home made grilled bread served with kajmak (k-eye-mahk) cream cheese, chicken paprikash, and many stews and famous crepes.The truth is, I ate most of the mouth watering meat before I remembered to take a picture. The secret to all the juicy meats, especially the grilled chicken, is the time they take to marinate it all…and I enjoyed it very much on my flight. The portions are too generous, and the prices are ridiculously cheap! You can find them around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel, Zagreb, with the orange canopy, simple. Olga is open from 7 or 8 am till midnight and serves fresh, home made food, her most evident ingredient, is love, warmth and enthusiasm. I do not leave the restaurant without my goodbye hug.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ms-Grill/1549760118614667 This is the facebook page.

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! See you in Zagreb! Check out my other posts for more great places to visit in Croatia! This is StrossMarte, at the top where the Funicular station stop is. Very artsy, great views, puppet shows, and very whimsical somehow.20160906_18551320160906_18555220160906_185448Sveti Marco Square, tiled roof, straight ahead from the Funicular. Many ways to see the city, including a vintage car ride. Fresh fritule, powdered mini doughnuts sometimes filled with jam at a window in upper town. We drop in on an orchestra practicing amid rows of fountains, it was lovely. The architecture, the old gate to the city, is so interesting. I hope to visit Lake Jarun where locals swim and bike in the near future. Until we meet again, Zagreb, I will enjoy my memories. See you in Croatia until early October of 2016 and May 2017 onward.20160906_18491320160823_18350320160823_19023920160906_18403120160906_18503220160817_19534320160906_19051620160906_18185320160906_21042620160817_191813

Croatia, 24 hours in Action packed Zagreb and the Euro Cup

20160621_192442I just got back from 24 hours in Croatia which was preceded by 24 hours in Paris, where, many Croatians travelled to Paris, then Bordeaux by train, to attend the Euro Cup Games. I had the good fortune to be in Zagreb, Croatia where the streets and squares were adorned with Red and White checkered attire symbolizing the crest of the Croatian flag and the biggest TVs I have ever seen were setup all over the city.20160621_18152120160621_200710

I was lucky to be with an extremely knowledgeable Portugal-qualified soccer (or as they say in Europe) football fan on my crew who gave me the inside knowledge as Croatia played a very exciting game against Spain and ultimately won.

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We watched the game in the streets passing through Ban Jelacic square (pronounced Ban Yelachich). We also watched in the streets from our wooden booths in Kava Tava (Ulica=street, 10000 Ivana Tkalcica pronounced Tkalchicha) and sipped cappucinos to nurse our jet lag back to some semblance of normal. It was an emotional evening and ultimately celebratory and I really enjoyed the energy surrounding us.

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Scenes from Kava Tava Cafe…

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Nothing better than hugging and yelling and crying with strangers that are my brethren once removed. The street of Tkalicica is lined with wonderful outdoor tables, cafes, restaurants to cruise on a pedestrian street in the Upper Town of Zagreb.

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Kava Tava (www.kavatava.com) had many surprises, inside and out, with tea cups imbedded in the wooden booth outdoor seating and passenger airplane seating inside with all kinds of creative touches inside you will want to capture on film and say, you were there! Kava Tava appeals to the flight attendant in all of us, we can’t really put our finger on it, but the creativity of the decor is travel inspired, to say the least.

A very short, action-packed layover, and just a snapshot of Zagreb’s many cool places to be should you find yourself passing through. More exciting places will be added as my layovers in Zagreb progress into the summer.20160621_22064520160621_22191920160621_192546

Currently Air Transat (www.airtransat.com) flies direct to Zagreb, Croatia on your way to the most beautiful coastline and national parks like Plitvice’s turquoise lakes and hundreds of waterfalls which you can view in this blog as well as many wonderful places in the Bay of Kvarner and the island of Krk. See you there! Below, see the hand that beckons.

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The art and numerous hill inspired cafe’s that decorate simple, picturesque allies in Zagreb, Croatia. This is no stuffy, Croatian capital. The hills are alive with the sound of music, art, soccer and bustling evenings lived outdoors all summer long.20160621_20125220160621_19351520160621_20111420160621_19325720160621_19441420160621_222612In the words of Kava Tava Cafe, I could not have said it better, but only, after the Euro Cup Game. 🙂