Thursday, July 7, 2011

Croatia- The Real Mediterranean

We traveled with friends to Croatia.  I was often asked, "Why Croatia?" My response was always the same,  "Why not Croatia?"








We discovered Croatia in a way that was spontaneous.  It was often these unplanned moments that we experienced local culture up close and personal.  The fondest memories were produced from these moments.




We rented an apartment off the beaten path in a local neighborhood.  For a few days, we were part of an extended family's daily life.  While my boys were snorkeling, I was resting up with a good book.  I could smell the aroma of the meal rafting up through the open windows, hear the clanking of dishes and pots and pans.  I could feel the hurried pace of getting the mid-afternoon meal on the table.  I listened to the family laugh, and the baby cry.  I could visualize hands moving while talking about the days events, with children fidgeting in their seats. 

In the evening the mother would wave to us and join us for a few minutes.  It was here that I learned from her directly, that the secret to beautiful skin was olive oil.  She had beautiful skin.  

We learned very quickly that if it cannot be grown in your garden, plucked from the sea or made in your home, then perhaps, it is really not a necessity.

She offered to make us meals each day from her garden.




It seemed that everyone made homemade schnapps.  My romantic notions about homemade schnapps quickly evaporated.  Seriously, this was jet fuel!  This was moonshine that you would make in prison.  It was available to you breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The recipe? I know it because I asked....Fruit or nuts placed in a clean jar, with a tight lid.  Ferments for exactly 40 days in direct sunlight. 


Our travel companions inquired about a sheep's milk cheese called pa ski-sir, that is only produced on the Croatian Island of Pag. Within a few minutes we were invited into a family's home to discover a mother's passion for cheesemaking. The family flat was no bigger than a Brooklyn one bedroom apartment.  Yet, five of us stood in her kitchen and enjoyed her lively discussion of cheese making and the importance of family.  We ate her cheese, her fresh fig jam and her brined olives from her tree.   We were strangers, and she invited us into her home with no fear or discomfort.

Like so many Croatians entrepreneurship is a new concept and the she proudly shared with us her patent certificate for her variety of this famous cheese.



 Every country has a drunk Santa to call their own.  Croatia was no different.


Croatia is determined after many years of civil war, to redefine itself and emerge new.  You feel it with everyone you meet.  A people who imagined peace with their neighbors, and made it happen.


Cheers to you Croatia!

Love,
Your American Friends

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64 comments:

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I've been looking forward to your post about your visit to Croatia Velva. I asked myself the same thing - why Croatia - and now after reading your fascinating story and seeing the beautiful photos of the area, I understand. Being able to interact with the people is like a gift sent from the heavens and one money can't buy.

Loved the story about the schnapps. Moonshine is powerful stuff and jet-fuel is an apt name for it. I'm looking forward to more about your trip.
Sam

Much to My Delight said...

Love this post! My boyfriend's parents are from Croatia and ever since we've been together I've been dying to go! The beaches look absolutely incredible and I'm in love with the old-world culture. Your pictures are lovely. Sounds like you had a memorable trip!

Big Dude said...

It's not a place that pops into my mind when I think vacation, but looks like it was a good place to visit.

Pam said...

Love all the photos, especially the moonshine and the drunk Santa :)

Sue/the view from great island said...

Sounds like a magical vacation---homemade cheese, fig jam and olives---oh my! That's a great tip about the olive oil, it sound like you're having a fun and educational trip! The best travels are the ones where you actually get to experience another way of life first hand...looking forward to the recipes you bring home and share...

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Thanks for sharing these photos and bits of news with us. Sure I will never get to Croatia so it is good to see it through your eyes. My neighbour here make schnapps, it blows your head off !! Diane

Joanne said...

Why NOT Croatia is exactly right! I've never been but I love following along with you!

Vanessa @ Gourmet Runner said...

How beautiful! My family took a wonderful holiday to Pag about 7 years ago, and it was our best holiday together by far. We also stayed with a family, renting out the second of the 2-story home just a short walk from the beach. These pictures really remind me of the wonderful time we had there!!

Parsley Sage said...

What a fantastic holiday! I've never even considered Croatia as a holiday destination but I certainly do now. It's beautiful and I went nuts reading about the cheese. Want! Great post :)

tasteofbeirut said...

I have been wanting to go visit Croatia for years; my grandmother (dad's side) family is from Dubrovnik; I did hear from other relative who visited the coastline that it was beautiful but "better hurry, it is getting bought out and developed" so I was worried I might have missed the right time to explore this beautiful part of Europe. Glad to see it is still authentic and intact. Will go asap!

Sinful Sundays said...

I love this post. A couple years ago I was traveling and actually on my way to Croatia and had the same exact sentiments as your friends, "Why the hell are we going to Croatia?" I was so annoyed. But, after being there for a couple days I absolutely fell in love with that place. It's so peaceful and pretty and blue.

Your trip sounds like so much fun--I want to make cheese too! :)

Farmchick said...

Oh my....I would have loved to been there with you. What better way to learn about a country and its culture than by spending time with locals.

The Japanese Redneck said...

How neat! That sounded like a fantastic trip.

From the Kitchen said...

I loved my "visit" this morning. Beautiful! I especially like your photos of the laundry and the canned goods--a peek into life as it really is.

Best,
Bonnie

Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

Wish I could book a trip there now! Its painfully beautiful. How awesome that you were taken into that woman's kitchen, fed her cheese, olives and other tasty treats and became family. that's the stuff that vacation dreams are made of!

rosaria said...

Thanks for sharing about Croatia. The only way to know a people is to eat in someone's kitchen, the same meal they feed their family. What a cultural treat!

Susan said...

Croatia is definitely on my list. Looking forward to going there one day. Great posting. I have been waiting for it.

We Are Not Martha said...

Haha drunk Santa made me laugh! And I NEED to try some of that cheese :)

Sues

Hungry Dog said...

I've heard nohing but wonderful things about Croatia. Your photos are gorgeous--those colors are lovely and make me long for another vacation! Now, what exactly did she do with the olive oil to get such great skin??

Kat said...

I particularly liked this post because my paternal grandmother is from Croatia. She could make something out of nothing and it would taste like heaven. I have fond memories of walking in her back door and smelling the thick aroma of garlic. She made her own bread, clothes and canned everything and anything she could get her hands on. She had a garden and chickens and ducks and geese roamed about her little plot of land in Ohio. Thanks.

Rambling Tart said...

Love this post so much, Velva! I couldn't stop smiling all the way through. :-) Your pictures brought back such great memories of my time there. :-) Thank you!

Michael Toa said...

My friends went to Croatia recently and raved about it. I definitely must visit Croatia soon. Next summer perhaps? Gotta make some plan :)
What lovely post!

Foodness Gracious said...

What a cool place to visit. I love the way you could just visit someone in their kitchen to watch them make cheese, thats a great memory!

Maris(In Good Taste) said...

Sounds so wonderful! Huh, olive oil you say, good to know!

Chef Fresco said...

I am sold! This is on my to-visit list now! Beautiful pics.

That Girl said...

I'd heard Croatia had some beautiful beaches. Your pictures prove it's not just rumor.

Nisrine M. said...

Very pretty. I was in Dubrovnik a little while ago and loved it. I still regret not buying the orange oil they had.

Glad you had a good time, Velva.

Joel Greene said...

Not sold on packing my bags and heading to Croatia, but Velva, I really enjoy your style of writing and reading your comments.

Intuitive Eggplant said...

I've heard great things about Croatia and been looking forward to your posting about your trip. This is even more magical than I imagined - what a different and more intimate understanding you can gain of a place staying among such kind locals - who make cheese!:)!

Hope you'll be posting more!

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

lovely post and man that moonshine is funny, the water is so so pretty pleased you had fun Velva

Claudia said...

Croatia is a place I always wanted to visit. I have seen photos of its beauty, heard testimonials and now you have this lovely post. It's still on my radar. Although I'll skip the Schnapps. What's a beach without a Santa?

Kim said...

I so enjoyed following you along on your trip to Croatia. My Grandfather and his family were from Croatia and I've always wanted to go there and explore. It looks like such a truly beautiful place.

Thanks for sharing!

The Absence of Alternatives said...

LOVE. The last picture? Perfection.

Jay said...

wow...awesome clicks..
chanced upon your space while blog hopping..
love your space...very interesting posts..
Am your happy email subscriber now..:)
do stop by mine sometime..
Tasty Appetite

Kitchen Belleicious said...

Oh it looks so drop dead gorgeous there! I love the picture of the beach and the mountains. I have always wanted to visit there and now i feel like i kinda have thru your pics! Thanks girl!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Look at that gorgeous blue water and scenery! Croatia sounds like a warm and welcoming place. Thank goodness they are becoming revitalized and perhaps there will be much more tourism for them in the future. I'm sure your post will help.

Care's Kitchen said...

How beautiful is this post...pictures and writing! I have a friend whose fanily is from Croatia and they ALL have beautiful skin! Thanks for sharing Velva....I loved this!!

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook said...

What a fabulous trip! I love your answer, why not?! Excellent post, Velva, it makes me want to visit :)

Raina said...

Wow! Sounds like quite a trip. Staying with locals is the best way to see a country for sure. You really got taste of what their life was like. Wonderful experience. Looks very pretty there too.

Sarah said...

This is the real world. So nice to experience. I have been using olive oil soap since my trip to Greece 15 years ago. It is all I use.

Angie's Recipes said...

Right, why not Croatia?! It's a beautiful country. I love to visit it too.

Charlene said...

Sounds amazing! Your pictures are beautiful.

Barbara said...

You saw a country that most of us will never experience, Velva. And you saw it in the best way...renting an apartment and living with its people.
Lovely photos and I so agree the unexpected often results in the best photos. Yours are a delight and the personal stories of moonshine and Santas were such fun. After all they've suffered, what a pleasure to read of their determination to turn thing around.

Pierce said...

Cheers indeed - gorgeous. I am a bit jealous here....that makes me want a vacation like this. Wow. Just wow.

Abbey said...

This was a beautiful post. Your pictures are breathtaking, I could almost imagine myself there. And on a personal note, I love the last imagine you showed, as I was named after Abbey Road and have the word 'imagine' tatooed on my ankle...I even named my daughter Lennon. Very cool post!

mangiabella said...

Velva, I thoroughly enjoyed this post, you took me on this visually stunning journey with you and have given me an itch to travel...guess that would be kind of hard right now with my 3 yr old, 1 yr old, and baby #3 on the way :/

scrambledhenfruit said...

I love traveling through the eyes of my blogging friends. Croatia seems like a beautiful destination with charming people. You are so lucky! :)

Anonymous said...

Croatian Coast

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=519281

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

I've read many wonderful things about Croatia and would love to visit some day. You were so lucky to be invited into somebody's home to learn about their daily lives and how they cook. Love the photo of the lined up jars of fruit. Do you think they ever explode?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Such beautiful photos- wonderful that you got into the rhythm of life there, too.

Beth said...

I loved your pictures. Croatia is on my short list of places I'd like to visit. But you did it the right way - living near and meeting the locals. What an amazing holiday!

Karen Harris said...

I heard my times how beautiful Croatia is and your photos prove it. Lovely post Velva! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. It has been a while since we have commented on each other's blogs. How lucky you are to live in the land of Tupelo honey!

Just Cake Girl said...

Dear Velva,

Thanks for a wonderfull post about my country. Many people don't even know where Croatia is and I am very sad about that! Our country is one of the most beautifull countrys in the world. We have 1244 islands on our coast, and Velva you really experienced Croatia verry well! I live on the mainland and not on the coast but we travel every year to our sea. It is clear and very clean! You should visit our national tourist board and get to know Cratia a bit more! The link to the board http://croatia.hr/hr-HR/Naslovna and here is a link to my blog and my last trip to the see were i visited Dubrovnik and many other places :)http://justcakegirl.blogspot.com/2010/09/im-back.html Velva, thanks again for a wonderfull post and pictures :)) sending kisses from Croatia :)

Sienna said...

wow, this is such a beautiful post!!! I'm so glad I came across it!
I'm from Zagreb, Croatia and I'm so happy that you wrote such an amazing post about my country... I'm really glad you liked it :)))
xoxo Sienna
http://fashion-sienna.blogspot.com/

Persa said...

Many thanks for beautiful post about our country :) I live whole life between Korčula island and Dubrovnik, and working as travel agent mostly. I'm glad there are people that appreciate Croatia because it's really special. If anybody would like some more info about Croatia, or Korčula&Dubrovnik area, please contact me, and don't hesistate to ask anything :) Love from Croatia, Persa.
http://beautyandsweets.blogspot.com/

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Beautiful! I'd love to visit Croatia. Thanks for sharing!

Cheers,

Rosa

LaDivaCucina said...

Velva, my MIL is Croatian Italian and fled to Australia as a refugee. She is from Opatija and says it's beautiful there. We want to go there one day, we have family there too, I'd love to go as I like places off the beaten path. I'm so glad you do too.

Renting an apartment is the way to go, it forces to you shop and live like a local, I'm so happy you chose that experience over a hotel.

Yes, I agree, olive oil leads to good skin and schnapps leads to good times! Thanks for sharing your trip with us! xo

Roz from 'la bella vita' said...

Whoever it is that doesn't know about Croatia's beauty and destination travel site by now is, well, just not in the travel "know". My son-in-law was able to visit several years ago and said it was one of his favorite European stops. Croatia is on my 'bucket list" and your posts have solidified that desire to visit!!! I have so enjoyed your travel posts of Croatia's incredible beauty and culture, Velva!

backroadjournal said...

We have traveled to Europe almost every year and have been so close to Croatia but have not gone because the car rental company would not let us take it into the country. Perhaps we could leave the car and rent a different one for several days so that we could see the beautiful countyside.

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Those pictures are amazing! I have a friend from Croatia and she always talks about how beautiful it is...she isn't lying!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Velva, sorry it has taken so long for me to get this exciting and sweet post! I am impressed with the way you travel, you embedded yourself in this village and got a true locals' experience. You've captured Croatia beautifully! I'd love to try that cheese someday, and fresh fig jam sounds absolutely magnificent!

College Essays said...

Your photos are giving back the mood of the event. Thank you!

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