Travel from home: your guide to Croatia
With widespread European travel temporarily on hold, we’re asking our Contiki Trip Managers to share their advice on recreating their favourite cities to travel from home. Here, European Trip Manager Scott McCormick shares what to watch, listen to and drink to transport yourself to one of his favourite European cities: Croatia.
Croatia is such an underrated country and is definitely my favourite place in Europe! It has everything: fascinating history, beautiful beaches, healthy and delicious food and some awesome little towns. Plus, Dubrovnik has to be one of the most unique cities in the world. I can’t wait to take my travellers back there soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d bring a bit of Croatia to you, wherever you are in the world.
Image source:@MadeByMorgan / Unsplash
Watch: Game of Thrones
One of the most popular TV shows of all time, Game of Thrones relied heavily on the architecture and scenery Croatia has to offer. With its medieval walls and beautiful sun-soaked coastlines Dubrovnik was the perfect spot to film King’s Landing. The rest of Croatia was also utilised for the hit show, including the breathtaking Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
Listen: Dj Antoine – Ole Ole
During the summer months Croatia and its islands are well known for their partying ways, so no guide to Croatia would be complete without some great tunes. DJ Antoine captures the vibe of Croatia in his song ‘Ole Ole’, with the line “I think I’m in Croatia, the yacht club’s insane. Champagne bottles diving as we sail away. Hands up party people who came here to play.”
Eat: Black risotto
Typically served as a light lunch and a staple of many Dalmatian taverns (called ‘konoba’) and restaurants, crni rižot is a unique black risotto made with fresh squid or cuttlefish.
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 200g brown onions, chopped
- 1kg cuttlefish
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
- 100ml white wine
- 600ml fish stock or water
- 1/2 tablespoon cuttlefish ink
- 300 grams risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a frying pan over high heat, sauté the chopped garlic in a little olive oil for a few seconds, making sure it does not burn.
- Add the onion, reduce the heat to low, and sauté until golden and transparent, approximately 10–15 minutes. (It’s important to sauté the garlic before the onion as this will help to release its aroma)
- Before cleaning out the inside and bones of the cuttlefish, carefully remove the silver sac of ink from the middle of the cuttlefish, making sure not to break it, and set it aside
- Cut the cuttlefish into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes.
- Add the diced cuttlefish to the sautéed garlic and onion and season well with salt and pepper
- Sauté the cuttlefish until all the liquid that has been released has evaporated and the cuttlefish starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, caramelising slightly
- Add the tomato paste and cook for a few seconds, then add the white wine and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated
- Add the fish stock or water, 1/2 tablespoon of the cuttlefish ink, and adjust the seasoning
- Leave to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the rice and cook for 16 minutes, stirring the risotto constantly until it is done (the rice should be cooked but still slightly firm)
- If the risotto is too thick, you can add some more fish stock and olive oil at the end
- Add more seasoning if needed and serve immediately
Rakia is the national drink of almost every Balkan country, made from the distillation of fermented fruit. It can be made with almost any fruit and its strength also changes depending on the distillation process and fruit added. The alcohol content ranges from a whopping 40-65 per cent!
Šljivovica (Shlivovitza), the combination of rakia with plums, is probably the most common variety of rakia in Croatia.
While Rakia is very common, there are a few guidelines to help you blend in with local Croatian culture:
- Never refuse rakia when invited into someone’s house
- Do not treat rakia like other spirits and mix it with soft drinks – shots only!
- Do not binge on rakia! It’s more for tasting and toasting and getting you in the mood, not for getting drunk on.
- And as always, drink in moderation ☺
Image source:Alex Holyoake / Unsplash
Read: Girl at War by Sara Nović
Girl At War tells the story of 10-year-old Ana who is a carefree tomboy in the streets of Zagreb in 1991. The story is told in four parts: when Ana is 10 and the war breaks out in the streets of Yugoslavia. It then switches to when Ana is 20 and living in New York City, trying to get to grips with her past. Then, she goes back to Croatia and tells of her time after one fateful day that changed everything, where she becomes a child soldier and how she escaped from Croatia. And then finally, she revisits places from her past in order to heal.
Visit: take a virtual tour
If you’re looking to tour Croatia from the comfort of your home to get you in the mood for 2021, the Croatian Tourist Board has put together some virtual guides to whet your appetite. You can check out some virtual sailing here. Or you can head to their Instagram to get a glimpse of what to expect on your next visit! I hope you enjoyed your mini guide to Croatia. See you in Dubrovnik soon?