JULY NEWSLETTER 2021
TIME FOR A CHANGE! It’s not often that I am at a loss for words..but lately, that’s how I’ve been feeling. This pandemic has changed the way we live, work and play..and travel! Over the past 15 years, my clientele have come from many parts of the world but the majority of 95% have been my fellow Australians and New Zealanders that know me or have heard of me through family and friends.
The pandemic has put a full stop to their travelling plans, and all remains so unknown!
Rather than sit and twiddle my thumbs, I’ve been making a list of all the most enchanting places I’ve had the good fortune to have visited in Croatia, the best tour guides, the best transfer companies, the best drivers, the best accommodation from luxury villas to the most wonderful seaside apartments, ecologically sustainable and beautifully designed accommodation with matching cuisine and wellness centres, not forgetting the many stunning agritourism resorts where local produce, vineyards, and olive groves flourish satisfying the most decadent of tastes.
I have become not only a travel consultant, but also a concierge! (What is the difference?)
My list of favourite places is growing very long, and this month, an American family of 3 adults and 3 teenage children contacted me via my website http://www.myhiddencroatia.com with a very ‘different’ request! Lisa, the mother, asked me if I would consider helping her plan a 21 day tour of Croatia. She explained that she loves the excitment of planning their annual holidays, and found it less expensive if she booked her own tours and accommodation online, but since she knew very little about Croatia she needed some help. Naturally I was delighted to assist her as her travel consultant, and together we planned an itinerary from Zagreb and Istria in the North to Dubrovnik in the South, including a week’s sailing through the islands of Central Dalmatia included. My list became very popular, and was put to very good use, for a very affordable consultancy fee.
It was a great pleasure meeting this lovely family as they boarded their catamaran on arrival into Trogir and recently I received some feedback from Lisa…
„It was an absolute pleasure to work with you over these past months and then finally meet you. It was so reassuring to know that I had someone “on the ground” so to speak with accurate information regarding covid, activities, lodging locations and restaurant suggestions. I appreciated your willingness to say “yes” to this unconventional way of working together. For me it was perfect to have someone to bounce things off.“
TIMES ARE A CHANGING, and we must be willing to move in different directions, seeking new and interesting opportunities. I love my work, and the highest reward is the satisfaction of my clients. Adding the title of concierge allows me to work together with travel agencies around the world, taking care of their clients when they enter Croatia, or with private independant travellers, providing them with the information they require, and being available online while they are travelling around our country of Croatia. It’s a very satisfying role to play.
LIFE IS GOOD!
Robyn Vulinovich at My Hidden Croatia. July 2021
JUNE NEWSLETTER 2021
Dear Friends, Today on the 21st of June, the start of our summer season, I am witnessing many changes here in Split. Walking through the Old Town in the evening I discovered many new restaurants, cafes, and bars, somehow blossoming and in a wave of post-Covid blues and depression, the city is once again alive! All of a sudden, a huge splash of colour, music, sounds of laughter, and summer guests are resonating in our city!
The Split Riva, was a spectacle of throbbing sound last night with crowds of the younger generation almost delirious to be out and about, socialising, mixing, and mingling again to the best of their ability! Summer has truly arrived!
As we stood waiting to buy our first delicious summer gelato at Luka’s Gelateria, a crowd of parents were waiting for their children to exit the national theatre, and here they came, laughing, happy smiling faces, with bouquets of flowers, and certificates honouring their achievements..Oh, what joy!
During the month, a day tour together with my friend Susie Vučak to Island Šolta was planned, and as we sat on the car ferry during the 1-hour crossing, it was decided to forget about planning our day, rather we’d simply follow our noses, and see where it led us! We were not disappointed..
See all about our day on Island Šolta here: https://myhiddencroatia.com/when-in-split-with-robyn/island-solta-dalmatia-full-of-nature-seafood-old-stone-houses-yachting-paradise-martinis-marchi/
On the following weekend, another Day Tour to the Šibenik region was planned and the day unfolded in similar fashion without too much forward planning except for a reservation at the famous Konoba Vinko for lunch. It always amazes me how one thing leads to another, like stepping stones, and so our day was extremely enjoyable, plus we met another Croatian Australian, Lana Barak from Island Murter who joined us for lunch and heard her story of assimilation and family history..a really great day, a delicious traditional lunch and you can read all about it here:
Finally, in this newsletter I’d like to list 5 reasons why I love living in Croatia:
- Healthy seasonal food with taste and flavour. I buy very little in a supermarket, preferring to shop at local fruit and veg markets where the food is local, seasonal and fresh. In June, the cherry season is in full swing, strawberries are still available, and I noticed the green walnuts still in their green coats from the tree..ready for making a local Dalmatian grappa called Orahovac..So popular!
2.Time to work and play. Here in Croatia people love to socialise, meeting at a favourite coffee bar is a favourite pastime for young and old. The older men also like to gather and play a game of bocce, or a round of cards, while the women tend to take a walk together in the cool of the evenings. Work is work, but not all-consuming.
3.Historical sites and feeling part of it I love exploring! I’ve been living here permanently for the past 10 years; I’ve seen a lot, but there’s always something new to see and experience. So much history, and it’s a great feeling being part of it.
4. Nature trails for walking The number of walking trails in Croatia is amazing! The Via Adriatica Trail starts in Istria and traverses the whole of the country ending in Dubrovnik. There are many delightful and scenic trails along the coastal regions, at Plitvica Lakes, The Makarska Riviera, the Velebit mountains up near Zadar, the Zagora Region in the hinterland behind Split, as well as many trails on the islands. So many to choose from, long and short, easy-going or mountainous!
5.Safety In Croatia I feel very safe! I can walk home alone in the evenings with absolutely no sense of danger. Most of my guests who have come to Croatia experience the very same, however since Croatia joined the European Union there has been an increase in pick-pocketing by organised thieves in the more crowded tourist destinations. I always warn my guests to be aware. It’s quite amazing how many times I’ve lost sunglasses, and also my Mobitel, yet have returned to the restaurant or cafe and found them waiting for me at the reception! A nice warm fuzzy feeling for sure!
Cheers for now, Robyn.
APRIL 2021 Dear Friends, Over the past couple of years there has been a lot written about sustainable travel and lifestyle. It’s becoming fashionable to use the term, sustainable responsible tourism, adding it to our conversations and articles more or less as a buzzword without really explaining or honestly understanding the terminology.
During this period of the Covid pandemic, I have had time to stop and think. After many discussions, reading many articles, and watching many documentaries, I have come to the realisation that I want to contribute to the continuing wellness of our planet and our local community.
I agree, for many of us it can become confusing trying to understand what it means to be ecologically responsible, but particularly over this past few years, I have come to realise it’s all about the simple things in life! Turning the air conditioner off when we go out, turning the lights off when they are not needed, buying fresh local products, reducing water wastage, and recycling our fashion garments, reducing the use of plastic, drinking fresh clean water, and eating freshly grown food.
Mass tourism is big business, bringing billions of dollars to International companies, and at the same time is the cause of mass destruction to our global environment, both flora, fauna and creating mass pollution.
In my hometown of Split, I am fortunate to be living in an area of clean fresh air by the sea, however, our glorious Dalmatian Coast is always a source of concern. Over-tourism, like over-fishing, can exhaust an area’s resources and eventually strip away its natural charm.
For many years all the tour itineraries at My Hidden Croatia have focused on small group unique tours exploring the scenic coastline by land and on sea, sailing through our azure waters, rafting down rivers, hiking through island villages, learning how olive oil is pressed; devouring delicious cuisine and guzzling superb local wines. We suggest truffle hunting, cooking classes, and exploring the rustic hilltowns and vineyards on the Istrian peninsula; discovering the ancient Roman remains in Split; exploring the Konavle Valley south of Dubrovnik, walking and admiring the splendour of the Plitvica National Park; not forgetting our capital of Zagreb with its maze of modern museums, art galleries, and fine food. Around and beyond Zagreb towards the East, we find magical castles and forts, nature parks, and walking trails. All waiting for the discerning traveller to discover. This is what I call sustainable responsible travel!
One of my most favourite itineraries is an 8-day slow tour of Island Brač, the island of white stone, in Central Dalmatia. Most visitors take a day tour from Split, however, I believe much of the untouched beauty and history of Brač warrants almost a full week to discover the untouched delights and to learn a little about the way of life on this island of unspoiled charm.
Many people love to sail our coastline. The favourite and the busiest route is from Split to Dubrovnik through many of the more popular islands. Sailing on smaller vessels accommodating up to 12 guests is highly suggested. The sailing route can include visits to island vineyards, mooring in coves, and hidden bays known to these Dalmatian captains and crews. They know all the secrets, the best places for delicious seafood, and the most scenic spots and villages along the way. Other popular less busy sailing routes are from Trogir to Zadar, sailing through the Kornati Islands including Šibenik, and the northern Dalmatian islands. The natural environment of the northern route is truly a nature lover’s dream!
At My Hidden Croatia, we can advise you on boat, yacht, and catamaran charter, assisting you with your booking, assuring you of not only the best vessel available but also a captain and crew that are well known for their seamanship, knowledge, and personality.
Our tours are designed according to the interests of our guests. We take into consideration age groups, fitness, budget, cultural and historical interests, length of stay, and any other special request. Our services include tour planning with or without a tour escort, however, we strongly suggest the inclusion of hand-picked local guides in each of the destinations to be visited.
Within my own home, I am doing my best to be responsible. I have 3 bins for rubbish. Paper, plastic, and organic waste. I conserve electrical energy as much as possible; I take my basket to the fruit and vegetable market; I have removed all plastic items. I really enjoy vintage seconds shopping, adding some great finds of fashion in natural fibres of linen, cotton, and silks to my wardrobe. However, I have a love of fine Italian shoes and comfortable walkers for the outdoors. Joining local charities and volunteer clean-up groups is also on my list, and something I also enjoy. From planting trees to beach clean-ups is always a great way to be involved in the community. Leading a more responsible sustainable lifestyle can be attained in small steps, taking actions, no matter how small, day by day.
Robyn Vulinovich April 2021
May 2021 Dear Friends, A month has passed by so quickly! Here in Croatia the month of May is a delightful time of year, with the sense of Spring in the air, perfumes of wildflowers and herbs all around the countryside, wild asparagus being foraged, home gardens being revitalised, seedlings being planted, strawberry season is starting, the roses are blooming in masses of glorious colours, and the vineyards are sprouting buds of new life..a new season, and the latest vintages are on their way!
A couple of weeks ago, a girl’s weekend away was planned and it seemed a perfect time of year to visit Island Vis, another of the Dalmatian islands that we all adore and so with 4 friends, Tanja Kezić, Heike Jurjević, Ana Kujundić, and Constanza Fernandez I packed my bag and on a perfectly sunny morning, we caught the car ferry from Split to Vis Town, a 2-hour journey.
We decided not to plan our days too much, preferring to ‘go with the flow’.You can read about our totally unplanned adventurist weekend here:
Mid month, with time on my hands, I fulfilled a promise to visit some long time friends in Podgora, a 1.5 hour drive south of Split on the Makarska Riviera. The coastal road is a scenic extravaganza, especially on a clear and sunny day with the blue waters of the Adriatic shimmering as far as the eye can see. I spent 3 days visiting friends that I’ve known since my first visit as a young married woman..The Vulinović family are from here and it’s always a great feeling coming back to familiar faces, and super friendly people. A few of us took a drive up into the old upper village damaged by an earthquake in 1962, and now being restored by many local people. We discovered many new buildings being built on land parcels that were previously zoned for agriculture but now re-zoned ‘Residential’ which is great to see.
Read all about my days in Podgora here: https://myhiddencroatia.com/my-travel-tales/podgora-on-the-makarska-riviera/
A new tour in My Hidden Croatia… In the past few years we have enjoyed day tours to Island Brač, the closest island to Split and the mainland, however, my love of this island has led me to organising 6 days on Brač including 2 days in Split exploring many hidden, mostly unknown treasures, secret coves, olive groves, clearest jade/turquoise coloured waters, art galleries, stone masonry, superb local cuisine and super friendly people plus time to enjoy our ancient city of Split. We’ll stay in a 15th-century palace on Brač, in a peaceful little seaside town of pristine beauty, and from here we’ll venture out to many parts of the island, in a first-class air-conditioned vehicle with our escort who lives and breathes life on his island of Brač. I’m so excited about this program..a first of its kind. You can see the new itinerary here: https://myhiddencroatia.com/small-group-tours/a-slow-tour-of-island-brac/
Travel plans for many are still so uncertain while the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, but hopefully, with the vaccination process taking place around the world we will soon be able to enjoy the thought of exploring new destinations, savouring new tastes and flavours, different cultures and the natural environment. I hope Croatia is on your list! We are here waiting to welcome you and show you many secret and interesting places, together with our Mediterranean cuisine and so many superb vintages that I’m sure will surprise you!
Take care and hope to see you one day soon. Warmest regards, Robyn Vulinovich at My Hidden Croatia