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Spending the summer in Croatia – the real story 

Spending the summer in Croatia – the real story

(Photo: Milada Vigerova/Pexels)

A few tips on how to spend your summer in Croatia, what to expect and what to hope for, from prof.Mihaela Naletilić, from CRO to go, Croatian language school, specialized for Croatian language courses for children and adults. 

Croatians often refer to their homeland as the most beautiful country in the world, and our general opinion on our country can easily be read from the words Lijepa naša / Our beautiful – the first two words from the Croatian national anthem and the most known synonym for the word – Croatia. 

As a rational and mature adult, which I am, at least on most days, I must admit, with a heavy heart,  and this will come as a surprise to a lot of my fellow Croats – that there actually are some other beautiful places on the Earth as well.

For example, I myself have recently discovered – la bella Italia – just around the corner. 

Other than the beauty of the Italian countryside and well known cultural and historical wealth, one must give them credit for their fashion style. Honestly,  in whole my life I have never seen so many well dressed individuals as in those 36 hours that I’ve spent in la bella Italia. 

I will not even start on the perfume cloud spreading around Italian men buttoned up in elegant silk shirts while they casually pass you by. 

Yes, yes, us Croats have to finally admit –  there are beautiful places all around the world. However, don’t expect from us ever to say  – that there somewhere might be a better place for summer vacation other then on the Croatian coast!

You see, growing up in Croatia for most children meant that during summer you will spend a week with your parents somewhere on the divine Croatian coast, sunbathing and swimming in the clear blue Adriatic sea. 

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Stunning blue sea in Croatia

Yes, we did travel in a rusty old car which smelled of petrol, furry covers and stale sandwiches and occasionally the car engine would break down covered in smoke somewhere in Lika, half way to the seaside  – but still – we got to enjoy in the most beautiful clear blue sea in the world. 

Or like I point out to my children every time when we are on our Adriatic summer vacation. Foreigners would pay in gold to see this beauty! 

Oh, Mum – please don’t talk about those children in the skyscrapers now!– my daughter usually responses rolling her eyes in all directions. 

You see, my opening line is usually followed with the short lecture on how they should be very grateful because right at this very minute there are some children stuck on the fifteenth floor of the skyscraper somewhere with no air condition! 

Is Croatia the most beautiful land in the world? I will leave that question open to argument. But, I will point out that – the beauty of Croatia is by all means unique.

Let’s say that you did spend some gold and – you came to this little peace of paradise called – Croatia. So, what to see and what to do if you have some free time and some euros to spend in Croatia? 

Of course, we will start from Zagreb. 

1.  Zagreb

Spending a few days in Zagreb during summer might be your best holiday decision. 

All the locals have fled to seaside, at least the richer ones, which means that you can actually find a parking place which is not on outskirts of the town and enjoy a little peace and quite and maybe hear the birds singing, without that deafening car noise.

Well, maybe you will miss out on the bird song, because the fact that Zagreb folks escaped to seaside is usually a sign for  the city authorities to pull out the heavy machinery and rebuild every street, change every pipe and rearrange every brick in town centre.

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Cvjetni trg (Photo: M . Gašaparović/Zagreb Tourist Board)

So your romantic walk through downtown Zagreb might make you feel like you are on a  filming set of Mad Max 2.

If you are taking that romantic walk through Zagreb or enjoying a nice cup of coffee on Cvjetni trg / Flower square, here are some expressions which might come in handy: 

Oprostite !  Excuse me!, I am sorry!

Izvolite/  Here you go! 

Koliko košta….?  How much does this cost?

Molim vas čašu vode! Please, a glass of water! 

Oprostite, gdje je WC?  Excuse me, where is the toalet? 

Oprostite, gdje je stanica metroa… Excuse, me where is the subway station?

Oh, wait, you cannot use that last one! Zagreb doesn’t have a subway, but it has a decent amount of blue trams, blue being the colour of Zagreb, connecting the city really well (even in the Mad Max time of the year ). 

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Driving in one of Zagreb’s trams is a must if you want to experience the real Zagreb life.

From dressed up Zagreb old ladies age 80 to 99,  who are heading to the market for their Saturday coffee, to sweaty loud teenagers giving you the intensive Croatian language course of swearing.

What you don’t hear in a Zagreb tram – probably doesn’t even exist in the Croatian language.

Although there are some tram lines that local refer to as Tramvaj zvan čežnja /  A streetcar named desire, majority of them do get to station on time and no,  they will not open the door if you scream and run and push the button, trust me. So if you see one – run for it! 

(Photo credit: D. Rostuhar/Zagreb TZ)

Other then yelling in the trams on occasions and the usual traffic arguments, you will find Zagreb residents pretty reserved on the street, walking fast with their coffee to go and not paying attention to other people. 

And if someone addresses you, you will probably think that they are  simply – crazy. Sometimes – they really are. 

In Split though – it’s a whole different story. 

2. Split 

Split, or as their residents like to call it – najlipši grad na svitu  / the most beautiful city in the world.

Is Split really the most beautiful city in the World? 

Well, if you by any chance feel differently on the subject, don’t offer your opinion on that matter in Split!

Like I pointed out a few sentences back, it’s a  completely different story on street behavior in this part of Croatia. 

If a complete stranger in Split likes the way you look, they will not hesitate to tell you so this right there on the street.

Gospođo, ma kako ste se lipo sredili! Ma vidi kako ti je mama zgodna!

Madam, you dressed up really nice! Look at your mother, how pretty she is!  – yelled the man in our direction to me while I was waiting for ice-cream in a pastry shop on Riva with my children. 

I was so happy that right that second I’ve ordered two scoops of ice-cream instead of the planned one scoop! And a chocolate dressing. 

Oh, who gives a…. for the continental uptight ways, long live the South! Živio jug!

Split is crowded in any time of year, that is the a part of it’s charm. Still, if you are not the fan of electronic music and don’t want to be run over by an army of  half-naked youth covered in glitter and dressed in neon colours, then avoid beginning of July  – when Split is hosting Ultra – the ultra-big and ultra-popular festival of electronic music. 

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Lately people of Split are having a lot of issues with some not really classy tourists, so if you can avoid  walking through town in topless, vomiting on the streets or local ambulance collecting you while you are passed out on the Riva in some crazy night hour, please do so.

Oh, yes, and dragging your suitcase around the old Town is also not popular! The sound of little wheels rolling on the stones – freaks the locals out! 

When you are in Croatia, of course you would like to buy a nice traditional souvenir which will warm your heart and collect dust on your shelves for the next couple of years. 

Piece of cake, you would think.  Or is it? 

My friend Mike, from the States, was recently visiting Split. He wanted to buy a traditional Dalmatian red cap. So he was strolling through town. And strolling some more.  He found a lot of nice souvenirs like fake sunglasses, knock off designer bags, plastic sandals…

But apparently in the heart of Dalmatia, they did not believe that tourists might be interested in buying – the traditional Dalmatian cap. 

Persistent as he is  – he went to the City Museum and politely asked:

– Where can I buy the traditional Dalmatian cap?

– Oh, you cannot buy it here, we are so sorry. We have them, but they re not for sale.

– Where where do you get it from?  – Mike did not give up easily.

Oh, we order it from Zagreb – the museum employee replied.

Makes sense. 

While you are in Croatia, and in Dalmatia, why not go a little further south and visit – Dubrovnik. 

3. Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik for Croatia is probably what Venice is for Italy. You know there are huge crowds, you know you will be stuck in line somewhere waiting for the toilet, you know that you will overpay your coffee on the main square – but still, it’s a place to see, at least once in your life time.  

Because it will charm you with it’s unique beauty. 

What to expect from Dubrovnik? 

Of course it will not be like on the postcard and yes,

there will be that huge cruiser which will block your view to the sea.  And no, there will be no klapa singing in Sunset beneath your hotel balcony like on those tourist promotion videos. 

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Just like I did not hear one gondolier singing in Venice while paddling. I have seen quite a few of them texting on their phones, mind you.

In their defence, Italian language sounds so divine, that it was enough to hear them talking and yelling across the channel to each other, to make us feel like in a movie! 

And I’ve spotted an American lady singing on her own while the gondolier was on his phone. 

Well that was quite a scene!

However I was not charmed that they, as it seems, don’t believe in benches. Or taking a rest, for that matter. 

On every few steps in Venice there is a warning sign saying something like  – Do not sit  on the stairs! or  Do not stand on the bridge, it’s not a picnic sight.

So after a whole day of sightseeing we found a hidden botanical garden with a lot of nice plants and – a lot of benches. It was packed with tourists. 

Guess what?  Almost no one was observing the plants. They were all just sitting, with exhausted but blissful facial expressions – simply happy that they can finally sit down.   

The good news is there are a lot of benches and shades in Croatia. Croatians still believe in taking a little rest under the palm tree from time to time.  

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I’ve visited Venice three times. First time I was almost stumped over by carnival tourists, second time  all I saw were umbrellas because of the rain pouring on us. 

And the  third time – I was enchanted by Venice. 

Watching gondolas sliding through still green water of the laguna – it is truly beautiful.

As in Venice, it’s all about the right time of the year for visit to Dubrovnik  – I would suggest spring or end of summer – and expect to be charmed by Dubrovnik.

Well, any way – Croatia is a place to see – in any time of year.  A beautiful country with easy going slowed down way of living. 

This is often why so many people get confused in thinking that Croatian language is so easy. 

A mental image of Croatia in their mind includes a huge parasol, a long beach…sea view, which leads to conclusion that… – Croatian language must be easy and simple as well!  Is it? 

Well… let’s leave that subject for another story.

Meanwhile,  If you want to learn more Croatian expressions, or simply completely blend in and learn Croatian language – join CRO to go us on our courses ONLINE or in person.

Check out about our Croatian language courses for children and adults on www.crotogo.hr or find us on Facebook: CRO to go (education)

And don’t forget… 

Uživajte u Hrvatskoj! Enjoy Croatia!

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