Croatia has arrived to reclaim its place as the pearl of Europe! I have always heard good things about Croatia, and when I finally discovered it for myself, I could not agree more.
Dubrovnik, located on the east side of the Adriatic coast, is an undiscovered gem of a city that has so much to offer that a short visit will not be sufficient. The Old Town of Dubrovnik is surrounded not only by walls that you can easily walk around in 1.5 hours, but also by crystal-clear water; turquoise tints and calm deep blue waters, very rich in salt that make this a perfect destination for a variety of water encounters and fresh seafood.
On the second day of my visit, I had the honor to meet Mr. Robert Mioc, (he prefers to be called Robi), an eccentric character of sorts, that says things as they are and to the point. A sort of Anthony Bourdain twin (look-alike) with similar characteristic traits, who grew up 100m away from the Old City, survived the war of 1991 – 1995 and still truly enjoys life on the pearl. Check out Anthony Bourdain www.anthonybourdain.net
We hit it off immediately, and instead of introducing me to the flashy and semi-touristy Old Town, we opted to jump in his car to discover the true gem of Croatia. Magnificent views of the Adriatic Sea filled with thousands of islands, we passed through Zaton Bay, Mali Ston and finally arrived in the countryside town of Ston; with salt farms, oyster and mussel farms and to my surprise beautiful vineyards all surrounded by an ancient city wall that was built to protect the ancient Dalmatians from the Ottoman Empire and it still very much is in its original constructed state today.
I had no idea Croatia had so many beautiful vineyards, locally grown, locally consumed and never exported. Red wines, comparable to a California Zinfandel and white wines most similar to a California Sauvignon Blanc, to give you an idea of taste and texture. Only major difference is that the alcohol content of the wines here are around 15%–24% compared to our average 13.5% wines.
After seeing the production process of these incredible countryside farmers, Robi, in true Anthony Bourdain fashion, wanted us to share a meal together. Black risotto-paella is the best way to describe it, cooked in cuttlefish ink and herbs. I have to say what a flavorful and delightful treat! Fresh oysters, mussels, clams and razor clams cooked in a white wine and light butter broth with 2 bottles of local wine completed the meal.
The following day, Robi escorted us on his sailboat to explore some of the smaller islands in and around the Adriatic Coast. Sea kayaking around the small islands was an incredible experience, and when it got too hot, jumping in the beautiful water for a dip was not an issue. There are no sharks in the Adriatic Sea.
We ended our day excursion on the island of Mljet (pronounced ‘Neut’), where Robi’s family has an estate. This is where they come for weekend family-getaways and where he eventually will retire. They grow their own vegetables, make their own goat cheese, produce their own wine, and catch their own fish. Here life is simple, peaceful and far away from the hustle and bustle of modern day society.
My time in Croatia was filled with many more activities, excursions and adventures, however in this piece I wanted to particularly highlight the people, the food and how a balanced life between work and play can be medicine for the soul. Take some time out to rediscover that balance in your own life.