Monday, 19 July 2021

Diocletian's Dream: a Stunning VR Experience Bringing Split History to Life

July 19, 2021 - How to combine modern technology and ancient heritage in a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Check out the incredible Diocletian's Dream VR experience, bringing Diocletian's Palace to life as never before. 

How to bring a an ancient monument to life for all ages?

Diocletian's Palace is one of my favourite places in Croatia. Superbly located on the gorgeous Split waterfront, it is a vibrant living Roman city within a city than breathes history on every corner. 

Walking tours of the palace are among the most popular activities in Split, and yet over the years, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a variation of the following question to tour guides after the tour is complete:

"That was very interesting, but where is the actual palace?"

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Other key Roman attractions such as Salona or the Pula Arena are easily identifiable for what they once were, but with so many cool bars, restaurants, museums and galleries, boutique hotels and AirBnBs, it is sometimes hard to imagine what Diocletian's Palace once was, never mind visualise it for what it was constructed - the retirement home of Emperor Diocletian. For  years I have watched tour groups walk around taking photos and only half-listening to the guide. I always  wondered exactly how much they were taking in. With the summer heat an additional factor, it was clear that the messages of the tour guides were only partially successful. 

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If only there was something which could explain the majesty of Diocletian's Palace as it once was in a simple and communicative way to suit the modern tourist. 

I heard about a new concept called Diocletian's Dream over an excellent cocktail at Kavala Beach Bar on a quick trip to Split last week. Diocletian's Dream was apparently an Irish-Croatian parntership, offering a high-quality 15-minute Virtual Reality (VR) experience of life at the time of Diocletian, entertainingly narrated by a senior slave. As I was looking for some educational bonding experiences with my teenage daughter, Diocletian's Dream seemed to tick the box, and I put a visit on the agenda for the following day. 

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Located conveniently an an 80m2 ground floor space at the back of Djardin and overlooking the palace, Diocletian's Dream is perfectly located to compliment a walking tour of the palace. And while the imminent VR experience was bound to be spectacular, it was more than matched by the passion and enthusiasm of Irish co-owner Declan, who greeted us warmly. 

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One of  the few such experiences in the world (they are currently about 5-6 others) and the first in Croatia, it didn't take long to become absorbed by Delcan's enthusiasm for the project or attention to detail. Everything had been factually checked with local experts, he assured, and the movie production crew had been painstaking in their attention to detail to get everything completely right. Actors, script writers and even some celebrity voices (including the lead singer of popular Croatian band TBF) were enlisted in the effort to bring 1,700 years of history to life for the modern tourist.

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The first three impressions that struck me were cleanliness, space, and temperature. That airconditioning was a lifesaver with temperatures over 30 degrees outside. I could just imagine how refreshing it would be to come and enjoy the VR experience after walking around the palace. As this is clearly a project of passion, Declan and his partner have chosen comfort over profit. The beautifully designed and themed viewing room holds a maximum of 15 people, where they could perhaps have crammed in 30. There is a sitting area and use of a toilet for tour guides who want to relax after bringing their guests in. A very refreshing change from outside altogether. 

As for the VR experience itself, I will not give away too many secrets as I really do encourage you to check it out yourself. My daughter laughed when I told her that this was my first real VR experience - how the generations are different when it comes to technology. With a choice of English, Croatian, French, German and Italian, I chose the English. Delcan applied my headset and I was transported back to 305 BC, with my very own slave tour guide. I was reminded not only to look ahead, but encouraged to look up, down and back. And I felt a little dizzy as we mimicked a Roman drone to get a bird's eye view of the palace 1,700 years ago. 

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Apart from the excellent graphics and attention to detail, what makes Diocletian's Dream a winner is the way it tells the story. Rather than spouting facts and dates, the story developed through our slave guide was both educational and humourous, taking us not only through some of the key parts of the palace, but also through situations in daily life during the time of Diocletian. The storyteller succeeds in weaving in useful facts and observations about the palace into his story, facts that are with me still in a way that walking tours do not succeed. 

The 15 minutes flew by, and my understanding of this magnificent palace was certainly enriched. Now I wanted to go to some of the locations featured and see them through fresh eyes. 

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A visit to Diocletian's Dream costs 80 kuna for adults and 50 kuna for children. It is one of the few attractions in the city which is truly for all ages. And if you are trying to excite your kids about ancient heritage at a time when they just want to be on their smart phones, Diocletian's Dream is a little hard to beat. 

Personally, I think it should be a recommended addition to all walking tours of the palace, as it really helps to fill in the gaps and make the palace come to life. I am just not sure which would be better, to do the VR experience before a walking tour, or after. The benefits of watching it before mean that you will be a lot more prepared and engaged for what you are about to experience. Having said that, perhaps seeing it at the end with that nice cool temperature is the perfect way to relax and fill in the gaps. Or perhaps both... 

Looking online for feedback from other visitors, I was delighted to see it ranked number 1 out of 476 tours in Split. Deservedly so. And a really good vlog and interview with Declan with our friends from 45 Degrees Sailing

The partnership between modern technology and ancient heritage is an important one for the development of tourism in the modern age, and it is not easy to get right. Diocletian's Dream has certainly managed. Learn more on the official Diocletian's Dream website

To learn more about Diocletian's Palace and Split, check out the TC Split in a Page guide

 

 

Friday, 19 February 2021

People also ask Google: What is Croatia Famous For?

February 19, 2021 – What is Croatia Famous For?

People outside of the country really want to know more about Croatia. They search for answers online.

Here, we'll try to answer the popular search terms “What is Croatia famous for?” and “What is Croatia known for?”

Most of the people looking for answers to these questions have never been to Croatia. They may have been prompted to ask because they're planning to visit Croatia, they want to come to Croatia, or because they heard about Croatia on the news or from a friend.

What Croatia is known for depends on your perspective. People who live in the country sometimes have a very different view of what Croatia is famous for than the rest of the world. And, after visiting Croatia, people very often leave with a very different opinion of what Croatia is known for than before they came. That's because Croatia is a wonderful country, full of surprises and secrets to discover. And, it's because internet searches don't reveal everything. Luckily, you have Total Croatia News to do that for you.

What is Croatia known for?

1) Holidays


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Croatia is best known globally as a tourist destination. Catching sight of pictures of the country online is enough to make almost anyone want to come. If you've heard about it from a friend, seen the country used in a TV show like Game of Thrones or Succession, or watched a travel show, your mind will be made up. Following such prompts, it's common for Croatia to move to first place on your bucket list. If it's not already, it should be, There are lots of reasons why Croatia is best known for holidays (vacations).

a) Islands


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What is Croatia famous for? Islands © Mljet National Park

Within Croatia's tourist offer, its most famous aspect is its islands. Croatia has over a thousand islands - 1246 when you include islets. 48 Croatian islands are inhabited year-round, but many more come to life over the warmer months. Sailing in Croatia is one of the best ways to see the islands, and if you're looking for a place for sailing in the Mediterranean, Croatia is the best choice because of its wealth of islands. These days, existing images of Croatia's islands have been joined by a lot more aerial photography and, when people see these, they instantly fall in love.

b) Beaches


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What is Croatia famous for? Its holidays are famous for their beaches © Szabolcs Emich

Croatia has 5835 kilometres of coastline on the Adriatic Sea - 1,777.3 kilometres of coast on the mainland, and a further 4,058 kilometres of coast around its islands and islets. The Croatian coast is the most indented of the entire Mediterranean. This repeated advance and retreat into the Adriatic forms a landscape littered with exciting, spectacular peninsulas, quiet, hidden bays, and some of the best beaches in the world. There are so many beaches in Croatia, you can find a spot to suit everyone. On the island of Pag and in the Zadar region, you'll find beaches full of young people where the party never stops. Elsewhere, romantic and elegant seafood restaurants hug the shoreline. Beach bars can range from ultra-luxurious to basic and cheap. The beaches themselves can be popular and full of people, facilities, excitement and water sports, or they can be remote, idyllic, and near-deserted, accessible only by boat. Sand, pebble, and stone all line the perfectly crystal-clear seas which are the common feature shared by all.

c) Dubrovnik


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What is Croatia famous for? Dubrovnik © Ivan Ivanković

As a backdrop to Game Of Thrones and movies from franchises like Star Wars and James Bond, Dubrovnik is known all over the world. Everybody wants to see it in person, and that's why it's an essential stop-off for so many huge cruise ships in warmer months. But, Dubrovnik's fame did not begin with the invention of film and television. The city was an autonomous city-state for long periods of time in history, and Dubrovnik was known all over Europe – the famous walls which surround the city of Dubrovnik are a testament to a desire to maintain its independent standing for centuries while living in the shadow of expanding, ambitious empires.

d) Heritage


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What is Croatia famous for? Heritage. Pula amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world

The walled city of Dubrovnik is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Croatia's rich architectural and ancient heritage. Diocletian's Palace in Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still the living, breathing centre of life in the city (that people still live within it and it is not preserved in aspic is one of its most charming features and no small reason for its excellent preservation).

Having existed on the line of European defence against the Ottoman empire, Croatia also has many incredible fortresses and castles. The fortresses of Sibenik are well worth seeing if you're visiting Sibenik-Knin County and its excellent coast. A small number of Croatia's best castles exist on the coast, Rijeka's Trsat and Nova Kraljevica Castle is nearby Bakar being two of them. Most of Croatia's best and prettiest castles are actually located in its continental regions which, compared to the coast, remain largely undiscovered by most international tourists.

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Many spectacular castles in the country's continental regions are, for these parts, what is Croatia famous for

Pula amphitheatre (sometimes referred to as Pula Arena) is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. A spectacular sight year-round, like Diocletian's Palace, it remains a living part of the city's life, famously hosting an international film festival, concerts by orchestras, opera stars, and famous rock and pop musicians. Over recent years, it has also played a part in the city's music festivals.

e) Music Festivals


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What is Croatia famous for? Music festivals © Khris Cowley

There is a very good reason why the city of Pula leapt massively up the list of most-researched online Croatian destinations over the last decade. It played host to two of the country's most famous international music festivals. Though the music at some of these can be quite niche, the global attention they have brought to the country is simply massive. Clever modern branding and marketing by the experienced international operators who host their festivals in Croatia mean that millions of young people all over the world have seen videos, photos and reviews of Croatia music festivals, each of them set within a spectacular backdrop of seaside Croatia.

f) Plitvice Lakes and natural heritage


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What is Croatia Famous For? Plitvice Lakes, national parks and natural heritage

Known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes and gushing waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes is the oldest, biggest and most famous National Park in Croatia. Everybody wants to see it. And many do. But that's not the be-all and end-all of Croatia's stunning natural beauty. Within the country's diverse topography, you'll find 7 further National Parks and 12 Nature Parks which can be mountain terrain, an archipelago of islands, or vibrant wetlands.

2) Football


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What is Croatia famous for? Football. Seen here, Luka Modric at the 2018 World Cup © Светлана Бекетова

The glittering international careers of Croatian footballers Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, Mario Mandžukić, and others have in recent years advertised Croatia as a factory of top-flight footballing talent. They helped put Croatia football on the map with fans of European football. Football fans in Croatia have a very different perception of just how famous Croatian football is to everyone else in the world. If you talk to a Croatian fan about football, it's almost guaranteed that they will remind you of a time (perhaps before either of you were born) when their local or national team beat your local or national team in football. 99% of people will have no idea what they are talking about. The past occasions which prompt this parochial pride pale into insignificance against the Croatian National Football Team's achievement in reaching the World Cup Final of 2018. This monumental occasion brought the eyes of the world on Croatia, extending way beyond the vision of regular football fans. Subsequently, the internet exploded with people asking “Where is Croatia?”

Sports in general are what is Croatia known for

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Croatians are enthusiastic about sports and engage in a wide number of them. The difference in perception between how Croats view the fame this gets them and the reality within the rest of the world is simply huge. Rowing, basketball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, tennis, handball, boxing, waterpolo, ice hockey, skiing and volleyball are just some of the sports in which Croatia has enthusiastically supported individuals and local and national teams. Some of these are regarded as minority sports even in other countries that also pursue them. Croatians don't understand this part. If you say to a Croatian “What is handball? I never heard of that,” they will look at you like you are crazy or of below-average intelligence.

3) Zagreb


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What is Croatia famous for? Its capital city Zagreb is becoming increasingly better known

Over relatively recent years, the Croatian capital has skyrocketed in terms of fame and visitor numbers. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world now come to visit Zagreb each year. Its massive new success can be partly attributed to the rising popularity of international tourism in some areas of Asia (and Zagreb being used as a setting for some television programmes made in some Asian countries) and the massive success of Zagreb's Advent which, after consecutively attaining the title of Best European Christmas Market three times in a row, has become famous throughout the continent and further still. Zagreb's fame is not however restricted to tourism. Zagreb is known for its incredible Austro-Hungarian architecture, its Upper Town (Gornji Grad) and the buildings there, an array of museums and city centre parks and as home to world-famous education and scientific institutions, like to Ruder Boskovic Institute and the Faculty of Economics, University of Zagreb.

4) Olive oil


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What is Croatia famous for? Olive oil

Croatian olive oil is the best in the world. Don't just take out word for it! Even the experts say so. In 2020, leading guide Flos Olei voted Istria in northwest Croatia as the world's best olive oil growing region for a sixth consecutive year. Olive oil production is an ancient endeavour in Croatia, and over hundreds of years, the trees have matured, and the growers learned everything there is to know. Olive oil is made throughout a much wider area of Croatia than just Istria, and local differences in climate, variety, and soil all impact the flavour of the oils produced. Croatian has no less than five different olive oils protected at a European level under the designation of their place of origin. These and many other Croatian olive oils are distinct and are among the best you're ever likely to try.

5) There was a war here


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What is Croatia famous for? A relatively recent war left its mark on the country © Modzzak

Under rights granted to the republics of the former Yugoslavia and with a strong mandate from the Croatian people, gained across two national referendums, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic country, with each republic containing a mixture of different ethnicities and indeed many families which themselves were the product of mixed ethnicities. Ethnic tensions and the rise of strong nationalist political voices in each of the former republics and within certain regions of these countries lead to a situation where war became inevitable. The worst of the fighting was suffered within Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina and the part of southern Serbia which is now Kosovo. The Croatian War of Independence (known locally as the Homeland War) lasted from 1991 – 1995. The Yugoslav wars of which it was a major part is regarded as the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II. In many cases, this war pitted neighbouring houses or neighbouring villages against each other and sometimes members of the same family could be found on opposing sides. The war left huge damage on the country and its infrastructure, some of which is still visible. Worse still, it had a much greater physical and psychological impact on the population. Some people in Croatia today would rather not talk about the war and would prefer to instead talk about the country's present and future. For other people in Croatia, the war remains something of an obsession. If you are curious about the Croatian War of Independence, it is not advisable to bring it up in conversation when you visit the country unless you know the person you are speaking with extremely well. It is a sensitive subject for many and can unnecessarily provoke strong emotions and painful memories. There are many resources online where you can instead read all about the war, there are good documentary series about it on Youtube and there are several museums in Croatia where you can go and learn more, in Vukovar, Karlovac and in Zagreb.

6) Wine


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What is Croatia famous for? Its wine is some of the best you'll ever try © Plenković

Croatia is not really that famous for wine. Well, not as famous as it should be because Croatia makes some of the greatest wine on the planet. Croatian wine is only really famous to those who have tried it after visiting – you'll never forget it! A growing cabal of Croatian wine enthusiasts are trying their best internationally to spread the word about Croatian wine. However, there isn't really that much space in Croatia to make all the wine it needs to supply its homegrown demands and a greatly increased export market. Therefore, export prices of Croatian wine are quite high and even when it does reach foreign shores, these prices ensure its appreciation only by a select few. There's a popular saying locally that goes something like this “We have enough for ourselves and our guests”. Nevertheless, Croatian wine is frequently awarded at the most prestigious international competitions and expos. White wine, red wine, sparkling wine, cuvee (mixed) and rose wine are all made here and Croatia truly excels at making each. You can find different kinds of grape grown and wine produced in the different regions of Croatia. The best way to learn about Croatian wine is to ask someone who really knows about wine or simply come to Croatia to try it. Or, perhaps better still, don't do that and then there will be more for those of us who live here. Cheers!

7) Croatian produce


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is protected at a European level, one of 32 products currently protected in this way and therefore what is Croatia famous for © Tourist Board of Drniš

To date, 32 agricultural and food products from Croatia have attained protection at a European level. These range from different prosciuttos, olive oils and Dalmatian bacon, to pastries and pastas, honey, cheese, turkeys, lamb, cabbages, mandarins, salt, sausages, potatoes and something called Meso 'z tiblice (which took a friend from the region where it's made three days to fully research so he could explain it to me at the levels necessary to write an informed article about it – so, you can research that one online). While some prosciutto, bacon, sausages, olive oil and wine do make it out of Croatia, much of these are snaffled up by a discerning few of those-in-the-know. The rest, you will only really be able to try if you visit. And, there are many other items of Croatian produce which are known which you can also try while here

Truffles


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What is Croatia known for? Truffles © Donatella Paukovic

By weight, one of the most expensive delicacies in the world, truffles are a famous part of the cuisine within some regions of Croatia. They feature heavily in the menu of Istria, which is well known as a region in which both white and black truffles are found and then added to food, oils or other products. Truth be told, this isn't a black and white issue - there are a great number of different types of truffle and they can be found over many different regions in Croatia, including around Zagreb and in Zagreb County. But, you'll need to see a man about a dog if you want to find them yourself.

Vegeta


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What is Croatia known for? Vegeta

Having celebrated its 60th birthday in 2019, the cooking condiment Vegeta is exported and known in many other countries, particularly Croatia's close neighbours. It is popularly put into soups and stews to give them more flavour. Among its ingredients are small pieces of dehydrated vegetables like carrot, parsnip, onion, celery, plus spices, salt and herbs like parsley.

Chocolate


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What is Croatia known for? Chocolate is a big export© Alexander Stein

Though making chocolate is only around a century old in Croatia, Croatian chocolate has grown to become one of its leading manufactured food exports. Some of the most popular bars may be a little heavy on sugar and low on cocoa for more discerning tastes. But, lots of others really like it.

Beer


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What is Croatia famous for? Its beer is becoming more famous internationally © The Garden Brewery

The exploding growth of the Croatian craft ale scene over the last 10 years is something that is likely to have passed you by, unless you're a regular visitor to the country, a beer buff or both. Most of the producers are quite small and production not great enough to make a big splash on international markets. However, even within a craft-flooded current market, Croatian beer is becoming more widely known – in one poll, the Zagreb-based Garden Brewery was in 2020 voted Europe's Best Brewery for the second consecutive year

8) Innovation


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What is Croatia famous for? Pioneers, inventors and innovation. Nikola Tesla was born here

From the parachute, fingerprinting, the retractable pen and the tungsten filament electric light-bulb to the torpedo, modern seismology, the World Health Oganisation and the cravat (a necktie, and the precursor to the tie worn by many today), Croatia has gifted many innovations to the world. The list of pioneers - scientists, artists, researchers and inventors - who were born here throughout history is long. And, although innovation is not currently regarded as experiencing a golden period in Croatia, there are still some Croatian innovators whose impact is felt globally, such as electric hypercar maker Mate Rimac.

9) Being poor


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What is Croatia famous for? Being poor. Yikes!

The minimum wage in Croatia is among the lowest in Europe. Croatian language media is constantly filled with stories about corruption. There is a huge state apparatus in which key (if not most) positions are regarded to be politically or personally-motivated appointments. This leads to a lack of opportunity for Croatia's highly educated young people. Many emigrate for better pay and better opportunities. This leads to a brain drain and affects the country's demographics considerably (if it usually the best educated, the ablest and the youngest Croatian adults who emigrate). Many of those who stay are influenced by the stories of widespread corruption and lack of opportunity and are therefore lethargic in their work, leading to a lack of productivity. A considerable part of the Croatian economy is based on tourism which remains largely seasonal.

10) People want to live in Croatia


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What is Croatia famous for? People want to come and live here. No, really.

Yes, despite many younger Croatians leaving or dreaming of leaving and despite the low wages, many people who are not from Croatia dream about living here. Of course, it's an all too familiar scenario that you go on holiday somewhere and while sitting at a seafood restaurant in sight of a glorious sunset, having had a few too many glasses of the local wine, you fall in love with Miguel or however the waiter is called who served it and Miguel's homeland. But, with Croatia, this is actually no passing fancy, no idle holiday dream. People do decide to move here. And not just for the sunset and Miguel (nobody in Croatia is called Miguel - Ed).

Croatia may be known for being poor, but it also has one of the best lifestyles in Europe. That it's cafe terraces are usually full to capacity tells you something about the work to living ratio. Croatians are not just spectators of sport, many enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This informs everything from their pastimes to their diet. There are great facilities for exercise and sport, wonderful nature close by whichever part of the country you're in. You can escape into somewhere wonderful and unknown at a moment's notice. The country is well connected internally by brilliant roads and motorways, reliable intercity buses and an international train network. The tourism industry ensures that multiple airports across Croatia can connect you to almost anywhere you want to go, and major international airports in Belgrade and Budapest, just a couple of hours away, fly to some extremely exotic locations. There are a wealth of fascinating neighbour countries on your doorstep to explore on a day trip or weekend and superfast broadband is being rolled out over the entire country. This is perhaps one of the reasons Croatia has been heralded as one of the world's best options for Digital Nomads. In a few years, when we ask what is Croatia famous far, they could be one of the answers.

What is Croatia famous for, but only after you've visited

Some things you experience when you visit Croatia come as a complete surprise. Most would simply never be aware of them until they visit. They are usually top of the list of things you want to do when you come back to Croatia.

Gastronomy


fritaja_sparoge_1-maja-danica-pecanic_1600x900ntbbbbb.jpgGastronomy is only one of the things what is Croatia known for only after you've visited © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Despite a few famous TV chefs having visited and filmed in Croatia over the years, Croatian gastronomy remains largely unknown to almost everyone who's never been to Croatia. That's a shame because you can find some fine food here. Croatia has increased its Michelin-starred and Michelin-recommended restaurants tenfold over recent years. But, perhaps the bigger story is the traditional cuisine which varies greatly within the countries different regions. From the gut-busting barbecue grills and the classic Mediterranean fare of Dalmatia to the pasta, asparagus and truffles of Istria to the sausages and paprika-rich stews of Slavonia and the best smoked and preserved meats of the region, there's an untold amount of secret Croatian gastronomy to discover.

Coffee


restaurant-3815076_1280.jpgWhat is Croatia known for? Well, to locals, it's famous for coffee - not just a drink, it's a ritual

Croatians are passionate about coffee and about going for coffee. It's a beloved ritual here. Going for coffee in Croatia is often about much more than having coffee. It's an integral part of socialising, catching up and sometimes being seen. It doesn't always involve coffee either. Sometimes, you'll be invited for coffee, only to end up ordering beer. It's not about the coffee. Although, the standard of coffee in Croatia, and the places where you drink it, is usually really good.

The misapprehension: What is Croatia known for (if you are a Croatian living in Croatia)

Handball, music

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Monday, 23 November 2020

3 Female Returnees Bring Digital Nomad Work, Play & Living to Diocletian's Palace

November 23, 2020 - What if remote workers could combine the world of digital nomad work, play and living in one place - a UNESCO World Heritage Site and retirement home of a Roman Emperor, perhaps? Well now you can thanks to three enterprising female entrepreneurs in Split. 

Having been brought up a Brit, it is hard to admit I have a hero who is Australian. Actually, not one, but three - all inspiring ladies from the Croatian diaspora who moved to Croatia to try their luck in the land of their ancestors. 

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And all three have succeeded, despite the many obstacles thrown in their way. It has been a pleasure to cheer from the sidelines as I have charted their path to success. And now a new chapter, as my three heroes have teamed up together for the first time to offer the option of digital nomad work, play and living in one exciting concept - located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former retirement home of a Roman Emperor no less - Diocletian's Palace in Split. 

There is a lot of buzz and talk about digital nomads in Croatia at the moment. A combination of the initiative to make Croatia only the sixth country in the world to offer such a visa, as well as the realisation that Croatia's current accidental tourism 'strategy' needs an urgent reset, has had many tourism providers looking to cater to this new digital nomad tourism opportunity. 

Most are completely missing the point. 

It has been mildly amusing to see the number of businesses in Croatia who are suddenly advertising themselves as digital nomad friendly, as though a bed and reasonable WiFi is all that is required. While both are a prerequisite, there is a little more to it than that. Two of the major planks of a successful digital nomad tourism offer, at least in my humble opinion, are lifestyle and community. Travelling the world is a rewarding experience, but it can also be a lonely one. If you are working remotely and you can find a place to live, work and play all in one, then that is a lot more appealing.

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Enter my three Australian heroes - Tanja, Maria and Korana - all of whom will be familiar to longterm readers of TCN. 

I have been spending quite a bit of time on and offline with Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater Nomads this year. Founder of a co-working space of the same name in Split, Tanja has put a lot more thought than most into the potential (and the pitfalls) of Croatia embarking on the digital nomad route (and for those interested, 10 Ways Croatia Will Be At The Forefront of Countries with a Digital Nomad Visa is a worthy read).  Tanja also organised the first Digital Nomad conference in Croatia last month, is a founder of the Digital Nomad Association, and we will shortly be announcing her latest cool event, a digital nomad boot camp to coincide with Advent in Zagreb. 

Maria and Korana are lifelong friends who came to Split as naive 22-year-olds who thought they spoke fluent Croatian almost 20 years ago. As some of the few foreigners who have been working here as long as I have, it is always fun to catch up with them and have a laugh about the good old days. Having famously flooded the main square of Diocletian's Palace on the first day of opening their first business, a fast food joint, they have gone from strength to strength with a combination of determination, vision, charm, sound decision-making and 10 lifetimes of hard work. The first legally registered hostel started the empire which then blossomed into three hostels, one of the most popular hangouts  in Diocletian's Palace (Charlie's Bar), and two excellent restaurants, Zinfandel and Brasserie on 7. Life was good for the owners of Zeven Gastronomy Group and Split Hostel Group.

And then came corona. 

Not for the first time in their Croatian odyssey, it was time for a rethink, this time over a glass of wine with Tanja. What if all the assets and components of both businesses could be realigned for the greater good? A co-working business, hostels, a bar and two restaurants. What kind of package could that be if it was all made available to customers to work, live and play?

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And that is exactly what these three heroes have done. As Tanja explained:

Around mid-September, I was contacted by nomads looking for co-living options. There weren’t any in Split. We already find long-stay accommodation options, so a hostel - especially as they had been hit so hard by Covid19, was a logical option. I contacted Korana, and it started very quickly.

All this was happening while the preparations for Dubrovnik Digital Nomads was underway. Korana and Amanda - our Saltwater member who ran the bar at our Beach Office Bacvice Bacvice this summer.

In our first week of opening, our two top floor “penthouse” private offices (Bill and Ted) filled up! Couples from US/Canada and UK/USA. Since then, we’ve had quite a few people trial, and some join.

Coworking isn’t an easy business - it’s very transient. It is more about the community activity and events. Plus some good ole fashioned Dalmatian ‘pomalo’... things happen slowly here. Which is fine; we’re in this for the long haul. Especially as it’s very fun to run.

So what does the digital nomad work, play and living combination look like?

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Some of the stone wall hostel rooms have been converted into shared workspaces, private offices, meeting rooms - already fitted out with showers, communal areas and kitchen. And the authentic stone walls as your Zoom background come as standard. 

One of the hostels remains as a coliving option - starting at 250 euro month to stay in the Centre of Old Town Split in Diocletian’s Palace.

And what better location for your new office. Not only in a World Heritage Site, but also above the team's Charlie's Bar, offering a steady supply of coffee, cocktails and beer on tap with a nomad discount.

Feeling peckish or looking for a change of workplace scene? Both Zinfandel and Brasserie on 7 are available with discounted prices for registered Saltwater and Split Hostels customers. And with B7's fabulous waterfront location at the centre of Split's famous riva, there are few better more beautiful locations for a temporary office. 

The sense of community is crucial to a happy experience, and all three of these fabulous ladies have long experience in producing outstanding customer service, and so it is no surprise that this new nomad offer comes with a little fun in addition to the basic services. 

The weekly Nomad Table combines food, wine, entertainment and great company.  Education of Croatian wines are already proving popular, a Zinfandel speciality, and some ice-breaking games at the events so far have helped bring people together. The first, held on the inauspicious date of Friday 13, 2020 (what could possibly go wrong?) included an icebreaker game lining up cards with guest and staff point of origin and distance to Split. The furthest away was Hamilton, NZ - although this was strongly contested by Dunedin and Taupo hometowners!

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Last week, the Crljenak, Plavac Mali and Posip was washed down with COVID bingo - “68 late for your Tinder Date, 83 Gluten Free and 88 Wills and Kate”. It’s very 2020.

The next event is on Friday 27th - a wine flight and group dinner, with another icebreaker game to be decided. And every Friday and Saturday has live music.

Word of mouth seems to be moving quicker than even the most dedicated blogger. Several Zagreb nomads are heading south for a taste of a Mediterranean winter. So far there have been nomads from Paraguay, USA, UK, Canada, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, and a couple from Poland who are sharing their newly adopted home with people back home on Ewa’s Let's Split blog - documenting their journey from Poland to their new home in Croatia. 

Did I mention customer service? New vegan options are being added to the menu, as three of the early members are vegans. 

Fabulous stuff, and I look forward to seeing how this initiative evolves. With the connections and creative minds of the founding mothers, the prospects are enticing indeed. 

The potential of digital nomad tourism in Croatia - with or without the visa - is immense. In order to take advantage properly, it will require a little more than a bed and a good WiFi connection. Good luck to my three heroes - I have been saying for a while that Croatia needs to move from Croatia, Full of Life (whatever that means) to Croatia, Your Safe, Authentic, Lifestyle destination. The Zeven Hospitality Group/Split Hostel Group/Saltwater partnership does exactly that. 

For more information, you can contact the team via the Saltwater website.

For the latest digital nomad news, follow the dedicated TCN section

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Palace of Life, City of Changes: Project to Help Restore and Improve UNESCO-protected Split

October 30, 2019 - A new EU-funded project will help restore, valorize, and improve the UNESCO-protected historic center of Split and Diocletian's Palace. 

Splitski Dnevnik reports that the European Union’s Ministry of Regional Development and Funds announced a tender for proposals for the “Palace of Life, City of Changes Integrated Visitor Infrastructure Development Program of the Old Town and Diocletian's Palace”,  within the ITU Mechanism and Operational Program ”Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020 ".

The project is developed by the City of Split, along with partners, including the Split Tourist Board and the Split City Museum. The project's total estimated value is HRK 23.8 million, of which HRK 18.2 million is available in EU funds.

The project is based on restoring, valorising, presenting and improving the UNESCO site and historic center of Split, with Diocletian's Palace, including individually protected immovable cultural property, the Old Town Hall, and objects within the protected historic entity - like the Split City Museum and the southeast tower of Diocletian's Palace, with the associated depots of the City Museum in the building at Lukačićeva 5 and the exit to the southern part of the eastern wall of the Palace. The project aims to integrate the sites into the function of sustainable development of the local community and present Split as a city of layered and vibrant cultural heritage.

Investments foreseen in the project include conservation, restoration, and construction works and furnishing the facilities above, as well as establishing modern installations that will present the history and development of Split. Thus, more than HRK 7 million will be invested in renovating and furnishing the Old Town Hall, more than HRK 2 million in renovating and furnishing the Split City Museum, and over HRK 5 million in the southeast tower with the associated premises at Lukačićeva 5 and part of the eastern wall of the Palace. Creating contemporary presentations is set at HRK 3 million.

The remainder of the investment is related to the project’s technical documentation, which includes a plan for sustainable visitor management, expert work supervision, training and workshops, visibility, setting up a ticket and visitor tracking system, designing authentic and creative souvenirs, wine and gastronomy products based on local and cultural heritage, and project management.

All of this will contribute to the development of new cultural and visitor infrastructure, relieve the most burdened localities of the old city center, and develop an awareness of the importance of preserving the heritage and its role in the sustainable development of the local community.

At the same time, following the call requirements and the indicators of the Operational Program for "Competitiveness and Cohesion", the project will contribute to increasing the number of local and foreign visitors to the newly renovated cultural heritage sites and consequently contribute to the development of Split as a year-round cultural and tourist city.

Split Development Agency - RaST d.o.o. will accept tenders until November 28, 2019, and preparatory activities are already underway. 

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Let's Split: The Amazing Race Discovers Croatia in Season 31 (VIDEO)

June 13, 2019 - The popular CBS series The Amazing Race aired a brand new episode in the United States on June 12, 2019. Namely, the 9th episode of season 31 (yes, you heard that right) titled ‘Let’s Split’ discovers Croatia, and primarily the former home of Emperor Diocletian - Split. 

“Teams take a bumpy ride in Split, Croatia and try not to get tongue-twisted reciting poetry while in motion,” writes CBS about the episode, which saw the remaining six teams travel from Brienz, Switzerland to Croatia to begin their mission at Bačvice beach (though they call it Kašjuni in the show).

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The episode follows the teams from Bačvice, where they are tasked with serving drinks to groups of beachgoers (who are hiding the Travelocity gnome) at cafe bar Žbirac. From there, the mission takes them to Marjan hill and the famous church built into its cliffs. And the task? Delivering bread, of sorts. 

The next stop of the mission is Kašjuni beach, where the competitors chose between two challenges - “Poetry in Motion” and “Washed In from the Ocean”. Namely, the teams could opt for memorizing a poem while riding on a flying tube and proceeding to pronounce it correctly to pass, or snorkeling with metal detectors to find a golden goblet and five coins to get their next clue. 

From Kašjuni the team sped to Diocletian’s Palace, where the competitors had to carefully follow the quick-moving formation of 18 Roman soldiers.

To get to the finish line, the teams rowed from the Split port to Matejuška where they were greeted by a group of Dalmatian dogs.

You can see episode 9 in its entirety below. 

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

City of Split Continues to Improve Accessibility in Diocletian's Palace, Old City Center

In the past year and a half, the City of Split has done a great deal to adapt the public areas in the city center for people with disabilities. If you recall, back in March, a platform lift for disabled persons was set up between Marmontova and Prokurative, and over the last few days, a vertical platform lift has been implemented south of the staircase in front of the Silver Gate at Hrvojeva street, reports Dalmacija Danas on June 12, 2019.

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Vjekoslav Aljinović

This is all thanks to the 'Usefall project, UNESCO Site Experience For All', which aims to facilitate the accessibility of Diocletian's Palace and the old city center of Split. The total budget of the project amounts to 1,140,554.88 euro. The City of Split received 270,000 euro in grants for the 'Usefall' project, designed to improve access to frequented locations within Diocletian's Palace. The project should be completed in June this year.

The project covers: 

- Lifts in the Center for Culture and Lifelong Learning at Golden Gate, a lift/platform at the eastern entrance to the historic core (at the Silver Gate of Diocletian's Palace), and a platform lift and ramp on the west entrance to the historic core, with two passages from the Republic Square (Prokurative) to adjacent streets

- Creating maps with information on the accessibility of cultural facilities for persons with disabilities 

- Organizing workshops for tourist guides, representatives of associations, and cultural institutions to inform them about the maps

- Creating braille models for blind and partially sighted people 

You can see the vertical platform lift beside the staircase in front of the Silver Gate at Hrvojeva street below.

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All photos by Vjekoslav Aljinović

For more information about Croatia's accessibility, check out our overview of some city guides, blog impressions, and useful numbers on Total Croatia.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 29 September 2018

After Many Years, Split Will be Able to Invest in Diocletian’s Cellars

Is a facelift in the future of Diocletian's cellars? 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Nights of Diocletian Begins! A Look at the Opening in Photos

A look at the opening of Nights of Diocletian through the lens of Split photographer 3 Gray Goats.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Official Program for Nights of Diocletian is Here!

Nights of Diocletian will be held from August 25-27, 2017.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Centre of Split Drowning in Sea of Tables and Chairs, Mayor Reacts

Diocletian's Palace is turning into a large crowded bar

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