Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Crazy Dalmatian Island Life in October: Peskafondo on Hvar

October 11, 2022 - And you thought Dalmatian islands were quiet from mid-October? Prepare yourself for the craziness of the 11th Peskafondo squid and big game fishing championship on Hvar. 

A year ago, I asked three Kiwis living in Trogir if they wanted to have a quite exceptional weekend on Hvar. Their initial interest turned to suspicion when I told them I was going to organise a weekend of real fun in the form of a squid fishing championship. In the rain. 

It took all my persuasive powers, but eventually I got them on the catamaran to take part in the 10th edition of the Peskafondo squid and big game fishing championship in Hvar Town. It was actually the first event I wrote about back in 2011 when Total Hvar was about 2 weeks old. Organised by luxury fish restaurant Gariful, Peskafondo started with meagre beginnings, and - if the video reporting of my Kiwi friends is anything to go by - the 10th anniversary was nuts. 

Nick, Anna and Mahina from 45 Degrees Sailing did a video for our CROMADS platform, but then Nick expanded on the weekend in this great vlog on the 45 Degrees channel, below. 

This year's Peskafondo will take place a little earlier than last year, on October 21 and 22. There will be the usual mix of fishing, concerts, great food and wine, and a superb atmosphere whatever the weather, as locals and their international guests relax after yet one more successful season. 


The programme (in Croatian) is below, and there is still time to register if you would like to take part in the competitive fishing. But there is no need to fish if you just want to experience a very special and very local celebration of the art of fishing, Dalmatian-style. A wonderful event. 


You can follow the event on the official Peskafondo Facebook page


What's it like living in Croatia, and where can you get the best survival tips? TCN CEO Paul Bradbury and TCN Editor Lauren Simmonds have teamed up to publish Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.





Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Gariful on Hvar, Connecting Celebs with Fish, Big Game, Sushi & Peskafondo

June 22, 2022 - Where do the rich and famous go for their dose of Adriatic seafood? Gariful on Hvar, dedicated to connecting fish with celebrities.

When I moved to Hvar back in 2002, I had no idea that it was a hot spot for celebrities. Living in my idyllic sleepy bubble in gorgeous Jelsa, I rarely ventured further than Stari Grad, and I could count on one hand the number of times I visited Hvar Town over the next 9 years. Indeed, when Prince Harry famously fell into a nightclub swimming pool in 2011, I only heard about it after reading the story in the UK media - despite me writing for Google News at the time. 

All this changed in 2011 with my decision to write a guidebook about the island, and subsequently to launch the Total Hvar blog. Hvar Town was a fascinating place on so many levels, and the celebrity story was just one aspect of the town's very rich offer. A few days after Prince Harry made Hvar globally famous, Beyonce also did her bit, showing off her baby bump for the first time while holidaying on Hvar. She then named her baby Blue Ivy, after a tree she fell in love with on Hvar. From Orson Welles filming on Hvar in the 1960s to the visit of Magic Johnson last year, it seemed that my adopted island was truly a celeb destination. And one where celebs could walk freely around without being harassed, as Tom Cruise showed in 2012 when he went for a stroll along the riva and then stopped for a coffee on the main square. 

And my guidebook research quickly showed me that if I wanted to include the celebrity angle, I just needed to focus on one place - Restaurant Gariful on Hvar.


(Jon Bon Jovi left the ultimate tip on Hvar - a signed guitar) 

A local restaurateur who took over the family business almost 20 years ago, Gariful on Hvar today is possibly the best-known exclusive fish restaurant on the Adriatic islands, with the most extensive wine list (including a breathtaking list of Champagnes), and it was almost a mandatory stop for celebs visiting Hvar.  And with owner Ivan Gospodnetic keen for the world to know the famous names sampling the freshest Adriatic seafood, the restaurant's celebrity reputation has grown considerably. I remember from those early days that the likes of Bill Gates, Roman Abramovich and Giorgio Armani made it into my first edition guidebook, with Armani listing Gariful on Hvar in his top 7 restaurants in the world. 

But the relationship between Gariful and the sea goes far beyond merely serving seafood to exclusive guests. Indeed, my first encounter with the restaurant soon after I started Total Hvar was far less glamourous. In late October, 2011, in an effort to extend the season and celebrate the local traditions of the sea, Gariful launched a new event called Peskafondo, a squid-fishing tournament, run from the restaurant and with food, wine and music to accompany the event.


(Charlize Theron at Gariful on Hvar)

While I agreed to promote the event, privately I wondered if anyone would turn up to such a thing, and I was very doubtful that it would become a thing. There were just 7 teams in the first year, and about 40 people in the restaurant for the after-party. 

Fast forward a decade, and Peskafondo by Gariful on Hvar 2021 had grown into a 3-day event, including big fishing, with an incredible 72 teams taking part, and over 1,500 people turning out in the rain in November, a time when the island is usually very quiet. Not only that but the teams came from all over Croatia, as well as Poland, Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Serbia.  I chose Peskafondo as our first CROMADS experience and sent 3 dubious Kiwi remote workers to go and experience the event in the rain. They were blown away by how good it was (see the video above). 


Big Game fishing is another connection to the sea that Gariful on Hvar brings for its guests. The restaurant prides itself on the best catch of the day on the island and works with 7 local fishermen to select top-quality fish each morning. But for some guests, merely enjoying a luxury fish dinner is not enough, and the option to take to the high seas and fish for your dinner now exists. It is an exciting and high adrenaline day out, ending of course with a fish extravaganza at the restaurant. 

The core business of Gariful on Hvar is serving its guests at the restaurant, however, and this is where it excels. From its underfloor aquarium and waterfront location, Gariful has had a style of its own for years, quietly expanding its footprint from its prime location at the end of Hvar's elite waterfront. Villa Gariful was added a few years ago, which has become a favourite for celebrities who can move effortlessly from villa to restaurant away from the glare of the paparazzi. A terrace was also added to expand the restaurant capacity. 

And earlier this month, the opening on the latest Gariful seafood offer - the G Spot sushi bar, which is introduced by the restaurant as follows:

By combining carefully selected and fresh ingredients, we bring the flavors of distant lands to your plates. Positioned in the center of beautiful Hvar, within the luxury restaurant Gariful, the new sushi place Gariful G spot will delight you with its diverse offer and high-quality service.  What makes us distinctive from the others is the always fresh fish in sufficient quantities. We offer a diverse sushi offer as well as refreshing summer cocktails. Follow our social networks because once a week we offer live events and the best dance show in town.


Our mission is to provide you with the best dining experience, by offering the best catch of the day and delicious sushi, outstanding wines – both local and international, a stunning view from our upper terrace and a level of service which will amaze you. Enjoy your meal with the sea view from the terrace and find your G spot.


The Gariful G Spot sushi bar has been open a few days and is already proving to be a hit for those looking for the very best sushi, combined with refreshing summer cocktails, unbeatable views and live entertainment, including dancing with a star every Tuesday and Friday. 


Gariful is not cheap, and nor does it claim to be, and stories of Russian guests getting excited over the exotic menu and wine list which contains extremely rare French Bordeaux classics and Champagnes are legendary, but as an all-encompassing introduction to the very best that Adriatic seafood has to offer, it is hard to beat. And if summer sushi is out of your budget, why not return for the squid fishing celebrations in October, which are very affordable and great fun - just one more Gariful insight into the wonderful world of Adriatic seafood. 

You can learn more about Restaurant Gariful on Hvar on the official website

For more about magical Hvar Town, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide





Sunday, 3 May 2020

CRO Cards to Begin from June 1: A Look at How They'll Work

May 3, 2020 - From June 1, CRO cards will be in circulation, where employers will be able to pay their employees 2500 kuna to be used at physical retail outlets of restaurants and accommodation in Croatia, the Ministry of Tourism has revealed.

"The project was approved by the government last year, the process with the banks is now complete, and the cards will be ready for use from the beginning of June. Contracts were signed with seven banks (Agram Bank Zagreb, PBZ, Erste, RBA, OTP, HPB and Podravska). Since this is a card that should control the use of money exclusively in Croatia, those who receive the card can pay with it through the POS devices of these banks. Payment will be possible at points of sale in accommodation and food and beverage service activities. Online use will not be possible," Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Sladjana Vignjevic told Index.

She claims that many interested companies would introduce CRO cards for their employees.

"This amount is non-taxable to employers. According to the survey we conducted, every other employer expressed interest and a lot of big companies want to introduce it, and 63 percent of them prefer the amount of 1000 to 3000 kuna, but we determined it to be 2500 kuna. The card will certainly affect domestic tourism," Vignjevic said.

Already at the end of 2016, the introduction of CRO cards was mentioned to the public, on which employers would pay a certain amount, which would be non-taxable, thus honoring their employees with summer holidays in Croatia. Initially, this was intended to intensify the preseason and postseason, that domestic tourists at that time go to the Adriatic and only then can use this amount from the card. Although it was announced for 2017, the project has not yet started, but on June 1, as stated by the Ministry of Tourism, everything will be ready and citizens will be able to pick up these cards at the mentioned banks.

As the arrival of foreigners to the Adriatic is questionable due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism wants to encourage local guests to come during the season, not just in the preseason and postseason, as mentioned in previous years.

Hrvoje Bujas from the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association thinks that in the current situation, when companies have fallen and have started cutting salaries and laying off workers, it is unrealistic for employers to provide workers with 2500 kuna for a vacation simultaneously. No matter what, as the Ministry states, it is a non-taxable amount.

"It is crazy that anyone will pay a single kuna on that card. Now, whether the state pays the public sector or its public sector employees certain funds on the card, that is their job. However, it is clear that employees in the private sector will not receive this card. I also find that it is unusable, cannot be used online, and thus prevents online travel agencies in Croatia, which are hit hard by the crisis, from selling hotels in Croatia," Bujas told Index.

He states that he discussed the issue with Tourism Minister Gary Cappelli via video call.

"We pointed to this problem and suggested that it be technically resolved and a module added to allow online use in Croatia. In principle, we have nothing against CRO cards, indeed, if it will help tourism, and some of our members are satisfied, but I'm sure they will not be used in the private sector," Bujas says.

"Plus, as I said, the big problem is that online agencies will not be able to use that card and that in the digital age they are not included in the market, these agencies are put up against a wall. And they are counting on some part, when it will already help hotels and restaurants, and in addition, it would help small renters who go through agencies to guests," Bujas added.

"In the end, it is quite clear that this will only be of service to the public and state sectors," Bujas said.

Veljko Ostojic, director of the Croatian Association of Tourism, believes that any boost in tourism is welcome, including CRO cards, but states that they are timed wrong.

"The question is how many entities will be able to afford this opportunity to use the CRO card in this framework. The timing is not the best. As far as I understand, the one who can give, will, but no spectacle will happen," Ostojic told Index.

He said that he felt that any boost for domestic tourism was welcome.

"I'm not looking at this project as a one-year project, but as a long-term one that will last for many years. The project should be looked at in its entirety. If it doesn't work the first year, ok, we do not need to find defects immediately. I think the project is good, but yes, timing is not the luckiest," Ostojic concluded.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Saturday, 26 October 2019

Bon Jovi Signed Guitar Just One Hvar Celebrity Summer Memory at Gariful

October 26, 2019 - The A-List Hvar celebrity love is returning to Croatia's premier island, with some stars leaving gifts. 

I had never heard of the island of Hvar until two days before my first visit in 2002, from which I emerged with a property purchase and a new home. My first impressions were that it was an island of breathtaking beauty and great food. But I really had no idea what treasure I had actually stumbled upon. 

And as the years went by, and especially when I started research for the first modern guide book about the island, I was increasingly impressed. For Hvar has the oldest public theatre in Europe, the most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world, the most island sun in Europe, and so much more. 


Including celebrities. Soon after I started writing about Hvar online, the celebrities seemed to be falling out of the sky and onto this idyllic island. Or, in some cases, falling into swimming pools as Prince Harry managed back in 2011. 

Just a few weeks later, Beyonce turned up and revealed her baby bump to the world. Not only that, she went on to name her daughter Blue Ivy, after a blue ivy tree on Hvar.

The global pop star continued her love affair, returning to paradise once more as she recorded her love of Hvar and Dalmatia. 

Writing about the Hvar celebrity arrivals was easy. And they kept on coming...


Tom Cruise was a high-profile 2012 arrival, the latest global name that had been coming to the island for many years - it was here that Orson Welles filmed The Deep (above) and Mrs JFK came water-skiing back in the 1960s, and Edward and Mrs Simpson popped in for lunch on honeymoon in 1936. 


As the years went by, so too did the type of Hvar celebrity visitor evolve. 

I had no idea what a YouTuber was when I was alerted that Joe Sugg and Oli White were heading to Hvar, but a little Internet research and a couple of phone calls later and I found myself interviewing the influential British YouTubers, location Restaurant Gariful. Gariful has long been known as THE destination for celebrity diners. Roman Abramovich, Bill Gates and Giorgio Armani have all dined there, with Armani putting the Hvar waterfront fish restaurant in his top 7 restaurants in the world. 

And the YouTubers were impressed, and even more intrigued with the underfloor aquarium complete with baby sharks. Why not go for a swim with them, I suggested, surely that would be great YouTuber footage. And so filming began of the most-watched Hvar video of all time, almost 4.5 million views.  

While many celebs visit the island away from the cameras - and Hvar is now for its egalitarian approach to its visitors, leaving the rich and famous to enjoy and relax - I have noticed less Hvar celebrity news pieces in recent years. That changed this year, as Hvar had a great season moving away from its party image to one of quality, culture and luxury. The opening of the oldest public theatre in Europe, built in 1612, after a 20-year renovation, was a very symbolic change in Hvar's direction. Take a tour inside in the video below. 

This was followed in September with the much-anticipated opening of the first 5-star hotel on the island, Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel, located on the place where organised tourism in Europe began back in 1868. 

And nowhere was the Hvar celebrity sightings more prevalent than at Gariful during a very busy 2019 summer. 

hvar-celebrity-gariful (6).jpg

One man who seemingly had the time of his life, judging from his social media postings, was Hollywood star Neil Patrick Harris, whose 2-week stay at Villa Gariful behind the famous fish restaurant was filled with regular visits to his favourite restaurants. 


Charlize Theron was not only happy to pose for the cameras... 

... but also keen to congratulate the chef on an amazing gourmet experience.  Goldie Hawn was also a summer visitor from the world of Hollywood. 

hvar-celebrity-gariful (1).jpg

 And if the Hollywood stars themselves were not able to make it, their families more than happy to enjoy Hvar hospitality. Sylvester may have been busy with work, but the rest of the Stallone family had a great time. 

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Rock star diners of previous summers included Bono Vox, but Jon Bon Jovi was the musical icon of 2019 on Hvar. And he left a gift...  

hvar-celebrity-gariful (4).jpg

I don't know how many guitars Bon Jovi owns or how many times he eats out a month, but I can't imagine he leaves too many signed guitars in the restaurants he frequents.  

hvar-celebrity-gariful (5).jpg

And while the guitar, which is now on display at Gariful, serves as a permanent reminder of the Bon Jovi visit to Hvar, there were plenty of Instagram memories in the opposite direction.  

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And it was not just famous visitors from Hollywood and the world of music - Prince Albert of Monaco was in very relaxed mood during his visit. 

hvar-celebrity-gariful (7).jpg

And where would the world of fashion be without Tommy Hilfiger? 

hvar-celebrity-gariful (8).jpg

And it looks like Hvar's tourism future is in safe hands. Goalkeeping legends Manuel Neuer and Keylor Navas enjoyed Hvar fish celebrities, just part of a world-class football team of visitors which included Dejan Lovren, Sami Kedhira, Ander Herrera and Samir Handanovic, while tennis legends included Jim Courier, Donna Vekic and Jelena Jankovic. 

It is safe to say that Hvar is once more a top hit. The only question remains - who will we see on its famous waterfront next summer?

To learn more about the island, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide

Thursday, 7 February 2019

From Fish to Villas: Gariful Enters Luxury Accommodation Market

It all started one day with a little fish restaurant at the end of the riva... 

The Gariful story is taking its latest twist on Hvar. Easily the best-known restaurant on the island, Restaurant Gariful has been serving the rich and famous for many years now, with movie stars, footballers and celebrity businessmen among the regular clientele.  


It was not long before the Gariful team expanded out into other areas of hospitality. Always keen to support local community initiatives, such as Kids Day and the now-defunct Gariful Tennis Open,  Gariful has expanded in a variety of directions in recent years. 


First came Vintage, a luxury wine bar in the old town, which tapped into the growing interest in Croatian wines and the desire for the older generation to have somewhere quiet and discerning to retreat to after dinner. Backed by the legendary Garfiul wine list, Vintage soon became a hit. 


And then something for the younger crowd, as nightclub SEVEN opened just off the main square, providing some strong competition for Carpe Diem and Pink Champagne.  

gariful4 (1).PNG

Meanwhile, about 1km out of town, a very different Gariful experience - a farm. What started as a small plot of land with a few animals has mushroomed into an impressive tourist attraction and source or organic vegetables for the restaurant. It is a while since I have been, but the range of exotic animals was pretty impressive. Check out the latest at Farma Hvar.


And so it was perhaps only a matter of time before the Gariful brand entered the accommodation market. And where else, but at the top? A stunning new addition to the Hvar accommodation scene will be available to rent from July.  


The Gariful villa is superbly located behind the restaurant in the heart of the old town and just off the fabled Hvar waterfront. And I am sure the owners will be able to give you a good suggestion for lunch... 

Unusually for Hvar, the property can be rented by floor or its entirety. There are four floors connected by lift, two with private jacuzzi, four units in all offering the finest Hvar luxury. If you are looking to rent the whole property, the capacity is 14 people.  


For more information, photos and to book, check out the Gariful blog announcing the new villa.


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Hvar Town Tourism in November: Peškafondo Returns!

Who's ready for squid?

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Luxury Hvar Waterfront Dining: Honeymoon Experiences with a Difference

An alternative way to enjoy a romantic moment on Hvar Town's luxury waterfront on September 4, 2017, as a honeymoon couple opt for privacy among the rubble of the waterfront extension. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

What to Do When a 77-Metre Boat with Helicopter Parks in Front of You on Hvar?

It is peak season, and some of the boats on Croatia's luxury waterfronts are getting bigger...