Thursday, 17 December 2020

Visit Omis: The Summertime Holiday Winter Dreams Are Made For

17 December 2020 – Missing adventure, escape, breathtaking landscapes and unspoiled nature? Visit Omis in 2021 - with 20 kilometres of perfect beaches and crystal-clear seas, the mighty Cetina river and an atmospheric Old Town, it's the summertime holiday that winter dreams are made for.

P3292991_Panorama1Omispastel.jpegThe pretty pastel shades of buildings in Omis contrast beautifully against the sheer, grey, karst rock which rises sharply behind © Omis Tourist Board

The cold outside is often reason enough to spend most of winter indoors. It's a good time for wrapping presents or even wrapping yourself in blankets. Perhaps, if it snows, you'll sit by the window, daydreaming. With a chill in the air, there's no better dream than that of next summer. In the warmth of the summer sun, you can forget all about those blankets and staying indoors. It's time for escape, adventure, the great outdoors, to hit the beach and to swim in the sea.

IMG_1367.jpegCrystal-clear waters run along the length of the Omis riviera © Omis Tourist Board

In 2021, the City of Omis will once again welcome winter's dreamers. From Springtime to October, visitors will come and enjoy its extended summer, many of them returning as they do every year. Because, once you visit Omis, there really is nowhere else that can match its incredible offer.

P4220074.jpegA spectacular landscape, with the lush Cetina river valley cutting through the Dinaric Alps to flow into the sea at Omis - you can see the island of Brac in the distance © Omis Tourist Board

The unique experience when you visit Omis is a product of a singular history and geography. Standing on the mouth of the Cetina - the largest river in Croatia to drain into the Adriatic – Omis and its surrounding riviera is not only filled with pristine and peaceful beaches, it also has waters that, for hundreds of years, have connected the city far into the hinterland. When you visit Omis, it is this riverside positioning that gives its unmissable adventures, culture, heritage and nature.

Omisborderedbypines.jpegThe Cetina river is the largest to flow into the Adriatic in Croatia and helps give Omis a truly unique offer © Omis Tourist Board

Omis has been inhabited since at least Roman times. Today, the winding, narrow streets of its Old Town are a pretty promenade with a distinctly Mediterranean atmosphere. Walking down these stone-paved pathways, intriguing architecture built over centuries is revealed – an unexpected city square opens up, seating drinkers and diners. Above them, the walls of an ancient church and beyond, the spectacularly lit Mirabella fortress that stands impressively above the town. You can easily walk to the top and look over the Old Town and river or, by day, take the path further back, up to the 15th century Starigrad Fortress. Its walls are renowned to hold one of the greatest views in Croatia, the island of Brac dominating the skyline, further still, the island of Hvar. Both can be toured by boat on day trips when you visit Omis.

puljizomis.jpegThe atmosphere-filled Old Town of Omis © Marc Rowlands

Besides venturing out to sea by boat, taking to the waters of the Cetina river is the best way to get the most from the unique offer when you visit Omis. You can kayak from the town into the nearest sections, watching as the pastel shades of Omis buildings are replaced by the towering, epic cliffs of grey karst rock, sometimes dotted with brave and experienced free climbers. Then, suddenly, the river widens to become flanked by reeds, then fields and trees. Birds sit atop the water or fly overhead, fish dart below you in crystal-clear waters, insects and frogs can be heard coming from some hidden place. The whole landscape seems alive, yet silent except for the sounds of nature – you can't hear a single car engine, not the buzz of an overhead cable, only the dipping of your oar in the calm waters.

SamirKurtagi6Cetinabasin.jpegThe still and silent Cetina river valley near Omis, perfect for kayaking and reconnecting with nature © Samir Kurtagić / Omis Tourist Board

Further up the river, the sounds are not so silent. Thrillseekers scream as they fly down the longest run of ziplines in Croatia – a series of eight lines, at times rising 150 metres above the river, the scenery of mountains and surging river is breathtaking, as feet whistle over high treetops. Further up the river, rapids produce white waters perfect for rafting. Although an action-packed run of over two-hours duration, it's an undemanding course taken by many families with children as young as six. Between the fast-moving sections are waterfalls that spray the air and peaceful pools where you pause to swim. At one of the largest stands a huge picnic area, serviced by a restaurant specialising in the rustic cuisine of this part of the Dalmatian hinterland. Thick-crusted, homemade bread is made within metal bells atop wood fires, the perfect accompaniment to local cheeses, prosciutto and seafood.

Zipline Croatia.jpeg© Zipline Croatia

Here, away from the shoreline of the town, countless small villages appear on the roads between the river and mountains. Life in these villages looks remarkably like it did a few hundred years ago. The same fruits and vegetables and vines still grow around the traditional houses, many of them ending up on the tables of the fine restaurants you'll dine in when you visit Omis. The same meals are prepared, such as Soparnik, one of Croatia's most authentic dishes – you can only find it in the small region surrounding Omis. The same folk dances are preserved, and the same songs fill the air. You can hear many of them in Omis itself – the city hosts a famous 55-year-old festival of klapa (acapella) music, its singers dressed in traditional clothes, their voices echoing around the stone streets of the Old Town in the same way they have for hundreds of years. The chamber music evenings and one of the most important guitar festivals in the region add to the wonderful entertainment and atmosphere of balmy summer evenings you have when you visit Omis.

soparnik.jpegSoparnik, one of the most authentically Croatian foods in the country. It comes from the hinterland behind Omis and it's unlikely you'll find it anywhere else © Marc Rowlands

FestivaldalmatinskihklapaOmi_UNESCO_pjaca.jpegThe 55-year-old festival of klapa music in Omis © Omis Tourist Board

Of course, no trip to the Adriatic is complete without time spent on the beach and swimming in the sea. And, when you visit Omis, you're in one of the best places anywhere in Croatia to enjoy it. Relatively undiscovered, the Omis riviera has a wide range of options to suit all. Want to stay close to town? Visit Omis city beach – it's right on your doorstep, popular with families and its waters famously clean. It is extremely rare to find a huge sandy beach like this, right in the heart of the city.

IMG_0240.jpegOmis city beach, a huge stretch of sand, moments walk from the centre - there's plenty of room for everyone © Omis Tourist Board

A short ride down the coast offers a 20-kilometre stretch of perfect small-pebble beaches, shaded by scented pine trees, sitting on impossibly clear waters. Pretty hamlets and fishing villages like Nemira, Stanici, Ruskamen, Lokma Rogoznica, Medici, Mimice, Marusici and Pisak allow you to chose between peaceful seclusion, diving and watersports or flavour-packed lunchtime dining in a traditional Dalmatian tavern.

nemira1beach.jpegThe village of Nemira, one of the countless pristine beaches along the 20 kilometres of the Omis riviera © Omis Tourist Board

This winter has long to go. We will be inside for quite some time yet. But, that gives us plenty of time to dream of next summer. Of all the places you think you'd like to be, once the warm days return, the City of Omis and its riviera should be top of the list. Unique in its offer of adventure, nature, culture and heritage, there really is nowhere else like it on the whole of the Adriatic.

daybreakoveromis.jpegDaybreak over Omis, as seen from the restaurant balcony of Hotel Villa Dvor. The hotel's restaurant is the best place to take coffee in town, the view is spectacular © Marc Rowlands

This article was written by TCN journalists based on first-hand experience of visiting Omis and was subsequently approved by Omis Tourist Board

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Global Terrorism Index 2020: Croatia is a Completely Safe Country

ZAGREB December 2, 2020 – Croatia is a completely safe country, according to the latest figures from the Global Terrorism Index

According to the Global Terrorism Index, Croatia is a completely safe country. Their findings are reported annually by the Institute for Economy and Peace. In their most recent report (published late November 2020), from the year beginning 2018 and ending in 2019, Croatia scored an index rating of 0.0 on the impact of terrorism. This means that, in regards to the threat of and the fallout from terrorism, Croatia is a completely safe country.

In the report, terrorism affects most the citizens of three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. Terrorist groups are powerful and active in these three nations. On a daily basis, they affect and change the lives of all the people who live in these countries, particularly those who inhabit larger population centres.

The situation is particularly tragic in Afghanistan (with an index rating of 9.5). 41% of all fatal victims of terrorist globally live in that one country alone. The second country most-affected on the list is Nigeria with 9%. Afghanistan and Nigeria were the only two countries which each suffered more than 1,000 deaths from terrorism.

Global-Terrorism-Index-2019.jpgA map showing the impact of terrorism globally. The figures were compiled in a one year period between 2018 and 2019, published as an annual report in late November 2020 © Institute for Economy and Peace (IEP)

Globally deaths from terrorism fell for the fifth consecutive year in 2019 to 13,826, a 15 per cent decrease from the prior year. The peak of deaths from terrorism occurred in 2014 and this coincides with the high point of influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL). The figures from 2019 show a decrease of 59% since then.

A total of 63 countries recorded at least one death from terrorism in the most recent report. Although dismal reading, this is in fact the lowest number of countries to have reported such since 2013.

The global economic impact of terrorism was US$16.4 billion in the twelve-month period covered by the report, a decrease of 25 per cent from the previous year. However, the true economic impact of terrorism is much higher as these figures do not account for the indirect impact on business, investment, and the costs associated with security agencies in countering terrorism.

ISIS (or ISIL)'s centre of activity has been shown to have moved to sub-Saharan Africa in the period. Total deaths by ISIL in the region have increased by 67%. ISIL and their affiliates were also responsible for attacks in 27 countries in the year period ending 2019.

GTI-2020-twitter-2020-41-per-cent-ISIL-sub-saharan.jpg© Institute for Economy and Peace (IEP)

The GTI uses a number of factors to calculate its score, including the number of incidences, fatalities, injuries and property damage. The Taliban remained the world's deadliest terrorist group in 2019; however, terrorist deaths attributed to the group declined by 18%. ISIL's strength and influence also continued to decline. For the first time since the group became active, it was responsible for less than a thousand deaths throughout the year.

It is not yet known whether the attack on government buildings in Zagreb in 2020 will affect Croatia's rating on the index published next year. Although a lone endeavour, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is the most high-profile commentator (of many) to have said the attack had elements of terrorism. The global increase in threat from domestic attacks is clearly evident within the rest of the most recent report.

In North America, Western Europe and Oceania, terrorist attacks by groups or individuals involved in far-right politics have increased by 250 per cent since 2014. They are now higher than at any time in the last 50 years. There were 89 deaths attributed to far-right terrorists in 2019. In the USA, white supremacists and other rightwing extremists have been responsible for 67% of domestic terror attacks and plots so far this year.

SaintMark'sChurch.jpgSaint Mark's Square in Zagreb, scene of a shooting in 2020, perpetrated by a Croatian citizen © Marc Rowlands

There have so far not been any terrorist actions attributable to fundamentalist Islamic groups in Croatia, unlike other European countries such as Spain, Germany, France and the UK. Eastern and southern Europe have experienced more civil unrest in direct correlation with the rise of far-right politics in the region. The popularity of far-right politics has risen ever since the 2008 financial crisis and has continued through the economic recession which followed.

Such trends are expected to continue because of the anticipated and extended economic downturn caused by COVID-19, which is likely to increase political instability and violence. Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020, preliminary data suggests a decline in both incidents and deaths from terrorism in most regions in the world. However, it is expected that the pandemic is likely to present new and distinct counter-terrorism challenges.

Of Croatia's neighbours, Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded the largest improvement in the whole of Europe with their 2019 index rating (followed by Austria and Sweden). Only two terrorist attacks were recorded in the country in 2019, compared to six the previous year. Slovenia also scored a 0.0 rating, meaning it can say that it, like Croatia is a completely safe country.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Hidden Dalmatia: Soparnik - 100% Authentic Croatian Food

August 12, 2020 - Vegan-friendly, delicate and delicious, traditional soparnik should be Croatia's national dish, yet few have even tried it.

The most popular fast food in Croatia is doubtless pekara (the bakery). Its handheld pastries like burek and pita - and pizza - a simple solution to pangs of hunger; satisfied easily, on the go.

Despite their omnipresence across Hrvatska, none of these foods is of domestic origin. But, Croatia does have its own unique pastry. More delicate and delicious than the Turkish options, soparnik gives even the greatest pizza a run for its money on flavour. And yet, you'll likely never see it while visiting.

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© Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Soparnik hides in a historic region known as Poljica, a part of the Dalmatian hinterland behind the coastal town Omiš, on the side of the Cetina river closest to Split. Here, the women of villages like Gata so closely preserve the tradition of making it, that the pastry is protected at an EU-level as Poljički soparnik (soparnik from Poljica). One of those women is Mira Kuvačić.

Though its ingredients are few and humble - dough, blitva and onion, with garlic and olive oil to finish - the making of an authentic soparnik is far from simple. Now 70 years of age, Mira, and women like her, pass down the know-how to their younger neighbours and relatives, ensuring the dish stays alive and its quality remains intact.

A relative newcomer to preparing the dish, Mira only started to make it 25 years ago. Since then, she's won several competitions, been recognised by local authorities, national press and has gained an increasingly demanding customer base.

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Mira Kuvačić mixes blitva and thinly-sliced onion for the filling © Marc Rowlands

She starts by taking blitva and onion from her garden. Blitva is a spinach-like plant with large leaves. It thrives throughout coastal Croatia. She cuts the leaves into small pieces, discarding the tough stalks, which are added to the feed of the chickens and pheasants she keeps. The finely sliced onion is added to the leaf pieces along with a small amount of salt and olive oil.

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Mira rolls the dough in her extremely hot oven room © Marc Rowlands

She then builds a fire in her traditional oven. She uses only thin branches from the olive tree to do this, or vines from grapes. The embers required must be small otherwise the soparnik will burn. Each of these two kinds of wood imparts a flavour to the soparnik. Its taste also differs depending on the time of year; blitva is planted in stages, throughout a long season, to ensure it never runs out. Its water content alters depending on the sun's strength. Blitva harvested in midsummer is best for soparnik.

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The blitva and onion mix is spread evenly on the circular sheet of pastry © Marc Rowlands

In the same room as the fire, she rolls out two circular sheets of a simple dough; flour, salt and water. The room is very hot and the layers of pastry are extremely thin. On one, she evenly spreads out the blitva and onion mix before placing the other sheet atop. The large circular wooden board she will use to carry the soparnik is briefly placed above it, flattening the surface.

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Adding the second layer of pastry © Marc Rowlands

She trims and then carefully crimps the edges, ensuring there will be no bite without the tasty filling. The embers of the fire are brushed away to form a clear space on the hot stone where she carefully lays the soparnik. The embers are then dropped on top.

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Crimping the edges © Marc Rowlands

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Embers are brushed to one side to make room for the soparnik to lie flat on the hot stone © Marc Rowlands

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The tiny, burning embers are placed on top of the soparnik, so each side cooks quickly and evenly © Marc Rowlands

While cooking, she finely chops garlic. Mira has cooked soparnik thousands of times before. She instinctively knows when it is ready. She brushes the embers from the top, removes it from the hot stone and places it on top of a wooden board to cool. She uses a traditional brush to remove the layer of grey ash that remains on the surface. Once it is less hot, she sprinkles the garlic across the surface, then olive oil, which she rubs in evenly with her hands. It must be allowed to cool a little more, so the pastry can harden, before being cut.

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Soparnik placed on the hot stone © Marc Rowlands

Soparnik is always cut into diamond shapes and the middle four are always the first to be removed and eaten. These are traditions. A large wooden vessel was usually placed where these diamonds once were, a shared jug of wine from which everyone drank.

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Soparnik is always cut into diamonds. The middle four are always removed and eaten first © Marc Rowlands

Soparnik is traditionally a peasant food. At lunchtime, the women of Poljica would place a small cushion on their heads, then carry the wooden boards and soparnik into the fields where others were labouring. These days, people order it over the phone and collect it themselves, or Mira takes their address and arranges for it to be delivered. She made five soparnik before 3pm when we visited. During the hour we were there, she took no less than three new orders over the phone.

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Traditional cushions, placed on the head, would help women carry soparnik into the fields © Marc Rowlands

If you want to eat soparnik, you must either know someone who makes it, or you must order it from someone like Mira. You cannot find it in almost any bakery. Other soparnik makers, who live by the side of the road, advertise that theirs is a house which makes soparnik. Mira lives away from the road. Her busy custom comes only from word-of-mouth recommendation and her reputation.

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Another soparnik maker advertises by the side of the road that her's is a house which makes soparnik © Marc Rowlands

Vegan-friendly, incredibly moreish and 100% authentically Croatian, soparnik should be the country's national dish and sold on every street. Instead, this secret speciality is savoured by a precious few thousand in the Dalmatian hinterland and across a short stretch of coast around Omiš. If you're ever in that region and want to discover Croatian cuisine you won't find in any neighbouring country, drive up into the hills of Poljica and seek it out.

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Soparnik © Marc Rowlands

On these links you can read the other features in our Hidden Dalmatia series:

Drniš - Drniški Pršut and Meštrović Roots

The Fantastic Food of the Cetina River

Baško Polje - Forgotten Paradise of Yugoslavia Holidays

Incredible and Mysterious 10 Rajcica Wells near Klis

Wild Rides on the Cetina River

Monday, 16 May 2016

25 Reasons to Visit Jelsa in 2016: 13. Mala Stiniva

Oh, just where to start with this one. A cliff-jumping paradise. A beautiful beach and amazing stone cliffs cutting deep into the dark blue sea. I personally would be more than happy not to step a foot into this place ever again. It is on my blacklist since I became a mother.

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