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Summer in Croatia - A Sunday Times Article

12.02.2006.

Summer in Croatia

The cement mixer is banned. The rising star of the Med is all style and simplicity, says James Stewart

Croatia has had a barnstorming couple of summers, with everyone from Sunday Times readers to Lonely Planet scribes voting it their number-one, absolute favourite for a Mediterranean escape. But even if you’ve visited in the past year or two, it’s unlikely that you’ve done the place justice just yet.

Seen Dubrovnik? Then look to inland Istria, terra magica for the Romans, terra incognita for foreigners. Done Brac and the islands? Then you really ought to try the rugged wine country of the Peljesac, or sleepy Vis, which are only just waking up to tourism. There are pristine highlands where bears roam and griffon vultures soar; and there is continental Croatia, as picturesque as an eastern European folk tale.

 
Lately, strong balance sheets and competition from stylish, family-run guesthouses have emboldened the country’s resort hotels to rip away the spirit-sapping decor of socialist Yugoslavia. Croatia has banned the cement mixer from its shores and begun to get to grips with fancy French words such as boutique and gastronome.

Not everything is new, of course.

 

In a nation bequeathed the legacies of Romans, Venetians and Hapsburgs, many long-standing attractions remain: mazy medieval towns, a glittering constellation of islands washed by super-clean seas, sensational diving and the charmingly unfussy lifestyle that sees Croatians decant home-made plonk into old pop bottles, rustle up their rustic konoba cuisine and sing sentimental klapa after a few rakijas.

 

  • All package prices are per person, based on two sharing, and include flights from London. Contact the operator for details of regional or Irish departures

     

    CROATIA FOR FAMILIES

    FLAVOURED with equal pinches of the Balkans and the Med, Croatia’s cultural stew is as rich as its heavenly brodet fish supper. For children, it promises an adventure familiar and exotic in equal parts.

    They get hot summer days as seductive as in any holiday daydream, packed full of seaside fun. They get unfussy menus of charcoal-grilled steaks and fresh fish or rustic-style pizza and pasta. But they also thrive on the strange summer festivals staged in every resort and village, whether it’s the gentle bonhomie of a fishermen’s gathering or the wide-eyed spectacle of a boisterous medieval pageant. And just like it says on the adverts, Croatiais the Med as it used to be, an idyll of yesteryear safety where young ones can be let off the leash.

     

    RESORT BEACHES

    Once you’ve got them used to the idea of fine shingle or smooth pebbles, kids and the Croatian coast are made for each other. It’s got the cleanest shallows in the Med, and even the most popular family resorts tick along at the hazy, lazy pace of bygone childhood summers — though nowadays they also offer adrenaline-pumping watersports to keep the PlayStation generation on its toes.

  • Go independent: the Romans had to swat aside Illyrian tribes, and Josip Broz, aka Tito, had to commandeer a presidential island. These days, Istria’s west coast is easier to discover — simply base yourself in Rovinj, the region’s pin-up resort, and prepare to discover an old curiosity shop of medieval mummies, Byzantine mosaics and jaw-dropping antiquities that really help history come alive for kids.

     

    Rovinj is a little piece of Venice wafted east — perhaps because Venice used to own the place. And since it’s your holiday too, stay at the romantic Hotel Angelo D’Oro (00 385-52 840502, www.rovinj.at), where antiques and oil paintings are as standard as air-con. The restaurant is marvellous, as is breakfast on the terrace. A suite for four costs £297, B&B, per night in peak season; doubles are £150, plus £37.50 for a child (3-11) sharing.

     

    Giddy with holiday fever, Edward VIII removed the royal trunks when he visited Rab with Mrs Simpson. The lushest of the Kvarner Gulf islands still stimulates all the senses, whether on sandy strands or in the medieval town, with its mellow ivory-stone buildings. The friendly, family-run Istra (51 724134; £21pp, B&B, in high season) is well placed for both, with an old-fashioned sense of hospitality and no time for modern fads such as satellite television or DVD players in its bright rooms. Your teenagers will thank you for the harbour location — taxi boats shuttle to a beach where club beats bang till dawn.

     

    Go packaged: villagey Brela is a cut above the sizzling fleshpots of the Makarska Riviera, and proud owner of a beach that Forbes magazine ranked Europe’s finest. It is worth paying a little extra to wake up to views of the fabled strand at the renovated Marina Hotel, just above the shore. It encompasses tennis courts, mini-golf, a games room, a kids’ club, a gym and a spa; should your demanding pipsqueaks tire of the usual beach pursuits, river-rafting, horse riding and cave-based nightclubs are close at hand. The versatile Croatia specialist Bond Tours (01372 745300, www.bondtours.com) has a week’s half-board in mid-July, including that all-important seaside balcony, for £639 (£519 per child under 12). Alternatively, idle on an island. Perhaps Brac, where the fishing village of Bol was sinking quietly into its dotage until everyone suddenly twigged that it had one of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia, not to mention a cliffhanging medieval hermitage and caves carved with dragons to explore. For antiquities and boutiques, head for Split, a mere catamaran hop from the island. The family-friendly Riu Bonaca Hotel shouts fun, fun, fun, with sport and craft programmes, entertainment and discos to keep all ages happy. An all-inclusive week for two adults and two children costs £3,403 in mid-July, with Balkan Holidays (0845 130 1114, www.balkanholidays.co.uk). 

     

    REMOTE BEACHES Croatia probably has more miles of pristine seashore than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. For families, though, it’s important to choose the right spot — even children can get bored with playing around on the beach after a while. Read More - Page 2

     

     


    Other News:

    Tourism Doing Well Across the Board, 16.08.2007.

    Croatia too Expensive for Tourists, 29.06.2007.

    Tourists Choosing Cheaper Destinations, 15.05.2007.

    GTC to Build First 'Proper' Golf Course, 25.04.2007.

    Poor Tourist Profits, 19.04.2007.

     

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