Category: Landscape photography

Landscape photography

10 great places for eating in Croatia

Finding a good restaurant with some new creative and challenging dishes can be quite difficult in Croatia. Besides the boring pizza and the predictable pig and lamb on the grill, there is not much variety between Zagreb and Dubrovnik. In the coastal areas, one can find great seafood dishes but prices can be a bit overdone and most menus are very predictable as well. I realize this list is far from being complete. But over the years I have found these ten places all worthy to come back to and highly recommendable….

TIP: How to save money on your lunches in Croatia…

In many places in Croatia, a “gablec” is served during workdays (also often on Saturdays) between 10.30 am and 12 noon. These are the meals for the workers but everyone can sit down with them and enjoy a  cheap and big meal. It is a substantial hot meal, often with a choice of three or four dishes, mostly meat, fries or potatoes and a salad, accompanied by fresh bread. The price per person is usually between 25 and 40 kuna. So that is between three and five euros. Take a light breakfast,  and then enjoy the Croatian rhythm of an early hot meal.  The portions are very generous and plentiful!

And here is my personal top 10 of restaurants in Croatia:

1.  Zlatne Gorice 
This most astonishing location amidst the vineyards in the hills overlooking Varaždin is so much worth a visit. The daily menus are very affordable and the view, the high quality of the dishes and the great desserts make it all a gastronomic highlight in continental Croatia.

2. Terbotz
I love the Međimurje region in Northern Croatia. It has a great atmosphere and very promising wine houses. It is not overrun by tourists like on the other side of the border and has the great spa resort of Sveti Martin. The Terbotz restaurant is a fantastic location on top of a hill overlooking the lovely area. The food is great, the ambience even better and the waitress very helpful and friendly. Make sure the visit the Maderka hill viewpoint when you are in this area.

3. Vagabond Restaurant
A very pleasant surprise on the old road between Fuzine and the Adriatic coast. Well hidden in the forest this restaurant uses very original recipes. They use a lot of herbs and plants from the area in their dishes. Their cakes were really great!

4. Vuglec Breg
I just love Zagorje. This is such a pretty area with the rolling hills and the ancient castles. By far the best restaurant in Zagorje is Vuglec Breg. The atmosphere and decoration of this restaurant is so cosy. The view is great!

5. Karlovac castle
Karlovac deserves so much better. This city could easily compete with other great towns in Croatia. If it wasn’t for the still very visible war damage and its many neglected buildings. The horrible grey soviet apartment blocks make this city even more dreary. But it is the city with four wonderful crystal clear rivers within its city limits. So really worth a try. Try a coffee first at the Korana river and then head up to the old castle that now hosts a great bistro. The food is of good quality and the prices are affordable.

6. DP Restaurant
A great restaurant at the banks of the most beautiful river in Croatia, the Mreznica. They offer some real homemade recipes.

7. Zumberacki Raj
A fresh trout from the greek, grilled with a tossed salad and some very crispy potatoes. For just a little less than 10 euro. It is worth a visit. The location is wonderful; in the heart of the nature park.

8. Zganjer
This family-owned restaurant has a long time tradition. Their food is of exceptional quality. But take a small portion. Their Frankopan cake is an eight-layer cake that you must try!

9. Kod Spilje
A little more pricy restaurant near Samobor. They have very high quality dishes and a very friendly and welcoming owner.

10. Ivancic Plesivica
The food is nothing really special. But the view…..Charlie Chaplin was one of the famous persons that liked to have his lunch here way back in history. This restaurant and all of the Plesivica area are a promising gastronomic area. It is just a stone-throw away from the bustling streets of Zagreb. I am quite sure we can expect some really great places for eating in the near future on these fantastic hills.

20 reasons why Croatia is the best place for living

Croatia has such a great quality of life. The slow pace, the amazing landscapes, the generous people….just to name a few. I would like to share this top 20 of some great advantages of living in Croatia. 

1. Stunning natural beauty and very diverse landscapes: 
You are never far away from really beautiful nature and crystal clear rivers. Maybe Slavonia is a bit more flat and boring. But try the wonderful nature park of Papuk. Croatia has such a high amount of National Parks, Nature Parks, and protected areas.

2. Great infrastructure:
Croats have a great love for asphalt. Even the smallest villages in the mountains can be reached by asphalt nowadays. Toilets in many shopping centres and gas stations are clean and available for free.
The highways….They are among the best and most beautiful ones in Europe. Everything is fenced, no wildlife on the road.

3. No real estate tax: 
Owning your own house and land in Croatia is a great privilege. Up till now, there is still no real estate tax.

4. A very safe country: 
Whether you take a late evening walk in Zagreb or you take a hike in the countryside. Croatia is very safe. The crime rate is low. Burglary is not a common practice in this country.

5. Easy to find an affordable place in fantastic locations: 
There are plenty of houses for sale in Croatia. The great thing is that (apart from the coast), you can find your own hideaway in nature or in a little village and still have a lot of land and privacy around you.

6. Water  is everywhere: 
Croatia is most famous for its wonderful breathtaking coast. But if prefer the rivers even better. Did you ever drive up to the source of the Kupa river? Experience the brutal power of nature and seeing the water coming out of the ground with such a force? There is water in abundance in Croatia. In summer the rivers warm up to a comfortable 24 degrees and you can swim, raft or row. Often times you have the place all to yourself. Why… there are just so many of these places.

7. Small supermarkets and bakers on every corner: 
I really love that you don’t have to go to a big mall first and park your car and then walk another five minutes. It is still profitable to run a small supermarket in Croatia. So you see them everywhere and they store a lot of stuff. Bakers are all over the place. Especially in the last five years the variety and quality of bread are improving. You can just stop on the main road and buy fresh bread, a pastry, or a famous burek. Enjoy!

8. Slow pace of life:
The summers are hot and the Croats are warm-hearted. They will always make time for a talk. The stress that I so often experience in Western Europe is something that I seldomly sense here in Croatia.

9. Lots of personal services:
Whether it is the repair of your lawnmower, the fixing of your vacuum cleaner or you just look for a handmade cupboard. There are still a lot of practical craftsmen around in Croatia. Knowing them personally is a great advantage. They do not rip you off and offer value for money.

10. affordable prices
Going to get a haircut costs me just 3,50 euro. The lunch menu in the restaurant costs me just 5 euro. When I damage my car I just go to a local craftsman and he fixes it for less than 100 euro. A coffee in Varazdin will cost you just 80 cents.  When you know your way around you can get things really cheap.

11. other great places of interest within easy reach: 
Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Mostar, Ljubljana, and beautiful Montenegro. Croatia’s great road network allows you to travel fast to other great European destinations in less than half a day.

12. small agricultural companies: 
I love to plant…So why not make a small business of it. We have almost one hectare of land around our house. So we planted a lot of trees, berries, and nuts. The government allows you to start a small agricultural business and also market your own home grown goodies and share those healthy treats with other people and earn some money at the same time. This is something we really appreciate!

13. You can have your own piece of forest: 
Besides having a big piece of land for low money you can also own your own piece of forest. We own one as well and every year we take just two or three trees out for our own personal use. We do not have huge bills for heating. We warm our house by means of our own natural resources.

14. There is a lot of jurisdiction but on the other hand a lot of freedom:
If you want to start a business or get permits that can be quite a time consuming and dreadful experience (unfortunately) in Croatia. But on the other hand, there is a lot of freedom. For instance, we have the wonderful Kupa river behind our house. We made concrete stairs to get into the water safely. We have a boat there. The river is not ours and the small strip of land that separates our land and the river is not ours. But still, we get all the freedom in the world to make such facilities for yourself.

15. Everything grows: 
The climate is just great, at our place literally, everything grows. Whether its kiwi’s, grapes, berries, apples, pears, kakis. We grow most of our own food and the warm summers and relatively mild and short winters are of great help.

16. The value of cultural traditions and old stuff: 
Croats on average do not like changes. That means the level of innovation in society is a little slower. They like to keep things the way they are, that can be positive and both negative. But I see it from the photographer’s point of view. There are so many old and ancient objects in the landscapes that add great interest to my pictures. When you compare that to Slovenia where most people just want nice, big modern houses I am glad we still have some blast of the past here.

17. No high population density: 
My guests are often surprised if I take them to a beautiful swimming spot or someplace out in nature. The first thing they say is ‘there are not many people here’. That is true. There is nog heavy population density. You notice it on the road, driving here is on most roads quite relaxed.

18. There are coffee places practically everywhere: 
You will find them in the most amazing places. Even at the end of a dirt road near some lonely mountain hut, someone is making soup or coffee. This country will serve you well and most of the time the coffee won’t cost you much.

19. a streetlight in front of every house: 
This might sound a bit insignificant. But I really got to appreciate it. When you compare Croatia with Germany a lot leaves to be desired. But our streets and road are much better illuminated! Wherever you own a house there is the obligation of the municipality to put a streetlight there.

20. Lots of business opportunities
Competition is not as heavy as in Western Europe. As I already explained, permits are not easy to get, bureaucracy puts a heavyweight on your patience and endurance here. But on the other hand, let’s get real. Who dares wins. We tried a lot… We failed in some things and succeeded in other things. I would not have liked to miss this adventure in my first seven years in Croatia. Things have calmed down now and I look back on it with great satisfaction. All these bureaucrats purified my dreams and made them even better!

Great photo spots in the Zumberak

Photo tips: 
OK, I will not share all of them and keep a few to myself. Realize that hunting the right locations for great pictures is more than half the job. A time consuming and costly process. But I simply love exploring. There is so much to discover in Croatia.

Lucky shots are very seldom. You need to prepare well and venture out to find great locations. Nowadays it has become much easier by means of Google maps. I stored more than 1100 locations in Croatia alone in them.

After finding your location take some time to see if there are no disturbing elements. Find out where the sun comes up and goes down. See if there are some interesting details that attribute to your future picture.

Then the third part begins…. You start making the visual and mental picture. That means; start dreaming of how you want your picture to look like. What season? What time? What kind of circumstances.
Be prepared for some disappointments. Be prepared to come back a few more times until you meet the right conditions. The right light, an interesting sky, some nice layers of fog and warm colours can make such a huge difference.

Zumberak Nature Park: 
This nature park is really one of my favourite places for photography. It is actually divided in the Samborske Gorje and the Zumberak. In this blog I will be focused on the Zumberak. Here the mountains are not as steep as in the Samoborske Gorje.  You will hardly meet any tourists here. Especially the part around Vivodina is very picturesque. It is the unique combination of rolling hills, meandering creeks and rivers and churches adding interesting detail for the landscape photographer.

Location tips:
In my future blogs, I will post many more tips about the Zumberak. But here are a few great places for you to enjoy.

The road from Sosice to Petrus Vrh is very pretty and offers some great viewpoints. The best view on Vivodina is at the cemetery at Petrus Vrh. In Vivodina itself the view behind the church is also very pretty. The road is very narrow but has a hardened surface. Do not forget to stop at Danculovici ( a short sidetrack). It offers a great view of the Vivodina area. The next village of Dojutrovica offers also great views.

You can still deviate a little more from this beautiful road and overlook the little hamlet of Kast. Another great view with a church.

You will also love this special viewpoint. It is a steep drive up but well worth the view. It is about 2 kilometres from Petrus Vrh.

Another one of my personal favourites is the valley at Stupe. A very little village but with a very special hill, almost shaped like a pyramid.

Take a break: 
Restaurant Zumberacki Raj in Zamarija offers great trout dishes with fresh salad and roasted potatoes.
Restaurant Frlan in Vivodina offers meat dishes and great strudel.

Take a walk:
You can take a wonderful walk, indicated with signs, from Vivodina. Your starting point is at the church of Vivodina. Free parking.

 

A wonderful Christmas village

Location: Božićna priča Salajland

Welcome to my new weekly blog about the beautiful hidden treasures in Croatia. So much to see, so much to discover in Croatia.

This time It’s like to take you to an area of Croatia where hardly any tourists go. It is about a 45 minutes drive from Zagreb.

It is the homestead of the family Salaj just outside the town of Cazma. A wonderful place as an all-season destination. But especially in the month of December when the place is illuminated with more than 5 million Christmas lights and plenty of beautiful Christmas decoration. My son loved this place and was overwhelmed by the atmosphere. You need at least two hours to see it all. There is also an old watermill and a wooden historical house. During weekends the Salaj family offers their homemade treats. There are also several food stands offering hot drinks, sausages and pizza. Combine your trip to Europe’s best Christmas market in Zagreb with an evening to this truly beautiful place.

Take a break:
There are several restaurants, coffee bars, bakeries and grocery stores in the town of Cazma. Just a three-minute drive from the Christmas village. Make sure to also visit the town square of Cazma in wintertime. It is beautifully decorated as well. Free parking spaces on spot.

Photo tip:
Your best opportunity to photograph this unique Christmas village is with snow conditions. But even when there is no snow ( in my case) you can still take some interesting pictures. Make use of the blue hour, that is the first half an hour after sunset. You will see that wonderful blue coloured sky in your pictures. Make sure to take a tripod and do nu use the fully automatic mode on your camera to prevent from blurry pictures. If you do not take a tripod with you then use a high iso in order to still take pictures manually.

Brod Moravice; Fascinating view on Gorski Kotar

Location: Brod Moravice
Brod Moravice is a small village located in the heart of Gorski Kotar. Above the village is a hilltop with magnificent views over the Gorski Kotar mountain range. This is one of my favourite photo locations and a place where you can just sit, relax, and enjoy the wonderful surrounding.

Take a break:
There are no restaurants in Brod Moravice. There is a small supermarket for restocking your supplies and there is a coffee bar.

Take a walk: 
You can walk from the village and climb the steep hill to the little chapel of  Sveti Andria. For this walk park your car here and choose the unpaved gravel road left of the main road. the walk will take about 15 minutes.
You can also choose to drive to Gornji Kuti and park your car near the hunters lodge and take the narrow gravel road to the top of the hill. Park your car here and take the gravel road on the left side. This walk takes about 10 minutes.

Photo tips: 
It is always a guess to what level the mist will rise in the morning. But most of the time the mist lingers in the village itself and the top of the hill is bathing in bright sunlight. Make sure to come at least 20 minutes before sunrise. The sky will mostly change its colours rapidly and that makes it the most interesting time of the day. The mist quickly changes its patterns, it comes and goes; it hides and reveals. So make sure to take as many shots as you can. Soon the sun will be too bright and the mist will lose its depth and becomes flattened and uninteresting. So try to make the best of this early bird situation. Make sure to enjoy the fresh air, the sounds of the birds and the great view itself.

Is this the most tranquil valley in Croatia?

Today I would like to take you to my favourite valley in Croatia. It is in the heart of Lika called Gornji Kosinj. 

In Spring and Summer, the valley hosts an abundance of wildflowers. There are not many people living here anymore but practically this counts for all of Lika. Yet it reflects such purity and tranquillity that I have only found on some places in the French Alps.

Accommodation is very hard to find. So you need to book something near Perusic or Otocac if you like to stay there for some more days. It is really worth to take long hikes. The Sjeverni Velebit National park with its’ impressive tall peaks is nearby.

The valley is interesting from both sides. Coming from Otocac you first head to Kuterovo and then follow the narrow but relatively well-paved roads to Donji Kosinj. Only recently the tourist board has also recognised the purity of this unique valley. They have invested in some bike and walking trails and coming from Otocac heading towards Gornji Kosinj there is now a brand new watchtower that gives the photographer a great spot for some unique pictures. In fact, I cannot wait until next year Spring to go there myself. The low morning mist, the wild cherry trees and the shepherds with their flock of sheep wandering through the valley is a heavenly decor for some of my pictures that I still have to realize.

Most of the houses here are in a very simple and some in a devastating state. The majority of the people here got accustomed to the hard life of the ever-changing seasons. And as I mentioned most of them are local shepherds.

The sad thing about this wonderful valley is that it won’t be there too long anymore. Parts of the valley will in due time disappear underneath the water surface as for over 40 years construction plans for a hydropower plant now seems to come to full realisation. That means that most of Gornji Kosinj and its church will be no longer visible in ten years time. So plenty of reason not to wait too long to indulge yourself and convince yourself and set off to Lika to see some of Croatia’s most pure destinations.

Do not expect any catering, facilities or luxuries. It is what it is… Just enjoy that. It is the experience of this pure nature that will hopefully capture your heart and purify your thoughts and visions of some of the worldly stress and burdens. It worked for me….

There is a cafe in the Gornji Kosinj. For supermarkets and restaurants, you need to drive 40 minutes to Gospic, or make sure you stock up in Otocac before coming to Kosinj.

Links: 
Old medieval bridge
Water source
View on the lake
The confluence of river Lika

 

 

 

Slapnica nature reserve

Location: Slapnica
If you love a wonderful hike through dense forest and you want to avoid the heat on a hot sunny day or the usual crowd at Plitvice then try this wonderful hidden gem. It is a 10-minute drive away from Krasic and easy to reach by car. You can walk all the way from the quarry (park your car there) to the old watermill where grandma “Nada” and her dog and sheep reside. She has her own private waterfall in her backyard!
The path is very easy and absolutely not demanding. No steep climbs. You walk along the creek and you are accompanied by the beautiful sounds of the rushing water and some very nice waterfalls. There are two waterfalls that take you off the track. They are called Brisalo and Vranjak. There are signs that help you find them. One of them is a bit hard to reach. The road is unpaved. You can also drive it with a four-wheel-drive car. In total it is 9 kilometres.

You can extend your hike by taking a right at the watermill by taking the road to the almost abandoned village of Pecno. From there you walk to Rude Pribicki (great views!) and you head back to the main road at Svrzevo. If you want to do this long hike please consider a full day. (but it is worth it)

Warning: 
The bridge before the quarry has no safety railings. Be careful!
Please make sure not to block the lorry trucks when you park your car. The starting point for such a beautiful nature reserve might seem a bit odd, but you are definitely in the right place 🙂

Photo tips: 
   Waterfalls are best after some rainy days, there is more water!
   Avoid direct sunlight as it makes the water beams too bright to handle later on in photoshop.
   Use a tripod in order to have a low shutter time and create this “milky effect”.
   Do some clean up of branches that might disturb your picture.
   Take boots so you can stand in the water.
   Look for some boulders like in the first picture and some colourful leaves. They really add a great atmosphere to your picture.
   Some late afternoon light in the background is highly recommendable.
➨   Personally, I prefer using a wide-angle when I take pictures of lakes, rivers, and waterfalls.

Take a break: 
The nearest place for refreshments is the great restaurant “Zumberacki Raj”. The restaurant is in the heart of the nature park in a very idyllic setting. They serve a simple but delicious meal of fresh brook trout, potatoes (3 choices), and fresh salad. They also offer some other meat dishes.

Why did I start this blog?

In many ways, Croatia is like a diamond….It has a small polished side that in my view has been overexposed. But the rough and unpolished side is the one that I love to bring to your attention.

You will not find many reports about the Croatian coast and some of the main tourist highlights. Even though they are equally beautiful.

I want to share with you those lost pieces of paradise that you can practically find in thousands of places in this amazing country. They are underrated, hardly ever visited, and every so often surprisingly in easy reach. So many times I had the place just for myself when I experience those glorious Autumn mornings just before the sunrise.

I love the share, I love to take pictures, I love to write, I love to give things for free.
Most of all I love Croatia.

I noticed my love relationship with this country has been deepening itself over the last 8 years since we have moved here.

It is a high quality of life, the fresh air, the astonishing nature, the great culture, the many friends we made over the years.

But most of all it is a photographers paradise. One never needs to drive very far to discover yet another great point of view.

It is the unique combination of rough and unspoiled nature and the human interaction in the landscape like this cattle of sheep, the wooden stable, or the old house that fit so well in the landscape picture. I can never get enough of that. I need at least four more lives to discover all that beauty in Croatia.

Over the years I visited so many spots and always wondered why there is hardly anything available on the internet about those spots. Now that we have google maps some more pictures and reviews about those places started to come in. But still in very low numbers.

Even the beautiful spots itself will make the occasional explorer wonder… why are there no signs, why are there no provisions, why are there no other people.

I am not afraid to share some of my best locations and hidden secrets (and some I will keep to myself). It will not be overrun by busloads of tourists. There are just too many of them. Furthermore, those places are for those whose main focus is on seeing, experiencing and capturing beauty off the beaten tracks.

Croatia is one of the most searched for worldly destinations. And still, there is very little knowledge about all those jewels and diamonds that lay hidden in 95 per cent of the country that attracts only 2 per cent of the annual visitors.

So if you visit my site to find out more about the great dalmatian coast I will leave you wondering. This is all about a paradise that only a few have seen and want to discover. The Croats themselves take it mostly for granted. I am still that Dutchman coming from a so-called “developed” country where there is no more wild nature and wild forests. In Western Europe, you will always need to share that piece of nature with crowds of other people. Not so in Croatia.

This website will also offer you some gastronomic tips, places for hiking, photo tips and some reports about the Croatian lifestyle and the live me and my family live in this paradise called Croatia.

Thanks for visiting, feel free to comment.

Pozdrav! René