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  • 20. Apr, 2020.

Croatia and Meridien Ten during the Spring 2020

This is the one of (if not) the most difficult moment in travel community, whether you are a traveller or representing travel industry. Meridien Ten is family owned, small tour operator based in Croatia. We are in adventure/travel business for more than 35 years. Our company’s history can be described in 1 word: rollercoaster. Our active and adventure travel started to grow just in time when internet started to develop. This allowed us to spread the word about Croatia and us. We are growing each year, slowly. But there were quite a few downhills on our “ride”; before the COVID – 19 outbreak, we faced Croatian National war (1991 – 1995), then in 1999 Kosovo armed conflict which reflected in no mayor bookings in Croatia for that and the following year, The Great Recession in 2008 and in 2001 9/11, which we felt in Croatia as more than 80% of our clients and business partners are from the US. And we have recovered from all these “falls” and we will recover from this one! 

 

Situation with COVID 19 outbreak is not that bad in Croatia, at least when you compare the number of cases in Croatia and its surrounding countries. Nevertheless, this is a period no one from us will ever forget (I guess this applies to the whole world)! Besides possible health and/or economic crisis, Croatia was hit by series of earthquakes at the end of March. The biggest damage was seen in Zagreb, Croatian capital where destructive 5.3 magnitude hit the town and its surroundings in the morning of March 22. There were several aftershocks and then it started to snow, while it did not snow properly during the whole winter. And there were hundreds of citizens in the streets, not being able to get back to their homes as it was not safe anymore to enter some of the buildings and houses….  1 month later, if we move a bit more south, to Split, where most of Meridien Ten staff is based, “things” are slowly getting back to normal (or a temporarily new normal). We still do have a lot of restrictions, we still have a few daily cases of coronavirus infections (approx. 20 per day as of April, 19th ,in the whole of Croatia) but at the moment we have great weather and we do see a lot of families enjoying the walks along the coast, people talking over the phone/internet to their family, connecting back with people they would not normally talk to. Wildlife is “recovering”; there was a whale spotted outside of the Island Solta. This is not a typical site in busy waters of the Adriatic Sea. Restaurants and hotels are closed, most of the flights to/from Croatia are cancelled, there is no one besides Croatians to eat Croatian fish – maybe those sardines will finally get a chance to multiply and to grow bigger.  What am I talking about, you must be wondering, right? The old fishermen were saying that in one kilogram of sardines you would have 24 pieces. This was the perfect size of a sardine, full of flavour, meat and healthy nutrients. Nowadays, due to overfishing, you will have 50 or 60 pieces in 1 kilogram. Poor little sardines do not get enough time to grow before we (humans) or tunas consume them! 

 

 

We want this “travel industry” to survive because we believe in its values: small group travel, local experiences, discovery of new cultures, new friends. Time in the nature doing activities. Trying new locally produced food, locally grown wine. Worldwide experts call this kind of travel: Sustainable travel. Not only that we believe in it, we do it. So do our partners and suppliers, even smaller companies on Dalmatian Islands. A great bunch of people!!

 

I am sure you did read about recent climate change due to reduction in travel. Fewer Carbon Emissions! Improvement of air quality in Lockdown Areas! There are many more benefits which happened during the virus outbreak. Each medal has 2 sides, so if we look at the “bright” side – all these benefits, all this “healing” of nature gives us hope and strength to keep on going with our work and work philosophy. Small group travel, environmentally friendly, travel that includes visits to natural spaces, discovery of local communities and cultures. Simply said – sustainable way of traveling! This should become a standard, in order to prevent climate change, wildlife conservation, provide environmental sustainability and eventually social justice. I am sure many will not agree with this, but smaller and medium sized enterprises do have more social focus and are more connected to the country where they operate and its people than large organizations which are in a global (capitalism) race and push on mass tourism, where traveller is just a number, statistic. 

 

Highways for quick access to beaches, beaches covered with plastic trash and similar environmental destruction, global chains instead of local restaurants, local arts replaced by cheap plastic (or similar material) replicas, wildlife abuse and more.. All signs of mass or overtourism

 

Even we all have to keep “social distancing” now, the whole world managed to unite and act as one to stop the pandemic! It would be great to stay united and reconsider our travel and overall future plans to more sustainable practices. Yes, social distancing can feel boring and daunting, but keep in mind we are actually doing something well for the planet! So, let’s hold on a little bit more and we will get through these difficult times!

We did reduce our office staff, for more than 50% percent. Our guides will not lead any trips at least till July and for most of them this was the main source of income. All our local partners; hotels, B&B, travel companies based on the islands, restaurants will also be impacted. Heavily! Their families! Our families! These are difficult times for everyone. And they will pass!  Once they do, we will be here for you! 

 

Until then, 

I hope you and your family are safe and will remain like that in this world-wide adventure!

 

Andro Tartaglia

 

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blog
  • 19. Apr, 2020.

Pasticada - Authentic Dalmatian meal

Pašticada is a traditional Dalmatian dish served in special occasions like weddings, New Year’s Eve and other festivities or celebrations. We can call this moment in world’s history special occasion as well, right? #coronayear2020 

There are a lot of details in preparation and ingredients that make one Pašticada different from the other one. This is basically the dish that causes a lot of discussions and comparisons. Here are just some of them – Is it better to use wine or dessert wine Prošek?; Which fruit is better – figs or prunes? Which is the best ingredient to marinate the meat? The list of such questions is long. Every household in Dalmatia that makes Pašticada will say that theirs is the best one, but the truth is that each Pašticada is a bit different because of the spices and seasoning before and during cooking.

We believe that each Pašticada is very good, especially if it is prepared in the way our grandmothers used to do it. Dalmatian Pašticada is definitely the meal to be considered as a real pearl of Croatian gastronomy and also a maturity test for the ones who like to brag themselves about their gastronomic experience and are proud of their cooking skills.

 

Preparation:

Pierce the meat with a sharp pointed knife randomly and then prick it with garlic slivers and small pieces of pancetta (bacon). Put the beef into a large bowl, cover it with vinegar and leave it to sit for 2 or 3 days in the fridge. 

After removing the meat from vinegar, season it with salt and pepper. Put it into a roasting dish together with olive oil, lard, onions, celery root and carrots. Cover and roast for 45 minutes. Take it out of the oven and separate the meat from the sauce. 

In a large pot fry fine chopped onions, garlic, carrots and bacon. After about 6-8 minutes add meat, tomato puree, Prosek (sweet wine),red wine, a bit of sugar and vinegar ( feel free to use the one used to marinate the meat) and the vegetables(you can blend them) used when cooking roasting the meat in the oven. 

After about 2.5h of cooking, cut the meat into 1 cm thick slices and put it back into the sauce together with prunes. Cook until the meat becomes tender (let’s say another 45 min). Serve it with potato gnocchi. If you like, you can sprinkle it with some grated parmesan cheese when serving.

 

Ingredients:

1,5-2 kg beef round

5 garlic cloves, sliced

100 g pancetta (bacon), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Vinegar 

1 tablespoon lard

1/2 cup olive oil

3 large onions

2 carrots

1 celery root 

4 cloves

2 tablespoon tomato purée

100 ml dessert wine Prošek

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup red wine

3 bigger dried prunes

salt and pepper

 

I evo ga, (and here it is) 

Dobar tek! (Enjoy your meal) 

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  • 19. Mar, 2020.

Why Croatia?

Thinking about taking a cycling holiday in Croatia? For serious cyclists, it is becoming one of the top world destinations to visit!

How about those who are literally not cycling “fanatics” and only occasionally get on the bike, but want to see and experience a bit more than just cycling? 
Hopefully this post will inspire you to hurry up and discover this amazing country!

Croatia offers miles and miles of quiet paved back roads and some good gravel and mountain bike routes. It is one of the best preserved corners of Europe, where ancient cultures and traditional lifestyle can still be experienced. The two most beautiful cycling destinations in Croatia are Istria and the Dalmatian coast.

What else is there to see, taste and experience besides cycling? 

 

Mediterranean climate 

Moderate winters and cooler summers. Perfect cycling weather in spring and fall. 


Authentic lifestyle 

Croatia is picked up on the ‘must see world destinations list’, so we do have a lot of visitors in the summer time. Traveling by bike gives you a chance to discover laid back and authentic villages located off the main tourist routes. 


 

Amazing vistas

Located in the center of the Mediterranean and with more than 1000 islands, what do you expect?? 


Great gastronomic offer 

Croatia provides you a perfect mix of Mediterranean, Balkan and European cuisine. Greeks, thousands of years ago, introduced wine production. Fish and wine are still the main dining ingredients. 


History and Culture  

Yes, Italy and France are amazing countries with so much history.

But what’s going on with Croatia? It seems that this part of the world has always been an interesting and important strategic location for different kingdoms and empires, which left their traces in our architecture, gastronomy and probably mentality of the people. Below is a simplified list of different rulers/empires, which left their marks on Croatian territory and history; 

 

  • Prehistoric tribes 
  • Illyrian tribes (until approximately 3rd century BC) 
  • Greeks (4th century BC)  
  • Roman Empire (from 3rd century BC) 
  • Arrival of Croatian tribes in these areas (7th century AD) 
  • Venetians (13th century AD) 
  • Part of Croatia under the Ottoman Empire (15th century AD) 
  • Parts of Croatia under the French Empire (from the 19th century AD) 
  • Habsburg Monarchy (Austrian – Hungarian Monarchy) (till the beginning of 20th century AD) 
  • Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (beginning of 20th century) 
  • Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (after the Second World War) 
  • Republic of Croatia (after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe) 
  • European Union – year 2013 


 

Safety 

The crime rate in Croatia is very low (by European standards). There are no no-go areas. The Croatian police is polite and speaks some English most of the time.  Croatian drivers do use their honks occasionally, but driving in general is considered to be safe. Touts, scammers and harassers who want to sell you anything, immediately become your friends and follow you everywhere do not really exist in Croatia. 


Roads

Croatian roads are well paved! Even the small back roads have smooth tarmac… 


Health 

Tap water is safe (and great) to drink everywhere in Croatia. No vaccinations are required for travel to Croatia. Public health standards are good.  Do you know what type of cuisine is considered to be the healthiest in the world? 

 


Still not convinced? 

 

A few facts about Croatia; 

 

  • 250 days of sunshine per year
  • 1246 islands, isles and inlets 
  • 8 UNESCO Word heritage sites  
  • Highest number of UNESCO Intangible Goods of any European country 
  • 11 nature parks, 8 national parks and 2 nature reserves (10% of the country) 
  • Home of the world’s smallest town – Hum (population between 17 and 23) 
  • The ancient amphitheater in Pula is one of 3 best preserved amphitheaters in the world 
  • 2500 years old tradition of wine production (from the ancient Greeks) 
  • Best sunset in the world (by Alfred Hitchcock) 
  • The pearl of the Adriatic – synonym for Dubrovnik by English poet Lord Byron 
  • Roman Emperor Diocletian built his retirement palace that today forms the city of Split 
  • The Dalmatian dog originates from the southern Croatian region of Dalmatia 
  • Game of Thrones was filmed in the towns Dubrovnik, Šibenik, Ston, Imotski and Split

 

 

Here is a short description of our 2 most beautiful cycling destinations in Croatia;

 

Istrian peninsula 

It is a cone shaped peninsula, located very close to Slovenia and Italy. Do not stick only to the coast (which is also beautiful), but explore also the magical interior of this peninsula and discover its medieval villages perched on fortified hilltops. Towns like Grožnjan, Motovun, Svetvinčenat, Višnjan, Vodnjan and the coastal towns Pula, Rovinj and Poreč are a must visit! 

While in Istria make sure you try Fuži (homemade pasta), various seafood, oysters from the Lim channel, smoked ham (pršut), wild asparagus (šparoge), maneštra (traditional soup) and truffles (tartufi). 

In order to keep hydrated, we recommend trying Malvasia (white wine), Muškat (semi sweet wine) and Teran (red wine). 

 

Dalmatian coast

In this case we might be a bit subjective as most of the contributors to this blog are from Dalmatia. The Dalmatian coast stretches from Zadar all the way to Dubrovnik. There are more than 15 larger islands that are part of Dalmatia, all with well paved roads which provide great cycling and breathtaking views. Try out how much fun is island-hopping along the Adriatic and explore perfectly preserved history and culture.  By the end of the cycling day you should treat yourself with the freshest seafood available.  Besides traditional meals, such as grilled fish, risotto, shellfish or octopus salad, you might want to try fish stew, salted and marinated sardines (with capers), brodetto, pašticada (beef stew) or Peka (meat or fish cooked under the bell-lid).  Serious Croatian winemaking history began around 390 BC with the Greeks, who were discovering this area. Then the late Romans in the 4th century AD developed it even further for sacramental purposes. The warm, sunny climate is ideal for the cultivation of the rich and fruity white wine Pošip. The most famous red wines are Babić (Primošten area) and Plavac Mali (vineyards located on the southern slopes of Dalmatian islands).  

 

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When to bike in Croatia 

 

We (Croats) bike in the coastal area all year long. Of course, we will not go biking during heavy rains or strong winds, which occur occasionally in the winter months. July and August are very busy (the peak of the tourist season), temperatures can be very high and there is in general a lot of traffic. Spring and fall are considered the best period for biking. April, May, June, September, October and November have moderate temperatures and almost empty roads. 
If you consider a fast getaway from the cold European winter, then March, November and December might suit you well. In these months you might experience in one week a mix of spring days, sunny days with blue skies, rain showers and storms that last for a couple of hours.

 

Temperatures:  

The weather across Croatia doesn’t vary dramatically from north to south, though it is generally warmer towards the south. The climate does change from continental to Mediterranean as you move towards the Dalmatian coast. The sea has a moderating influence that keeps winters warmer and summers cooler than might be expected.


Summer temperatures vary from 22°C to 26°C in the continental part of the country, 15°C to 20°C in mountain regions and 26°C to 30°C in the coastal region. The highest tourist season is from mid-July to mid-August, when you will experience the highest temperatures and find a lot of traffic on the roads, which can be dangerous as there are many foreign drivers who don’t know the roads.

 

Spring (March, April and May) and fall (September, October, November) have lower temperatures (13-20°C in the continental regions, 16-25°C in the coastal region) and a higher possibility of rain and wind, but also less visitors. 

 

 

When should I go? 

 

It depends on what you are looking for.  Below you will see a small chart, which might help you to decide;

 

Cycling

Local experience

Weather (for cycling)

Crowded

Night life

Swimming

January

*

**

**

*

*

 

February

*

***

*

*

*

 

March

***

****

***

*

**

 

April

*****

*****

*****

**

***

*

May

*****

*****

*****

***

***

***

June

****

****

****

***

****

*****

July

***

**

***

*****

*****

*****

August

***

**

***

*****

*****

*****

September

*****

***

*****

****

****

*****

October

*****

*****

*****

**

***

****

November

****

*****

****

*

*

*

December

***

****

**

**

***

 

 

 

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