Escapism: Nella Beljan was in Croatia and crisply summarizes her fantastic impressions
Croatia, for me it’s a Mediterranean heaven on Earth and my absolute favorite travel destination – most of all because of Dalmatia’s breathtaking landscapes.
The sea! Crystal clear waters meeting a karstic landscape, countless palms and pine groves, flanked by giant cactus and succulents. Old stone houses in picturesque settings, exquisite shingle beaches with dreamy, raw cliffs, pink sunsets in the evening, and figs, olives, walnuts, pomegranates, and artichokes almost growing in front of your eyes at the side of the road.
I’ve been travelling to my parents’ homeland since I was small and, as much as I like the language, it will always be the Adriatic that my deepest love belongs to. My heart still leaps a little every time I go there – happily, on the sea.
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Beyoncé Knowles gave this breathtakingly beautiful piece of Earth it’s biggest promo back in 2011 when she posted a private video while on vacation in my favorite area of Croatia – in a little bay in front of the island of Hvar:
In the glistening sun, she spoke into the camera, which apparently Jay-Z was holding:
“I’m experiencing Utopia. It’s just beautiful. Life could not be any more fantastic. It is perfect. Everything that we work for is right here, right in this moment. It’s just amazing. Look at the beautiful nature that God has created. That I am about to jump in right now. (…) Life is but a dream!” – and she jumps, SPLASH, into the sea.
A plain hard fact regarding Mrs. Carter and my excitement: Croatia has a long tradition of organized water policies. There are strict water protection legislations in place – and already since the end of the 19th Century. According to a ADAC study from 2006, the Croatian Adriatic is supposed to be the cleanest part of the Mediterranean.
But we’ll leave that. Much nicer is that Croatia left such a lasting impression on Beyoncé that she famously named her daughter, who was born the following year, Blue Ivy – among other things, for the violet-colored leaves that she discovered on a tree during a morning stroll on probably the sunniest island of Croatia. As a thank you for the enormous publicity, the little one was promptly named an honorary citizen of Hvar.
At the same time, this region has already been well-loved by the super rich for decades – Bill Gates has supposedly owned a yacht on the country’s fourth largest island for years. No wonder, alongside extraordinary swimming, you can stroll down countless picturesque alleys, find a wonderful restaurant on every corner, patisseries and bakeries of the highest quality, and even the city beaches are passable…in case you don’t have a yacht available at the moment.
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Split – Diocletian’s Palace (Dioklecijanova palača)
The palace of Emperor Diocletian is actually a fortress in the port city of Split: in the heart of Dalmatia. In this bay, the Roman Emperor built himself a retirement home – until local residents fled into the walls to hide from invaders. Today, you can drift though the narrow alleys and visit any number of cafés. If you’re lucky, a play by Peristyl will be taking place or one of the famous singing groups, a Klapa, will fill the historic walls from the 4th century BC with sound, walls that at one time occupied a total area of some 30,000 square meters.
Over the many shops within the walls, washing lines hang charmingly – and everywhere – from the Roman villas and palace architecture.
Beaches in the Land of a Thousand Islands
In the high season, and in the areas favored by tourists, the beaches are especially packed. Those who don’t like a crowded beach would be better off seeking out one of the over 1000 islands, of which only about 50 are actually inhabited.
One of my favorite beaches is the Zlatni Rat, located in the tranquil village of Bol on the island of Brač. Peaceful in May and June, things start kicking off at the end of July and especially in August. Those looking for a lonely stretch of beach can climb to them, for example in the direction of Murvica – or go directly to the little sister of the famous “Golden Horn” of Bol, this beach is only 2 kilometers away and just as beautiful, but somewhat emptier.
However, when it comes to best describing what the Dalmatian coast means to me, my 3-year-old son recently got straight to the point. Out of nowhere, he announced, “mom, should I tell you something about Croatia? I love this country. And I love it, to look at the sea.”
Nella Beljan is a German cultural journalist and editor with Croatian roots. After studying in London and Bielefeld, she’s lived in Berlin since 2003. After seven years in the city, directly after finishing her double doctorate with a Doctorate in philosophy and Docteur en Lettres, she co-developed Fräulein magazine and was responsible for the style department. Nella is the final editor at Cee Cee. Formerly a German language editor at Freunde von Freunden, she is now working with hey woman!. She also works in concept development, and as a copywriter and translator in corporate publishing, including for Aesop and modissa.