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Adriana Kuprešak-Matak
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Your Front Row Seat To Life in Croatia
Your Front Row Seat To Life in Croatia

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Topless at Plitvice Lakes in Croatia? Why not?!
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Believe me, it has crossed my mind and is that one question I ask myself potentially too often, “Was I really THAT bad?” Did I really need to go all the way out and quit drinking for good? The answer is yes. My husband Luka and I met just after I hit 1 year sober. Trust me, meeting the man of my dreams was the last thing I was prepared for. I had just learned how to love myself and all those flaws that I grew to hate and with no noticed I had to learn how to love another human being. If learning to love myself was a challenge, imagine what loving someone else felt like… totally out of my comfort zone.

The thing about my husband was that he lead quite the hedonist life before me and had an itching desire to include me in it. While back in my drinking hay day I was no stranger to a bottle of Cristal (I still consider Cristal Rose 2000 the best bottle of champagne I ever had) or vintage bottle of Vega Sicilia, half of what he brought to my table I had to politely decline.

No alcohol, whatsoever.
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Dugi Otok (Long Island in english) is the largest island in Croatia and only an hour and 40 minutes away from Zadar (ferry port Gaženica) by Jadrolinija. Dugi Otok is branded as “Adventure Island” but really suits any type of traveller, there is something for everybody, even those looking for some peace and quiet far far away from Croatia’s typically crowded beaches. Whether you’re looking for a sneaky day trip away from Zadar city or an extended island getaway, Dugi Otok is the ideal place for some R&R.

With my little sister in town from Sydney, Luka and I decided there was no better way to escape Zadar’s busy city centre than to take a day trip to Dugi Otok. It wasn’t my first time on this island in the Zadar Region, I visited Nature Park Telascica with Croatia Full of Life last September so I was aware of the allure of Dugi Otok. Dugi Otok is easily accessible by island hopping day tours but on this particular trip, we wanted to take the ferry over with our car. The last thing we wanted to do was wait for a bus to take us from location to location on the island, especially in the summer heat. The Jadrolinija from Zadar Gaženica to Brbinj Dugi Otok costs 30kn (4€) per person (adult) for one way and to take the average 5 door car is 160kn (22€) one way. Return tickets for 3 adults plus a car were 500kn (68€).
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A LOT of Croatian diaspora are curious about the lives of those returnees who have made their way back to the motherland, Croatia. Everyone knows about the headaches involving the Croatian bureaucracy, the rhetoric revolving the economic and political state of the country and how “everyone” is leaving where the grass is greener. I know, it’s a very odd, even the diaspora living in Croatia wonder why the hell they are even here half the time. Trust me, we do.

I often get asked for advice on how one just packs their bags and returns to the motherland. My story isn’t much different to any other returnee to Croatia. I, like many others felt at home only in the perimeters of these Croatian borders. No where else but here in Croatia. It’s a feeling money can’t buy and nothing gives me more anxiety than even contemplating a life back in Sydney, Australia. No, thank you. Even though I have a job waiting for me the second I land in Sydney, it’s secure and one I know like the back of my hand, I’d still feel lost and depressed. Croatia is home.
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Our new friend Ante, The Crazy Dalmatian got in touch with us and asked if we’d like to go check out the Island of Vis, also known as the Key of the Adriatic. Vis has been on mine and Luka’s radar all year and we wanted to experience it before it was introduced to the rest of the world through the Mamma Mia 2 movie, which comes out in 2018. Mamma Mia 2 was filmed on the Island of Vis last summer and we were certain that Vis would end up being the new Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split meaning, filled with tourists with the tourist price tag.

Our journey starts at 9am from Trogir Marina. Trogir is just over an hour drive away from Zadar by car. Ante tells us that it will take about an hour to get to Island Vis from Trogir by boat. On our way we quickly stop by Krknjasi which is practically empty compared to how it was last September when I visited with the National Tourism Board of Croatia. The season hasn’t really started in Croatia, the waters are still fairly empty, June is the perfect time to sail Croatia if you’re looking to see Croatia without the crowds.

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I’ve decided to turn my instagram to private, it’s not big deal but kinda is when you own a blog. Cool, premeditated images with correct tagging and hash tagging are the fastest ways to build a following, connect with like minded people and get people interested in your message and your blog. I live in Croatia, one of the most photogenic countries in the world and I finally have an insta-husband who I trained very well into taking my pictures for me, but I’m no longer interested in sharing it with the whole world. I’ll share images and information on my blog but not everyone will have direct access to my insta-life. Maybe I grew up or maybe I just got over it. People stalking, pretending to be friends with me just to see which city I’m in, where I ate at or who designed my wedding dress… It’s really scary how obsessed our society is with watching other people’s lives.
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I’m going to call it out, so many places in Zagreb get away with average food. They hire a PR, buy their hype and all of a sudden they are “the most exclusive” and “most expensive” place to dine at. Being expensive is fine but the value better be there for every kuna the restaurant asks for. A lot of restaurants in Zagreb look the part of a top restaurant but once you get inside, you notice that the apple isn’t so fresh or hot, after all. Which leads me to this statement, if you love your Japanese food and aren’t afraid to spend a little more, I highly recommend Takenoko in Zagreb. They are the best Japanese restaurant in Zagreb, Luka likes to say the whole of Croatia but I haven’t eaten sushi outside of Zagreb.
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Croatia Full of Life’s 3rd edition of the Epic Week campaign is just about to commence and while coming up with my list for the second year in a row, I sat in my office and reflected on the past 12 months. A year ago I was still fresh calling Croatia my full time home and I was still learning about Zagreb as a city and making new friends along the way. Fortunately, the Epic Week campaign was one that started to open more doors for me as a travel blogger in Croatia. Although I had a full time job in Zagreb in 2017, I tried to take as many long weekends as I could to continue exploring Croatia, a country I still can’t believe I call home.

This year is going to be a whole different ball game. I found the man of my dreams, I am about to get married and will be living in Zadar from end of May. Of course, we’ll still have our apartment in Zagreb but already as the weather begins to heat up in the capital city, I’m getting itchy feet and counting down the days until I call Zadar home. My fiancé is already telling me that I’m “Dalmatia’s adopted daughter” but I kind of feel like I’m offending all my dalmo friends if those words would ever come out of my mouth. I will have front row access to the entire coastline and I am so freaking excited about it. I’ll be back on YouTube, I really miss creating video content. I cannot wait to show you the Croatian coastline, where to stay, where to eat and what to do in this magnificent country.

Let’s get back to the point of this post- I looked back on the previous two Epic Week posts from last year and decided to recap on the experiences that I had the luxury of experiencing over the past 12 months.
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TALK ABOUT BEING SPOILT.

For my birthday in February (Sorry, I know this post is very late) my other half and husband to-be whisked me away to Sibenik and took me to the restaurant I spent most of 2017 trying to get a table at, Pelegrini. I’m not the biggest fan of Sibenik, as beautiful as it may be, it’s always windy up at the fortress and this drives me crazy. But one part of Sibenik has been on my radar for the past 12 months and it’s dining at Pelegrini. Last year when Monte in Rovinj was the first ever restaurant in Croatia to receive a Michelin Star, I came across many whispers who declared that it should have been Pelegrini in Sibenik. After all, they do have Croatia’s best chef to call their own, chef Rudolf Štefan.

Last month it was announced that Pelegrini was awarded a Michelin Star. I must say, it’s well deserved and although I am no stranger to a Michelin Star restaurant (Yes, a legitimate food snob here with credentials), it was quite obvious that Pelegrini was pushing for this pedestal.

Pelegrini in Sibenik offer a selective à la carte menu of 25 dishes and for 550kn (74€) per person, we were able to select 5 dishes each. This was not a simple task and chef Rudolf Štefan has really thought the menu through.
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Vukovar is a symbol of Croatia’s homeland war and fight for independence. Vukovar is also the city I was born in 31 years ago. Anytime I tell a Croatian person that I was born in Vukovar, they immediately sigh and say, “how wonderful.” It is wonderful because it’s a precious city and one dear to every Croat’s heart.

Vukovar is located in the eastern part of Croatia and belongs to half Slavonia and half Srijem county, across the Danube River is Serbia. The city is filled with with baroque architecture.

Once one of the most wealthiest cities in Croatia due to it’s vast land mass meaning great prospects for farmers and agriculture and close proximity to the Danube River, Vukovar has a rich history predating over 8000 years. Very often archaeological artifacts are found in the backyards of residents within the region, Vinkovci being a hot spot for evidence of Vukovar’s extensive history.

I was invited along to visit Vukovar for the first time since I was born by the Tourism Board to learn more about the city, it’s long and rich history along with the darker facets of what happened during the homeland war under the guidance of Tomislav, our Vukovar Tour guide. Vukovar City aims to cater for a more “cultural tourism” experience, one that is proud of it’s prehistoric age and another that shines a light onto the country’s most devastating war, commemorating those who lost their lives and those whose remains are still missing.

HERE ARE 6 THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN VUKOVAR, CROATIA
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