Konoba Sidro – Keeper of Punat’s Gastronomy Tradition

Nestled between other restaurants and bars is tavern Sidro, which in Croatian means anchor. Indeed, one can feel anchored in this traditional tavern, surrounded by maritime items and preserved utensils that remind guests of the famous Punat’s maritime and shipbuilding history. Old pictures on the walls bring to the past times and faces of today’s owners’ parents and grandparents disclose years of experience and wisdom in a more natural world.

Scorching noon heat brought us inside, under the stone vaults, and with an instant glass of local Žlahtina wine we embarked to the pleasures of šurlice. Dedicated and ever smiling staff was happy to serve us, especially because we arrived just moments after the tavern opened its doors. Mr Kornel Mihajić and his family cherish a long restaurateur tradition, and his mother is famous in whole town for handmade šurlice, macaroons, and other pasta.

Sidro is home to original Punat cuisine, and one can start its gastro-journey with sheep cheese and homemade prosciutto, but also octopus, a tradition preserved in its authenticity in Punat. Various salads are also part of the cold appetizers, featuring fish and frutti di mare. The warm appetizers follow the same logic, accentuating pasta and various stews, so typical of Krk.

We talk with a young but experienced waiter about the life in tourist season when everything here is packed, while he brings us another glass of Žlahtina. Fortunately, taverns such as these, with simple yet beautiful local dishes are packed with tourists wanting to explore authentic tastes next to burgers and grilled meat. The logic of Sidro is the same, but understandably (and regrettably) offers grilled meat as well (not that it is not tasteful). An important fact is that every seafood comes from local fishermen, guaranteeing fresh fish from Krk sea waters.

The heat still persists while we take a photo of waiter and deliciously looking šurlice on two plates, but we do think of winter here and enjoyment of fire in an old fireplace adorned with historical items. At the same place guests can order in spring the young Krk lamb, baked under the lid. But soon after that we are ready for a more nuanced job of tasting the queen of Krk’s pasta.  To detect real šurlice, they must be thinner, and not so soft as other pasta. If you come across this kind of šurlice, you know it is the real thing; such is šurlice in Sidro!

First, we tried šurlice with cuttlefish brodetto. A sense of sea in this dish tells us that cuttlefish is fresh. This rewarding seafood comes in two varieties, with or without its ink, and šurlice has to come without it. A classic combination of olive oil, onions, garlic, and tomatoes make up a tasteful brodetto with herbs and beautifully soft cuttlefish. Nicely done dish deserves a praise to the kitchen staff.

Another dish was more faithful to the original, šurlice with beef stew. Aroma of this dish gives instantly the impression of chef’s expertise in treating usually hard meat. A scent of carrots and herbs, cooked slowly with meat for hours, blends great with šurlice. And while the first seafood pasta was more refreshing and mild, the beef pasta gives a sense of hearty everyday meal. None of those, however, could be done without knowledge of making šurlice, obviously transferred through generations.

Punat seems to care for the culinary heritage and Sidro is for sure a place of such dedication!

Konoba Sidro
Obala 18, 51521 Punat
Telephone: +385 (0)51 854 235
E-mail: kornel.mihajic@ri.t-com.hr

Goranska borovnica – in the highland paradise of forest berries

We are sitting beneath a vast oak tree and enjoy splendid elder flower juice. It is made by Nataša Kozlica, owner of the family farm Goranska Borovnica (Highlander Blueberry) and it just suits great in already warm end of spring. She is accompanied by three generations of her family, a dog, and a cat. Oh yes, also a wooden bear looks at us, as part of the education garden where school kids come to learn more about self-grown herbs and students have their practical work.

But the basis of this family farm is in traditional Gorski kotar favourite fruits and sweets, the forest berries. The gift of the mountains and woodlands, berries were unavoidable part of the locals’ diet for generations. Today, they are essential part of every highlander menu, and not only in its sweet part. Local game dishes, such as bear or venison, regularly come with blueberry sauce or cranberry jelly, giving a perfect blend of pure meat and sweetness of berries.

Throughout summer people go into the forest to pick berries and make grandma-style jams and juices. At Goranska Borovnica, they plant it. One can find here strawberries, raspberries, currants, American blueberries, elder, and blackberries. A mix of forest berries is a basis for Kozlica’s refreshing liqueur, which we readily enjoyed at the estate.

It seems idyllic but there is a great deal of effort and risks behind this work. Everything is done beneath open sky, and fruits can ripe at different times, thus adding to the unpredictability of the whole process. But the end result is pure taste in various products that can be found in the farm’s souvenir shop.

Here guests can find authentic highland souvenirs, like wooden and ceramic products, homemade teas, soaps, candles, postcards. Especially appealing is the Fužine basket, rich with the fruits from the farm. And if you feel tired, why not spending a night or two here? Apartment Polić is just next to the farm, and is run by the oldest members of the family. Their piercing blue eyes keep the wisdom of the rural life in the mountains, while the agricultural knowledge of Mrs Kozlica makes this farm one of the best in the whole Gorski kotar region.

The family also prepared us cake with their fruits and guided us through the farm, where also a forest log cabin is situated for any guests seeking peace and quiet of woods. Information tables can be seen all around, giving interesting information about plants, animals, waters, and forest; indeed, a tour many of us should take in order to bring back memories of childhood visits to the woodlands.

Obrt Borovnica
Belo selo, Fužine 51322
mob: 00385915124712

Lič – place of religion and heritage

In 1733 inhabitants of Lič, now a small place near Fužine, were renovating the dilapidates St. John the Baptist Church which kept collapsing. On August 5th, in middle of summer, snow fell and covered the little chapel in which Mother of God appeared. Since then people make pilgrimages to this small chapel, now dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Snow.

The chapel stands in midst of green mountain meadow, surrounded by evergreen hills. Peacefulness of the place is only sometimes broken by birds and wind, and one can indeed feel the holiness of the site. Don’t expect some big sanctuary with lots of pilgrims. This is a small chapel, close to the St. John’s Hill, where another chapel is situated. We strongly suggest you to take a walk from Fužine or Lič and feel the pilgrimage path itself.

The church itself has a beautiful main altar with a picture of Blessed Virgin Mary of Rosary with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Dominic. These pictures were saved before the church was ruined in the Second World War, together with a cross made from white marble made in 1929. Side altars consist of St. Joseph and St. Catherine. There is also a statue of Blessed Virgin Mary with a child and statue of Holy Heart of Jesus.

In the back there is a large painting “Miracle of our Lady of Snow”, donated by Anton Hriberšek whose mother is from Lič. The painting shows the miracle itself, the moment when snow flocks came down from the starry sky.

The parish church in the village itself is dedicated to Saint George, built in 1662. It is situated above the centre of the place where the Ethnographic society “Sveti Juraj” (St. George) runs the Lič cultural-historical collection. It opened its doors to the public in 1994, the year in which Lič celebrated 150 years of schooling.

Mr Dražen Starčević, fatally in love with Lič and its surroundings, shows us the collection that preserves items that were used in these areas and that tell a story about the life and habits of the people who lived here. Lič is way older than Fužine; the settlement itself was first mentioned in 1364. In 1603 first Vlach/Bunjevci inhabitants settled here, giving it a distinctive ethnographic character.

The ethnographic department consists of ethnographic artefacts and tools used by locals in their daily lives, remains of the past hands full of blisters on the legacy passed on to the present. One can find many things here, from the working tools in the fields to the express pots and irons for the kitchen work. All of these items were used in Lič and stem from the ancestors of local people.

Next to it is a room filled with archive documents, writings, and photographs. A window to locals’ past, it shows the richness and troubles of life throughout past times. Among others, one can also see the costumes which people wore, as well as the official documents regarding the state and municipality.

Upstairs is a history department consisting of sacral treasury and the civil room. The latter is an insight in the life of a well standing civil family Kauzlarić, from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It is a very attractive display of antique furniture, art paintings, old tableware, ornaments, and old documents and books.

A small sacral treasury is placed in the same room, containing a significant number of sacral objects, valuable old church vestments that date from the Venetian times. and flags that need a special airtight chest.  It is a solid look into the history of the Catholic church and parish of Lič.

An unique exhibition in Gorski kotar is also a collection of ethnographic and artistic items of the peoples from Africa, Asia, and America. It is a result of a valuable donation by a vacation home owner in Lic. Physicist Guy Paic PhD who works in New Mexico, USA, following a wish of his late wife, famous television journalist Arlette Ambrozic-Paic, donated valuable art works collected on their numerous travels to the Collection. Contained mostly are objects from Africa and South America, therefore the Ethnographic association members have formed a separated display room with exhibits of non-European peoples.

By forming several display areas, the Ethnographic collection in Lic became a very respectable museum.  Today it contains more than 500 exhibits in the permanent display, and it is continuously enlarged with new objects. Indeed, the ethnographic association should be well proud of their achievments.

Lič St. George Association
+385 98 448 145 (Dražen Starčević)

Bitoraj – A Temple of Game Dishes

Entering the Fužine’s hotel Bitoraj gives you almost an impression of what’s on the menu. First greeting may well be with a stuffed bear and other forest wild animals that are traditionally part of the Gorski kotar cuisine. But very soon you will find out that you are in excellent hands of Mr Andrej Kauzlarić, a descendent of the long family tradition in running this hotel and restaurant, that was opened in 1933 as the tourist house Neda.

This historical site is totally refurbished in 2007 and in its new glory welcomes tourists from all over the globe. It has 18 double rooms, special Aphrodite’s room, and all the necessities needed in a four-star hotel. But the hotel is far more famous for its offer of the autochthonic meals of Gorski kotar, often followed by live music (Andrej plays as well). Its cuisine? Well, in one word: amazing!

Nothing of meals we’ve tried – and we did try a lot – came from a shop. Every single thing in this restaurant is carefully chosen, mostly bought from the local producers in this Croatian mountain region or the interior. This includes drinks as well, and the first surprising taste was of brinjevac, a brandy made from juniper, also known in Croatia as šmrika, klek, or borovica. Used as a folk medicine, this herby brandy contains 60% alcohol! A solid aperitif evokes ideas of friendly gathering in some mountain hut in the vicinity; one bottle would do the trick! Almost all other hard drinks come from the Fužine’s neighbour Vid Arbanas, whose brandies and liqueurs rest upon the generational knowledge of making drinks from the nature.

In order to show us what kind of small bites are possible in Bitoraj, Mr Kauzlarić welcomed us with Highlander’s plate, consisting of deer prosciutto, boar salami, homemade pancetta, deep-fried frog legs, oyster mushrooms filled with prosciutto and cheese, and four kinds of škripavac cheese. Flavours abound on this forest menu, showing the basis of fine dining in the Gorski kotar region. Prosciutto and salami are dark, rich in taste and a bit spicy, as one would expect from the game. If eaten alone, be sure to drink a lot of water – or beer.

Yes, beer. No, it is not a crazy idea and gastronomic horror of combining prosciutto with beer, as the heavy food was traditionally eaten with beer. The owners are very careful of having draft beer in house, and recall of brewery working across the street. Memories of the old times didn’t break our solid will to continue our lunch with Agrolaguna and Palinkaš wines. And if you think beer is not a good option – you are always left with brinjevac!

Most foreigners would be surprised with frog legs. Both in Lokve and in Fužine, this was a traditional dish for locals, as the edible frogs abound in the area full of water. Once someone told me that all amphibians and crocodiles taste like chicken. Frogs are not an exception, but still it can have a distinctive watery flavour in the background. And you can always be a hero when you come home as you’ve eaten a frog without kissing it!

Personal choice for the best thing on the plate is cheese. Škripavac is well known cheese of Croatian mountain regions of Gorski kotar and Lika, and its name stems from the sound it makes when biting it. The cheese served in Bitoraj comes from Josipdol’s excellent cheese dairy farm Miščević and it comes in four varieties: plain, with homemade herbs, with peppers, and deep-fried. It is absolutely amazing how solid it remains when deep-fried, which is due to its instant shocking on -50 degrees. When prepared, the cheese is put frozen on the hot oil. Tremendously good and very milky.

Fužine is a place where continental and maritime climate collide. The result is much rain, winds from all sides of the world, but also a tasteful combination of influences on the table. We were presented with Highland risotto and Mushroom pasta. The highland risotto is made with deer prosciutto and apple, a great combination and meaty-sour blend, a solid choice for warm appetizer if you like strong tastes. The mushroom pasta is simple token of woodlands in combination with classic Istrian fuži pasta.

Another appetizer was frog legs’ brodetto, with polenta and pumpkin seed oil. Mild brodetto gives plenty of taste to frogs; indeed, more restaurants serving frog legs should keep in mind there is a lot more to the deep-fried frog legs. And while the frogs are really good, the pumpkin seed oil gives a finishing touch. In combination with polenta it is a rare example of using this oil in near-coastal area of Croatia. Pumpkins are more continental brand, starting from Vrbovsko, also in Gorski kotar, but without much influence in the traditional foods. Thus, bravo for the idea!

A refreshing retreat was two kinds of soup: an ordinary mushroom soup (always replenishing and hearty) and horseradish soup. Horseradish is popular sidedish, either fresh or as a sauce. But to make a soup from it? The taste is far from your imagination. It is a bit spicy but very refreshing and calls for more.

If you think we’ve done most of the work in Bitoraj, you are heading to a surprise, just as we did. Grand main meal consisted of three signature dishes of this restaurant, and no wonder Bitoraj is on the list of 100 best Croatian restaurants for the 20th time! It might be difficult to choose where to start from these main dishes, but maybe the Highlander’s lunch is typical of the area.

It is the most traditional and most sold dish in Bitoraj, consisting of pork ribs, homemade sausage, baked pancetta, sauerkraut, and potatoes. A fatty bomb for more colder days was a normal diet for many decades now, showing a tremendous need for energy in an area known for harsh winters and rather short summers. There’s no particular suggestion for this meal, only be hungry enough to eat lavishly. And do you remember that beer we’ve mentioned in the beginning?

Then came baby boar, baked under the iron lid with potatoes. Soft and salty, it melts in mouth. Baked piglet is a standard offer of the house and excellent choice for anyone into the glorious cousin of our domesticated pig. They weigh some 10 kilos and can be found in continental Croatia, feeding in a special hunting areas where they feed with quality foods from the nature. The fact that piglets are not at all scared of human is their death-warrant: they are simply taken by hands and later prepared for the juicy and tasty meal. Don’t be shocked, that’s circle of nature!

And what would a highlander’s menu be without a bear? All praise should go to chef for making such soft bear steaks, with cranberries and deep-fried dumplings. Even for Croats, bear is not an everyday dish nor can be eaten in every region of Croatia. Mr Kauzlarić testifies his hard work in preparing bear meat, with constant controls of quality, but is too humble to admit it takes a real knowledge to master the hard and dark bear meat. Those who succeed can proudly be called a temple of the game dishes. And Bitoraj is exactly that!

Yes, we did have a dessert. It wasn’t a surprise any more that we had three kinds of berry strudels and gigantic kremšnita cakes. Blueberry strudel is so typical for Gorski kotar that Mr Kauzlarić tends to protect it as an industrial heritage. Local producers of forest berries, such as family homestead Borovnica, contribute to the widely shared recipe for this most beloved highlanders’ dessert.

Unavoidable point for every true gourmet lover, with dedicated staff and very kind owners, in a picturesque environment and pleasant climate, Bitoraj is pure happiness, fine dining, and homemade cuisine turned into a masterpiece. We toast a glass of brinjevac to that!

Hotel Bitoraj
Sveti križ 1, 51322 Fužine
Phone: 0038551835019, 0038551830005
E-mail: info@bitoraj.hr
Web: www.bitoraj.hr


Classy Dining in the Hotel Kontinental

Hotel Continental is the oldest still working hotel in Rijeka, opened in 1888, at the time in town of Sušak which is now eastern part of the city. When opened, it gained much popularity for its interior, many activities, and excellent position on the bank of the Rječina River, after which Rijeka got its name. Among the other things, this hotel was famous for its old-style coffeehouse and a restaurant.

Photo by Hotel Kontinental

Still today, the hotel is one of the most recognisable buildings in Rijeka and the square in front of it, the Kont, is popular gathering point for youth in summer. Some things stayed without much change, others seized to exist, but every generation of Rijeka citizens knows by heart the summer evenings on the terrace and the splendid restaurant and café offering refreshments and combination of classic Kvarner and continental foods. It continues somewhat the tradition: in 1914, an invitation to the hotel emphasised the restaurant with beautiful garden, excellent homemade and German cuisine, good wines and always fresh Budweiser beer.

Our arrival at the hotel coincided with the festival “Sardines are IN”, and we enjoyed exciting sardine meals in various combinations. The friendliness of the staff and their easy-going attitude make a particular Rijeka atmosphere, while the terrace provided us with cosiness although the rain was falling (which is quite often in this indeed rainy city).

The old facades of the hotel and the pictures inside the restaurant evoke the memories of the past and days when this city was the glorious harbour of the Austro-Hungary, and when the town’s elite gathered in this very spot to chat and conspire.

The chef “conspired” with fruits and fish, giving us indeed an unusual starter, marinated anchovies with marinated orange fillets. Soft and fresh anchovies, marinated in lemon, sits on a basis of ricola, fennel, and onion rings, while the orange slices and cherry tomatoes give a festival of colours on plate. It is a refreshing and joyful combination, where tastes combine and blend in a unique late spring starter. A few drops of Blato Amfora extra virgin olive oil makes it even better.

How about deep-fried sardines with cabbage and potatoes? One would say there is nothing special in this very traditional and classic dish. But, the surprise comes after first bite – the sardines are filled with mild sheep cheese! It was another example how much this small fish can give. More than that, it regained its status as the feeder of the islanders. For a long time, sardine was completely underestimated in the gastronomy, given banally only as a salty fried starter or as a snack in summer fishermen nights. The young chef in Hotel Kontinental showed yet again that sardine is a small fish with big opportunities.

As the Days of Cherries and sardine week combine, the cook also gave us such combination, consisting of fillets of fried sardines, polenta with olives and Mediterranean herbs, and cherry sauce. Again, very specific dish, which is predominantly mild and gives lots of flavour within the aromatised polenta. The cherry addition is very ingenious and playful, which is always a sign of a confident cook. Everything blends greatly with wine of the house, red blend named Namori, containing a ruby colour and full taste with fruity background.

Cherries were the basis of our dessert too. We tried the cherry pie with maracuya or passion fruit sauce, excellent finish for anyone into not-so-sweet desserts. Whole experience in Kontinental shows simple but imaginative approach to the combination of fish and fruits, which resembles in a way the history of Croatian biggest port. For decades, it has been fisheries’ harbour but also entry point for southern fruits and citrus fruits, giving colourfulness and enjoyment to the elites.

Hotel Kontinental – Jadran Hoteli
Šetalište Andrije Kačića Miošića 1, 51000 Rijeka
(T) +385 51 372 008 (F) +385 51 372 009 


Conca d’Oro – the sardine masterpieces in the oldest restaurant of Rijeka

Just a few steps hidden away from the Rijeka’s main pedestrian zone Korzo there is the oldest still working restaurant in the centre of this biggest Croatian sea port. Many generations of citizens of Rijeka and their guests loyally were coming for decades to this place to enjoy the classic Kvarner cuisine.

Hospitable and jolly staff of this restaurant will offer you rustic dishes with a modern twist, and we experienced it during the days of sardines. The meals somehow resemble the restaurant’s interior itself – undoubtedly emerged into the tradition of the area, there is a significant modern atmosphere included, while the old legend still survives.

The rich tradition of this place goes back to the first half of the 19th century, when brothers Ostrogović kept an inn which name got lost, but it was present on the same spot. For a short time, it was a hotel named “K zlatnoj zvijezdi” or “Albergo alla stella d’oro” (At Golden Star). In 1885 the legend was born when Leopold Zwetti opened the restaurant and only one year later it was included on the prestige list of the best restaurants in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During its past, it changed many owners but the “golden” name stayed.

Robert Whitehead, the owner of the first torpedo factory in the world based in Rijeka, owned also the houses around the inn, but the restaurateurs complained because of the noise and transportation of building material. Thus, they positioned three stones in the small alley where the restaurant still is, so that the workers don’t disturb the guests. Whitehead did win the court suit, but the stones remained until today.

The restaurant got its present name in the beginning of 20th century, with the new owner Edoardo Budicin from Pula. It served local cuisine and brunches, while enriching the offer with the prestigious Italian wines from the regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. Even today, you can find the traces of this tradition in the corners of the restaurant, especially in the emblem of the place, resembling the fatty, greasy, and utmost hedonistic region of Italia (mind the Bologna Grassa – The Fat Bologna!).

But, back to the sardines. This small, yet compact fish nourished generations of islanders and coast dwellers, and there are numerous ways how to prepare it. The chef of the Conca d’Oro presented us with three rustic-styled sardine dishes with very common ingredients.

We’ve started with marinated sardines, nested with ricola and cherry tomatoes in a classic glass jar, with topped bruschetta aside. Refreshing start gives a boost to explore more opportunities of this fish.

And it succeeded greatly with sardine dumplings, made of mixed sardines and sesame, with addition of pine nuts and served on brodetto sauce with Kalamata olives. Full flavour of sardines blends perfectly with quickly fried ricola and with polenta aromatised with olives and Mediterranean herbs. One just wonders how much is possible with a simple sardine!

The classic sardine meal in the Adriatic is, without doubt, fried sardines with Swiss chard and potatoes. One cannot go more traditional than this, and the fish served in the Conca d’Oro evokes the memories of grandfathers in the way they are prepared.

But no grandparent can serve the sardines in such posh way as they do it in this restaurant, making almost a construction of sardines and a richness of old flavours. In every way, staff wants us to feel the rustic history blended with modern lifestyle. Possibly, that is why they surprised us with a delicious cherry pie, a true testimony to the spring and the Kvarner cherry.

Conca d’Oro is rich with top quality wines and whiskeys, but we tended to try the very basic Istrian Malvasia. And we were indeed surprised by the Terzolo Malvasia, originating from Nova Vas near Poreč. The red soil terroir gave the champion status for the young Malvasia at Vinistra competition 2013, done by the family Tercolo known also for a very good olive oil that we’ve enjoyed immensely.

Every gastronomad should know by its instinct that the best places can be found off the beaten track. Conca d’Oro is exactly few steps away these beaten tracks of Rijeka and indeed well worth of a visit.

Conca d’Oro
Kružna ulica 12, Rijeka
phone: 00 385 51 213 782
text and photos by: Vedran Obućina & Bruno Vignjević

Botel Marina – Ship of Gastronomy Delights

You cannot miss boat hotel (botel) Marina; it is docked right in the centre of the Rijeka’s city port, recognisable by the red chimney. Inside is an unusual and very popular boat hostel, a cosy bar just perfect for the lazy afternoons, and a restaurant serving local and fresh cuisine. It is in this restaurant that we tried the delicacies for the annual days of sardines in Rijeka, with a help of the manager Andrej Kušeta and his dedicated staff.

The ship was not always here. It was built for the Swedish crown princess and she walked the same halls as one can walk today inside this yacht-like ship. In the sixties, it sailed to Yugoslavia, to the port of Rijeka, where it served on the cruise line between Rijeka, the island of Cres, and the island of Susak. Marina was favourite among the locals who cherished the structure of the ship, being built for the northern seas, and which sustained the heavy blows of the strong bura wind. As a testimony to the glorious time, the menu in Marina consists of many dishes bearing the names of the ship’s destination during her prime days.

Its working days are now done, and the ship was bought and reconstructed by the Arhipelag company from the island of Lošinj. Now it surprises the guests who dream about sleeping aboard a ship, even if it is stationed in the harbour. They may dream about the food also, as it is wonderful aboard Marina and gives a special feeling of dining in maritime surroundings. While honouring the history, we raised our glass of cocktail with its beautiful colour consisting of orange juice, brandy and grenadine.

Very friendly staff greeted us with elaborative sardine menu, confirming the knowledge of making fish dishes. The skill of doing sardine fillet is especially noticeable as our first meal of the visit was done surgeon-precise, using the long and sharp knife on the body of small but strong fish. It came with ricola and toast, blending the salty and somewhat robust sardine with the softness of bread and bitterness of herb.

Next, we tried excellent sardine brodetto with aromatised polenta, which was very pleasing in its arrangement and skilfully combined in tastes. It is not unusual that the brodetto sauce takes over and indeed many locals like it that way, as the joy is in dipping some bread in the sauce and just feel the richness of its taste. In this case, advantage was given to the sardine itself but even more to the polenta which was visibly and tastefully aromatised with the Mediterranean herbs, adding to the rosemary and basil that came atop this dish. Indeed, a skilful play of mild brodetto and pure taste of the sardines!

It seems unavoidable thing to have some of the Kvarner’s sardine classics on the menu, and Marina is not an exception. Locals just love fried sardines, almost like a snack. One often eats it as an appetizer, or just a side dish with some wine. In Marina we had fried sardines with potato salad and radicchio, a slightly changed traditional recipe of very known taste.

It suited excellent with the wonderful open Cabernet Sauvignon Pavlomir wine, originating from the beautiful and awarded vineyard of Mr Miroslav Palinkaš. A leading red wine in the Kvarner area invites for more, and we had it with the cherry pie, a sweet finish of our sail through the Marina’s culinary adventure.

The restaurant is very friendly to various flavours and options, including the gluten free diet. In its beautiful wooden ship atmosphere and cosy interior, it serves local foods, mostly classics, but with rather unusual and healthy additions such as chick peas, traditionally not used in this area. Modern gastronomy goes healthy, especially in various kinds of beans, and Marina is not an exception. Overall, Marina is a very cosy and inspiring maritime place, with lots of tradition and skills, excellent place for brunch and in the very centre of Rijeka, where guests can soak in the atmosphere of city’s maritime glory.

Botel Marina
Adamićev gat, Rijeka
+385 51 410 162

Text by: Vedran Obućina

Photos by: Edvard Badurina & Vedran Obućina

Feel the Sea

Maritime and fishery tradition in the Northern Adriatic is very old and survives until today. Here is what we’ve found out on our tour of the FLAG Vela Vrata:

Blue World in Lošinj

House of the Sea – Maritime Museum in Mošćenička Draga

Apoxyomenos – Bronze Effigy of Ancient Lošinj

We have also visited the House of the Lovran Guc.

Among different boats used in the Adriatic, Lovran Guc is specific for its elegance and form. It was made by Nino Gasparinic in Lovran, a small town settled in a picturesque bay, surrounded by Mediterranean herbs and slopes of Mt. Učka. The boat was being built between 1850s up to the present day. Within the Lovran’s fort there is a small museum dedicated to this unique ship.

All the gratitude for that museum goes to Silvano Raffaelli from Lovran who says that plastic boats will never have the same navigation possibilities as the wooden ones. Lovran shipbuilders made a boat that suits best the needs of navigators and fishermen.

Small, light and maneuverable boat is easily used in fisheries, and is adaptable to hide quickly if the sudden bura wind starts to blow. Still, a significant maritime knowledge is needed to steer the boat. Every year, Lovran stages the guc regatta.

House of the Sea – Maritime Museum in Mošćenička Draga

In the small fishing port of Mošćenička Draga stands a quite special house, dedicated to the maritime tradition of this part of the Adriatic Sea. It is the Interpretation centre of fishing and maritime heritage of the Eco-Museum Mošćenička Draga, where visitors enjoy the exhibits like old catching traps, hooks, ship materials. Especially interesting part is multimedia exhibit of an old ship cupboard; when one opens a tray, one can hear the sound of sea, ship horn, seagull, dolphin, etc.

The museum shows three basic topics: fisheries, maritime tradition, and traditional ship building. On the lower floor there are standard topics about fisheries, such as kinds and types of fishing nets, tools and lights, but also ways how to salt fish or repair the nets. A special dedication is given to the old Slavic community and their ancient fishery. Mošćenička Draga is situated beneath Perun, an ancient place of old Slavic worship. Everyday life of fishermen is supplemented with a special emphasis on the role of women up to the present day.

On upper floor, visitors encounter traditional ship building, tools, models, drawings, but also artefacts from private collections featuring old signal flags, pictures old 130 years showing the ships where people from this region worked. These paintings are often given to the local churches as a religious vow and as a prayer for the safe voyage.

The museum gives a glimpse of our grandparents’ life, their everyday work, hopes, and fears, emotions that are passed through decades. As such, it is a beautiful place for learning more about the life in Mošćenička Draga and its surroundings.

Apoxyomenos – Bronze Effigy of Ancient Lošinj

In the cold depths of the Adriatic Sea it laid for over two thousand years. Accidental discovery by a Belgian tourist gave a totally new story to the island of Lošinj. It is the Apoxyomenos, the antique bronze statue of an athlete, 192 cm tall, taken from the sea bed between the islet of Vele Orjule and the island of Lošinj on 27 April 1999, is the only large bronze found to date on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. It is assumed that it was deposited in the sea at the beginning of the 1st century when it was thrown overboard during bad weather because of the danger of the ship overturning or as a sacrifice to the gods for safe passage through the Osor channel to a prosperous destination/port of call on the north Adriatic.

Two thousand years of darkness, under the sea, can be felt in the Apoxyomenos museum in Mali Lošinj, a prime example of interactive introduction to the antiquity of the island. The place where you find out more about this statue is deliberatly dimmed and cold, to present you with the surroundings of young athlete’s statue for hunderds of years. Casted in bronze, and nursed by seeweed and sand, it still contained seeds of time, with pieces of wood, twigs, leaves, remains of diverse seeds and fruits, and remains of insects, found in the body of the statue. It is assumed that even a small mouse lived inside it!

The statue represents an athlete, a young sportsman, at the moment of cleaning oil, dust and sweat from his body with a scraping tool after a competition. During the restoration, which lasted 7 years, analysing the material and style of workmanship, the statue was dated from the 2nd – 1st century B.C. while the prototype on which it was made is considerably older, from the middle of the 4th century B.C.

During the visit, guests can learn more about its discovery and restoration to the present state while watching and interesting movie and reading press clips from round the world. Croatian Apoxyomenos is very interesting as it is the most perfect and most preserved from eight well-known variations of the Apoxyomenos prototype (the most famous being the bronze statue from Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, discovered in 1896 in Ephesus).

Grand finale of every visit to the museum is a carefully constructed room where Apoxyomenos stands. The statue cannot be touched nor photographed, but the experience is marvellous. Such delicate details in bronze of every part of the young man’s body is breath-taking, especially when we consider it is more than two thousand years old! Indeed, an inspiration for a beautiful story, which Lošinj already has.

Following the ancient maritime routes in the Adriatic and following Apoxyomenos’ own journey, Lošinj created a massage, delicacies, natural cosmetics, ancient cuisine, souvenirs, and all other interesting inspirations. The ancient cuisine follows the traits of Greek trade and food researches, and today we know that everyday food of most Greek people was simple and basic. Cereals, olives, and wine were consumed most often, and along with fish and other seafood, they were the core of the Greek diet.

Breakfast comprised of barley cake, dates, figs, and wine, or they simply ate bread soaked in diluted wine. For lunch, they had barley soup or barley bread and cooked vegetables, however, dinner was abundant and included fish, sausages, cheese, bread, nuts, and honey. For special banquets for weddings, the birth of a child or winning a competition, they prepared oxen meat, sheep, goats, poultry, thrushes, quails, rabbits, and other game. As far as legumes were concerned, they prepared chickpeas, lentils, peas, and beans. Their favourite fruits were figs, grapes, apples, pears, dates, and blackberries. Honey was used as a sweetener.

The Greeks also knew lemon, cedar, parsley, basil, and pepper but they weren’t used as spices. They were added in medicinal preparations, and some of them were used for insect control.

Muzej Apoksiomena,
Riva lošinjskih kapetana 13, HR-51550 Mali Lošinj
+385 51 734 260

Croatian Gastronomy Secrets