Taste of Croatia – Beyond the Guidebook
Chefs and restaurant owners, Pervin and Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL, travelled with us to the Optaija Riviera in October – an area well known for its gastronomic delights. Pervin shares some of the highlights of her trip with us.
Cyrus and I have visited Croatia before but, like many people, we only really saw Dubrovnik on our first visit. So when we had the chance to go on a holiday based in Optaija, we couldn’t wait to explore this fabulous country beyond the well-trodden paths.
Our first full day in Croatia took us to Rijeka – where our Holiday Director, Darija, gave us a fascinating tour of the city. We had no idea of its historical importance as a European port – it was really eye opening. My favourite thing to do on holiday is visit local markets so Rijeka market was on our hit list! It was wonderful – we learnt about pumpkin oil which we had never heard of – Croatians use it in salads, dressings and on the top of soup, but not for cooking. The fish market was the most interesting – such fresh sardines, mackerel, monkfish and mullet. Some local fish looked just like those we find in Goa.
One of the real highlights of the trip was a wine-tasting at a family run winery and hotel in Motovun – a beautiful town perched on a hill in Istria. The owner has built up this winery from scratch and the wines were truly amazing and the locally sourced food was delicious. Our visit taught us that Croatia should be understood as a serious wine country.
The great thing about a Croatia guided tour holiday was that we discovered some smaller places that we wouldn’t have known to visit on our own. One day, we visited a lovely hill town called Lovran, famous for its figs, chestnuts and fig liqueurs. From there we went to an amazing walled town called Moscenice which has a population of 120 people. They do not have street names, just house numbers, and there was a beautiful church which was 200 years old, renovated by the Italian soldiers who occupied it.
Our visit to Plitvice National Park was wonderful – the air was so pure and there are 16 lakes that spill into each other forming cascading waterfalls. Absolutely stunning. This fabulous trip was followed the next day by a visit to the Postojna Caves – which required hopping across the border to Slovenia. Discovered in 1818, the caves have been visited for over 200 years. The cave network is 24 kilometres long and starts with a 3 kilometre train ride. I have never seen anything so fabulous as these caves - I think they should be considered one of the wonders of the world!
On our final day in Optaija, we explored on our own – so of course we headed to the local market! We tasted cheese, walnuts, figs and almonds – it was really fantastic to sample such delicious local flavours. To me – that’s what a great holiday is all about!