Seen from Northwestern Europe, as I tend to do, the Northern end of Croatia seems to be on the periphery of the continent. The Balkans is sort of halfway to India. Looking at the map, this is really at the crossroads of Europe, just a few hours drive from the big cities of Northern Italy, Austria or Bavaria.
And our holiday resort is the global, or at least the European, village for real. 1000? 3000? people. Some in apartments, some in more upscale villas, some in tents at the camping site.
No sandy beaches here, take your pick from pebbles or concrete. The guys collecting the fees for the sun beds are doing a roaring trade.
Nordics, Dutch, Austrians, Germans, Italians, Russians, Croatians, Czechs, Slovenians, Swiss. They come from all over, except the British Isles, Spain or Portugal.
They raise children, eat, drink and shop in dozens of languages. The locals have the big advantage of being multilingual. Croatian and Italian are both official languages here, and most adults speak a polite German, too.
It is quite all right. The water is salty and clean. The ice cream is of Italian quality at 50 cents a scoop. Great calamari and fish, fine pizzas and good coffee. The land is fertile with a rich choice of fruit, berries and vegetables.
But the noise from this European community is a bit much after midnight in the apartments without air conditioning. We get an upgrade to one of the newer villas for a decent price.
Not very exciting. The bars around here mostly have the local lager on tap, Favorit. It is a fairly standard light lager, it will never win any contests, but is does its job after a day in the sun. There are a dozen light and dark lagers as well, some of them from the neighbouring countries. A few more can be found in the town center, but there are no shops or bars with an impressive selection.
I don’t see any pubs as such, it’s more of the Italian bar style with a focus on coffee and shots of stronger stuff. There are wine bars, too, the rest are pastry/ice cream shops and eateries on a scale from the more humble tavernas to the most prestigious restaurants with truffles and seafood.
No birra artiginale, no brew pubs. Sure, within an hours drive there are places to be found, but not here.
But there is one award – five glittering silver stars – to be handed out, to the Konzum supermarket in the Stella Maris holiday complex where we are staying. They have three bottled beers from the Carlow brewery, including a stout, and no Guinness. That is an extraordinary achievement!
I’ll go more into the most interesting beers over the coming days.