Islands of Croatia
Sanctuaries of Beauty, Grace &
Abroad With... Beverly Cohn
Text & Photography by Beverly Cohn
Part 1: Getting There and Croatian Hospitality
y family and friends are quite accustomed to me flying off somewhere
on a press trip. However, when I mentioned that I was invited to Croatia,
the reaction was quite universal: "I hear that it's a beautiful
country." They also assumed I would be covering the capital city
of Zagreb and as well as Dubrovnik. I mentioned that the select group
of journalists invited on this trip would be covering Loinj, one
of the more than 1,000 islands located along the eastern coast of the
pristine Adriatic Sea. Everyone said they had never heard of that island.
Indeed, I must confess, neither had I. What awaited us was the discovery
of a truly pristine, non-commercial setting of remarkable beauty, elegance,
and tranquility. The island is known for the purity of its air and is
a center for wellness and rejuvenation.
Left: Alan Horvat, the pilot of the tiny plane that
flew us from Venice's Marco Polo airport to the Loinj Airport.
Right: Bev arriving in Loinj to begin her Croatian adventure.
Croatian Customs is in this tiny building located
in the Loinj Airport.
The trip began with a flight out of Los Angeles Airport
with a connecting flight at JFK to Venice's
Marco Polo Airport. At the present time there is no direct way of getting
to Loinj, which is currently accessible by ferry or small plane.
For me, that was part of the adventure. With ample time between flights,
I was able to hang out at the Delta lounge and before I knew it, I was
boarding the flight to Venice. When I arrived, I was met by Alan Horvat,
the pilot of the tiny King Air plane that would fly me to the Loinj
airport in thirty-five minutes. On arrival, I was checked through by
Croatian customs. It's a tiny building and unlike any port of entry
I've experienced. Subsequently, we learned that plans for an expanded
airport was in the works, which would accommodate larger planes and
The charming Loinj, a well-kept secret, has a
population of 10,000 and is as close to paradise as you can get. With
its pure air, moderate climate, flora and fauna, and over 200 sunshine-filled
days a year, this beautiful resort has been a mecca for therapeutic
vacations going back centuries. There are over 1,000 plant varieties,
with approximately 200 used for medicinal purposes, with special emphasis
on respiratory diseases and allergies. Some of these healing plants
include, lemon, palm, aloe, eucalyptus, magnolia, and myrtle.
The ultra-modern spacious lobby of the Bellevue
Hotel with a courteous, helpful staff ready to answer all your questions.
Our home for the next week was the spectacular Bellevue
Hotel, which has earned the coveted five stars. The single rooms, junior
suites, and the lavish presidential suite are all impeccably designed
and include every amenity imaginable from hot tubs and heated bathroom
floors, to elegantly furnished terraces overlooking the blue green Adriatic
Sea or the verdant pine forest. A sumptuous breakfast is included in
your stay and for those guests who take the ferry with their cars, parking
is free. If pampering is on your agenda, you've come to the right place
as the hotel also has a state-of-the-art spa that offers many treatments.
Additional amenities include a private beach, indoor and outdoor saltwater
pools, tennis courts, and a gym.
Rustic soup with mashed vegetables and goat cheese
donut is a Croatian specialty.
The entrée was a delicious Boskarin Tagliata
(Eastern Ox) which was so tender, you didn't need a knife.
Having spent many hours traveling, lunch in the hotel's
restaurant Pin & Oli was quite appreciated. The meal began with
a rustic soup, followed by eastern ox, a meat dish with parmigiano reggiano
cheese. Dessert was a luscious cream of white chocolate with raspberries
and pistachio crocante small crunchy squares of caramelized pistachio
and a gracefully placed scoop of pistachio ice cream completing
As we entered the restaurant there was a display
of fish, which would soon become a fabulously prepared dish.
A mouth-watering appetizer plate served on rocket
Calorie counting had to be tucked away for the week
as the desserts, such as this lemon cake, were too tempting to worry
about "a minute on your lips,
six months on our hips."
We settled in for the rest of the afternoon and before
we knew it, we strolled off for dinner at the Veli al restaurant,
which was a short walk from the hotel. The meal started with hot buns
and a cold appetizer of marinated fillet of sea bream (fish,) anchovy
fillets, shrimp salad, and cherry tomatoes, followed by dentex (fish)
on fennel risotto. The meal was topped off with a deliciously light
lemon cake. Of course the wines flowed freely and by the evening, California
seemed like a far away planet.
I might point out that in addition to the Bellevue Hotel,
there are eight other four or five star hotels on the island, which
are part of group owned and operated by the Loinj Hotels &
Villas, a hotel brand of Jadranka Hotels.
The promenade encircles the island and is perfect
for an early morning or
after dinner stroll.
Because of the convenient location of the hotel, there
are lovely walking opportunities. The only hindrance was occasional
rain and wind gusts called "orda," which, according to our
guide, was quite unusual for late April. But even the blustery winds
created a kind of beauty, rearranging the accumulation of water on the
promenade into interesting geometric designs. Luckily, the gusts subsided
after a day or two so we were able to enjoy walks along the sea.
The sumptuous breakfast buffet at the hotel is a
veritable feast offering myriad appetizing selections to jump start
Left: Villa Hortensia is a totally restored historic
building that maintained its original architecture and almost glistens
against the azure blue sky dotted with white cumulus clouds. Right:
William Zuklic, Villa Hortenia's resident butler, introduced us to one
of the ten ultra-modern, elegantly furnished bedrooms.
After a satisfying breakfast in the hotel's Bava restaurant,
we strolled along the promenade to Villa Hortensia, which is located
in Čikat Bay, a charming cove on the island, and redefines the meaning
of luxury. For those of you who are fortunate enough to stay in this
spectacular villa, your every wish will be granted by the resident butler,
William Zuklic. Besides being movie star handsome, he is a historian
sharing that this restored residence dates back to the La Belle Époque
period of the Austro-Hungarian era, which was the largest political
entity dominating Europe. It existed from June 1867 to October 31, 1918
when it was officially dissolved. A tour of this beyond-luxurious villa
revealed ten elegantly furnished bedrooms with state-of-the art bathrooms,
a dining room with views of the sea, a heated salt water pool, and a
sauna. What is quite noticeable is the blending of old world elegance
with ultra-modern conveniences. You couldn't ask for a more idyllic,
private setting for relaxation and restoration of the mind, body, and
With the yellow exterior of Villa Augusta off to
its left, is the lovely Alhambra Hotel.
With its soaring lobby and fine appointments, the
Alhambra hotel is one of only three Small Luxury Hotels of The World
(SLH) in the Republic of Croatia.
We were never allowed to go hungry and each lunch or
dinner seem to top the last one. The cuisine throughout the island is
delicately prepared with pure, fresh ingredients from the land and sea.
No preservatives are used and each course is meticulously prepared with
the presentations mirroring still-life paintings. So, ready to have
our palettes once again embraced, our next stop was for lunch at the
gorgeous Alhambra Hotel. With its soaring lobby and luxurious appointments,
the hotel is one of only three Small Luxury Hotels of The World (SLH)
in the Republic of Croatia. This is yet another perfect spot for your
pampering vacation. It's no surprise that Alhambra hotel, along with
Villa Hortensia and Villa Augusta, were frequented by Austrian nobility.
Dark chocolate tart with yuzu sauce and green apples
Each one of us was assigned our very own server who,
in almost military precision, marched in carrying trays of food. The
meal started with a small salad, followed by veal fillet au jus with
roasted vegetables and topped off with a dark chocolate tart with yuzu
sauce and green apple sorbet. The finishing touch to this splendid meal
was an elegant dessert wine, Tasel-Clai 2012.
Young Croatian folk dancers dressed in traditional
What could better than to have the rest of the afternoon
for a massage in the Bellevue's spa? I would have to say that it is
at the top of the list for sublime indulgences and puts a capital "L"
in luxurious. In early evening, while enjoying a cocktail before dinner
in the comfortable lounge, we were introduced to folk dancers dressed
in traditional Croatian costumes. On another evening, we were treated
to guitarists playing Flamenco music as well as an all-female string
quartet. Life doesn't get much better than this.
Cres is an ancient island dating back to the Stone
Fresh from our relaxing treatments and fortified with
new energy, we were off to the unspoiled island of Cres, which is said
to be eco-tourism at its absolutely best. There are over 25 tiny villages
on the island, some of which are not inhabited although there seems
to be trend of people returning to some of the islands and restoring
vacant homes. One notable fact is that there are no poisonous snakes
on the island, although they can be found in the Kvarner area. The island
has its own fresh water source from the pristine Lake Vrana, which is
said to be the deepest fresh water lake in Eastern Europe, averaging
roughly 243 feet at its deepest point. To protect its purity, fishing
or swimming is forbidden. It is said that Cres is one of Croatia's best-kept
secrets. Beautiful beaches abound with romantic coves and caves yours
Kucic Guarino, owner of the herb distillery that
he started 30 years ago, demonstrates how various herbs are processed.
Irene Kucic is owner of
this store that produces
We next headed toward Martinćica, a charming
fishing village with a history going back to the 1st Century BC. There
we visited an herb distillery where owner Kucic Guarino gave us a demonstration
of how the herbs, such as sage, lavender, rosemary and juniper, are
processed. It's always fascinating to see how products that we buy off
of shelves are produced.
Another fun stop along the way was to a small shop that
produces a variety of essential oils. The aroma from the different oils
filled the air with delicious scents. Some of us dabbed a little bit
on our wrists and behind our ears, the light fragrances lingering for
the rest of the day.
Driving along, we stopped next at Lubenice, a 4,000
year-old village overlooking the Adriatic and boasts a population of
only nine, yes nine, residents. With its history going back to biblical
times, it is one of the oldest towns on the island. With the gusty wind
at our backs, we moved along rather quickly. Next we were off to Valun,
a small seaside town within seconds to secluded beaches. This refreshingly
non-commercial area is famous for stone plates on which the story of
the community is chiseled, recording significant events over the centuries.
There are stones that also are used as burial plates, much like a tombstone.
With fishing and sailboats in the background, a
street sign points the way to some of the Osor's attractions.
The quaint Osor Bridge, a drawbridge which opens
twice a day, at 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, connects the Islands of Cres and
Still on the island of Cres, our next stop was to the
very quaint village of Osor, a small port with a population of under
100. Built by the Romans to make sailing possible, it sits at a narrow
channel that separates islands Cres and Loinj. Here, we visited
the Archaeology Museum, the cathedral and the site of a medieval excavation.
On a sad note, it is said that once upon a time, when Osor was a walled
city under the Austro-Hungarian empire, a malaria epidemic broke out,
killing over 20,000 people or every third person living on the island.
Ultimately, in order to try to control the spread of this disease, the
wall was demolished to allow the entry and circulation of fresh air.
It was a full, fascinating day and in typical Croatian
warm hospitality, we were treated to yet another massage in the Bellevue
spa. Tomorrow promised to be another fascinating day in our exploration
of this enchanting island called Loinj.
Stay tuned for the Part 2, which will discuss the healing
aspects of Loinj, sailing on the Adriatic Sea, the unveiling of
an ancient Greek statue, and a few other surprises.
Address: 51564, Ćunski, Croatia
Phone: +385 51 231 666
Address: Čikat ul. 9, 51550
Mali Loinj, Croatia
Phone: +385 51 679 000
Address: Čikat ul. 9, 51550
Mali Loinj, Croatia
Phone: +385 51 669 300
Boutique Hotel Alhambra
Address: Čikat ul. 16, 51550
Mali Loinj, Croatia
Phone: +385 51 260 700
Čikat ulica 9
51550 Mali Losinj
Phone: +385 (0)51 661 111
or +385 51 669 300
Bosnia and the Dalmatian Riviera; The
Czech Republic: A Little Jewel
Part 1; The
Balkans: Lovely States of Mind and Meanderings; A
Moment in Montenegro; An
Assumption in Bled