MEET OUR GUIDES: CROATIA - DUBROVNIK

Croatia truly has something for everyone.  Spectacular beaches, some of the most famous and pristine in the world, beautiful cities full of incredible architecture and history, amazing, affordable food and wine, and for our more active guests, opportunities for hiking, sailing and boating that are unmatched.  We fell in love with this seaside country and are so happy to be able to offer it as one of our destinations.  

This week, we interviewed a few of our amazing local guides in Croatia based in Dubrovnik.  They shared with us a little more about themselves and what they love to show guests in their special country.  In this period where we aren't traveling internationally just yet, we have taken advantage of the "down" time and asked our colleagues to share what makes this country worth a visit.  We know our guides and local experts personally, and in many cases they are more than colleagues.  We've taken their tours and personally explored with them - we know that they are the best.

Croatia is a destination that is truly a dream, and our guides share with us this week some expert tips and advice for your future trip!

1. What do you love about being a guide/why did you decide to become a guide?

Đuro: I have traveled from a very early age and have been enjoying ever since. I was always much more comfortable and at ease when I had friends, family, or any locals at the location where I was traveling. It was much easier when you have someone to tell you where to go and what to see, which is why I decided that I could turn this into a business and be that local that helps people to feel more at home in our country.  Favorite part of my job is showing people all of the amazing places in my country and helping them experience it authentically.

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Ante:  The thing I love the most about my job is that is very diverse. Each guest has a new and different life story that they love to share with us. The reason I decided to become a driver is that I enjoy driving so much as well as working in the service industry. I feel this job is perfect for me because with little things (such as a smile or a friendly conversation) we can make people's vacation that much better.

Jelena: Being a guide is my true calling.  It took a few jobs within the corporate tourism industry segments both in Australia and here, for me to confirm that I enjoyed direct client interaction the most. Combination of my extensive background in operational and marketing tourism sectors created a strong basis for all the daily challenges that can happen whilst on a guiding assignment.

I love meeting new clients, challenging myself with each one in being the most adaptable to their likes and interests whilst still being authentic and sharing my knowledge and local expertise and showcasing our culture, both on a personal and general level.  I spent 16 years of my adult life in Australia and it also lends me a great perspective on what the well-traveled and luxury end visitors to this part of the world would like to see and experience the most. 

2.  What is a destination or site that you most enjoy taking guests?

Đuro: My favorite destination to take the clients to would be Istria. This peninsula has everything, amazing service, beautiful nature, superb gastronomy, history, culture. It is small enough where you can easily reach each important city in a few days, yet big enough where you can feel the difference when you leave beautiful coastal places and head to the south. Food and wine in Istria is something worth trying if you are ever in Croatia.

Screen Shot 2020-06-23 at 8.58.01 AMJelena: Peljesac Peninsula offers magnificent scenery, wines which are as inspiring as the vistas with a great combination of rugged karst limestone peaks, fertile fields, terraced vineyards, turquoise blue Adriatic dotted with picturesque islands. Historically, this is where the salt was being produced and this represented a source of wealth from the Roman times. Hence, the walls of Ston are the second-longest in the world, designed to protect the resource. Peninsula produces some of the best red wines which are related to Zinfandel but indigenous to this part of the world. Organic wine producers are always proud to present their 500-year-old history in the same location. We visit a local oyster fisherman on his private island dotted with pine trees. The oysters and mussels are literally taken out of the water there and shacked in front of the guests, a mussel dish is prepared in an outdoor kitchen combined with their family olive oil and red wine – simply divine.  The hardest thing is getting the guests to leave this serenity.

Ante: I would say that my favorite destination to take guests to is the Peljesac peninsula. I am telling you this because whenever we have amSton & Peljesac peninsula tour, our clients are always so happy at the end of it.  They get to leave Dubrovnik for a day and experience great wine and seafood, beautiful forest nature, and interesting history in Ston. It is close enough to Dubrovnik, so there is no chance that anyone can become nervous due to long driving. I believe wine and oysters tasting tour at Peljesac is a must day-tour if you are in Dubrovnik for more than 1 day.

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3.  What is your best moment with clients that you can remember?

Đuro: There are so many great moments with our guests, but there is one that comes to mind instantly.

So I was driving one guest at the day-trip to the Nature Park Biokovo. We were enjoying a scenic drive through the villages when we noticed the herd of cows in the middle of the road. I said to the guest that I can not honk or anything and that we should just wait since they usually move fast. We waited for a couple of minutes and they didn't move an inch, so the guest told me that he will go out and scare them away. I immediately told him that I believe that's not a good idea, but he was very adventurous and kept saying to me that he is an animal whisperer and that they will move right away when he talks to them. To say that I was skeptical would be an understatement... So he got out of the car and started to tell the cows to move from the road and wave his hands in the air when the bull appeared. I can't tell you how fast he got in the car once he realized that that was a bull. He just told me to press the gas and get out of here. I stayed in touch with this man and even today when we talk sometimes we laugh at this adventure where he, (with the help of a bull of course), managed to chase the cows off the road.

Ante: We always try to keep a very professional but still friendly approach with our guests. I remember this day as if it were yesterday.  I had to drive one guest at the Peljesac peninsula wine and oysters tasting tour. I picked the client up in their hotel and we started our drive. Everything was very normal, the guest was very friendly and chatty and we had a lovely conversation.

It was not until we arrived at Peljesac at the first winery that I learned that the guest drinks wine, neither red nor white, he simply did not like wine. At first, I thought that was a bit weird, but it's not the first time that it happened so I roll with it. Once he has explored Ston, I recommended the best restaurant on the peninsula, when he told me that he hates the seafood and is allergic to oysters.

I was mildly shocked when he said this because this is still a wine and oysters tasting tour. Since we didn't have too many choices, and I was sorry for the man not to experience anything on an all-day trip, I decided to turn this into a small active day-trip climbing the hills with him (in a suit on a 37 degree Celsius) so he could take good pictures from the top.

I am happy that I got to save his trip after all, but I thought it was very funny.

4.Your recommendation for the best time of year to visit your country/city/town and why ?

Đuro: For me, I think it's September. It is still warm enough where you get to experience swimming but it is not as crowded as July and August.

Ante: September and May for sure. This is the preseason, the weather is just perfect, nor too cold or hot and there is no crazy amount of tourists everywhere like in the summer months.

Jelena: Although I love summers and the high temperatures do not bother me at all, for the guests May, June, September, or October as the crowds are lesser, the weather is perfect for touring and time to explore the surroundings. 

5.  What you find most exciting or inspiring about your area?
Jelena: I adore my hometown of Dubrovnik, it takes my breath away every time I see the magnificent walled structure rising out of the sea as a testament of the heritage we get to live in.  Dubrovnik’s history as an independent Republic is so rich and inspiring, so well documented and still preserved with over 2.3 million pages in the archives. It truly represents a fine balancing act between the east and the west throughout the historical turmoils experienced in this part of the world. 
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Đuro:  I think the thing we are most proud of as a tourist destination is that we have it all. We have amazing food and wine, 10% of Croatia is protected; the area is covered by 11 nature parks, 8 national parks, and 2 strict reserves, Croatia has one of the highest cultural and historical heritage under UNESCO protection in Europe. With all of this said, I have to say that Croatia has very friendly people and we are one of the safest countries in the world. I think that we should be very proud of our country and what it gave us.

Ante:The most exciting thing about my hometown Dubrovnik is to show the people that even though it can be too crowded sometimes, once you arrive you immediately realize why is that. It is just breathtaking and I think we are very lucky that we live where we live. Our country is growing as a tourist destination each year, and I believe that it will be one of the top destinations for travelers around the world in a matter of time.

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6.  Which place do you love to visit in their country?

Đuro: I love to go to Croatian Zagorje. It is very close to Zagreb and yet there is nothing but peace and nature there. The food is amazing, the people are so welcoming and I believe that more people should start to recognize this area of Croatia.

Ante: I love Split because is really close to Dubrovnik and we very often do a day trip. They always have a lot of content and since we are so close to each other the people are very similar. I have a lot of friends there so I always love to visit Split.

Jelena: The islands, especially the island of Mljet.  Mljet features untouched nature, pristine and quaint landscapes, hidden beaches and little fishing villages, beautiful National Park forested with Alepian pines.  Known from the Greek and Illyrian times, Mjet is definitely one of our favorite family escapes

7. If you could give a tour to anyone (from the past or present), who would it be?

Đuro:  I would love to give the tour to Charlie Sheen, the actor. I always wanted to meet him and I would love to hear his opinion on our country. I also have a feeling that he would enjoy our wineries.

Ante:  I would love to give a tour to José Mourinho, a famous former football player and now a coach. I think that would be an amazing experience since I enjoy watching football so much.

8. Personal favorite restaurant?

Đuro:  Vuglec Breg in Croatian Zagorje. This property has it's own winery where they do wine tastings, they also have accommodation and one of the best restaurants in Croatia in my opinion. The service is outstanding, the food and the wine are delicious, and the location is something worth visiting.

Ante: Bota Šare restaurant in Mali Ston. Without a doubt one of the best restaurants in the South Dalmatia. It has a real authentic Dalmatian look and feels and the food is fantastic.

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Jelena: My personal favorite is not a restaurant per sei, it is a hidden gem in the vicinity of Dubrovnik, a farm run by a local family who produces most of the menu items. We get to meet the family and feast on their produce, whilst sitting under a grape wine overlooking a valley dotted with cypress pines. From their freshly prepared goat cheese, roasted peppers to die for to the specialty known as 'peka' - a combination of baked meats and vegetables cooked under the iron bell covered by hot coals, everything is so simple yet very delicious and memorable. In the city, perhaps I would choose a restaurant called Posat. The location is magnificent, a beautiful terrace overlooking the City Walls of Dubrovnik combined with great service and a creative menu which is a 'melting pot of savvy ingredients and flavors'. My votes go to Posat in terms of the restaurants in Dubrovnik. 

By Christine Mitchell-De Fina | June 25th, 2020 | Insider, Croatia, Travel Tips, See & Do | 0 Comments

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