Winning hearts around the world is the ongoing story of Malena and Klepetan, a pair of white storks from eastern Croatia. 

In 1993, in the middle of the Homeland War, a janitor named Stjepan Vokić found a female white stork while fishing; she was shot in the wing and unable to fly. So Stjepan took her to his home in Brodski Varoš, a village in southern Slavonija, and brought her back to health. He named her Malena (meaning Little One). Every year, Stjepan makes a nest for her on top of the schoolhouse for the warmer months; when it is cold, he has made her a home in his garage, and sometimes brings her in his house to watch tv. Since she can’t fly to hunt, he brings her fresh caught fish.

The weather in Slavonija is Continental, with warm, rainy summers, and cold winters often accompanied by freezing temperatures and snowfall. About 1500 pairs of white storks are residents of Slavonija throughout the Spring and Summer, where they build nests and mate. The females lay an average of four eggs, and both mom and dad care for the chicks and teach them to fly. Then each year in August, the white storks make a dangerous month-long, 8000-mile journey to South Africa with their chicks in search of warmer winter weather. However since Malena can’t fly, she stays behind with Stjepan in Brodski Varoš.

In 2001, a male stork started visiting Malena. Stjepan named him Klepetan. Since then, Klepetan has returned from his migration to Malena faithfully each Spring, dirty and exhausted. And each year Stjepan has a bucket of fresh fish waiting to welcome him home. However in 2019, he returned early and, because the weather was still too cold, their eggs literally froze. Klepetan unexpectedly left the nest, and Stjepan thought he died. Everyone waited until Spring 2020 – and Klepetan returned!

A quick look at the map will show how dangerous the migration is, particularly over such countries as Lebanon where migratory birds are routinely shot. So Stjepan wrote a letter to the President of Lebanon, telling him about Malena and Klepetan, sending him one of Klepetan’s feathers, and asking for support for the laws protecting migratory birds. The President responded favorably by placing his daughter in charge of the campaign, and Stjepan’s story went viral. Here is a video about the historic letter, as told by Stjepan himself…

This year, 2021, is the 19th year that Klepetan has returned to Malena. Over the years they have had 66 chicks together, raised them during the Spring and Summer, then Malena has watched them fly away with Klepetan. And the entire country hopes for his return. But there is more to this story than Klepetan’s faithfulness – and that is the kindness and devotion that a retired janitor has shown to a little injured bird. Their story has become immortalized in articles, videos, and now a movie.

When you visit Slavonija during Spring and Summer, you will see elegant white storks in their huge nests on rooftops and platforms. Watch carefully and you might see little chicks popping their heads up. They are preparing for their dangerous annual migration to their winter home in South Africa.

UPDATE… Not long after we posted this story, Stjepan Vokić sadly announced to local news that Malena passed away. He said she fell coming down from her nest, and he cared for her in his home for about 10 days. Malena and Klepetan didn’t have any chicks this Spring. Stjepan said he will continue to be there for Klepetan, and said “Ostajemo Klepo i ja”, which means “We remain Klepo and I”.



Motovun view

Giants and argonauts! 

Central Istria has many medieval hilltop towns and villages, dotted around lush green landscape amid forests, vineyards, and farms. These villages grew on the sites of ancient Celtic and Illyrian fortresses, taking advantage of natural defensibility with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Legend says that many of these hilltop villages, including Motovun, were built by giants, because how could ordinary men possibly carry the huge stones we find on top of these hills?

According to legend, the Mirna River valley was inhabited by giants who cared for the land, and the river itself was a furrow dug by a giant named Dragonja, who named it after his wife, Mirna. This is the river sailed by the mythical Jason and the Argonauts, and runs past the foot of Motovun. Legends persist that the son of Dragonja still lives in the Istrian forests. Croatian politician and author Vladimir Nazor wrote a story in 1908 named Veli Jože, about a hard-working, gentle giant living near Motovun; the story is an allegory representing the struggle of Croats for autonomy during the time of Venetian rule.

Motovun is perched on a hill that is 270 meters above sea level—and when we say “perched,” the views from the town’s terraces and 13th-century Venetian walls can make you feel like you are soaring high above the Istrian countryside. A 13th-century Romanesque-Gothic bell tower tops the hill, adjacent to the 17th-century Parish Church of Sveti Stjepan. The inner wall of the 1607 Twin Gates at the top of the hill showcases stone coats of arms from Motovun’s historic ruling families, as well as 1st-century Roman tombstones. The current loža was built in the 17th century, but a town loža (loggia) was first mentioned in 1331. Because Motovun has preserved its medieval characteristics, it is included on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status. 

Twin Gates Motovun

Teran and truffles

Across the Mirna River is the protected Motovun Forest, which is a rich source of black truffles and the world’s largest natural habitat for precious white truffles. Nearby are indigenous Teran and Malvazija vineyards; the red Teran grape has been grown on the Istrian Peninsula for more than six centuries, while the white Malvazija Istarska is believed to have originated with the ancient Greeks.

Motovun also has its share of modern culture, including hosting an international film festival every year. And it is the birthplace of race car driver Mario Andretti and his brother Aldo–you can just imagine the boys racing homemade cars down the steep stone streets!

Land of giants and argonauts—and artisans—in beautiful Istria!

Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia

Ivo Jardas (1888–1978) was a teacher, author, and an ethnographer of the Istria-Kvarner region of Croatia. His invaluable work, Kastavština: Građa o narodnom životu i običajima u kastavskom govoru (Kastav: Material on folk life and customs in Kastav speech), 1957, not only describes the stories, customs, holidays, songs, and even crafts and occupations of the people who lived in the Kastav area of Istria-Kvarner, but it presents them in their local Čakavian dialect.

Ivo Jardas was born in the village of Marčelji near Kastav in 1888, and died in Zagreb 1978. Marčelji is still inhabited today, and has a population of approximately 2,000. Jardas lived in the United States from 1903 to 1908 as a worker and miner; however, he returned to his homeland and graduated from teachers’ school in 1913. He worked in many schools around Croatia, and started collecting materials on the culture of the Istrian people. It is said he went “village to village, house to house, old man to old man” to learn the stories and oral traditions of the local people.

In 1957, Jardas published Kastavština. This book forever seals an important look at the culture and dialect of a distinct European ethnic group, and reflects the lives of people in villages all over Croatia during the first half of the 20th century. There is an interesting story in the book about zapesnice (hand-knit woolen wrist warmers) and Christmas traditions.

A few Christmases ago, a dear relative gave us some beautiful hand-knit zapesnice along with a copy of their story. We were so touched by this personalized bit of local history that we found zapesnice from Kastav to offer in our store.

Here is the story quoted from the book, along with an English translation as provided by a friend:

Drugi dan za Božićen zovu va Kastafšćine “Stipanja”. Kako san već rekal, na Božić se saki doma drži, ne gre sused susedu, a za »polažajnika« Kastafšćina ne zna. Pul Marčeji bi bil rug i špot, ki bi šal na Božić va tuju kuću. Stareji reču još jutro dece: »Deca, danas ni krijanca poć po tujeh kućah, danas se j’ doma«.

Ale na Stipanju j’ se drugačije. Na Stipanju j’ po sen sele pravo božićno veselje. Već rano jutro gredu susedi jedan g drugemu. Ki god stareji pride va kuću, mu ponute žmujić rakije. Dece se da jabuko ale naranća. Frajarica frajaru i sestra bratu da nove kalceti ale zapesnice, ke j’ sama splela od zelene, črjene al modre vuni.

Zapesnice su pet šest unač duge, Mladići nimaju rukavic, pak prek presti na puls navuću zapesnice, a neki reču i pulsi. To njin tepli ruku za pestun ale puls, pak deju:

»Ako j’ puls gorak, gorka j’ sa ruka.«

Zato se i zovu zapesnice, aš se nose za pestun.

“The day after Christmas is called Stipanja (St. Stephen’s Day) in the Kastav region. On Christmas Day people stay at home with their families. They don’t visit their friends or neighbors and the ‘first-foot’ is unknown to Kastav’s region. In Marčeji, if anyone went to someone else’s house, other than your family’s, people would mock you or tell you off. On Christmas morning adults would warn their children not to visit their neighbors and friends because they had to stay at home.

“But on St. Stephen’s Day everything was different—the spirit of Christmas would spread all around the village. Neighbours started visiting each other in the early morning. Adults were offered some homemade rakija, while children got an apple or an orange. Girlfriends and sisters used to knit new woolen socks or wrist warmers (zapesnice), which they gave as a present to their boyfriends or brothers. They only used green, red or blue wool yarn.

“Zapesnice were 14 or 15 centimeters long, and young men used to wear them instead of gloves. They would warm the hands, as it was said:

“‘If your wrist is warm, the whole arm is warm.’

“That is why they are called zapesnice, because you wear them on the wrists.”



Croatia is becoming more and more appreciated around the world for its healthy climate, outdoor lifestyle, fresh food, clean water, and beautiful wines and spirits—and we can think of no better place to experience this Adriatic magic than on the island of Hvar.

Even before the arrival of tribes of Croats around the 7th century, some parts of modern-day Croatia were prized and even hotly contested by other cultures. It is known that Hvar was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Period, and later by Illyrians. Like many locations around both coasts of the Adriatic, a Greek colony called Pharos was established on Hvar at present-day Stari Grad. During Roman times, Hvar became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia and its name was changed to Pharia, the origin of its present-day name. The island was settled in the 7th century by Pannonian Avars and Croats, later coming under the control of the Republic of Venice, the French Empire, the Habsburgs, and others. To say the island of Hvar has been desired throughout history by competing monarchs and empires would be an understatement. 

16C Fortica, Hvar, Croatia

Crystal clear sea, Hvar, Croatia

One of the reasons for the island’s desirability is location; situated along prime sailing routes, it has historically afforded opportunities for trading and commercial activities. The Adriatic waters around Hvar are crystal clear, and natural vegetation is plentiful. Add the Mediterranean climate, which offers warm and sunny summers with mild, rainy winters, and you will see why Hvar is considered one of the sunniest spots in all of Europe.

There is also a large fertile plain protected by UNESCO near Stari Grad, the ancient heart of Hvar. The  Greeks set up an agricultural landscape in the 4th century BC, which is still in use today. Dry stone walls define geometric parcels, and a system of cisterns and rainwater recovery systems supply precious water. Crops today include grapes and olives, as in ancient times.

Wine cultivation began here by the 12th century, and today Hvar is one of the major wine regions in Croatia, producing both red and white wines. The scent of aromatic herbs which have thrived for generations, particularly lavender and rosemary, has contributed to Hvar’s reputation as a health resort. Hvar is often called the “island of lavender” and is home to some of the best lavender in the world.

We are proud to offer hand-cultivated herbs in our store from the Ćurin family, who have been tending their crops with the old techniques and same dedication as generations past. They have been growing lavender on their family farm in the village of Gdinj since 1955, and today they harvest wild and cultivated herbs and produce organic products such as olive oil and essential oils. Because of the natural terrain it is impossible to automate production, so the Ćurin family continues to use traditional techniques, including hand-digging and harvesting with sickles. When you open a bottle of Ćurin herbs, you experience the essence and fresh aroma of the Mediterranean, direct from the clean, natural environment of Hvar.

Of course no visit to Hvar would be complete without seeing the world-famous agave lace produced by the Benedictine nuns. Their skill and artistry has been passed from generation to generation in the monastery, and today the lace is listed by UNESCO as a “cultural intangible asset.” You can read more in our section on Traditional Croatian Crafts.

Hvar is one of the most visited islands in Croatia, loved for its healthy Mediterranean environment.

Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia



You would hardly guess it wandering into the historic center today, but Nin is a town with a glorious past dating back 3000 years. The town was colonized by Liburnians, one of many ancient Illyrian tribes who settled the western Balkans. The Liburnians were seafarers who dominated the northeastern Adriatic coastlands and islands. Over the centuries, they gained a reputation for piracy in the Adriatic and fought naval battles with the Romans, who described their ships as swift galleys. When the Romans eventually defeated the Illyrians, the territory of the Liburni became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. 

Croatians colonized the area at the beginning of the 7th century. Nin achieved prominence as the first political, religious, and cultural center of Croatia; the oldest Croatian royal city; and the coronation site of seven kings. Beginning in the 9th century, Nin also became the seat of Croatian bishops—most notably Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin), who opposed the Pope and introduced the Croatian language in Glagolitic script into religious services in place of Latin. (Today Grgur is immortalized by a powerful statue by Ivan Meštrović, which stands in the town of Split.) 

In the 1400s, Dalmatia was sold to the Republic of Venice. During the Turkish Wars, the govenrment of Venice ordered Nin to be burned and destroyed twice instead of allowing it to be captured and used as an Ottoman stronghold. Nin never fully recovered its former glory.

Only 18 km northwest of Zadar, the historic center of Nin occupies an islet of only 500 meters in diameter, linked to the mainland by two stone bridges. Today it is a tourist destination, valued for its remarkable history, sites, and artifacts. 

Grgur of Nin, Meštrović

©Solana Nin

One of the many reasons Croatia is so fascinating is that many ancient and historical sites have continued to be used over the centuries. Much like more notable examples—the 1st-century Roman Arena in Pula, which is used today as a music and entertainment venue, or 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace in Split, where people live, shop, and visit—the Nin saltworks are still in operation today just as they were in Roman times. The saltworks, called Solana Nin, are located on the ancient Roman salt pans directly adjacent to the town’s historic center and its two stone bridges, and the workers continue to hand-harvest natural, nutritious salt using traditional methods.

Salt has been a precious and protected commodity throughout human history. We know salt has been used medicinally since the 3rd millennium BC, and have learned from health experts the value of finding pure sources of this vital nutrient. Occupying 55 hectares, Solana Nin is in a pristine location close to 5 national parks, neighboring the famous healing mud ponds in Nin Bay, and surrounded by exceptional biodiversity. Adriatic seawater flows into pools, where the water evaporates and crystallizes from the natural processes of sunlight and strong bura winds from Velebit Mountain.

Still hand-harvesting once a year in the autumn by traditional methods, Solana Nin is the only saltworks on the Adriatic to have achieved “BIO” organic certification through the European Union and Croatian Ministry, with a product that is naturally rich in minerals including iodine, therapeutic as well as delicious. We are proud to offer gourmet salts from Solana Nin in our store.

The Croatian Royal City between the 7th and 13th centuries, Nin has one of the richest histories on the Adriatic.

Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia



Capital city of the Central Croatia region, as well as the entire country, Zagreb is by far Croatia’s largest city in terms of population and area, as well as commerce, culture and shopping. The newly expanded Franjo Tuđman International Airport is the main airport for Croatia, and it sits about a half hour drive outside of the city center; the least expensive option is to reach the center by shuttle, however you can also grab a taxi or rent a car. As with all major cities, parking in the lots dotted around the city often come at a premium. If you are arriving from another city, you can also arrive directly at the center by train or bus. Don’t confuse “Glavni kolodvor” (literally “main station” – which is the train station), with “Autobusni kolodvor” (bus station). They are about a 20 minute walk from each other, so you need to be sure where you’re going especially if you’re running late to catch your connection! To easily get your bearings from any map, look for the 3 green parks running directly north from the Glavni kolodvor, straight to the main square Trg Josip Jelačić. 

Zagreb truly has an east-meets-west attitude and a unique style of its own. The name dates from 1094, after Slavic tribes had settled. You can visit the Lotrščak Tower, which remains from town fortifications, built in 1266 as protection against the Turkish invasion. From there witness the Grić cannon which fires every day at noon to commemorate Zagreb’s victory over the Turks. Then ride the furnicular to Zagreb’s Upper Town, Gornji Grad, where you can walk around the oldest part of the city, with cobblestone streets and authentic gas lights. Here is the center of both history and government. On your way to the Lower Town, Donji Grad, don’t miss the vibrant atmosphere at Dolac market, and try some Croatian words with the local ladies selling fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers.

Dolac, Zagreb
Nikola Tesla statue by Ivan Mestrovic

An exciting cultural hub, Zagreb is said to have the most museums per capita in the world – and they represent all interests. From the “Archaeological Museum”, the beautiful “Art Pavilion (Umjetnicki Paviljon)”, the “Croatian Museum of Naive Art”, the intimate “Atelier Meštrović”, and the “Image of War – Photography Museum”, to the eclectic “Museum of Broken Relationships” – museum hopping is a pastime in itself. 

Zagreb is known for education and medical innovation. The University of Zagreb has been in continuous operation since 1669. It is one of Europe’s oldest educational institutions, and hosts 70,000 students every year in 31 disciplines all the way through post-graduate studies. 

If you’ve visited our blog, you know how unforgettable Zagreb is at Christmastime. It won the title of the Best Christmas Market in Europe for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Sweeping three straight years, it was out of the running for 2019, but we can tell you it was pure magic. Christmas is a beautiful time to travel in Europe, and Zagreb is easily reachable from other European cities. 

How many travellers know that Zagreb was a main station on the Simplon Orient Express route, made popular by Agatha Christie, Graham Greene and none other than James Bond. The Simplon route ran from 1919 through 1977 (with a break during the First and Second World Wars). It literally was the luxurious and opulent link from west to east for the elite of Europe’s society, running from Paris to Constantinople (present day Istanbul). > maybe nix Interesting stops included Calais, Milan, Venice, [] Vinkovci, Belgrade, and Sofia.< The art deco Esplanade Hotel next to Glavni kolodvor (the train station) was built in 1925 for Orient Express patrons, and today still exudes opulence and style. Its fascinating history and guest list of the rich and famous reads like a novel in itself. [/av_textblock] [/av_two_third] [av_one_third min_height='' vertical_alignment='' space='' row_boxshadow='' row_boxshadow_color='' row_boxshadow_width='10' custom_margin='' margin='0px' mobile_breaking='' border='' border_color='' radius='0px' padding='0px' column_boxshadow='' column_boxshadow_color='' column_boxshadow_width='10' background='bg_color' background_color='' background_gradient_color1='' background_gradient_color2='' background_gradient_direction='vertical' src='' background_position='top left' background_repeat='no-repeat' highlight='' highlight_size='' animation='' link='' linktarget='' link_hover='' title_attr='' alt_attr='' mobile_display='' id='' custom_class='' aria_label='' av_uid='av-2pawza'] [av_image src='' attachment='2058' attachment_size='full' copyright='' caption='' styling='' align='center' font_size='' overlay_opacity='0.4' overlay_color='#000000' overlay_text_color='#ffffff' animation='no-animation' hover='' appearance='' link='' target='' id='' custom_class='' av_element_hidden_in_editor='0' av_uid='av-kbb16cyv' admin_preview_bg=''][/av_image] [/av_one_third] [av_one_full first min_height='' vertical_alignment='' space='' row_boxshadow='' row_boxshadow_color='' row_boxshadow_width='10' custom_margin='' margin='0px' mobile_breaking='' border='' border_color='' radius='0px' padding='0px' column_boxshadow='' column_boxshadow_color='' column_boxshadow_width='10' background='bg_color' background_color='' background_gradient_color1='' background_gradient_color2='' background_gradient_direction='vertical' src='' background_position='top left' background_repeat='no-repeat' highlight='' highlight_size='' animation='' link='' linktarget='' link_hover='' title_attr='' alt_attr='' mobile_display='' id='' custom_class='' aria_label='' av_uid='av-2ekvts'] [av_hr class='default' icon_select='yes' icon='ue808' position='center' shadow='no-shadow' height='50' custom_border='av-border-thin' custom_width='50px' custom_margin_top='30px' custom_margin_bottom='30px' custom_border_color='' custom_icon_color='' av-desktop-hide='' av-medium-hide='' av-small-hide='' av-mini-hide='' id='' custom_class='' av_uid='av-56ihps'] [av_textblock size='' av-medium-font-size='' av-small-font-size='' av-mini-font-size='' font_color='' color='' id='' custom_class='' av_uid='av-k3qoikzb' admin_preview_bg='']

Zagreb is the vibrant capital of Croatia, and the center of culture and shopping.




Hungarian shield of Rijeka

The city of Rijeka (known as Fiume in Italian) is the county seat and commercial center of Primorsko-goranska županija (Primorje-Gorski Kotar County) and the third-largest city in Croatia. The area has remnants of ancient castles, and it is said that the residential center, located by the sea in the present-day Old Town, was moved there by the Romans. You can see a Roman gate and ruins near the main pedestrian and shopping street, Korzo.

The first written records of Luka Rijeka (the Port of Rijeka) date from 1281. It was the main port of the Kingdom of Hungary, Yugoslavia, and today, Croatia. Rijeka has always been prized by its European neighbors for its strategic position as the European mainland’s northernmost Mediterranean deepwater port. Because of this prime location, it has seen a tumultuous history and interchange of rulers.

Rijeka is worth a visit for its many museums and wealth of ornate Hungarian and Italian architecture, which stand in contrast against plain-clothes residential towers from the Yugoslav period. The 1638 Katedrala Svetog Vida (Cathedral of St. Vitus, patron saint of Rijeka) is a Baroque Rotunda in the heart of the city. The 1885 Hrvatsko narodno kazalište Zajca (Croatian National Theater Zajc) was built by Austria-Hungary and is part of a two-century legacy of performing arts in Rijeka. On the hill overlooking the city center, the 13th-century Gradina Trsat (Trsat Castle) was built by the Croatian noble family, the Frankopans, on the site of an ancient Illyrian and Roman fortress. Nearby church Gospa Trsatska (Our Lady of Trsat) was built to commemorate the legend of Mary’s house, which was said to have been moved to the site from Nazareth in May of 1291 by angels; the house later disappeared and was found in Loreto, Italy, where it stands today. Over the centuries the church was enlarged to become a Baroque cathedral, and was even visited by the pope.

Today, Rijeka handles most of Croatia’s imports and exports, as well as passengers to the coastline and islands. There is an extensive bus terminal near the port and an airport on the nearby island of Krk. However, it pays to ask a local for tips on getting around—transportation can be a challenge, with poor rail service and bus and ferry schedules that change or stop altogether depending on the season.

Although small by global standards, Rijeka is nonetheless a gateway for products and outside influences, so open attitudes in culture and design can be found living side by side with old traditions. Rijeka has the honor of being named a European Capital of Culture for 2020, alongside Galway, Ireland; it is the first in Croatia since the EU began the program in 1985. But by far the biggest event of the year is the International Karneval Parade, when Korzo explodes with a full day of music and celebration, culminating with the evening arrival of the otherworldly Halubje Zvončari (bell-ringers with animal heads), and the burning of the human-like pust to purge the sins of the year—you’ll just have to experience it to believe it!

Rijeka Karneval

Rijeka is home to incredible artisans, both creative and traditional. We’re happy to carry some of their products.

Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia



Wine grapes, Kastav, Istra-Kvarner

Overlooking the northern end of the Kvarner Bay, with a view that takes in the coastline from the Opatija Riviera clear to Rijeka, is the city of Kastav. Its premier position high on a hilltop has been prized since ancient times, with archaeological finds and historical records confirming the presence of such groups as the Illyrians, Romans, Ostrogoths, and Greeks. The area was populated by Croats beginning in the 7th Century. 

Kastav holds the remains of a medieval hilltop fortress built with stone walls and towers, some of which still stand today. The city’s status as a regional political and administrative center was evidenced by the Kastav Statute of 1400, a historical legal document written in the čakavian dialect with an ancient Croatian Glagolitic script. Kastav’s history has been no less turbulent than that of other coveted regions; over the centuries, both secular and religious ruling authorities have claimed the territory, including the Habsburgs, Jesuits, and the Kingdoms of Italy and Yugoslavia. 

Today, Kastav is well respected among its neighbors, preserving its unique culture with historical buildings and monuments, ethnographic museums, events, and legends. You can read a few of the city’s colorful stories here. Every Karneval season before Ash Wednesday, the Zvončari bell-ringers, wearing frightening masks, animal skins, and huge bells, walk through the local villages and gather in Kastav, chasing away both evil spirits and winter itself, recreating a tradition that is said to have begun in pre-Christian times. Bela Nedeja, the historic celebration of new wine, was mentioned in the Kastav Statute of 1400 and is still held every October. A new tradition, the annual Kastav Summer of Culture, featuring music, drama, film, and exhibitions, attracts performers and guests from all over the world. As it is said in local dialect, “aš se va Grade vaveki neš dogaja” (“because in Kastav, there is always something going on”).

Idica's Bakery ethnographic museum, Kastav, Istra-Kvarner

Kastav has a long history of craftsmanship, as can be seen by visiting its ethnographic museums. 
We have found some new and traditional crafts from this historic city.

Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia



When you’re cooking that beautiful stew and reach for your precious jar of whole bay leaves, you breathe in the subtle aroma of the Mediterranean, reminiscent of warm sun, blue sea, and aromatic foliage. The bay tree, or laurel (laurus nobilis), grows wild around Lovran—a town which was named centuries ago after the tree’s Croatian name, lovor. Bay leaves are featured on Lovran’s coat of arms, and were used in ancient Greek and Roman victors’ crowns, from which we get the term “laurels” to denote honor. Bay leaves are not only used to flavor dishes, but ground leaves and oils are also used in folk remedies and alternative medicine.

Lovran is one of the oldest settlements in the northern Adriatic, with legends dating it from the Roman era in the first century BC. In the Middle Ages it was an important urban and shipbuilding center. When other sites gained prominence, like nearby Rijeka, Pula, and Trieste, Lovran settled into a quiet tourist center that was favored by the Austro-Hungarian nobility, who built many of the lovely villas we see today. 

Lovor, bay leaves
Lovran old town, Istra-Kvarner

Enjoying a mild Mediterranean climate and the shelter of Mount Učka, Lovran is said to grow the finest maruni (chestnuts) in the world, and has celebrated that for the past 45 years with an annual festival called Marunada. Lovran has a rich architectural heritage, including the 12th-century Romanesque parish church of patron Sveti Juraj (St. George), with its historic frescoes and Glagolitic inscriptions. The narrow, winding streets of the medieval old town are filled with shops and cafés. Elegant Austro-Hungarian and Italian villas and parks surround the town. Lovran is the western terminus of the 12km Lungomare, a seaside promenade running the length of the Opatija Riviera.

Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia



Across the Kvarner Gulf from Rijeka is Opatija, a lovely seaside resort with a rich history of tourism, wellness, and gastronomy dating back more than 170 years. Located at the foot of Mount Učka and protected by the islands of Krk and Cres, Opatija enjoys a mostly mild Mediterranean climate year round. It’s no surprise that this ideal location has been visited by queens, kings, czars, and celebrities.

Camellias and gardens, Opatija, Istra-Kvarner

Today, visitors from all over the world stroll among Opatija’s ornate, colorful villas and lush botanic gardens. Opatija owes much of its architectural beauty to the Austro-Hungarians, who built homes, hotels, gardens, and walking trails to enjoy the healthy climate and surroundings. The first holiday home, Villa Angiolina, was built in 1844 and hosted a who’s who of European dignitaries.

In 1873 the Austrian Southern Railway built a direct rail link from Vienna, paving the way for tourism to Opatija, and in 1884, the railway director opened the first Adriatic hotel and health resort, Hotel Quarnero. Opatija was established as the playground of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy and the birthplace of Croatian tourism. Villa Angiolina still stands proudly among the opulent buildings of times past, set amid the seaside botanic garden that bears her name; today the villa welcomes guests to Hrvatski Muzej Turizma, Croatia’s only museum dedicated to tourism.

Opatija is an idyllic setting for walkers. Not built around a tight, defensible medieval core as is often seen in European towns, Opatija was laid out along the sea for health and enjoyment. In 1911, the 12km Lungomare was completed, a walkway along the edge of the sea from fishing village Volosko to historic Lovran. The 7km Carmen Silva trail runs parallel to the sea from up in the hills, traversing Opatija on forest trails. In between the two paths run paved stubišta (stairways) and šetališta (walkways), winding between villas and around gardens. Already a lovely tourist town on the surface, Opatija also rewards those who take the time to dig deeper and explore.

Lungomare at sunset, Opatija, Istra-Kvarner

We’re happy to carry some beautiful products designed in Opatija, home of ornate villas and opulent gardens.

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