free passage : croatia : schengen zone

free passage : croatia : schengen zone

When we moved to Istria in 2017, we knew that at some point in the future, the country would be allowed to join the Schengen Zone and there would be no more border checks, between Croatia and Slovenia. And Hungary, but we never cross any of these borders. We kept checking online to check developments and we had some time in 2024-2025 in our heads as the point when things would happen.

Then the Pandemic happened and travel was severely curtailed, for some weeks not being permitted at all, and certainly not cross border. Then in 2021, the UK was out of Europe, and being UK citizens, we were suddenly classified as “third country nationals”, and our Croatian residency had to be renewed again, under the new terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. A knock on effect of this, was that once travel was permitted again, we had to not only show our passports, but we had to have them stamped when we entered Schengen – so when we crossed into Slovenia – and stamped again, when we re-entered Croatia. In the early days, when everything was new, we found ourselves having to ask for our passports to be stamped, as sometimes the border police didn’t seem too clear on the new systems. We had to ask, because if we’d been stamped one way but not the other, the new 90 day rule could have been applied to us, even though we have Croatian residency. It has got a lot easier and we – and the border police on both sides – have become familiar with the stamping process, but it’s still been a bit of a hassle, and has always made us feel a tiny bit worried that maybe we weren’t doing the right thing.

Another issue has been that since January 2021, we’ve not been able to us our nearest border, which is only 10 minutes away, because this is deemed to be for local use only. And because we are “third country nationals” we don’t fall into the category of locals. So, we’ve had to use the main border crossings with Slovenia, which in the winter are OK, as traffic is light, but in the summer have been a nightmare, as thousands of tourists head into Istria, and northern Croatia. We avoided crossing as much as we possibly could for the last two summers, but when Italy is only half an hour away, sometimes we couldn’t resist. Our worst crossing was in July of this year, when we were returning from IKEA – it was blisteringly hot, there was no shade and it took over two hours to travel what would normally take us about five minutes. Schengen membership couldn’t come soon enough, so I was ecstatic when I read that Croatia had finally met the 281 recommendations in the eight areas of the Schengen protocol, the most comprehensive and detailed evaluation yet – and that it would probably only be a matter of a rubber stamping procedure when the EU council in mid-December.

Finally, much sooner than we thought, the decision was made that Croatia would be accepted into the Schengen area, and we spent the last two weeks counting down the days until we knew that we had got over very last stamp in our passports. It all happened at the stroke of midnight 31 December/1 January, and I knew it was real when I saw an Instagram post by our local mayor, shaking hands with his Slovenian counterpart from Koper and a raised barrier.

And, on 4th January 2023, we made our first crossing into Slovenia, without having to show passports or receive exit and entry stamps. The booths, normally with a number of border police, were empty and closed. And signs had been erected, in a number of languages, declaring “Free Passage”. It was an absolute joy to once again be able to drive into Slovenia where the local border crossing point had been in operation until January 1st…

And, on the way back, we drove via one of the larger crossings we’ve had to use for the last couple of years. Open border and free flowing traffic – which will be amazing in the summer!

Free passage is now in place between Croatia and Slovenia and Croatia and Hungary. Border checks are still currently in place between Croatia and Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina & Montenegro. Additionally, although controls at land and sea borders with other EU members have been lifted, checks at air borders will not be lifted until 26 March 2023.



kozlović winery : momjan : istria

kozlović winery : momjan : istria

Kozlović winery is one of the best-known wineries in Istria. The family has been producing wines since 1904, and today, the winery is run by its fourth generation. We are lucky that it’s about twenty minutes from our house and so we can visit at less busy times – because during the months especially, this winery can be extremely busy and often, you will need to pre-book a table/seating area.

As well as being a renowned winery, this destination in the north of Istria, is also a fabulous eaterie. Although not a restaurant, it does serve fantastic charcuterie boards – either meat or veggie. These sharing boards are substantial and are packed with locally made cheeses, breads, olive oil and other seasonal delicacies. We rarely eat meat and so can’t comment on these boards, but every time we’ve been, they look very popular.

Spring-time at Koslovic. The perfect place to sit out on the terrace and watch the world go by.

Even in the winter, this winery is set up for outdoor eating and drinking, as there are now fire pits and outdoor wood burners, as well as big blankets to wrap around yourself.

However, if you find it just a bit too chilly, but don’t want to miss out on the Koslovic experience, there is some indoor seating, too, as well as the opportunity to purchase some of their fine wines. We always seem to return home with a few more bottles than we anticipated. Just can’t think how this happens…


zadar : croatia

zadar : croatia

Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West in Florida, applauded at every evening.

So said, Alfred Hitchcock, on a visit to the stunning Dalmatian coastal city of Zadar. And, if he said it, it must be true…

We are now very, very lucky that we can reach Zadar quite easily. Living in Istria, it’s a beautiful drive down the Adriatic Highway – or, the Jadranska Magistrala – the 650 km long road which runs just a few meters parallel to the Adriatic sea, Running from Rijeka on the Kvarner Gulf to Karasovići on the border with Montenegro, this road is one of Europe’s most unforgettable journeys. As it it weaves its way around deeply indented turquoise bays or skirting scree-covered mountains, there’s scarcely a single boring stretch along its length. Especially when you are driving alongside the northern islands of Krk, Rab and Pag, rising like sleeping elephants out of the sparkling sea. This summer, family flew into Zadar from the UK and so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of days here, to introduce them to one of our favourite Croatian cities.

The name Zadar, means gift of the sea, and located where it is, on a peninsula surrounded by the Adriatic, it’s name makes perfect sense. As well as being beautiful, it is ancient and full of history, as explained by Boutique Hostel Forum :

The heart of Zadar, a location where it all began, is a street known as Kalelarga (Široka ulica). The people of Zadar will tell you it’s older than the city itself. Even though Zadar was mentioned already in the 4th century B.C.E. as the settlement of the Liburnians, it was the Romans who started forming the city two thousand years ago on the peninsula with Kalelarga as one of the main streets. The city was built like a typical Roman city with all its amenities. As the Roman Empire started falling apart, so did Zadar deteriorate in particular during the Migration Period, with low point in the 5th and 6th century. From the 6th to 11th century Zadar was a part of the Byzantine Empire. It became the administrative centre of Dalmatia and Venice’s equal on the Adriatic sea. And Venice sure didn’t like that becoming one of the most fierce opponents of Zadar and trying to overpower it for centuries to come. In the 11th century Zadar formed part of the Croatian lands for the first time, with Croatians becoming the majority population. The period between the 11th and 14th century, when the first Croatian university was founded in Zadar, is considered Zadar’s Golden Age. Despite constant threats and occasional pillages, Zadar flourished in every aspect during that period.

The Venetians finally managed to get hold of Zadar in the 15th century and it remained under their rule until the end of the 18th century. Zadar’s economic role was diminished and the city had to face two additional threats: the plague and the Ottomans (Turks). After a brief French rule beginning of the 19th century, Zadar became a part of Austrian (-Hungarian) Monarchy turning into a splendid, vibrant Dalmatian city yet again. Another round of ups and downs was in store for Zadar in the 20th century, with Austrian-Hungarian, Italian, Yugoslav and finally Croatian rule superseding one another. Heavy bombardments during the WWII destroyed more than half of the historical centre. The second half of the 20th century saw tourism-related rise which was again interrupted by a series of attacks during the Croatian War of Independence.

The historical centre of Zadar is small. Concentrated on a tiny peninsula, it can be walked around in a couple of hours. Of course, proper exploration will take a whole lot longer because of the labyrinth of marbled streets, opening out onto squares and parks and the coastal esplanade (The Riva), which is currently being redeveloped in places (summer 2022), ensuring that wide pathways make walking and cycling a much more pleasurable experience. The centre is a traffic free zone, but there are large, and accessible outdoor car parks, around the city. We spent two days there recently, and car parking was easy and inexpensive. There’s much to recommend in and around Zadar, but highlights have to be The Sea Organ and the Salutation to the Sun, both designed by renowned Croatian architect, Nikola Basic.

Both a piece of art and an experimental musical instrument, The Sea Organ creates beautiful chimes, using only the rolling power of sea waves. The installation looks like a series of broad steps leading down into the sea, hiding clever engineering beneath their surface, producing ever changing syncopated sounds. Close by, The Salutation to the Sun represents the solar system, with the sun and the planets in their proportionate sizes, featuring a series of circles made from photovoltaic glass panels set into the pavement. The panels gather energy from the sun throughout the day, and come evening, lighting elements beneath the glass create a mesmerizing display that simulates the solar system. The solar energy collected by Sun Salutation also helps power the entire waterfront.

Photo credit :

Photo credit :

Zadar is a city of significant historical influences, including reminders of Venetian rule, but perhaps more obviously, Roman rule. From The Riva, you can walk a short distance and be in the centre of The Forum – no roping off, no entrance fee, no restrictions. Just ancient reminders of a past, right in front of your eyes. We’ve visited Rome and Naples and Athens and other historical sites, but there’s something that’s very special about this part of Zadar. Maybe because when we first visited, we didn’t really know anything about Croatia, lets alone its history, but now we live in the middle of it and it feels so real. Not just a holiday experience, any more…

Zadar is located on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, north of Split and Dubrovnik, making it accessible by road (if you are on a Croatian road trip) or by air, having its own international airport. As well as the historical sites and architectural structures, the city is full of fabulous restaurants, cool bars, boutique accommodation – and of course, the turquoise Adriatic which wraps itself around the peninsula. A much recommended Croatian destination.

picking ourselves up…

picking ourselves up…

It’s fair to say that the last two and a bit weeks have been one big roller-coaster of emotions. We are selling our renovated stone house in Istria, to enable us to finance the renovation of another building, not too far away. With hindsight – which is obviously a wonderful thing – we put it on the market at the worst time possible. The summer of 2020. Lockdown. Maybe we should have just stopped marketing the house and sat it out until slightly better times arrived. But, we didn’t and so we feel that the house has been on the market forever. Of course it hasn’t and looking at things realistically, whilst we were having no viewings, much, much worse things were happening across the world as a result of Covid. As things started to look a little more optimistic in summer 2021, we took the decision to list with an estate agency. Viewings did happen, but again, with hindsight, we see now that serious buyers were still not really even dipping their toes into the water, as people visiting Istria were still well down on previous years. We took comfort from the many enquiries which came in via our listing on Rightmove Overseas, perhaps deliberately ignoring that most enquiries were never going to go anywhere. Most were quite brusque, even rude. Rarely did we get a reply to the quite extensive information we’d send out. And then when we did, it usually became apparent that the interest wasn’t actually that great – or realistic – at all. We recently took our listing down.

But earlier this year we had a breakthrough. We ditched the initial estate agents and listed instead with a new, vibrant agency, who absolutely understood how to market a property. We have had a lot of exposure via their own website and social media channels and have subsequently had increased viewings by people who seem genuinely motivated to purchase a property in Istria. They are working hard on our behalf – and yes, you could say, “Well they would, wouldn’t they?” because if they sell, they get a fee – but so be it. If a sale comes as a result of their work, then fine. We feel confident that they will find our buyer, and so we are still very happy with them. Their work with us has been a breakthrough and we feel we are in good hands.

So, why the need to pick ourselves up?

Because our world has been turned pretty much upside down, after a series of events the last two weeks. To cut a long story short, we had a walk in viewing a couple of weekends ago. The person viewing was pretty much bowled over by the house and its decor and its surroundings. She had been trying to find a house in Istria for some months, and having just viewed a property close by which was unsuitable, saw our “For Sale” sign and asked to view. We decided that after lots of walk-ins, which have amounted to absolute zilch, we would not just immediately agree to show people around. We wanted to gauge their level of interest, so we advised that there & then was not convenient, and could she and her husband return later. Which, to be fair, they did – and after viewing, made a verbal offer of the asking price. She was keen. Boy, was she keen! She was very concerned that someone else might view and make an offer and she wanted to pay a deposit asap, offering us her official documents – we’re not sure why at this stage and could only assume as some kind of assurance that she was serious. We agreed that once the deposit was paid, we’d cease all marketing of the property.

I contacted our solicitor the next day who advised me he was on holiday but would still begin to draw up the pre-contract (a standard procedure here), the next day, so as to facilitate her request to get things moving. This was communicated to the buyer – a tiny ring of an alarm bell was set off, when rather than acknowledging that our solicitor was prepared to work whilst on holiday, and very quickly, she hoped that there would be “no dragging of feet”. However, this little ring was put right at the back of mind, as we were now getting to a very momentous point in the long journey of our house sale.

Our buyer returned to Germany, and as expected, she had lots of questions. These were all welcomed, as we have absolutely nothing to hide. Our own website is extensive in terms of information. We have an Instagram account which is a truthful record of our journey in the house from Day 1. Our blog details even further all aspects of our move and the full renovation. She requested more photographs, so rather than send images via email, I gave her links to all of our platforms. Possibly, in hindsight, I should have just sent a few photos…

As I would do, she trawled through everything I sent her. I expected her to do this – after all, buying a home (and it would be her new full time home) is not a small purchase and you need to be as fully informed as possible. However, I would also be a little bit circumspect and realise that a photo or a blog post, captures a moment in time. And this is where I started to feel that things weren’t perhaps going as positively as they had been when she viewed.

She had concerns about where the shadows fell in the garden. We had discussed this as we walked around the property, and maybe I hadn’t grasped how she would become fixated by shadows, but I also emailed, in depth, explaining what the garden was like at various times of the year. I also tried to explain, that when you have a property, and there are structures near it – ie our green wall and our stone cottage – shadows will be cast at certain times. Thankfully, she seemed reassured and advised me that she was happy and all was still going ahead. But this didn’t last long – a flurry of emails came in, all based on photographs she’d seen on our Instagram feed or a blog she’d read, some going back two or three years. When she viewed, we explained that we did not have air con – our home is warm and cosy in the winter, and in the summer, we use fans when necessary, and as it was not installed initially, we’ve not wanted the disruption of having it put in. However, she’d found a blog – and believe you me, I’ve tried to find it to ascertain exactly what I wrote, but can’t – where I alluded to the fact that at times, air con could be a “bonus”. I can’t have it both ways, apparently and she intimated that I had not been honest with her. She referred to a photo I had posted of a screenshot of my Iphone weather app. This showed, in February last year, that the lowest point the temperature could reach, in the middle of the night was -7. This apparently was more evidence of me not being truthful, as I had told her that in general, winters here are quite mild but can get chilly, and that every year we have been here, we have had snow, but it is fleeting. I also explained to her how to interpret the “temperatures” on such an app, as I felt that things were now being picked up on and perhaps starting to be used as a get-out. I also explained that had the temperature actually fallen to -7, I would probably have recalled it as it would have been cold!

However, she once again reassured me, and urged that the pre-contract be delivered as she wanted to press on and transfer the deposit payment. Just over a week after her initial viewing, the pre-contract was indeed drafted by our solicitor, whilst still on holiday. It was at this stage, she decided she wanted it in German. Absolutely fine, but it had been drafted according to Croatian law, with one version in Croatian and a second, in the accepted common language of English. Had she requested a German version sooner, this could have been put into place, but a delay was now created whilst our solicitor – still trying to enjoy his vacation – arranged for a court interpreter to organise a German copy. What a waste of time this was, as she decided later that day, she didn’t need it in German, after all. Much rolling of eyes ensued…

The contract was sent to her and she emailed to say “all going ahead”, and we waited on tenterhooks for her signed copy to be returned. Only, it wasn’t returned. I got an email that afternoon, which ended with the phrase, “I will not buy it!!” Two exclamation marks also included. Gutted doesn’t come into it, but now that we have reflected and calmed down, the reasons she gave have made us realise that this was probably never meant to be, and that we have probably avoided a much more complicated situation. She had decided against it, as in her words, “…there were too many restrictions on the property…” This was refuted immediately and forcefully by our solicitor as we have ALL documentation to prove ownership and boundaries, and there is nothing to suggest any kind of restriction on any part of our home/land. The shadows made a return appearance, making us realise that whatever we said, her mind was made up. And, because we had chosen to have a potted garden, rather than dig up concrete to plant permanently, we had, in her words, “dodged everything”. Make of that what you will.

So, here we are. Back to Square One. House still for sale. Feelings swinging between anger and sadness. But, as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason, and this is the only way we can look at it. We think, being realistic, The Printworks dream is over as the pre-contract we entered into has ended and the seller has intimidated he is now looking for more money. On balance, we think we’ll now walk away and start to look in a different direction. A very different direction. And hopefully, in time, our brush with the ultimate time-waster, will become a very distant memory.


boutique b&b : mali pariz : marušići : crikvenica : croatia

boutique b&b : mali pariz : marušići : crikvenica : croatia

Every now and again, you stumble upon the most perfect place to stay. It happened to us last year when we discovered The Dolphin Suites, on the beautiful island of Veli Lošinj. And it’s happened to us again this year, having discovered the most wonderful little boutique B&B, in a renovated villa, high up in the hills above Crikvenica on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

We finally had family out to visit us for three weeks – the first time since 2019 – and when we took them back down south to Zadar to fly home, we decided to do a stop over, to break up the journey home. However, my chosen hotel – the Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel – in the historical centre of Zadar, was fully booked, so the search was on to find something as unusual and special. And this was when we stumbled upon Boutique B&B Mali Pariz (“Little Paris”).

Coming off the coast road – The Adriatic Highway – we wound our way up into quite hilly territory. Renovated villas nestled next to very contemporary new builds, all with spectacular views across the bay to the northern Croatian islands. Tiny villages emerged around hairpin bends, with the obligatory abandoned houses and churches, being reclaimed by nature. We climbed higher and higher, not sure what we were going to find at our destination – but we need not have been concerned, It was just gorgeous.

A very elegant, pale pink early nineteenth century, with shuttered windows and a huge double wooden front door revealed itself as Mali Pariz, with the the hand-painted signage on the side of the building. Through the grey iron gates, the prettiest courtyard was revealed. Pea-gravels paths, lots of plants in terracotta and zinc containers, established fruit trees and creepers, growing across the walls. Hanging baskets and pots on window sills. A raised area with different sized tables and chairs. Candle holders. Hurricane lamps. Strings of lights in the trees. And, a tantalising glimpse of a upper level, with sun umbrellas and loungers – and hidden from view, so completely private, a swimming pool.

There are only seven rooms available in this boutique hotel – two family suites on the ground floor, two doubles on the first floor and two doubles in the eaves of the house, as well as a stand alone annexe in the garden. Our room was a deluxe double in the attic, up two flights of wooden stairs and through very pretty landing areas, with lots of French style furnishings.

Being right at the top of the house, the ceiling could be an issue as it sloped down, almost to ground level on both sides. It’s probably best to remember, at all times, that there are low beams, both above the seating area and the bed. As cute as our room was, the jewel in the crown of this little hotel, is definitely the outside space. Hidden behind the big gates, it’s completely private and as pretty as picture.

Breakfast is included in the room rate, but for an additional (very reasonable) charge, Martina, the owner, will prepare an evening meal, which we were very grateful for, not arriving until 7.30pm. The nearest large town, Crikvenica, is a drive away and we didn’t fancy heading out again, especially as the garden looked so alluring as dusk set in. I think because we hadn’t pre-ordered, we largely had to take what was on offer and we were offered pasta, which was fine with us. However, we definitely didn’t expect such a simple dish – spaghetti with tomato, garlic and basil – and a rocket salad, smothered in nutty olive oil, to be quite so delicious. This is our staple kind of week night dinner, but whatever Martina did with it, it was super gorgeous. Maybe it was a combination of the setting and her excellent white wine…

Self service breakfast was simple, but substantial – meats, cheeses, bread, juices, coffee – and eggs. We opted for an omelette, which was perfect – light and fluffy but browned, just right. And again, sitting under a fig tree, and surrounded by oleanders, as the hot sun shine down on the terrace, was lovely. However, the best thing was the relaxed approach to the morning. Although check out is stated as 11am, I got the distinct impression that if you were a little later, there would be no problem. And with breakfast being served until 11am, it all felt very laid back. We had the most amazing weather – in fact, the whole summer in Croatia, has been amazing – but this little boutique B&B is also well set up if the weather is a little more inclement, with a very pretty glass walled internal dining room.

If you are looking to stay somewhere that is right in the centre of the action, with bars and restaurants on the doorstep, we definitely wouldn’t recommend you book a night or two here. But, if like us, you’re looking for peace, quiet, relaxation and somewhere that is beautifully quirky, we definitely would recommend Mali Pariz. A little bit of French chic, up the hills, on the Adriatic coast.