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  • 20. Apr, 2020.

Croatia and Meridien Ten during the Spring 2020

This is the one of (if not) the most difficult moment in travel community, whether you are a traveller or representing travel industry. Meridien Ten is family owned, small tour operator based in Croatia. We are in adventure/travel business for more than 35 years. Our company’s history can be described in 1 word: rollercoaster. Our active and adventure travel started to grow just in time when internet started to develop. This allowed us to spread the word about Croatia and us. We are growing each year, slowly. But there were quite a few downhills on our “ride”; before the COVID – 19 outbreak, we faced Croatian National war (1991 – 1995), then in 1999 Kosovo armed conflict which reflected in no mayor bookings in Croatia for that and the following year, The Great Recession in 2008 and in 2001 9/11, which we felt in Croatia as more than 80% of our clients and business partners are from the US. And we have recovered from all these “falls” and we will recover from this one! 

 

Situation with COVID 19 outbreak is not that bad in Croatia, at least when you compare the number of cases in Croatia and its surrounding countries. Nevertheless, this is a period no one from us will ever forget (I guess this applies to the whole world)! Besides possible health and/or economic crisis, Croatia was hit by series of earthquakes at the end of March. The biggest damage was seen in Zagreb, Croatian capital where destructive 5.3 magnitude hit the town and its surroundings in the morning of March 22. There were several aftershocks and then it started to snow, while it did not snow properly during the whole winter. And there were hundreds of citizens in the streets, not being able to get back to their homes as it was not safe anymore to enter some of the buildings and houses….  1 month later, if we move a bit more south, to Split, where most of Meridien Ten staff is based, “things” are slowly getting back to normal (or a temporarily new normal). We still do have a lot of restrictions, we still have a few daily cases of coronavirus infections (approx. 20 per day as of April, 19th ,in the whole of Croatia) but at the moment we have great weather and we do see a lot of families enjoying the walks along the coast, people talking over the phone/internet to their family, connecting back with people they would not normally talk to. Wildlife is “recovering”; there was a whale spotted outside of the Island Solta. This is not a typical site in busy waters of the Adriatic Sea. Restaurants and hotels are closed, most of the flights to/from Croatia are cancelled, there is no one besides Croatians to eat Croatian fish – maybe those sardines will finally get a chance to multiply and to grow bigger.  What am I talking about, you must be wondering, right? The old fishermen were saying that in one kilogram of sardines you would have 24 pieces. This was the perfect size of a sardine, full of flavour, meat and healthy nutrients. Nowadays, due to overfishing, you will have 50 or 60 pieces in 1 kilogram. Poor little sardines do not get enough time to grow before we (humans) or tunas consume them! 

 

 

We want this “travel industry” to survive because we believe in its values: small group travel, local experiences, discovery of new cultures, new friends. Time in the nature doing activities. Trying new locally produced food, locally grown wine. Worldwide experts call this kind of travel: Sustainable travel. Not only that we believe in it, we do it. So do our partners and suppliers, even smaller companies on Dalmatian Islands. A great bunch of people!!

 

I am sure you did read about recent climate change due to reduction in travel. Fewer Carbon Emissions! Improvement of air quality in Lockdown Areas! There are many more benefits which happened during the virus outbreak. Each medal has 2 sides, so if we look at the “bright” side – all these benefits, all this “healing” of nature gives us hope and strength to keep on going with our work and work philosophy. Small group travel, environmentally friendly, travel that includes visits to natural spaces, discovery of local communities and cultures. Simply said – sustainable way of traveling! This should become a standard, in order to prevent climate change, wildlife conservation, provide environmental sustainability and eventually social justice. I am sure many will not agree with this, but smaller and medium sized enterprises do have more social focus and are more connected to the country where they operate and its people than large organizations which are in a global (capitalism) race and push on mass tourism, where traveller is just a number, statistic. 

 

Highways for quick access to beaches, beaches covered with plastic trash and similar environmental destruction, global chains instead of local restaurants, local arts replaced by cheap plastic (or similar material) replicas, wildlife abuse and more.. All signs of mass or overtourism

 

Even we all have to keep “social distancing” now, the whole world managed to unite and act as one to stop the pandemic! It would be great to stay united and reconsider our travel and overall future plans to more sustainable practices. Yes, social distancing can feel boring and daunting, but keep in mind we are actually doing something well for the planet! So, let’s hold on a little bit more and we will get through these difficult times!

We did reduce our office staff, for more than 50% percent. Our guides will not lead any trips at least till July and for most of them this was the main source of income. All our local partners; hotels, B&B, travel companies based on the islands, restaurants will also be impacted. Heavily! Their families! Our families! These are difficult times for everyone. And they will pass!  Once they do, we will be here for you! 

 

Until then, 

I hope you and your family are safe and will remain like that in this world-wide adventure!

 

Andro Tartaglia

 

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  • 02. Jun, 2021.

Croatian olive oil

Croatian olive oil is (among) the best in the world. It is even called liquid gold.

Today in Croatia there is an important number of domestic varieties of olives recognized in numerous exhibitions and competitions, to be more precise, 31 domestic varieties of olives and 44 foreign. Some of the most famous Croatian varieties are Oblica, Lastovka, Drobnica, Levantinka, Plominka, Buža, Istarska bjelica and Dužica.

 

Olive picking in Croatia begins after the conclusion of the grape harvest, usually in mid to late October. Families all over the country are called to harvest the olives, the majority of which will be pressed into olive oil.
Olive picking is not an easy job but being in the fresh air and enjoying family, is simply fun and pleasant. Some areas keep the trees growing in width and not in height so they don’t need to climb at all making everything much easier. In the past, and even today, people would work for olive oil since it is a job that asks as many hands as possible and it was customary to give workers one or two liters of oil per day plus some food. Since both the workers and the owners were quite poor, they would work with eating only dried figs.

 

After harvesting, it’s time for oil production. As soon as the daily harvest is over, the olives are transported to a nearby oil mill, the oil can be extracted either mechanically or chemically. Green olives, if picked too soon, can be too bitter while overripe olives will yield more oil but the quality will be much lower. Producing extra virgin olive oil today is done almost the exact same way as our ancestors use to do many years ago. It’s no longer made with a stone wheel oil mill but, it is made from organically grown, pure natural olives.

 

 

 

Istria is true gourmet heaven, home to some of the world’s best truffles and exceptional homegrown wines. Its olive oil is one of the best in Croatia. Some of the best known oils in Istria are Agrolaguna, Chiavalon, Ipsa, Meneghetti, Al Torcio, Belic and San Antonio. The Croatian coast (Primorje) and Kvarner are also known for their olive groves, especially the island of Cres, where sheep breeding is used in combination with olive cultivation. Another main olive-producing region in Dalmatia with more than extraordinary olive oil. The olives came to Dalmatia from Ancient Greece after the Ancient Greeks sailed into Stari Grad on the island of Hvar in 384 BC. They brought vines and olive trees from the island of Paros and planted them in a fertile field next to their first settlement, today known as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain. Olives and grapes still flourish there, in much the same way as 2400 years ago. Besides its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and winemaking tradition, the southern Dalmatian island of Korčula is also a very important area for olive oil production in Croatia. This olive oil has a very recognizable taste, smell, and color. Some of the best-known producers in Dalmatia are Ivan Miloš, Marco Polo, PZ Postira Brač, Brachia Brač. Olive trees in the area of Lun on the island of Pag is a very interesting area of 24 hectares of wild olive, with 80000 olives, among which there are 1500 wild olive trees, 5-8 m high with an estimated age of some trees more than 1500 years. Olive oil made from these olives has a very special quality and aroma.

 

 

Regarding the quality of olive oil, there is a difference between:
- extra virgin oil is the healthiest and is obtained after the first healthy fat and the acidity,
- virgin oil is obtained after the first shredding of weaker olive fruit, and its acidity with respect to extra virgin olive oil is slightly higher,
- olive oil is obtained by mixing refined oil and certain amounts of extra virgin olive oil that serves to improve color and taste
- Sansa oil is obtained by chemical separation from solid residues of olive oil after pulverization, it is of inferior quality but can be used for frying.

 

Croatia and Croatian olive oils are always winning multiple awards at international olive oil competitions. The Croatian region of Istria has been declared the best extra virgin olive oil region in the world for the sixth year in a row, by leading guide Flos Olei.
This year, Croatia is even awarded at the national level in New York 87 samples, and so is Croatia in total fourth in the world by the number of medals for olive oils at the NYIOCC World Competition. Another great success for Istrian olive growers: Gold for 30 Istrian olive oils.

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  • 11. Feb, 2021.

Custom designed tours - Family activity holidays in Croatia

Notes from our previous tours 

 

It was April 2017 when we have received an email from Varabioff and Gjervan families, who were looking for a local company that could help to suggest, organize and provide a custom tour for 2 families with kids from 13 to 19 years. They wanted a combination of our classic bike tour with elements of water-based sports as they were planning to visit Croatia in August. They were given our contact by our previous guest who enjoyed our bike and sail tour along the Dalmatian coast. 

Snjezana, our sales manager, replied and started to work on the custom tour itinerary from Dubrovnik to Split, which had to include cycling on most of the days, but with snorkeling, swimming, stand up paddling activities and whole day breaks for family gatherings and reunion. The tour was supposed to run in August, which usually is a synonym for really warm temperatures in Croatia. 

 

 

 

 

During pre-trip planning, there was a lot of discussion about accommodation and eventually, the tour included a lot of different and “special” locations; a combination of hotels and privately owned villas where the family can rest and enjoy some downtime together.

The main “theme” of the tour was cycling of course, and our guides easily managed to cater to different levels or each guest cycling desire. With 2 guides; one in the support van and the other on the bike with the group, the family was enjoying cycling on the Peljesac peninsula, Korcula, and Hvar island.

   

The support van was always carrying inflatable paddle boards, snorkel gear, beach towels, a cool box for cold drinks, and a tent for some shade. 

 

 
Tomo and Mijo - guides discussing the future plans :)    Water activities 

 

This custom tour included private speed boats for transfer between the islands. We have also chartered a private speed boat with a skipper for the day, to show our guests Vis and its amazing archipelago. Secluded beaches not accessible by car, ferry, or bike and the crystal-clear sea was on the day’s agenda.

 

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Most of the dinners and lunches were pre-organized. When you are traveling from one island to another, you need to have a schedule. Timing is everything. Our guides: Tomo and Mijo, our office team: Snjezana, Goran and Ante did a great job of coordinating between restaurant locations, timing, and our guest’s needs. Many times, there are food and dietary restrictions from our guests, and you can imagine what August in Croatia looks like (maybe this is not the best marketing, but it is real); it is full of visitors and restaurants are working full power. It is easy for restaurants to forget details which our office advised weeks before. Luckily our guides are aware of this. To provide a great tour, teamwork between the office and guides is a must.

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All of our meals were absolutely outstanding, food, wine, and attention to detail. This outdoor rooftop patio is on the island of Korcula, next door to Marco Polos house  

Our final meal with Mijo and Tomo before leaving to board the ferry in Split. 

  Dessert after pizza - the best gelato! We ate SO well on this trip! 
         
   
Lunch in Split. Tomo and our daughters ( Gjervan to Tomo’s right, Varabioff to Tomo’ left)   Our second night on Korcula, dinner on our own in the harbor, one of many gorgeous sunsets we enjoyed   One of our meals.. 
         

The rafting trip was added to the last day of the tour followed by lunch and transfer to the ferry port as the guests continued their bike trip in Italy.  There were two lost items during the tour, and we managed to find both of them. Again, guides and office staff were on the phone, working on the puzzle (of all possible providers; restaurants, hotels, ferries, skippers of speedboats, our local partners….) till it was solved and missing items were found. 

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Our guides were making adjustments to the itinerary on the daily basis, as the weather was “dictating” daily activities. This is all possible when you have a small, flexible, and experienced company providing the tour. We will always proudly say Meridien Ten is not a booking engine but a real company providing exceptional and tailor-made services! 

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It was a pleasure to organize and provide this custom tour for the Gjervan and Varabioff families and we would be really happy to see them back in Croatia once!

 

#Pomalo! 

 

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Enjoying a well earned beverage at our stunning villa on the island of Hvar   While cycling across Hvar ( I could be wrong, it could be Vis) we stopped at a coffee / lavender shop at the top of an enormous hill ( Mijo and Tomo will remember). They also sold cycling kits, both of our sons choose Croatia kits. What better to bring home from a cycling trip in a country we had all fallen in love with? 
     
 
Another rest stop on the way to Vela Luka, looking over a gorgeous bay with some stunning holiday homes   All  10 of us enjoying the view at a rest stop on the way to Vela Luka
     

Guest review:

 

“Our eight day, two family cycling adventure with Meridien Ten was a trip of a lifetime and perfect in every way! We cannot say enough about the care Meridien Ten took in arranging our trip exactly as we requested. They were very attentive and the cycling guides were the very, very best. They were able to accommodate our range of cycling abilities with ease. We started from Dubrovnik and made our way through the amazing Croatian countryside and down the Dalmation coast. We are a well travelled group and we cannot say enough about the fantastic trip Meridien Ten arranged for us, which was worth every penny and terrific value. We would go back to tour with them in a heartbeat.”

 

The Gjervan family

 

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"Our final meal with Mijo and Tomo before leaving to board the ferry in Split. We all had the time of our lives filled with adventure, excercise, swimming, cycling, lots of laughs, 

amazing food. A perfect balance of hard cycling days, easier days and a couple of rest days; we were so well looked after. Absolutely the best family holiday with our teenagers that we could have hoped for. Thank you so much Meridien 10, Mijo and Tomo, for creating such an unforgettable experience for all 10 of us."

 

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  • 23. Feb, 2021.

Diocletian's Palace

The city of Split owes the title of one of the most desirable tourist destinations to many things, but the old town holds a special place keeping it high on the list of worldly valuable monuments. 

When entering the city of Split, before reaching the Diocletian’s palace you will be led by a 57 m high St. Domnius cathedral, or as locals say: “Sveti Duje”. The cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is part of the Diocletian's Palace complex.

 

The Palace represents castrum, a hybrid creation uniting roman villa and military camp. The stone was brought from all around the Empire and it took ten years for building the Palace. 

The Palace has four entrances and most often people enter from the south side after enjoying the walk on the promenade or getting a coffee before they start exploring. This is a good route, as it can tell you the story about the Palace from the beginning…

 

Diocletian made the Palace for his retirement, but as he abdicated the throne earlier than planned, and moved in earlier, works on the Palace were never finished. His chambers were in the southern part of the palace, just above the cellars. This part was built without defensive towers, faced toward the sea with an emergency exit leading through the cellars.  The southern entrance is also called Porta Aenea or the Brass door. Passing through the cellars you will see many locals selling handmade souvenirs with symbols of Split such as the Palace, promenade, St. Domnius cathedral, and more. Continue walking and exit on the Peristyle square, an open space in front of which the Emperor showed himself to his vassals as a living god. The Emperor would exit on a small balcony in front of Vestibul, a circular anteroom of his chambers, for occasions of religious ceremony. 

Today, Peristyle is a place of many social gatherings, ancient & modern stories, dance, music, and fulfilling aimless wandering. Vestibul is one of the favorite places for klapa* singers and everyone having the opportunity to enjoy a capella singing.

 

On the eastern side of the square, and the Palace, the imperial mausoleum was built. Today, in that same place stands the Cathedral of St. Domnius. St. Domnius was the bishop and martyr of Solin and today he is celebrated as the patron saint of the city of Split and the Split-Makarska archdiocese. If you find yourself in Split on May 7 you have the opportunity to see a big ceremony and enjoy cultural manifestations throughout the day. 

    

    

 

Below the mausoleum is the crypt of St. Lucy. Saint Lucy is a Christian martyr who was beheaded in 303 after a long period of torture. According to tradition, St. Lucy's eyes were taken out, and this is why she is considered the protector of sight and the blind. She is also revered as the patroness of farmers, tailors, scribes, porters, and blacksmiths. Feast of St. Lucy is celebrated on December 13 when believers take the water from the crypt to save their sight.

Just in front of the cathedral, you will see a well-preserved sphinx, brought from Egipt with the rest of the material used for building the Palace. This sphinx has a special place in the cultural and everyday life of the city of Split serving for years as a backdrop for the famous opera Aida.

                                                       

3500-years old sphynx

 

Exit on the same side of the Palace is called the Silver gate. If you exit the Palace that way you will find the Split market, a place of many colors, fresh groceries, and typical local small talks. But, let’s get back to the Palace, and come back to the market before lunchtime :)

 

 East entrance to the Palace (the Golden gate)

 

So, before leaving the central part of the Palace pay attention to a tiny passage just opposite the Cathedral and the sphinx. This is where you will find Jupiter’s temple and the tiniest street in Split called “Let me pass”. The Temple will amaze you with many architectural details, but the most incredible is the ceiling. Coffered temple vault consisting of 40 stone slabs with different face expressions presents a real work of art. 

 

Now, let’s get back to the central part and head slowly to the north, or better said toward the Golden gate. The Golden gate was projected as the main entrance to the Palace. The gate had a double entrance with a defensive courtyard in the middle called a propugnaculum. Today you can often see random musicians enjoying its great acoustic. Like the other two doors, the Golden gate was also closed during the middle ages and the main entrance became the Iron gate on the western side of the Palace. Before you continue further take a look at the guard's hallway where stands little Church of St Martin from the 6th century. Although the church has been renovated, it is a world example of the preservation of the church interior. From this year St Martin’s church will be open for visitors.

 

Following the walls of the Palace toward the west, you will find today’s People square or Narodni trg and a bell tower with a 24 digit clock just in front of the Iron gate or Porta Ferrea. These are the best-preserved gate used for entering Diocletian's sulfur baths, but also to take punished legionnaires for stoning. 

 

From here you can continue to stroll down the charming little streets and explore the architecture of family palaces, old houses or continue to explore the rest of the old town outside the walls of the Palace.

 

Explore Split, it has so many things to offer...

 

And don’t forget to visit the market!

 

 

*klapa - Dalmatian a capella singing

 

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