As part of the World Travel Market late last year, I was invited to a fascinating Croatian olive oil tasting by Rooster PR Agency
As I know from my own time in Croatia, the outstanding coastline sells itself: it’s pristine and gorgeous. What’s interesting about the new pitch is that Croatia is being positioned as an ideal short break destination from the UK, including off-season, and this is something new.
Certainly Zagreb is one of the most overlooked European capital cities; full of lovely things but sometimes overshadowed by Croatia’s undeniably lovely beaches and islands. The landmark four star Palace Hotel
in Zagreb is in the midst of a major refurbishment. There’s already a new fitness centre and the glory of its Art Deco style is being retained whilst modern touches are incorporated. I’ve always liked it for its proximity to Zrinjevac Park as well as other major city sights.
The first of many fun facts provided by Darko Lorencin
, Minister of Tourism in Croatia, and his colleagues Tonko Rilovic and Meri Matesic from the Croatian National Tourism Office
, was that the necktie was invented in Croatia. I feel obliged to note that Darko, like nearly everyone in Croatia, looks like a movie star. There was plenty more to learn, too, both from Darko and from Tonko and Meri.
I hadn’t been fully aware that my beloved Game of Thrones
was partly filmed in Dubrovnik, or that Bill Gates has chosen to vacation in Croatia since 2004.
Although Croatia has a strong recent record on preserving architecture and national heritage, the Minister was also eloquent in his desire to indicate how much fascinating change previous visitors to Croatia will see if they return. Extending the shoulder season forms another one of their goals. With Croatia’s generally mild and enviable climate it’s an aim that should be attainable, and will increase access for those who prefer to dodge the August throngs.
In my view Croatia isn’t that well-known for its olive oil, but Istria in particular is growing enormously in prominence as a producer. The oil tasting expert, Judy Ridgway
, was a real character, who guided us expertly through the correct procedures.
Apparently the ideal temperature for a tasting is warmed to 27 degrees, to fully unlock the flavours. You’re meant to sniff it and then taste it, and all the gathered guests solemnly did so with three samples. The second oil was unbelievably spicy and tasted strongly of rocket, a really unique and peppery variant in comparison to what most of us are used to from Italy or Greece. Lots of oils from Croatia are quite herbaceous. The tasting took me right back to my adventures on the peerless island of Hvar, which is scented by rosemary, lavender and pine everywhere like some fabled classical paradise.
Rooster did a typically commendable job of organising the event and it's well worth visiting the official Croatian tourism site
for more information. All images are also courtesy of the Croatian National Tourist Board.