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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, November 21, 2004

Croatia offers gorgeous scenery, rich history

By Chris Oliver
Advertiser Staff Writer

Gretchen and Bill Arnemann of Honolulu traveled to Croatia in May. There, they chartered a sailboat to explore the Dalmatian Coast and its islands.

This picture of the port on the island of Hvar shows a promenade lined with date palms and a harbor full of yachts.

Photos courtesy of Arnemann family

Leaving Honolulu, they traveled via San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Vienna, arriving two days later in the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik. There the couple met up with their son, Roger, based in London, who joined them for the second week of their vacation.

This unforgettable trip — to an area unfamiliar to many American travelers — inspired the couple to share this report:

"We chose Croatia for several reasons," said Gretchen. "The country has a fascinating history dominated at different times by Greeks, Romans, Venetians, French and Austrians. We had visited Dubrovnik many years ago and were impressed with the seaside site, history and architecture of the old walled city."

The Arnemanns also had read that damage from the Bosnian war was minimal, but they wanted to see firsthand. And because Bill and Roger are competent sailors, there was another attraction: "We've had friends who cruised in sailboats along the Dalmatian Coast and raved about its beautiful waters and scenic islands," Gretchen said. "Prices seemed reasonable, and we would not have to deal with the inflated Euro."

Gretchen, Roger and Bill Arnemann aboard their chartered 33-foot yacht, Wild Rose, off Mljet island. The family used the boat as a "floating hotel."
The Arnemanns like to plan ahead, at least nine months. "Once our flight reservations are booked and ticketed, research begins on the Internet for routes, sightseeing, dining and accommodations, preferably B&Bs. We supplement Web-site information with Frommers, Fodors, Insight and Lonely Planet guides," Gretchen said.

They booked into the Dubrovnik B&B at the Ploce Gate. Their corner room with private bath on the second floor of an older building opened to fantastic views of the Adriatic coastline and over the walled city, and came with old-style hospitality ... Dubrovnik B&B is owned and managed by Srdjan and Dragan Gizdic, two young and energetic brothers whose service included a one-hour introductory tour of the sights.

Named the "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik claims to be one of the sunniest towns in Southern Europe. The city (pop. 30,500), is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the old city is encircled by fortress walls built between the 8th and 16th centuries.


• "Forbes Magazine, (July 5, 2004) has described the Dalmatian Coast as the Mediterranean's next Riviera. It's a reasonable, beautiful and fascinating area with hospitable people helping you to feel at home. Many travelers steer clear, fearing the economic and political strife. But development is beginning, and Croatia is scheduled to enter the European Union in 2009. Do go before it gets spoiled!"

• "Sailing conditions in the summer are excellent. Winds are generally light to moderate; however, occasionally strong winds (buras) occur. There are no strong currents or significant tidal action. Waters are clear, and mooring facilities are adequate to excellent. We sailed an average of five to six hours a day, island-hopping, and could check weather forecasts daily on the VHF radio."

• "During our week of cruising along the Dalmatian islands, we met Italians, French, German, English, Irish and Croatians, but no Americans. Everyone was friendly and surprised to learn we had come all that way to sail. Our Hawaiian flag was often confused with the Union Jack!"

• "It was easy to navigate in Croatia. We always felt safe, and English is widely spoken. The food was delicious, and heavy on fresh seafood. Kunas are the local currency and bank machines are in the major cities and the larger towns on the islands. However, cash all your kunas before leaving. You will not be able to exchange kunas outside Croatia."

• "For nonsailors, the Dalmatian islands are readily accessible by ferry boats, which run continuously from Dubrovnik and Split. Most are an easy day trip via Jadrolinija, Croatia's ferry line, www.jadrolinija.hr. Tours are available on the islands, or you can explore independently as we did."

• "For long-distance flying a doctor recommended 'No Jet Lag' chewable pills, and they seem to help. A homeopathic package of 32 tablets covers 50 hours of flying and costs $10, available at Umeke Market in Kahala."

• "Information on Dubrovnik B&B is at www.dubrovnikbedand
, at www.croatiatravel.com, on the fishing village Cavtat at www.ambrosia
, and on chartering sailboats at www.navaboats.com and www.LdnBGlobal.com. Most charters check out on Saturday at 5 p.m. and return by 9 a.m. the following Saturday. We stocked up on groceries and stowed away the supplies Saturday evening. Some companies allow you to pre-order provisions and have them delivered on board for an additional fee."

Among the many highlights: A day trip by motorboat to Cavtat, a picturesque fishing village about 20 miles south. Another was the couple's wedding anniversary, celebrated at the Nautika restaurant near the Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, where the Arnemanns' terrace table overlooked the sea from the fortress walls and the cuisine, especially the fresh seafood, "was outstanding."

After careful research, the Arnemanns had chartered a sailboat with LdnB Global out of Birmingham, England. The couple were joined for the second week of their trip by their son Roger, who would skipper the boat with parents as crew.

"The company offer bareboat (self-skippered) and skippered/crewed sailing options. Boats are fully equipped with charts, GPS navigation systems, VHF radios, cooking gear and linens. We cooked on board and ate some dinners at restaurants. The 33-foot sailboat Wild Rose became our floating hotel for a week's cruise from Dubrovnik to Split. We stocked up with groceries and sailed out of Dubrovnik marina on a Sunday morning, heading for Mljet Island.

"We moored in two different bays, first at Okuklje and then at Polace. In both locations, we were welcomed by local restaurant owners who offered power and water hookups in front of their restaurant. The only "mooring fee" was to dine that evening at their restaurant on the outdoor terrace. What a grand concept!

"The third evening, we were back into civilization at Korcula, in a large marina with hundreds of boats. Korcula is another photogenic, ancient walled city, but on a smaller scale than Dubrovnik. The following evening was spent at Hvar, a charming port with date palms lining the wide promenade. That was the best dog- and people-watching place of the entire cruise.

"Our next stop was the town of Brac, a smaller port with sleepy village and fewer boats. Both ports of Hvar and Brac are on islands bearing the same name as the port. Mooring fees at marinas averaged $45 per night. Our final night was spent at the marina in Split, where we turned in the boat at 9 the following morning.

"The checkout process was very thorough, including a diver checking the hull, keel and rudder for any damage. Chartered boats are required to be returned with full water and fuel tanks.

"One highlight we must mention was an excursion by rented bicycle from the port of Polace on Mljet island up to the extinct volcano at the top of the island. It is now two lakes, separated by a canal, with a monastery on an island in the middle of the larger lake."

The Arnemanns also explored Split for several days, including the Roman emperor Diocletian's palace, and were given wonderful tour of the Croatia Maritime Museum on the hill overlooking the port.

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