you with a fully-updated edition of your guide to Croatia and
a brand new City Guide to Dubrovnik. What can you tell us about
the two books?
Firstly, the timing has been fantastic. The
first edition of Croatia came out in 2003, just as the English
were re-discovering what a wonderful country Croatia is, so we
felt the time was right for an updated edition. And then we realised
there was no comprehensive guide to Dubrovnik, one of the world’s
most magical cities. So I spent a lot of 2004 in Croatia –
which was an excellent opportunity for me personally of course
– and then went through the first edition updating every
telephone number, website address, hotel, restaurant and museum.
Hard work, but essential to get everything as right as possible.
I also spent a lot of time on (and in) Dubrovnik,
and I made several new friends in the city and on the nearby islands,
which was wonderful. Even talking to you about this makes me sorry
I’m not there right now!
Why have you published two different
books? Should people be buying both?
I’d love to say ‘yes’, of course, but in truth
they have very different audiences. Dubrovnik is aimed very much
at the city visitor, who is in the area for a few days, perhaps
on a city break or long weekend, or perhaps coming in on a cruise
ship. The guide has everything you could possibly want to know
– where to stay, what to eat, what to see, cultural and
historical background and a whole lot more – but of course
is limited to Dubrovnik, the hinterland, the local islands (Kolocep,
Lopud, Sipan and Mljet) and short trips into Bosnia and Montenegro.
Croatia, on the other hand, covers the whole
country in detail, including all the national parks – something
you won’t find in any other guidebook – as well as
the whole glorious coastline, all the islands, the major towns
and cities (including Zagreb, one of my personal favourites) and
the interior. For anyone going beyond Dubrovnik, this is the guide
Was it easy to obtain all the necessary
information from Croatian sources?
Far easier than I expected, especially with good information available
from the national tourist office web site, helpful local tourist
offices, and an increasing number of Croatian friends to show
me around and help me search out the best places to stay, eat
and drink. Indeed, there’s no substitute when you’re
writing a guidebook to getting into the country and doing your
primary research on the ground – and if you really want
to find out what ordinary visitors are going to experience then
it’s essential to do the research anonymously, so you don’t
always get given the best table or shown the nicest rooms!
a Karlovacko Pivo in Cavtat
You visited Croatia and the former
Yugoslavia for a previous travel guide in the 1980s, and then
spent a lot of time in Croatia in 2002 researching your first
edition. What changes have you noticed?
In some ways, very few changes – Croatia was wonderful when
I was writing my first book in 1988 and still is; it’s remained
wonderfully unspoiled. There have been significant changes, nonetheless.
Back in the 1980s it has to be admitted that Zagreb was a pretty
sober and lifeless place, in striking contrast to the busy and
lively streets you find today, with pavement terraces thronged
with customers, live music everywhere, and people smiling and
laughing over a coffee or a beer. Dubrovnik looks better than
it ever did before the war, with the city walls completed and
Stradun re-paved. There are also an increasing number of smaller,
family-run hotels springing up along the coast and on the islands,
and most of the communist-era hotels have either been (or are
being) restored and re-opened.
In the past two years, the biggest change
has been a more subtle one, with a growing acceptance of Croatia’s
past, particularly during the two wars of the 1940s and 1990s.
I was very much moved by the new monuments and memorials in Slavonia
last summer, and visited for example the Vukovar cemetery, as
well as the site of a mass grave outside the town. It was also
heartening to see the Jasenovac memorial being restored when I
came through last spring, after years of neglect. These memorials
are important not just for the people who suffered during the
hardship of the wars but for all of us.
On our forum, we had a comment stating
that "this year every man and his dog will visit Croatia".
Is there any danger that Croatia will become swamped with tourists?
“Swamped” is an emotive word, but there’s no
doubt that during the peak three weeks from the end of July to
the middle of August some places will get uncomfortably crowded
– Porec, Opatija, Krk, Brac and Hvar spring immediately
to mind, along with Mali Losinj. But even when the season is at
its highest, Croatia, with all its islands and immensely long
coastline, has more than enough space for everyone. Think of the
Kornati archipelago, Vis, Lastovo, Mljet and the Elaphite islands,
for a start, not to mention the wonderful hinterland of Slavonia,
and the far too little-visited Zagorje north of Zagreb and umberak
to the southwest of the capital. And don’t forget all the
wonderful national and nature parks spread across the country,
either – even in August you won’t find crowds in the
Gorski Kotar or the Velebit.
We receive a number of queries from
people interested in purchasing property in Croatia. Do you think
the country is relatively easy place to settle into for a foreigner?
I think it’s a very easy country to settle into –
but potential buyers should definitely seek expert help when looking
at properties, as the rules for purchasing in Croatia are somewhat
different from what people will be used to in the UK, or even
across the rest of the European Union. Contracts should be studied
minutely, and purchasers should be aware of exactly what they’re
buying (and what they’re not). Take everything you’re
told by estate agents with a pinch of salt! And take good, professional,
legal advice before signing anything.
Do you have a favourite part of the
The hardest question of all, as there’s really so much I
love. But my personal (baker’s) dozen, in no particular
order, would have to include:
- Plitvice Lakes. Much-hyped, these 16 lakes
interconnected by waterfalls never fail to impress, and easily
justify their UNESCO classification as a World Heritage Site.
- Diocletian’s Palace, Split. Spreading
out from the peristyle, the streets of the old town of Split
were once palatial corridors and the houses huge reception rooms
for the former Roman Emperor in retirement. It’s difficult
not to be captivated.
- Risnjak National Park. Situated within
the confines of Gorski Kotar, and featuring Croatia’s
biggest diversity of flora and fauna, this is the perfect park
for mountaineers and naturalists alike.
- Šibenik Cathedral. Šibenik itself
is lovely, but the 15th / 16th century cathedral here –
Croatia’s most important renaissance monument –
- Biokovo. Overhanging the Makarska Riviera,
Biokovo is Croatia’s answer to Cape Town’s Table
Mountain, offering fabulous views out over Brac and Hvar.
- Lokrum. Lokrum is a haven, just a short
boat-ride away from the bustle of Dubrovnik, offering rocks
to swim from, woods to picnic in, and a small café set
in a ruined Benedictine monastery.
- Roman Amphitheatre, Pula. It may look
like a cliché on a postcard, but the world’s sixth
biggest extant Roman amphitheatre is a wonderful monument all
- Lonjsko Polje. One of Europe’s largest
concentrations of storks – more than 500 pairs –
make this wetland park a stunning place to visit. Go by boat,
when it floods in spring.
- Krka River and Falls. Several sets of
travertine waterfalls you can walk over, across and around,
a monastery on an island in the river, and boat trips up and
down, along with the chance to swim at the base of the falls,
make Krka a delight.
- Trogir. The traffic-free old town of Trogir
is one of the most charming on the whole Adriatic coast. A medieval
island settlement, it’s astonishingly well-preserved and
well-deserving of its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage
- Paklenica National Park. Twin karst canyons
running up from the sea into the Velebit massif, offering some
of the best and most accessible walking and hiking in Croatia.
And all by the seaside.
- Rovinj. The site that graced a million
postcards is Istria’s jewel. The organically medieval
historic centre of Croatia’s most Italian town stands
on a former island, with red-tiled roofs crowned by a Venetian
- Mljet. Lush vegetation, an abandoned monastery
on an island on a lake on an island, Europe’s only wild
mongooses and relatively few visitors make Mljet a treasure
not to be missed.
Is there anything else you would
like to add in connection with Croatia?
Although everyone wants to go to the seaside in summer, why not
try visiting Croatia during the spring or autumn? They’re
personally my favourite times of year for travelling around the
country, not only on the coast and islands but inland too. You’ll
get an extra special welcome from hotels and restaurants, and
you’ll even be able to park your car along the coast.
How does one become a travel writer?
Easy – by loving travelling and by having some talent for
writing. The question you should have asked is “how does
one become a published travel writer?” – the answer
to which is much harder – though a willingness to write
about places other people haven’t already written about
or which are particularly hard to get to, and some super-human
persistence certainly help. Good luck!
Buy Croatia, The Bradt Travel Guide
today (2nd Ed.):
Buy Dubrovnik: Bradt Travel Guide
Highly recommended travel guide to Croatia, and
currently the most up-to-date one! Certainly a must
for all those visiting the country this
year. Very detailed guide provides information for all
types of travellers, from holidaymakers to backpackers,
families to lone travellers.
(Anna, Webmaster, Visit Croatia)
"Croatia" by Bradt/Letcher
has something very special: a deep intimacy with the
country, its riven and complex history, its wild natural
corners (sea, rugged mountains, deep green reserves,
lakes and gushing falls and sources), its people and
food, and, importantly, the quirks of its existence
that make it Croatia and nowhere else. Thanks to what
is refreshingly good and engaged writing, this intimacy
breathes its way through the pages, and is captured
eloquently in the luxuriant photography.
(Joanna from France)
I found this book invaluable
in planning my trip (delayed since before the Yugoslav
war). It is a cut above most of the travel guides one
finds and more in the tradition of George Borrows or
Gerald Brennan, but nonetheless loaded with practical
advice. This book is a must have!
(Chris from England)
"Bradt Guides are the favourite
for travellers who wish not merely to see but to understand"
Piers enjoying mussels in Paklenica!