Flavours of Croatia – Zadar

Summer has ended rather abruptly this year in Europe. I have nearly forgotten that it ends at all, with golden autumn and amazing weather up until the second week of October. With holiday time passing I have realized I have not been blogging for a while and, let me tell you, there were more than 13 reasons why.

As I have mentioned in several of my previous posts (for example here), I have been incredibly fortunate to be offered free accommodation for a two-week trip to South Dalmatia, Croatia. And boy, that was an adventure! Upon my return I have already started planning next summer holidays, and as it is a rather daunting task, I wondered what could help me plan. I went through all the main points of planning a trip and realized that where you want to go sets a goal to work towards. And I couldn’t decide. I researched many travel blogs and looked for tips on which of all the amazing places to visit first and I got stuck. What broke the impasse? A book by John Grisham – no joke – about a football player moving to Parma (Italy). Why it wowed me so much? It showed a side of Italy I have never seen before, thriving, rich in flavour and full of lovely people, but from an entirely subjective point of view. Therefore, after spending two weeks in Dalmatia I decided to share with you my view on this region of Croatia, and maybe convince you it’s really an amazing place to visit.

After this rather long prefix, let’s just jump right into what I have learned about Southern Dalmatia.

ZADAR, the city that stole Hitchcock’s heart

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Zadar is the oldest still inhabited city in Croatia. With amazing Romanesque architecture and original Roman forum it reminded me of Rome, rather than a small town on the coast of Adriatic Sea. Both Floret and I loved every single corner of the city, but what really took my breath away was the sunset on the promenade – once described by Alfred Hitchcock himself as “the most beautiful sunset in the world”. I couldn’t agree more with Mr Hitchcock as I sat down with hundreds of people looking at the sun slowly hiding behind the horizon.

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Relaxing to the sound of waves playing calmly on the Sea Organs built into the promenade we waited for the night to set in and uncover the amazing solar-powered public dance floor – a “Monument to the Sun” created by Nikola Basic. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like this before in my life and I truly believe that Zadar’s Sunset should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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If you are not the greatest fan of crowds you should definitely pick Southern Dalmatia out of all the other cities in Croatia. We have spent several days with born-and-raised Croatians and they all said the same exect thing to us: “never visit Dubrovnik in the summer” and “Zadar is so much better in summer than all the other cities, as it is not that filled with tourists”. Also, what they didn’t say, but I definitely noticed, was the price difference.

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Promenade, Sea Organs and the sun-powered dance floor are not the only great things to visit in Zadar. We have roamed the city quite thoroughly and seen various interesting sites, tried the amazing food and delicious beverages – including Gresavina – famous white wine from the region. Pro tip I have heard from an amazing artist who also provided us with loads of wine – don’t ever buy Croatian wine that’s more expensive than 30 kunas (5 euro) per 1 liter. I have obeyed by this rule vigorously and have to say, Gresavina (especially served with cooled sparkling water Jamnica) is delicious!

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City of Zadar represents a rather interesting mixture of old and new architecture. Blending effortlessly ultra contemporary installations, such as Sea Organs and the Monument to the Sun, with Roman-era fragments and Romanesque churches results from serious bombing in World War II, which forced officials to fill holes in old architecture with modern touches. Every step you take brings you closer to city’s historical heritage, just like visiting a very old, Romanesque bell tower, which interior seems taken straight from Indiana Jones movies. Neighbouring an original Roman forum it’s an amazing place to see the clash of era’s.

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Getting to know the city is very easy with many informational boards hanging around every corner. I was very pleased to see many signs translated into various languages, sometimes even including my own – Polish. It’s always a nice feeling to see signs of your own country wherever you go.

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What I also loved about Zadar? Its nightlife. Floret and I stationed ten kilometers from the city, so we never truly had a chance to experience the nightlife in its entirety, but we had a taste, while enjoying Gresavina and Aperol Spritz on the promenade. I loved spending time among Croatians (in Dubrovnik meeting Croatians in summer is nearly impossible), simply chilling and enjoying the weather, just like I would where I live. I felt more like part of the community, not a stranger, as I usually do while observing others.

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In terms of food, visiting any Konoba (traditional restaurant) with Pleskavica, Cevapcici and various sea food is a pleasure. With amazing interiors, delicious dishes and cold sparkling water, it is a lovely place to relax and regain energy for even longer sightseeing under the merciless Croatian sun. I loved devouring pizza (very common in Croatia, I don’t think I have ever seen so many pizzerias in one city!), looking at the ships passing us by, observing the regular life of people living in the Old Town.

With three airports nearby (Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar), various accommodation opportunities and great transport (both bus, train and ships), it’s one of the most convenient, beautiful and interesting destinations to visit in Europe. So, if you’re looking for a place to visit next year – make sure to take Zadar, the city of the most beautiful sunset in the world, into account.

Have any of you ever visited Zadar? Did you enjoy it as much as Floret and I did? Let me know in the comments!

Dorota

Stopping food waste and saving money – meal planning.

In my previous post titled “How to stop being broke” I have slightly brushed through the topic of money-saving by changing your diet and establishing a plan for shopping. I am myself not a very frugal person – I try, but I was never really thought how to save money, since I never had any – so I have some financial issues that need solving quite fast. Even though I may not be a saving expert, I consider myself a rather practical lad, hence I decided to start my saving adventure right about now. At 7 AM, in the morning, the day before the last exam in my entire life.

What I’ve found on YouTube and several other platforms are various posts considering shopping planning, meal optimization and other, that focused mainly on throwing out less leftovers. So not only am I gonna save money, but I’m also going to be more eco-friendly – great, let’s do it.

I started with giving myself a reason for why I should plan:

  1. The better you plan, the less you buy. Simple as that. If you think you’re not overspending on food look at what you bought recently and check how much of it you threw out. I had to get rid of many things this week – I bought too much and later, with all the events I attended, I didn’t have time to eat all of the food and had to throw it out (very bad Dorota, I know, I’m trying to be better).
  2. You improve your diet. If you plan a shopping list, drive to the shop, spend hours picking up all that you need, drive home, unpack everything, there is a very small chance you will go to McDonald’s later. That’s just it, the more effort we put into something, the more difficult it is for us to waste it.
  3. Reduce waste. I once heard a very interesting interview with a freegan living in Poland, who said that he doesn’t spend nor earn any money. He lives off food found in the trash or taken from supermarkets when it hits expiry date. Very noble indeed, and even though I did not agree with most of what he was saying (he lived in his friends apartment, for example, which means someone had to pay for it), I think the idea behind what he was doing was great. I’ve actually looked through the page of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and found some really bothering information. Did you know that food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people? 200 million people is just like more than half the population of the United States. If we reduce what we waste, by reducing what we buy, the market will adjust itself and produce less. The environment is going to thank us all for that. Let’s look up some UN statistics over here:

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Source: SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction by the UN.

I’m European and I feel ashamed we don’t respect what we have and waste such amounts. I think that’s enough of reasons to support, that meal planning is worth trying.

How I started?

With a rather basic concept in my head – what I can actually cook, what do my boyfriend Floret and I like to eat, is there something seasonal now that I can use which is cheaper than imported goods? I listed all my thoughts onto a piece of paper and moved from there.

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I prepared my plan – on an A4 sheet of technical paper I drew a table. I could buy one but I wanted to hand-craft something myself to try out some of my non-existent calligraphy skills which I gained by doing absolutely nothing ever with calligraphy, but I did get some special pens for a birthday gift (last October) and I think it’s time to try them out – even to write in my regular handwriting.

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As you can see I’m not an artist – duh! – but I tried to make it easy to understand and very clear. Almost all the dishes I chose for lunch and dinner are my home’s classics that we enjoy and are quite easy to prepare. I started out like that just because I’m not very used to planning everything in such detail (and none of my diets ever lasted longer than “until Tuesday”). I thought I will give it a slow start, just to make sure I don’t resign after couple of days. My main concern is that I work full-time from 7 am until usually 5 pm, so I have to eat lunch at work – hence it has to be prepared in a way that allows microwaving and also doesn’t make food taste like paper afterwards. I don’t necessarily eat breakfast at home either, actually I don’t remember the last time I did, so I might have to change that and start waking up a little bit earlier (I already suffer when I think of it, I will have to wake up earlier than 6 am!).

What I hope will keep me motivated is:

Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.

I have to visit UN’s site more often.

I made my plan include a shopping list – since the designed place I would hang it on was the Fridge (notice the “F”. Not a fridge, the Fridge) it made perfect sense to me. I tried to use blue colour mostly, because the only elements in my house that are not white or wooden are blue – so I made a food table to fit my couch – so tricky. Unfortunately the Fridge itself is for some reason black (and it also makes a noise that annoys everyone that stays over for a night on my couch), and I don’t own fancy magnets, so I had to improvise and give you a little preview of what my other posts might be about.

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Here it is, ready-to-go plan for meals. I hope I can handle doing everything as perfectly as I wrote there. I think what might be the most difficult part is lack of chocolate, or generally sweets, but I have to start getting my bikini body (haven’t worn a bikini since 2012, but ok) and finally get back to my weight from before I quit smoking.

I hope you will get inspired with all the meal planning and hop aboard my train to reduce waste. I made my first step towards being more conscious last night. I attended one of my friend’s bachelorette party and at the end the waiter asked if we want to take the remaining food (which was a lot) out. Naturally I said “yeah” and that’s how some of my friends have great Balkan food to eat for the rest of the weekend. Small step, but what matters is that it’s a step ahead.

I hope to let you know in a week how it went.

Let me know what you think about food wastage and meal planning. Do you plan yourself?

Dorota

 

How to stop being broke?

If you’re suffering from lack of money and are wondering why is it that some people always seem to have cash and you’re constantly broke, I think I might have a hint for you – you’re shopping inefficiently!

Please don’t tell me now other people have cash because they earn more. That is a misconception that grew into stereotype, when in reality the difference is: they’re frugal and you’re not. First example: me. I earn quite a lot of money for my age, but at the end of the month I struggle to be able to afford basic domestics. On the other hand, one of my best friends is an aspiring artist who seems to always have cash even though she earns a third of what I do. Since I noticed this phenomenon I became more aware of what I buy and how I manage my money. I hope this post is going to give you some ideas that might help you take care of your budget.

Disclaimer:

i suck at saving money

I really do suck at saving, I don’t think I ever had real savings my entire life. The following tips come from my personal experience, but I have yet to establish how to use them in a long run. Any tips?

  1. Buy only what you really need.

This goes for food, clothes, appliances, electronics and home decor – although if you really want to save money you don’t need anything else than food. Each time you think you need to buy something, immediately drink a glass of water, sit down and simply don’t do it. If you lived for a year without a dishwasher, and you struggle with cash, probably you don’t need the dishwasher that much. If your closet is full of clothes don’t buy another white t-shirt or jeans, rather keep your money for a time, when you’d be needing something important.

In case of food, I heard from various sources how you need a list of groceries to be sure you only buy necessities. That is true, I don’t usually go to the supermarket without a list either, but what you need to keep in mind is that even though you have one, you might still buy a lot of unnecessary items. Example: today I made a list of things I should buy for another three days. I folded it and put it in my purse, but just before I left I went to grab some water from the fridge and realised I listed a lot of things I already had! Hence, whenever you decide to go shopping look through your cupboards, fridge and refrigerator to learn what you really have there and maybe during that routine you might invent dishes that don’t need additional shopping – my favourite: spaghetti alio olio.

Another frugal thing I learned recently is to eat less meat. Meat is expensive – it deteriorates fast and you need to spend a lot of time to prepare it, plus you might feel bloated and tired from excess in your diet – shop smarter and more consciously.

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2. Find additional sources of income.

The best tip to not be broke is to earn more and from various sources. I work full-time for a company in Warsaw, but I also cooperate with other companies just to have additional source of income. If you can’t get another job, think about contacting your supervisor about a raise, or some additional benefits. Another way to do it is to get rid of the things you don’t need anymore, but other people may perceive useful – sell those off e-bay and save the money for later.

3. Look for small saving opportunities.

Don’t spend money on useless crap is more approriate for a title here, but it corresponds too much with point number one, so let me stay with the “look for small saving opportunities”. Generally, don’t spend money on… plastic bags – take some from home, gym membership cards if you’re too lazy to ever practice, paid applications on your iPad or phone – cause you don’t need any of it, even if you think you do, magazines and newspapers – use the Internet instead. Don’t buy bottled water if you have the same one or better in your tap, don’t buy fancy notebooks, pens etc. if you have a lot of them lying around your house. Don’t buy flowers, eat at restaurants, drink at pubs… generally live like a freaking monk for a while, but trust me, you will be rewarded. And, oh boy, it will be worth it!

4. Because the whole reason for saving up is to be able to spend it later on something totally worth it!

Keep your goal in mind and work towards it! If it’s a trip, renting a dream car (looking at you Floret), expensive camera or even paying up your debts. Work hard for it and you’ll finally achieve all your goals! Living life frugaly has to have a purpose, and collecting money is a crappy one, trust me. Money does not bring happiness, unless it’s a mean to achieve what you want. So buckle up on your adventure to whatever it is you need to save money for.

Btw. If anyone of you will tell me you don’t need to save money because you don’t have any debts, but in the same time you have mortgage on your house, credit or your balance on the credit card is not 0, than you are an idiot and you should save money cause you’re drowning in debt! If you are not in debt, you don’t owe money to ANYONE! Simple as that.

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Dorota