Writing for Fodor’s is somewhere in between being a celebrity with all imaginable needs being taken care of and then a poor, rejected nuisance.
The Proper Croatia team recently revised the entire Slovenia guide for Fodor’s Travel (available on the web) and a solid portion of the Fodor’s Croatia 2015 guidebook. Based on our recommendations, some of our trusted travel-writing partners were contracted for other regions.
So, what’s the process like? In short, we research, set up meetings, travel, eat, enjoy, hooray! Then write and update. Fodor’s doesn’t arrange meetings or reservations, so the legwork was a big part of the assignment. And as easy as it sounds, it wasn’t always as simple as making a few reservations here and there and wining and dining around town. For one, Fodor’s doesn’t pay for any travel or dining expenses. This meant that we were often at the mercy of free handouts or on our own dime. And the free hand outs can be a bit of a double-edged sword when you are less than impressed with a place. Fortunately, most entrepreneurial hoteliers and restaurateurs were savvy enough to recognize the Fodor brand, and eager to have us as guests. As for compensation, if you include all of the fancy meals, tours, and boutique accommodation costs, plus the writing and updating fee, writing for Fodor’s is a damn good job with incredible perks. We started to feel like we were on a honeymoon every weekend! On the other hand, on those few occasions when reservations were not possible and remaining incognito was preferable, writing for Fodor’s would easily put you in debt after the first few hotels and restaurants.
To be frank, the special treatment we received was, at times, absolutely absurd. Of course, we relished in the extra attention but we were all very careful not to abuse our privileges. That said, each of us had dining and traveling adventures that will go down in our personal travel journals as quite memorable. One of the more exciting aspects of being a Travel Writer for Fodor’s was experiencing the different ways people articulate their hospitality.
For example, Nebesa, (translated as Heaven) is a four-chalet specialty accommodation located at a former ski resort in the Slovenian Julian Alps. The views are breathtaking and the entire landscape including the property, radiate serenity. The four cabins are both altruistic and artistic in their simplicity, and yet very intimate. (Photographed above) In the basement they have a magical room that showcases hospitality at it’s finest. It was stocked with local epicurean delicacies that were free for guests to indulge. As we marveled at the prosciutto leg and selection of locally harvested dried fruits, another guest was casually slicing off a huge hunk of domestic cheese for their afternoon walk. We asked the owners, Bojan and Katja, why the cheese was pink, and they explained how the color of the cheese depended on what the cows had been feeding on during the season. Talk about happy cows!!
In southern Dalmatia we were overcome by how sophisticated and evolved the dining scene in Split has become. Split may be the second city of Croatia, but she really gives Zagreb a good run for her money in terms of quality and versatile places to eat. A nice new find was Ista Kebab and Meze bar, totally off the beaten path and totally authentic, not to mention totally vegetarian friendly, and totally affordable. It’s a tight squeeze finding a seat as they only have a few tables, but it was well worth the wait. The bean and tomato dip with coriander and cucumber yogurt salad are a refreshing change from the regular Croatian fare. And despite not being big milk drinkers, we could not help but try the salep, warm milk spiced with orchid flowers. Kids would loved it. The young Turkish-Croatian couple that own the place even offer the first Halal meat known in these parts.
Did we mention that there are three top-notch sushi places in Split? This is a very funny thing because Croatians generally do not eat sushi despite having access to some of the cleanest and freshest fish in the world. When sushi is on offer in Croatia, it is mostly done as an attraction at a Thai or Asian restaurant. But in Split, this is not the case. Tucked away in the ‘Gett’ (short for ghetto which is the word locals use to refer to the neighborhood located inside the palace walls), is Adriatic Oyster and Sushi bar. Here they also offer prosciutto for non-fish eaters, and a very well researched wine list particularly for seafood pairing.
As travel writers, we have to admit that we were surprised also to learn that donkey is a delicacy and that it is not so bad, if you have it the way they prepare it at Café/Bistro No Stress located on the main square and perfect for people watching. Another surprising delicacy that felt required to taste was sheep liver risotto. The chef from Heritage Vila Apolon in Stari Grad on Hvar explained to us that the trick to cooking liver is to be very gentle with it, and cook it slowly. Four hours is the minimum amount of time, a certain guarantee that none of us will be cooking up liver anytime soon. It was surprisingly tasty and we would highly recommend adventurous diners to try it.
Fodor’s is a food-focused guidebook for all price ranges but tends towards the high end. Being food lovers ourselves, we relished in being able to check out ALL of the new foodie hotspots as well as trusted restaurants in the far-fetched areas. Our experiences inspired us to develop a way that we could share these experiences with you.
In spring of 2015 we will launch our first Gastro Tour “From the Adriatic to the Alps”. We will guide small groups on a seven-day food journey from the Western Adriatic to the Julian Alps and uncover the gastronomic and cultural treasures of Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. We are pretty excited at Proper Croatia about bringing our guests into closer community with the three very distinct, yet geographically connected food regions of Istria Croatia, western Slovenia, and northeastern Italy.
We will take you on the undiscovered bicycle paths that locals use to collect truffles in the hills of Istria, and sample the freshest Adriatic fish hours after it has been caught. We will sip the best wines and olive oils of Istria and get to know the personalities and passions behind the producers. We will take respite near Slovenian alpine pastures, and tour a cheese basement, an Italian dairy farm, and two UNESCO World Heritage sites and sleep in a spectacularly renovated 400 year-old castle. We will let the fresh alpine air inspire us into working up a hearty mountaineer’s appetite before we sit down to sample the creative culinary work of Slovenia’s top chefs and wine makers.
At Proper Croatia we believe our role is to create a cultural encounter between food and people that makes a lasting impression. We also know that means much more than organizing a list of fantastic Adriatic and Alpine places to eat and sleep. We have carefully combed the back roads, and the most recognized gastro destinations in our region to find authentic connections between people and food, history and culture and tradition and trends, so that we can bring them to the table with you to create an experience of a lifetime. Join us on this unique journey to discover the Alpine-Adriatic gastronomic treasures that world-renowned food lovers have just started to notice.
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