Monday

27th Feb 2017

Looking for cocktails in Croatia

The Croatian daily paper Jutarnji List sent me on a long trip throughout Croatia, as an incognito tourist, under strict instruction to sample the local specialities and hospitality and to be ruthless if I find that part of the country's reputation for high quality tourism is overdone, or unmerited.

Well, ruthless I am. From the start, I found that they are not very good at making cocktails, especially in Rovinj, on the Istrian coast, which has a reputation inside Croatia for being a kind of cocktail capital. One would think that it doesn't take much to make a Margarita cocktail. You throw into a shaker some tequila, a drop of triple sec and limejuice… you shake…. Or you can even dispense with the shaker... Just rub some salt on the glass rim.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Pula - James Joyce gave it a bad press a hundred years ago (Photo: European Commission)

Still, what a frustrating experience to arrive in Rovinj, after half a day of travelling by bus from Zagreb, and to drink a flat, warm Margarita. Let's see: at 45 kune (6 euros), the Margarita cocktail, at the Havana bar, on the Rovinj docks, close to a seafood restaurant bizarrely named Bavaria, manages to be both bland and tepid. Damn, it's my first day of real holiday in Croatia and I wanted it to be something of a festive experience.

Getting to Rovinj was tough. I had been taken to the bus station in Zagreb by a bandit taxi-driver, who, after asking for a bandit price in a bandit tone, suggested that I give him something extra "for tea," although his big red nose singled him out as a drinker of something much more substantial.

But back to the warm Margarita! I leave the Havana bar very disappointed and head for the old town on the island. (Rovinj was an island and this is still visible). At the Monte Carlo bar, I get another warm Margarita for 5 more kune (50 kune, probably because the glass is a little bit cooler), called here Margherita, like the pizza. At the Valentino bar, the same Margarita costs a staggering 70 kune, that's 10 euros, but you can drink it on the stones, with your legs in the water...

The severe and tattooed matrons who run the place come and mop up after every guest who emerges from the water onto the stones. Nothing personal, they say, it's just that the stones become slippery afterwards. Half naked people sip cocktails staring at passing boats. The whole Valentino thing is a nice mixture of old communist-style rigour and contemporary tolerance.

What's more, the ladies even bring receipts for every cocktail, presenting them to the unclad guests. I also realise with horror that in some restaurants there is a "couvert" surcharge of 49 kune for the use of the cutlery, which is something that tourists always hate. Forty-nine kune, that‘s the price of a cocktail!… Perhaps they wash their cutlery in cocktails.

After two days in Rovinj, I can barely wait to run to Pula. I'm a real Joyce aficionado, yes, I love the unreadable James Joyce, the one with the eye patch and the monstrously complex prose. He stayed in Pula for half a year, almost one hundred years ago, and he taught English to Austro-Hungarian naval officers (among them the future admiral Horthy, the war-time Hungarian dictator, who was to keep his title of admiral long after he could only navigate on the Balaton lake).

It was in Pula that Joyce wrote the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the book that practically created modern literature. Still, what did he have to say about Pula? A "naval Siberia," he said. And about Istria? Well: "Istria is a boring place wedged into the Adriatic, peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear red caps and colossal breeches."

I regret the absence of the red caps, although I spot a couple of colossal breeches, wrapped around some beer bellies. And there he is, my dear Joyce… His bronze statue at the terrace Uliks (well, Ulysses, yes, like the novel)… No, the nice waitress has not read "Uliks". Strange, I thought it would be required reading for working in such a place. And they serve a cocktail Joyce (with cherry liqueur and Martini Bianco), and even a cocktail Nora, after the name of Joyce's horrible wife!... Nora: Baileys, coffee liqueur, cream… disgusting. But I have to have it before embarking on a further trip. Some "Ulysses" indeed!

Agenda

EU tackles CO2 threat This WEEK

EU states will haggle over the reform of a carbon trade system, while MEPs vote on overhauling EU car emissions oversight.

Column / Health Matters

The yin and yang of Chinese medicine

Can traditional Chinese medicine help the modern European patient? Malta thinks so, in a new agreement with China.

Agenda

EU tackles CO2 threat This WEEK

EU states will haggle over the reform of a carbon trade system, while MEPs vote on overhauling EU car emissions oversight.

News in Brief

  1. Trump and Brexit drew on same resources
  2. Romanian protestors form EU flag at anti-government rally
  3. Over 3,500 attacks on refugees in Germany: report
  4. Merger of London and Berlin stock exchanges in doubt
  5. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  6. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  7. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  8. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  2. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  4. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  5. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  6. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  7. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  8. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  9. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market