Rogoznica, a Dalmatian Sailing Gem North of Split

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Leading Croatian foodie club Gastronaut – a collection of gourmet journalists, restaurateurs and winemakers – gathered in the picturesque resort of Frapa Marina in Rogoznica on March 30, 2017, accompanied by TCN. It was quite a show. 

I will confess that I was a little nervous.

After 15 years of living on a Dalmatian island and loving it, our family made the decision to try something new and headed north to gorgeous Varazdin for a taste of continental Croatia and easy access to Zagreb and Central Europe. We had settled in really nicely and were really happy up north – a totally different way of life and one which suited our needs. There were lots of happy memories but no real pangs of regret or missing Dalmatia too much.

But Dalmatia will always grab you, for here is a region of unsurpassable beauty that – just like malaria – once it enters your blood, you can never quite get over it.

How would I feel going back three months after I had left? 

(Photo credit Croatia National Tourist Board)

If my mission was to visit Dalmatia and try not to love it, perhaps I should not have accepted an invitation to visit Rogoznica from the inspirational Karin Mimica from Gastronaut, who is famed for organising some of the best gourmet tours in Croatia, with the ability to fit in three days’ worth of fascinating programme into 24 hours. And so it proved again. Rogoznica and the Frapa Marina which was to be our host, seen from the air, with the Dragon’s Eye lake to the right (of which more later) – I could already feel my love returning. 

The end of March in Paradise.

Why would anyone move away from this to the colder climes of the north?

Frapa Marina was a first time visit for me. One of the most modern and best equipped marinas in Croatia, well sheltered from all winds in its deep bay, Frapa has 10 piers with 462 wet and 150 dry berths, with capacity to host yachts of over 40 metres. 

The Dalmatian sun was out in force, and coming from a place covered in snow just a few weeks ago, feeling that warm sunshine goodness on the skin reminded me what was so special about Dalmatia, especially at this time of year – the calm before the storm of the new season beginning. 

Divine. 

The marina itself if built on 136,000m2 of land, including an artificial island which is home to the marina reception. 

One of the things I love most about the Gastronaut gatherings, apart from the unfailingly fantastic programmes, is the fascinating fellow members from all corners of the Croatian gourmet industry. They are a very welcoming bunch to a foreigner whose Croatian language skills leave much to be desired, and I was grateful for a lift with Erdut winemaker Ivo Brzica, who proved to be very engaging company during the trip. This is how Croatian winemakers give interviews in an era where time is of the essence. Two things to mention about Ivo and his Erdut winery on the Danube – the most easterly part of Croatia – he is the only man in the region growing Vranac (and his cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Vranac was rather fabulous), and secondly, his homemade kulen (spicy Slavonian salami) was outstandanding. I salute you, Sir!

And so to the event itself. A welcome drink on the water by the dynamic trio of Karin Mimica from Gastronaut, Jure Mula, Marina Frapa director (left), and Rogoznica Tourist Board director, Marijo Mladinic, right.

One of the things I had been looking forward to most was visiting the legendary Dragon’s Cave, a quite extraordinary bar some 12 metres under the sea, located just metres from the marina reception.  

One of the coolest chill zones I have seen on the Dalmatian coast, with several rooms of different styles to enjoy.

Check out the VERY amateur video tour in the video above. 

Food, of course, is never very far from the Gastonaut agenda, and Marina Frapa put on quite a show. Meet Lorenzo, a Filipino teppanyaki chef, who cooks onions in the coolest way I have ever seen – and plays quite a tune with the salt and pepper pots. 

See what I mean in the video above, which was the starter before the starter before the main course. 

A gourmet tip from me. If sushi is on the menu and you are in a large group, choose a table with nobody on it, and hope nobody joins your table. Sushi for two. We were FULL and it was GREAT!

Not so fast, here comes the main course…

Cheese, oh cheese. As much as I love Paski sir, I do occasionally long for a little diversity, and this plate was heaven, with that little firecracker on the left, all covered in peppercorns, the absolute highlight of all. 

Especially with a glass of Ivan Dolac Plavac de Luxe 2010 to wash it down. Or was it two glasses?

And just when there really was no room for anything else, up pops a stonker of a dessert – waffles, covered in white and dark chocolate and topped with nuts. A very close second to my peppercorn cheese.  

The worst thing about Dalmatia is that as one perfect day ends, so another begins, and there is really never end to this perfect life. Time to head to the water.

I have never been a sailor, but it is hard not to be seduced by a few hours of this, above. 

I came to Rogoznica once before, three years ago, filming for a YouTube series called Legends of Croatia, and as we sailed with a rather agreeable glass of white, some old friends came into view.

 

The legend of St John of Trogir and Cape Planka, the point where the northern and southern Adriatic meet, and where some people can walk through water and build a chapel – watch the video above for more. 

Dalmatia in March. Isn’t she gorgeous?

For those who could manage after last night’s feast, some wonderful fishy snacks on board. Me, I was far too full, and I wanted to create some space for the Restaurant Atrium experience. 

Which was rather splendid indeed. I had never heard of cuttlefish bread before – but would like to again, soon – the perfect accompaniment to eel pate.

Followed by risotto.

And fish. 

And a LONG walk to try and lose some of the 43 kilos I put on in 24 hours of Karin’s company. A walk which revealed another pleasant Rogoznica discovery – wonderful beaches, literally 100m from the marina. Totally empty and with VERY inviting water. 

The marina itself has excellent and extensive entertainment facilities.

Including an adult entertainment centre, which certainly entertained the Gastronaut adults. 

A truly fabulous destination. And one with rather a dark legend…

Just metres from the marina is this beautiful lake called Dragon’s Eye, so-called because of its sulphurous bottom which erupts every 10-30 years, killing everything in the lake, one of only two known similar lakes in the world (the others being in Finland and China). Legend says it has something to do with three brothers, one of them blind, and an inherited piece of land.

As luck would have it, I was here a few years ago and witnessed a video reproduction of the legend, see above. 

What can I say? Rogoznica, and Dalmatia – you stole my heart again. I will choose to love you from afar, but we will meet again very soon. 

To learn more about Marina Frapa, click here

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