Hladno Pivo – Croatia’s Punk Rock Finest

If you’re like me you don’t like snow domes and kitschy spoons as souveneirs. You’d rather bring back something genuinely local from that place, like a CD, even if it’s never listened to. So what a surprise when it turns out to be pretty listenable. Hladno Pivo is Croatian for ‘cold beer‘. Like a lot of punkers, they’ve come from rock bottom (paricularly in the post war years) to doing pretty well for themselves. This 2006 CD ‘Knjiga Zalbe’ looks like no expense was spared in its packaging or production. So resting on their laurels a bit, this is not hard core skater punk, it’s a lot more polished than that. What Hladno Pivo are all about now is a more pop-punk tinged with blue collar acoustic ballads. Imagine Jimmy Barnes as a Croatian drunk and not a Scottish drunk. There’s a lot of pop punk riffage, and even the odd death metal departure. Bioloski sat even has some electric blues harp. Fortunately, it’s all cohesive and all sounds pretty good. If these guys weren’t so good, it would sound a lot worse. Although you can imagine a bunch of dissapointed Croat punkers longing for the old straight up punk stuff. And no I can’t understand a single word of Croatian. But this is still bloody enjoyable! And let’s face it you can’t get more punk rock than calling your band cold beer. On a completely separate note, the CD packaging itself mocks a Soviet complaint book. These are a communist artifact still mandatory in pubs and clubs in Croatia. Basically the owner of the place has his complaint...

Roman ruins in Pula

Was going through the photos of the Croatia trip and realised that we left out Pula. Pula is in Istria, north western Croatia, bordering on Slovenia. It’s a cute harbor city that has the sixth largest Roman Colosseum in the world – and a sight to behold at that. Especially the bay views through the Colosseum wall arches. This Colosseum was a far better experience that the world famous Roman one. It’s in much better shape and is still used today as a concert venue. Aside from the Colosseum, there’s a great archeology museum and a cosmopolitan city. Pula feels like there are a few more cultures represented and feels somewhat more assimilated than other cities. If you’re planning a trip, you could probably do Pula in a day or two. It’s a blindingly good drive from Opatija too! Heaps of twisty mountain roads for the more adventurous...

General tips for travelling to Croatia

Why would I go there? Something for everyone and by European standards, it’s still quite cheap. But really it’s because of the untouched beauty. It may seem like they haven’t built anything in 50 years, but the place is just manifest with great beaches, diving, pristine water, you name it. Hvar and Zadar are the places for parties. But we went in shoulder season when it’s absolutely dead! For nerdy types, there’s plenty of archaeology, roman ruins, museums, churches, art, culture. Most towns, especially Hvar, Rovinj and Korcula are very big on art too. What’s the weather like? Bloody hot actually. You will get burnt in the sun. Those of you from Australia will know that other countries can get hot, but you don’t get sunburnt. You will in Croatia, so take care. How much money do you need? Including B&B accommodation perhaps 600 to 800 Kuna (say $150-200 AUD) per day if you’re travelling as a couple. More if you’re drinking! Less if you’re staying in backpackers. A decent restaurant lunch with beer for two would cost well under 200 Kuna (approx $45). Dinner a little more, maybe 250 Kuna. If you went to a supermarket and bought some sandwich meat, bread rolls and fruit, you may spend about 60 Kuna ($15 AUD). A slice of pizza (you can get that anywhere) and a drink would be about 20 Kuna. You will tire of pizza very quickly. In Zagreb, you can get a quarter of a pizza for 9 Kuna from the bakeries! Very tasty! Spirits and mixed drinks are a bit more expensive. Perhaps 30 Kuna a...

In Zagreb Aussie Rules OK

As my travelling companion just crudely retorted, no im not the slightest bit interested in footy at home – PERIOD. When im overseas however, it pulls on my little ocker heart strings. Yesterday wamdering around the Croatian capital of Zagreb we found an expat pub called the Old Pharmacy Pub. We popped into check it out and they had what appeared to be something from the Hawthorn Hawks footy team on the walls. Au Contraire. It was the Zagreb Hawks footy team, playing in the local Aussie Rules leagues. Locals would be handy at the game too. They come in two sizes. Five foot five and stocky, or big and built like a brick supermarket. Chuck in a crazy war vet and I reckon youd have a quality game of footy id happilly watch. Not like that contrived crap they syndicate at...

Wandering through Zagreb

As the trip nears to an end, we find ourselves in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. It’s the kind of city that you get when you have a communist hangover but you’re rapidly getting drunk from a big cask of cheap capitalist wine at the same time. In other words, it’s quickly gentrifying. It feels like in ten years time, it will be a completely different, totally repainted city in the glow of bling, chintz and neon light. But there’s still plenty of sleaze and greyness to go around. There’s many great things to say about Zagreb. The shopping is pretty good, evident in the women who are really fashionable and evidently good looking. It’s like they’re catching up on all those years in Soviet (well communist) darkness. There seems to be a bit of nightlife (too knackered at the end of a day of walking to find out). My traveling companion has had no trouble finding good fashion. For me, I’ve found some awesome music stores here – even some heavy metal stores. Guide books tell you that there are some expensive restaurants here even by London standards. Sadly we’ve had our fill. Nothing to report on there. The food we have tried is good, heaps of truffles around too, but nothing to write home about except for some fantastic pizza slices in the main Square. Rovinj, Istria and all the really small islands like Mijet is where the great food is really at. On the bizarre side, every day at noon, they fire a canon out of a tower window so people can set their watches to...

Seat Ibiza Review

For the past 1500 kilometres, ive been schlepping a Seat Ibiza from Central Croatia (Split) to the Istrian coast in the north. It’s been a heady mix of hair pins and B roads to autobahn style freeways with very liberal speed limits. Cut a long story short, it really is a bit meat and three veg. What you can definitely say about the Seat it is a well built car. The panel fit is superb. Inside the quality of fabrics and plastics never fails to impress. For those long journeys, the roof is high and seating position near perfect. So there is some quality and purposeful design at work here. Frankly miles more comfortable on the highway to drive than the old BA Falcon I had. As lame as it may sound, the mirror placement in the car is perfect. And that’s important at some of the speeds we’ve been doing to keep up with well heeled Croats on the highways. A trivial accolate, but what the hey! When it comes to safety and features though, the car is sadly lacking. No traction control (though it really doesn’t need it) or stability control. While it doesn’t have many buttons and knobs, there are no filled in holes in the dash where the buttons on more luxurious models would go. It makes you wonder whether they even thought of those little luxuries, even more than one cup holder, at all. Clearly not. To drive, the Volkswagen sourced 1.4 four has a lot of poke in the middle to upper range. Down low, you cant hear it rev below 2000 revs....