JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ELENA CUPIC FROM KONAVLE, CROATIA !
Elena is a photography enthusiast from Konavle. After living 10 years in Zadar (Croatia) and Paris (France) she came back home only to fall in love with her home region even more than before. As a traveler she likes to hang out with locals and appreciates good local advice, so she found this project as a perfect opportunity to introduce travelers with her home. As a lover of wine, good food, adventure and people she believe she truly embraces the spirit from this area. Even though, she is not professional tour guide, she has worked in tourism for years and is more than happy to share some insider tips with us.
Konavle, an underrated region of Croatia, lies on its southernmost tip. It has a rocky coast between Cavtat and Montenegrin in the south while it is mountainous in the north, bordered by Bosnia & Herzegovina. Konavle comprises of twenty villages most important being Cavtat, Cilipi, Popovici, Ljuta, Gruda and Molunat. Gruda is the administrative capital of Konavle.
Konavle is a perfect combination of nature, tradition and history blended into one with a backdrop of Adriatic coast. It is a beautiful region with abundance of cypress and pine trees and a bucolic setting. Enjoy its fine Mediterranean cuisine and uniquely made silk which is its regional identity. From Dubrovnik you can easily reach Cavtat, the most popular town and only tourist resort of Konavle.
As a local, why do you think one must visit Dubrovnik’s Konavle valley countryside?
Konavle is located in the very south of Croatia. The name of this southernmost region comes from the word konali, ie canals, which, in turn, comes from the Latin word canale, canalis, and refers to the water supply system which in Roman times brought water from a spring in the village of Vodavađe to today’s Cavtat. Only half an hour away from Dubrovnik, Konavle offers a special atmosphere; the unusual combination of hills, fields and sea makes this region interesting to visit.
What is the best time to visit the region?
The best time to travel is from early April to mid-October. The region is under a typical Mediterranean climate. Spring is the best time to explore the hilly part and to do sport activities while summer is an ideal period to explore the beaches and enjoy the sea side.
How to get to the region from Dubrovnik? Would you recommend renting a car in Dubrovnik for easy travel or public transport does the job?
If you travel by plane, you will land at Dubrovnik Airport which is in Čilipi, which is located in Konavle. The airport is just 5km from Cavtat, the picturesque town of Konavle region. You can get to Cavtat by ferry also. The Dubrovnik port is also connected by ferry lines coming from other Croatian ports.
You can rent a car at the airport and for me it is the best option as far as you want to explore the whole region. Public transport, although poor, can take you to most of the villages in which you are located. The problem is that buses run only three times a day. Basically, that means you’ll sometimes have to wait more than 6 hours until the next bus. As the terrain is uneven, which means a lot of uphills and downhills, bicycles are only possible if you are in top shape. In conclude, for a complete experience I definitely recommend the car.
With only a few accommodation available in the region, any suggestions on where to stay?
In fact, there are a lot of private accommodation options. There are several hotels in Cavtat, one in Cilipi, but throughout the region you can find private accommodation as apartments, guest houses and holiday villas. Two camps are located in Molunat, so it really shouldn’t be hard to find accommodation. Extra cool idea: tree houses. They are located within the adrenaline park Cadmos village near village Komajima.
What are the top must visit places in the Konavle region?
Cavtat (pronounced tsav – tat) : Cavtat is a town of special charm – small, coastal, quiet. It is the only town in the Konavle area. It was inhabited in the time of the ancient Greeks when it was called Epidarum, only to be renamed Epidaurus by the Romans. Natural beauty and gastronomic offer make it especially attractive.
Mausoleum of the Račić family : Mausoleum is located in Cavtat, on the highest point of Rat Peninsula. It was made by great Croatian sculpurist Ivan Mestrović. In 1925, Meštrović won the Grand Prix for this performance at the International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris.
Sokol grad : First mentioned in 1391, and abandoned in 1670, today Kula is a tourist attraction and a source of information about former life.
Molunat : Molunat is a small fishing village in the south of Croatia. The area of Molunat is ecologically preserved nature with numerous species of Mediterranean medicinal plants, an excitingly indented coast of bays, peninsulas and two shoals.
Pasjača : One of the most famous beaches in Croatia is located below the village of Popovići. It is located on the cliffs of Konavle, so you have to go down a path along the cliff to reach it. The crystal clear sea makes it especially attractive. For a special rest, it is good to know that even the network signal does not reach it. Tip: wait for the sunset because the climb can be difficult in high sun.
Known for its vineyards and special wine Dubrovnik Malvasia, which are the best vineyards and wineries in the area that tourists must visit?
There are few wines and wine varieties that have a history and history like Malvasia Dubrovnik. It is a precious wine of the Republic of Dubrovnik, about which there are numerous documents in the local archives that are 600 years old. The people of Dubrovnik treated only the greatest friends and the greatest enemies with the Malvasia of Dubrovnik.
The first mention of this wine is in the archives from 1383, when the envoy of the Bosnian king asked permission from the Grand Council of the Republic of Dubrovnik to buy a barrel of Malvasia.
The fame and life of the Malvasia of Dubrovnik lasted for centuries, and then in the middle and at the end of the last century it almost disappeared from the vineyards of Konavle. She was too tender, too premature, too sensitive to disease, and gave a few grapes on the vine. She was rescued at the last minute.
The famous Konavle winemaker Andro Crvik was the first to plant a large amount of Malvasia in recent times in 1996, in the village of Komajima. One of the best Malvasias, called Tezoro (which is the local dialect for the word treasure) you can try right in that winery. In addition to the classic version, there is also an orange version of Blasius.
Another winemaker, Božo Metković, who is called the most southern Croatian winemaker, because he creates on the border with Montenegro, makes wonderful Malvasia. If you find yourself in Molunut, be sure to stop by the restaurant within the Monika camp.
Personally, my favorite Malvasia comes from Karaman Winery. It should be noted that the owner Niko Karaman also participated in the renewal of this traditional wine variety in 2002. Definitely worth a visit to this winery in the village of Pridvorje. A small note: the academic painter Antonija Rusković Radonić also participated in the decorations of the wine room.
Why all these wines picked up numerous awards, try it yourself.
What adventurous activities can one indulge in when in the region ?
If you like outdoor and active holidays, Konavle is the right place for you.
One of my favorite activities is definitely hiking to the Sniježnica mountain, the highest peak in the region, 1234 meters high. It takes an average of three hours to reach the top. This activity is ideal for spring, while in summer it can be too hot. It is important to point out the danger of poisonous snake viper.
If you like hiking, there are also a few hiking paths. Especially interesting is the Ćiro route, a railways used by the popular train between Sarajevo and Zelenika.
A cool idea is to ride a bike. There are several marked routes, of which I especially like the one that goes almost the entire length of the Konavle field (route Čilipi-Gruda-Ljuta-Pridvorje). It is about 25 kilometers long and the ride takes about 2.5 hours. However, if you want to explore on your own, you can, it is safe as long as you are not cycling on the main road Magistrala.
For a horse riding experience you can visit the Kojan Koral, a ridding centar. Kojan koral organize half-day riding tours. For those who are more adventurous, they also offer ATV vehicles tours (driver’s licence not required).
For even more adventure, you can find two adrenaline parks, Cadmos village and Adrenalin Park St. Anna. If you come with friends and family, paintball is a great idea for lots of fun. Wrestling in a sumo suit too.
To go deeper underground visit Đurović cave, located next to the airport Čilipi.
On the sea side, don’t skip scuba diving. In the seabed around Cavtat you some of the richest ancient sites in the whole Mediterrian sea.
Can you give us an insight into the local cultural scene of the region?
One part of the traditional culture is the hand-made creation of Konavle embroidery or Konavoski vez. Initially, the Konavle embroidery was used to decorate women’s national costume. Special attention was paid to the decoration of the sleeves and bust. Each family in Konavle had their own nest of silk worms from which they would extract silk thread. Silk therads were dyed with natual colors. The women made ornaments in red, gold, black and green. Even today, these colors are found on the decorations of Konavle embroidery. Over time, the decorations also moved to decorative elements such as tablecloths, cup sets, pillows, but also fashion accessories such as dresses and handbags.
Every Sunday in front of the main church in Čilipi there is a performance of folklore dancing at which you will see the dancers wearing this embroidery on national costume. Konavle national costume is one of the most famous national costumes know for it’s silk embroidery.
Note: Although the same in basic elements (chest and cuff decorations, accentuated waist, length to the ankle, head covering), the Konavle national costume spoke in detail about the property, and especially the social status of women (girl, married woman, widow).
Folklore dancing is another part of tradition which is still alive in modern life. Don’t miss oportunity to see it after Sunday Mass (mass starts at 11:15h) and to enjoy several traditional dances like Potkolo, Linđo, Čičak and wedding ceremony. Very traditional and fun part of wedding ceremony is Zdravica. That’s the part where the host of the event congratulates to the bride and groom and prays to God for success and happiness in the life to come. The guests all stand with a glass in their hands and actively participate in Zdravica.
If you want to know more, you can visit The County Museum of Konavle in Čilipi (next to the church) or The Gallery of Miho Šiša Konavljanin in Mihanići. Miho Šiša Konavljanin was a famous painter from the region and one of the most accurate chroniclers and custodians of the ethnologic wealth of the people and the land of Konavle.
Another famous painter from the region was Vlaho Bukovac. Bukovac is the founder and main representative of Croatian modernism and is one of the most prolific Croatian painters. He is especially known and recognized for his portraits. You can pay visit to Bukovac’s chieldhood home in Cavtat.
Please tell us something about the local cuisine of the region and the must try dishes there? Which are the popular places to try them?
Konavle cuisine mainly consists of dishes based on naturally grown vegetables, lentils and meat, simply prepared in the traditional way without excessive decorations.
The famous Konavle restaurants offer meat specialties made of lamb or goat made peka style. It is a traditional way of roasting meat under an iron bell on the fire, in order for the meat to retain its natural taste and smell. Favorite specialty is Zelena menestra. There are records of this dish from 1580, and even today it is prepared according to the original recipe from that time. It’s a dish made with two different kind of cabbage and dried pork meat. It usually served during the winter time, but it’s delicious all year long.
Virgin olive oil, which is made according to the traditional recipe on farms, also occupies a special place on the rich Konavle tables. Olives are picked by hand, and the best fruits are extracted, which after the cold pressing process become first-class oils, which are characterized by a specific taste, color and aroma. These first-class oils are responsible for another specialty of this region – cheese from oil, which is served with homemade prosciutto. Don’t skip homemade bread as well.
My personal favorite is restaurant Konavoski dvori. Located on the river Ljuta and founded in 1968. , this year Konavoski dvori became the first Croatian ecologically sustainable restaurant.
The status of “eco-green restaurant” refers to restaurants that care about sustainable development and their activities contribute to the protection of nature and the environment. This primarily refers to the use of organic foods in food preparation, the use of renewable energy sources (sun, water, air), the use of sustainable building materials and environmentally friendly mobile equipment, efficient use of water, reduction of waste and pollution and the use of environmentally friendly means. This project is special even more, because the restaurant is located in an area of protected cultural property – part of the cultural and natural heritage of Konavle – as well as a protected natural landscape.
Definitely worth of visit.
Are there any popular weekend/ flea markets in the region which tourists must visit? Any local crafts or souvenirs that one must collect from there?
There is a market just in front the Church of St. Nicolas in Čilipi on Sunday. It’s great oportunity to see tradiotional dances (folklor), to taste some wine and local liquors and to purche some Konavle embroidery. You pick some wine, olive oile or decoration with embroidery – there are all great souvenirs.
As a local do you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to Konavle?
Get ready for an active vacation because there is really a lot to explore. And talk to the locals. Locals are the best part! Although older people do not know English best, most of them speak at least one foreign language, most often Italian. But even without language, they are ready to help you or share their stories with you. People like to hang out here. Go to a local fest, even if you don’t know what to do there, grab a gemišt (made with white wine and gas water) or bevanda (made with wine and still water) and enjoy the cacophony!
I would like to emphasize that in this text I have listed only a part of the wealth that the Konavle have to offer – don’t be afraid to get lost and explore on your own.
THINGS TO KNOW :
Nearby Places to Visit : Dubrovnik, Korčula, Mljet, the River Neretva Delta, the Elafiti Islands, the Pelješac Wine Road, Trsteno, Ston Međugorje and many more!
Nearby Countries to Visit : Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO KONAVLE OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ELENA’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM
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To know more about Croatia, check our interviews with locals of Pag Island, Senj and Sibenik.