Trogir off season
9 Interesting Things I Discovered About Trogir (and Myself) in the Off Season
I’m not your typical tourist. I’m not even really a tourist. I don’t even know if I qualify as a even “traveler” in the true sense of the word.
Reason #1: I earn as a go as a “location independent” entrepreneur/freelancer, so this has meant that I have been on a tight budget. Even as I start making more income, I’m still not in a position to spend the kind of money that is typical for a tourist on a holiday.
Reason #2 I am not a typical tourist in the sense that I have chosen to make the “Balkan region” my home, and spend time between living in Croatia, Bosnia i Herzegovina and Serbia. This means that I typically can stay legally only for 90 days in each place. This isn’t long enough to be considered a resident, but yet it is much longer than a typical tourist stay.
Reason #3: I don’t “do” high season travel. In fact, I actively seek out OFF season places to call home. (although I cheat a little bit and try to get in some late-season time near the sea when I can)
I’ve spent Christmas on the east side of Mostar, Winter in Dalmatia, and summers in Northern Europe in order to stick to my budget and avoid crowds, which I despise.
Thus, you won’t get a “top 10 restaurants to visit” listicle from me. It’s just not my style. But the truth is:
I love Dalmatia in the winter. It’s clean, refreshing air and a touch of “bura” wind is exactly what I needed after being in “wood-smoky” Mostar last autumn.
So here’s my list of 9 interesting things about off-season Trogir, as someone who had an opportunity to spend the winter months there.
I’m including not just the “shiny touristy things” ..but also everyday life, a few things that are quirky, and a few things you may want to avoid.
Note: I admit I don’t know a thing about boats. Yet.
1. I cannot function without a kitchen in Dalmatia. Most of Dalmatia is closed during the winter. You may have to walk to the local Ribola or Tommy or the Konzum in the city center. Having a kitchen or place to cook is essential.
Is this a dealbreaker for me? Not at all. However, I did make the mistake of not having a kitchen and being too dependent on bread, pršut, and someone else’s cooking, which although fantastic, wasn’t great for my health. I prefer simple cooking, clean healthy food, and having control over what I eat. (And this is exactly why I’m a fan of learning about healthy Croatian cooking when I’m in Trogir!)
The good part: There is a year-round market so finding fresh food (produce and meat and fish) isn’t a problem. The restaurants and cafes are not crowded, so if that’s your thing, winter is a good time to enjoy eating out.
For an introvert who needs a place to work and who speaks (passable) Croatian, an (almost) empty cafe is a great way to get out of the flat and get some work done, and perhaps naturally interact a bit with locals if the stars are aligned that day, or at least no “jugo” (yoog) wind is blowing.
There IS a great place to grab lunch near the market in Trogir. It’s cheap and features real home-cooking. Count me in!
I can’t speak for all “digital nomads” but I really, truly, DO appreciate anything that feels like home.. for many of us, it’s not about anything fancy, but simple things like a comfy bed, friendly, genuine people, a cozy vibe, or some real home cooking.
2. An Old City, almost ALL to yourself! If you think getting “lost” in an old city is fun, try doing in when it’s NOT about getting lost in a wall of people wandering around eating ice cream. A totally different experience. (I’m talking to you, Dubrovnik and Hvar, as much as I love you…)
And then there is the old castle. Now that I’ve seen this place on a dark and moody winter Dalmatian day, as well as a perfect sunny day, I feel like I truly began to get a feel for the essence of the place.
It felt as if I was on a movie set, waiting for extras to appear on horseback at any moment.
3. Trogir Off season = cement season? This to me falls under the category of “quirky.” I have a joke with a dear friend in Hvar that there are 2 seasons: tourist season and “cement” or construction season.
Don’t let this scare you. You may see some scaffolding and some remodeling work being done in your neighborhood, but it’s not so much that it affects the beauty of Trogir and Ciovo. It’s also not uncommon to see about 6 cement trucks per day, but we are not talking about urban volumes of traffic here either. I walked to Tommy frequently, along the beach, and could not believe how quiet it was.
Side note: Croatians are the safest drivers by far of all the drivers I have seen in Southern Europe, which is good, because you will likely get a lot of walking in if you stay in Trogir any time of year.
Keep in mind that construction and remodeling is an important aspect of business for the vacation rental industry, so I wasn’t inclined to complain, given the off-season price. when I’m one of the locals I don’t mind assimilating to the rhythm or the “flow.”
4. As a nomad, I often experience best and the worst of both worlds (tourist and resident) Staying in Trogir for a few months meant that I had a great place to call home while working.
I had to pinch myself that I could afford to live so close to the sea and to have the opportunity to take work breaks several times a day. This would not be likely to happen in the U.S.
On the other hand, you do need to be mindful. It’s easy to let your guard down and get charged 2 times as much for produce at the market, or 5 times as much for an off-season rental flat because you are not a local. It’s also easy to not be aware of the cost of heating in Dalmatia, which is notoriously inefficient and expensive.
This can be tricky territory, but again, just ask a trusted local where and who to buy from and what to avoid. Learn a few key phrases. Bring a native speaker with you if you are renting a flat.
Be sure to budget for heating.. you may swear up and down that you will save money and live like a Spartan.. I mean.. look at the palm trees.. how can heating be so expensive? Hahahaha! But when that Bura blows.. you will break down and turn on the heat.
You are also likely to get a taste of the infamous Croatian bureaucracy at some point when you stay longer.. but that’s another story!
5.Walking. Some will say that you need a car in order to live in Trogir or on the island of Ciovo. Some just say that Uber is the old standby option. For me, I’m ok with public transportation and walking.
I’m on my laptop a LOT. Sitting. So by design, Trogir works for me. I was about 2 km. from the city itself., and lived on a hill. This kept me, I imagine, from gaining a ton of weight. It’s also a great way to relax and reflect, which made me more productive and able to enjoy life more.
Seriously. When your daily walk to the grocery store is actually almost 90% on the special kind of “wild beach” that is characteristic of Croatia, a port/harbor, and an old city with a castle, who can complain?
However, for “business errands” this probably means that you will be making trips to Split, at least every week or so. (Just like a local!) It’s not difficult to either catch a ride or hop on the #37 bus to Split.
6. Watching the planes land in Split airport. I’m not sure how to categorize this: an attraction, a quirk.. or perhaps even an annoyance on the days helicopters are active. I rather enjoyed it. I grew up near a major airport in Chicago, on a major flight path, Although I admit to being fascinated by aviation and could watch planes all day.. it really was different. Air traffic never broke the peaceful atmosphere for me. Watching a small Croatia Air jet take off in a graceful arc towards the mountains behind Split, or the occasional landing approach over the Riva in Trogir, was a treat.
7. An Altered Perception of Time. For some reason, I think Dalmatia runs on a different clock. Everything seemed like it took longer to accomplish, but I also learned to not feel as rushed. I remember the day when a friend and I managed to find an apartment in Trogir, run an errand to Omiš, make a few stops in Split, and STILL have time for a leisurely lunch and coffee. I think time IS actually SLOWED down, but I don’t know if I can prove it via any physics equation.
In the end, I get about the same amount done in Dalmatia as I did in the U.S. I’m intrigued by this and would probably experience some major reverse culture shock if I were to return any time soon.
8. Peace, quiet, and Being an introvert: (To clarify: introvert does NOT mean I am not well-adjusted or averse to people.. just that I need a lot of alone time.) Trogir is like many other small towns. On one hand, it’s quiet and clean and peaceful. The people really are “laid back.” You can feel the slower pace and the stress melting away.
On the other hand… if you are an American living in a small village in Dalmatia, the word gets around. If you want to crawl outside of your “work cave” to run to grab some food at the local market after spending most of the day in your pajamas and not bothering with hair or makeup.. well, of course this means you will run into a neighbor… and that they will want to start talking to you.
Do what celebs do and bring a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses. Or go ahead and put on some nice clothes and buy a bottle of rakija and offer to share it with the neighbors., that’s a totally normal thing to do as well. At least for me.. and I’m an introvert.
Of course I don’t mind talking to the neighbors.. especially because it’s an opportunity for me to practice my Croatian.. but some days.. I don’t want to interact with anyone.
Still.. it’s possible to be anonymous in Trogir if you wish, which is why staying for a limited time has its advantages. And in the off season..ahh.. to have a coastline and an old city to yourself.. I felt spoiled. It’s an introvert’s paradise.
9. The Bura and the Jug winds! Long story short, it’s true. At first I thought it was one of those quirky customs.. like propuh or not going barefoot. But when I felt lethargic and nothing seemed to be going my way, I mentioned this to one of the workers at the local market, who told me.. (honestly) that it was the south wind, bringing heaviness, depression, and even malfunctioning technology! Later that week, although still cloudy, I could feel the change in the air. I felt energized, and everything in my life was running much more smoothly. It was the Bura, bringing in a refreshing atmosphere. Haha! There you have it.
But if it sounds “out there.. consider this: Dalmatians traditionally are very much attuned to the weather, and for good, practical reasons. When you have a friend who lives on another island, the changing winds could mean that the coffee date you planned in Split may not work out. Can you imagine how it must have been hundreds of years ago? Dalmatians know the sea and the wind intimately.
Before long, I got into the habit of observing laundry hanging on a line nearby to find which way the wind was blowing. I would laugh to myself when the wind direction seemed to explain my mood or state of mind.. and when I began to plan my week according to the wind.. I KNEW I was assimilating.
Is it worth staying in Dalmatia in the winter? Yes! Next time, I hope to experience even more!
Julie Odler is an American writer, digital marketing consultant for T&W marketing, and a former acupuncturist living in the Split/Trogir and Belgrade. She loves Croatia and writes about her experiences in her own blog, The Balkan Nomad.