Croatia Garden Festival

Well, I’m back from a week of mighty fine funky music and lazy days on the beach in Petrčane Croatia. First things first, book my ticket for next year, because Soundwave festival has sun, sea and not a boggy tent in sight! A number of festivals are held here every summer so for those of you visiting Electric Elephant this August or toying with the idea of The Garden Festival or Soundwave next year, here is my guide to Petrčane.

Go Early

Arrive a few days before the festival. This really is a beach AND festival type holiday all rolled into one. I went for a week while everyone else moaned that they only booked  few nights. It’s not your usual festival stomping ground. Located in the garden of hotel Pinija under a cooling pine forest right by the sea, the venue is open to the public. Arriving early you can spend the evening lounging on the bedouin-style beds and there’s no queue for cocktails at the Tiki Bar. You’ll share the beach with a few locals and not those annoying Brits hogging the sunbeds, we are becoming increasingly German on this matter!

Grab a Sunbed

I still fail to understand why none of the locals used the sun loungers in Petrčane. £1.50 for the whole day but apparently they prefer to lie on sharp pebbles. Just help yourself to the stack and the man will come and collect the money at, some point.

Best Seafood

Croatia isn’t reknowned for it’s food. But in Petrčane the ocean is their most convenient larder so you can in fact taste some wonderful seafood here. Everyone recommended the Liburna restaurant on the seafront, which we decided lived up to our initial expectations of Croatian food. Perhaps they wanted to keep the nearby Konoba Toka  restaurant a secret for themselves but we discovered this place up a small side road. I’d never been a huge fan of seafood but I ordered grilled ‘squids’ almost every night it was so delicious. Fish dishes cost between £4-£10. Being so close to Italy you will find plenty of pizza, although with a few questionable topping combos. At Toka they are served straight from the wood burning oven and one sets you back just £4.

Beer Not Wine

Rather disappointed by the Croatian wine. Yes,  we were ordering the budget stuff but even the cheap plonk is usually quite reliable when travelling in Italy or France. The Ožujsko beer went down really well and it’s cheap too.

Day Trip to Zadar

The city is a short 25 minute bus ride from Petrčane. It makes a great half-day trip and since it is best visited on an evening you could even find a Zadar hostel for the night. Walk across the harbour bridge to reach the historic old town and wander around the white polished flagstone alleyways.

The Riva
This is Zadar’s waterfront promenade. I personally tested Hitchcock’s claim that Zadar offered the most beautiful sunset in the world. He was right. The Riva, at the edge of the old town comes alive as the sun begins it’s descent over the city.

The Sea Organ
The perfect accompaniment to the sunset is the beautiful sound of the Sea Organ. This organic instrument was created by Nikola Basic in 2005 who installed a series of pipes under the concrete. The soft oohing and aahing is created by the movement of the sea water and wind. Further along, and by the same architect, is the circular light installation Greeting to the Sun which lights up at night.

Watch the Garden Grow
One of the reasons we repeated our visit to Zadar was to visit the luxurious Watch the Garden Grow bar (Bedemi zadarskih pobuna). Opened by UB40 drummer James Brown, you’ll feel a million dollars lounging on one of the white linen sofas or bedouin-style beds overlooking the harbour. We sampled a delicious range of cocktails and a bottle of Prosecco before settling down to a delicious dinner. The waiter knew his stuff so go for his recommendations as I did (twice)…steak!

Boat Parties

These are a must so be sure to book yourself a ticket. It’s great fun trying to keep your balance dancing on a bobbing boat. I tend to suffer from seasickness but didn’t notice the gentle rocking. Although there is plenty of shade on board, don’t forget to drink water, a few of us suffered from mild sunstroke after hitting the G&T’s a little too soon. We opted for the reggae session on Sunday afternoon – very civilized. Tempting as it may be, there is no swimming allowed! We watched a guy dive off the boat then have his festival band cut off by a burly skipper as he climbed back on board.

Siesta

If you’re soaking up the sun by day and partying hard by night the best thing you can do is give your body a break. Make sure you grab 30 minutes shut eye in the afternoon and you’ll be fresh for a night out and reduce the risk of sun stroke.

Portaloos

If, like me, you don’t handle portaloos too well, use the arcade bar at the festival entrance which is open until 11pm. Don’t forget the loo roll.

Apartment Essentials

There’s no camping (heaven) so everybody rents an apartment. Save some money by cooking meals and clubbing together on breakfasty things (Nutella is my guilty holiday pleasure). The local grocery shop is tiny with a frustratingly long queue so try to go early in the morning. Tap water is foul so take a strong man with you to lug bottled water back to your apartment.

Water!

None of the bar staff were particularly happy about serving punters water. It’s the law that they must serve you drinking water so don’t let them bully you, persist! Chances are you will have sweated out vital drinking fluid and have had one too many cocktails. Why they don’t put jugs of the stuff at the end of the bar so you can help yourself is beyond me. Event organiser heed my cry!

All you folks heading to Electric Elephant (27th-29th August) I’m dead jealous! If you enjoyed this, have a read of our blog on Beaches in Croatia.

Thanks to Christian Hoyle, Big Richard Cm_reger and anjči for the images off Flickr!

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