Opuzen, Croatia is seized in the heart of the Neretva valley
At first impression, the small place in the south of Croatia looks as if it has fallen asleep in time and space. However, as the first impression is often deceiving, so it was this time as well. Everything happens in Opuzen. The community is very vibrant. There are various events and tangerines are present everywhere, so the place seems pleasant to live in.
Mayor Ivan Mataga and Tourism office director Magdalena Krvavac tried to bring this area closer to us. The unique part of our coast should be better known. Not just to rush by car from the end of the highway near Ploče towards the new bridge to Peninsula Peljlešac. It is good to stay for a few days and enjoy the authentic offer. That is what tourists are looking for today. Foreigners recognized this, so the accommodation facilities are full in the summer. Which is not difficult because there are not enough of them. Most of them are apartments and holiday homes.
They are mostly new and very nicely decorated. My accommodation with the Čović family was like that. The tangerine tree under the window and a beautifully and modernly decorated apartment in a quiet street. I was especially surprised upon arrival when they brought me tangerines, squeezed juice, and kuglof. Since I was not in my car, the owner drove me to town.
The old city of Opuzen
is decorated, it has not been left to decay, although there are a few houses that are without roofs and windows. There is a beautiful and shady promenade along the banks of the Neretva. In this section, the river is wide, probably the widest of all in Croatia, so it’s a pleasure to walk and enjoy the colors and contrasts of the mountains in the background.
Opuzen marked a festival with the cool names Zen and Opuzen.
A total of 96 murals refresh the city. Some are such that you need to stop and look deeply into the drawing to see the details and hidden messages of the artist. The festival has been held since 2015 and is the work of enthusiasts who invite artists to the city. They eat and sleep together, the residents bring them food and fruits from the rich fields and everything is actually good fun.
Ana Aničić told us everything in her Delta motel about how she started this event with her husband Ivan and Josip Tutavac, which changed the city and put it on the artistic map of Europe. The Sand Art festival is particularly attractive as part of the event. Drawing in the sand on the seashore takes place between low and high tide.
In three words: interesting, different, and tasty. Some very indigenous dishes are eaten in the Neretva delta. Brudet made of frogs and eels, for example, are real specialties that should be tasted. We enjoyed them at the Villa Neretva restaurant, which is located along the main road to Metković.
Very good service and interesting dishes with excellent wines from Komarna remained in my pleasant memory and I can recommend this place for a good meal to everyone. The vivid personality of Pavao Paul Jerković instructed us in the secrets of dishes. It is possible to go on a trip on indigenous boats along the canals of the delta between mandarin fields.
In Opuzen itself, Suzana Dragobratović Musan delighted us in her tavern Pod maslinom. We liked the imaginative dishes based on the principle of “whatever is available” so much that we came a second time. Squid in a wok with peppers and coconut is one of the dishes that we would gladly order again. The pleasant ambiance of the tavern and the outdoor tables on the small square next to the church are very attractive. The wines from the Deak winery’s Pošip Ćaća moj offer and the Opus rosé from Komarna, a little south of the city towards Dubrovnik, were also good for us.
We also had good Adriatic calamari for dinner at the Merlot Hotel, which is located near the Mala Neretva along the road to Dubrovnik. They have their own Prović wines. We tasted Livia, MC 2018 and the top Pagan Reserva.
Sea and tangerine trees
The only real sandy beach in the southern part of the Croatian Adriatic is located next to the confluence of the Neretva river with the sea. The sand and shallow sea are ideal for families with children, but there is something else attractive for those who crave adrenaline. It’s actually a Maestral that blows every day, as they say, after two o’clock in the afternoon. The wind is responsible for the fact that this sleepy part of the coast was first discovered by Slovenian kitesurfers. Since then, it has been the largest center for kitesurfing on the Adriatic. Guests come from all over the world and enjoy this adrenaline sport. There are several centers with equipment and a kite school. In addition, of course, there are also kite bars and places to hang out.
The tangerine fields in the hinterland are truly impressive. Many can only be reached by boat, which is what we did. Ivan connected us with his trunk to his fields to harvest tangerines. It is a smaller variant of the boat designed for shallow and calm waters.
Believe me, tangerines are the sweetest when they are picked from the tree. There are various types. In general, I remembered that the small ones are sweet, the big ones for juice, and I didn’t like Clementines because they have stones and are a bit “tough”. It is easy to spoil yourself in the abundance of this delicious fruit, which is harvested from the beginning of autumn until after the new year.
The most beautiful view is from Fortica. The hill from which you can see on all sides of this fertile valley dotted with rivers and canals is the best place to get a true impression of the mouth of the Neretva and the areas in it. The approach, stairs and the fort itself need to be arranged urgently and turned into a museum and catering facility, because it could quickly become the most important tourist attraction next to Opuzen and the Neretva valley.
Not far from the harbor town of Ploče one can find a secret water paradise. It can be seen from the old highway but most of the travelers just pass by the lakes, which is actually good because they have been preserved from mass tourism. The director of the Tourism Office city of Ploče, Maja Erak, took us to the Capitano Beach Bar.
After a couple of brandies, we set off on the boat under the safe and singing leadership of Captain Andre Bogunović. The lakes deserve to be declared a nature park.
The city is well known for Its big port, ferries, and station. Train and most of the cargo is going to the neighboring country of Bosnia and Hercegovina. The city deserves a new chance. The most beautiful parts were occupied by the former army, so they were preserved for some new projects.
Ploče can become the center of tourism in this region between Split and Dubrovnik. Larger cities are always carriers of development. With so many interesting attractions in the Neretva valley and the Baćinski lakes on the other hand, Ploče should be positioned as a place where large hotels are built while nature is preserved intact. We had lunch in the modern Zminjac restaurant. In the harbor next to the ferry, it looks modern and eats correctly.
The biggest event of the year is the famous boat marathon. It starts in Metković, passes through Opuzen, and ends in the port of Ploče. The women’s part ends in Opuzen. The event, apart from the race itself, lasts the whole week. The qualifications for the starting position held in Opuzen are particularly tense. Tens of thousands of people stand on the banks of the Neretva and watch the fierce battles between the ships. The race is larger than life and the winners are heroes, at least for a year. Milojko Glasović, the creator of the idea, told us everything about the marathon.
Indigenous flavors, authentic people, food, and events combined offer what is appreciated and remembered. This region has still maintained a quality that is suitable for hosts and tourists. Before or after the busy tourist season, Opuzen is a place to visit.
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