ll Nick's Croatian Adventure! 

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Well, all change now in London. Ive handed in my notice and am on 4 weeks notice now. My last day in the office will be Friday 7th and then I have a weekend in London in which to get ready and then Im off to Croatia for 4 months to look for a house for us as well as a couple of investment properties

Im going to be starting in the south in Dubrovnik. A friend of mine from HSBC, a Bosnian, will be there at the same time and will also be looking for a house. We are going to meet up and go looking together and then I will be on my own. Im going to do a language course for a couple of weeks and try to improve my Croatian Im hoping to be able to get accommodation with a family out there and a friend of a friend has recommended a teacher and a school. Ideally I would spend about 3 weeks in different locations on the Adriatic coast checking the area out and seeing whether it is somewhere we would want to live ourselves or alternatively whether we think the area will be one for the future.

 Weve been looking for a house abroad for some several years now and have been to France and Portugal as well as Bulgaria (we decided to spread the net a bit further after we realised how expensive the rest of the Mediterranean is). Wed already been to Croatia back in 2000 when a friend was working in the Embassy in Zagreb and hed taken us down to Dubrovnik over Easter. Wed been really impressed with the place and it had made us realise that Croatia actually has a lot of really beautiful towns on the coast as well as a spectacularly beautiful natural coastline with clear blue Adriatic waters and great seafood. We hadnt really considered it as a place to live though; wed thought it was still a bit too soon after the war. But then more and more people started talking about property out there and we decided to give it another go last year.

 Wed already been to Bulgaria in the spring as a possible destination but decided it was still too undeveloped the roads are still very poor and the infrastructure is still very much eastern bloc and were concerned about the disparity between the countryside and the towns there is still quite a lot of tension between the gypsy population and the Bulgarians So a few months later we went back to Croatia, this time to the northernmost part near the Slovenian border on the Istrian isthmus. We flew to Trieste in Italy with Ryanair then picked up a car and drove through Slovenia, stopping off on the way in Ljubljana where we had a couple of days before moving down to Croatia. We were really struck by how Italian the whole place is Venetians ruled a lot of this coastline for hundreds of years and their influence on the food and the architecture is unmistakeable a lot of walled towns with campaniles and shuttered houses, a lot of pasta and risotto dishes and things like prsut (ham) and pomodor (tomato) on the menu.                                                                                         

We had previously made an offer on a place in France which had fallen through, but when we saw the coastline in Istria it was much more inspiring and dramatic sheer mountains dropping straight into the sea and crystal blue waters.The beaches dont tend to be sandy, instead they are either pebbles or rocky coves but I actually prefer that in some ways as it means that you dont have to worry about sand in your eyes, food and suntan lotion. In a lot of places the pine forest/scrub cover extends all the way down to the coastline, so that there is a source of natural shade for when it gets too hot not that I think it can ever get too hot {J

So that was when we decided that we wanted to buy somewhere out there. We were already in the process of selling our flat in Hammersmith (or rather we had had it on the market for some time even though we didnt have a buyer at that point). We decided wed go home sell the flat, Id start learning Croatian and in the spring I would either ask for a sabbatical for 3 months or give up work and go out to Croatia to buy a place and get it done up. Well Spring is now here, HSBC dont do sabbaticals and its time to put in to place what we talked about last year. Ive been learning Croatian for some 6 months now and although its probably the hardest language Ive tried learning (apart from Japanese which I gave up after a mere 10 weeks far too hard) Im actually really enjoying the challenge and have put  a lot of effort into it. I have a course every Wednesday at the University of Westminster and an hour a week of private tuition. I reckon a couple of weeks of intensive language training should give me the confidence I need to use my Croatian more which I hope will begin a virtuous circle where I have more confidence to speak to people (probably grannies at first) and therefore make more progress giving me the confidence to speak to other people (under 50s maybe). Ive just been out and bought a load of camping gear as well. Im hoping to get accommodation in small pensions and staying with families for the first month or so until the season proper starts and the prices start going up. It would also hopefully help with my Croatian.

 Because Im going to be driving down to Croatia I can carry a lot of stuff with me, so Ive splashed out on camping table and chairs as well as a cooker its possible that we might end up having to do a place up ourselves in which case the camping gear will come in doubly useful  Ive bought a laptop as well(which Im using at the moment to write this missive) and will be filming a lot of the countryside and the properties I look at to show Alison when she comes out to visit. We cant afford for both of us to give up work and go out at the same time and neither does Alison want to give up work at the moment, as she is in line for a promotion at Goldmans. She will probably come out for a week or so a couple of times when Im out there, to different places, probably Split and Zadar, which are about 1/3 and 2/3 of the way down the coast respectively. Id like to think that Ive got a fairlyn good idea of what we are both looking for in terms of a house. Weve ssen enough of them in the past

 I think wed both like somewhere quite big, with the potential to do either bed and breakfast or holiday rentals in the future. I suppose that ideally this would mean a large stone house with a couple of outhouses, such as barns or sheds, and a reasonable amount  of land  - enough for an orchard with our favourite fruit trees, oranges, lemons, figs, cherries, a few vines, and plenty of room for a swimming pool and a tennis court I can see the pigs flying past at the moment.. We wouldnt want to be too far from a reasonable size town or city, both because of the transport links and also the amenities, be they cultural, practical (shopping etc) and also commercial it may be that we want to set up a business in the future. I think that there may be a lot of prospects out in Croatia particularly for tourism, so would like to cash in if we can. We both speak German which will be very useful there as a lot of Germans go there on holiday (Im not going to let that put me off though). The most useful languages to have out there, would be English, German, Italian and Hungarian. So we can forget the Hungarian, but the German and the Italian are both manageable.

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Last modified: 10/17/04