Our Croatia: Gay Dalmatian Cruise wouldn’t be complete without the knowledge and warmth our local guide Livio Karavanic offers guests. With nearly 20 years’ experience, this man sure knows his way around, and being an international world traveller, he provides context that many guides are unable to.
Livio introduces himself below.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s start with a few questions about yourself…
What part of Croatia are you from? And where do you currently live?
I was born and raised in Opatija/Rijeka in Northern Croatia where the mountains kiss the Adriatic sea. I still live and work here.
How did you end up becoming a tourist guide?
I began my career in 1995 as a professional freelance tourist guide, working in five languages.
Growing up in Opatija, I spent my childhood interacting with the crowds of tourists. It inspired me to be a professional tourist guide. Also, I frequently travel the world in private, which helps me appreciate Croatia and all it has to offer.
Now that we know a bit about you, let’s talk about Croatia…
How long have you been running Out Adventures’ Croatian cruises?
Out Adventures’ inaugural Croatian cruise was in 2013. I’ve had the pleasure to join you on every single one.
What is it about Croatian customs, culture and history you enjoying showing off most?
Croatia is the fusion of different regions with different customs, cultures, food and heritage.
During the cruise, I love sharing how the Republic of Dubrovnik was the first country to recognize the independence of the USA in the year 1776. I love to share the history of the red zinfandel wine. On the island of Brac, I love to show the quarry where most of the marble for the American White House was mined.
I really love connecting Croatian culture and history with our guests’ own culture and history.
What are Croatian people like? Friendly, boisterous, helpful…
Millions of people travel to Croatia every year to party, hike, cruise the islands, visit the national parks, visit our historic towns and of course enjoy our superb food. And every one of those travellers wants to come back. The biggest reason being the incredibly friendly locals. Most of whom speak several languages.
What’s the one aspect of Croatian culture/history you want visitors to walk away with a better understanding of?
The connection between Croatia and other Mediterranean countries. For example, Croatia has a shared history/culture with both Austria and Venice until we lost independence in 1102 AD.
Are there any specific activities (city tours, wine tastings etc.) you personally love on Out Adventures’ Dalmatian cruise?
The city tour of Korčula as well as Saint Hills winery.
What about ports/towns/cities on our trip; is there a specific one you love visiting?
[Laughing] All of them are fantastic and charming. That’s like asking a mother who her favourite child is.
I know Croatia is well known for its lavender. Are there other products that Croatia is famous for? Perhaps something guests can pick up as a souvenir.
Lavender is produced in Istria and on the island of Hvar. Guests also love to pick up cravat — the traditional Croatian necktie. Other souvenirs include our wines, olive oil, grappas, truffles, liqueurs, sweets like Bajadera, Griotte and fig cakes, lace, wooden toys, Licitar heart, salt, creams and facials from the historical pharmacies.
What about the gay scene in Croatia. How much of a presence does the LGBT community have? I know it’s a predominantly Roman Catholic country, which doesn’t usually bode well for us.
I am not gay, but definitely, all of my gay friends enjoy living in Croatia. Especially in the north.
In 1977 Croatia legalized male and female same-sex sexual activity. Since the introduction of the Life Partnership Act in 2014 same-sex couples have enjoyed rights equal to heterosexual married couples in everything except adoption. That said, separate legislation does provide same-sex couples with a mechanism similar to step-child adoption called “partner-guardianship”.
Croatia bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. In 2015, the ILGA (International lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex association) ranked Croatia 5th in terms of LGBT rights out of 49 observed European countries.
Are there many gay bars?
We often take the Out Adventures guys to a few bars in Zagreb and some ‘gay-friendly’ bars on the cruise. There are quite a few gay beaches along the coast as well.
Change of topic: tell me about Croatian cuisine. What makes it unique? What are your favourite dishes? Anything visitors MUST taste before leaving?
Croatian cuisine is regional. The coast is characterized by the classic Mediterranean diet: seafood, pasta, fresh fish, salads, risottos, sardines, anchovies, octopus, fresh vegetable soups etc.
Where I’m from we’re blessed to have white and black truffles. So besides fish, I love traditional pasta dishes with truffles.
Everyone must taste marinated anchovies, octopus salad and freshly baked Adriatic fish.
This particular tour features some incredible restaurants. What is your absolute favourite?
My favorite restaurant on this tour is Filippi in Korcula.
As a massive fan of Game of Thrones, I’m personally excited to visit Dubrovnik and see where the show is filmed. Have you noticed tourism increase in Croatia since Game of Thrones blew up? Do you constantly have to field questions about the show?
A lot of Asians, Americans and Australians are impressed by that show. There are even special Game of Thrones tours in areas where they primarily film.
Aside from Game of Thrones, what other Croatian books and movies do you recommend our customers read/watch to get excited?
One of my favourite younger Croatian writers is Ivica Prtenjača. I recommend his book The Hill. I enjoyed Roman Simic’s novel A Frame for the Family Lion. And of course Renato Baretic’s The 8th Commissioner.
A few Coatian movies I like: Nebo, Sateliti (2002), Narodni Heroj Ljiljan Vidic (2016), and Summa Summarum (2010).
Is there anything else you’d like to say before I let you go?
Welcome, All! You will love it here. Just plan to visit 5-6 islands each time you come. That way you can slowly chip away at all 1244 of them.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat!
Cruise Croatia’s Southern Dalmatia Coast with Out Adventures. Head to our website for tour details such as departure dates, itinerary, price and more.
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(Image credits from top to bottom: Livio Karavanic, Kevin Robitaille,Livio Karavanic, Katarina Cruises,Livio Karavanic, Filippi Restaurant x 3)