Unique just seems like too small a word. The Dubrovnik – Neretva County is full of surprises, from ancient walled cities to soaring mountains and crystal clear seas. But one region is – well unique.
View from Villa Neretva
The Neretva River basin stretches for as far as the eye can see a huge open plain that was formed in the ice age. With the Neretva River as its central point marches and swamp land fold out on either side. This is a fertile land. Every inch of the river basin has been cultivated with irrigation channels running off at 90 degree angles. From the sky it looks like a New York City plan. Citrus fruits, oranges and lemons, watermelons and every vegetable you can imagine, and some you’ve never heard of, have found a place to call home.
“Whilst the rest of the Adriatic coast line is dotted with mountains and beaches the Neretva region is something quite different,” explained the director of the Metkovic Tourist Board. There are two major settlements in the Neretva region – Metkovic and Opuzen.
And not only is the nature different the history is just as breathtaking. The Narona Archaeological Museum is a gem, holding secrets of the Roman conquests. Located in the village of Vid the museum dominates the skyline, it was actually built around a former Roman forum. Inside you will find an impressive and modern museum that houses statues from the time of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, and dating back to 10 B.C. A true enlightenment of the rich history of the area and well worth a visit.
A new museum that has only recently opened in Metkovic, around a five-minute drive from the Narona Museum, is the inspiring Natural History Museum. Due to the regions unusual geography the wildlife is also unique to the area. This new interactive museum wouldn’t look out of place in the centre of London with touch-screen displays and computer graphics to lead you through. The river delta has a diverse bird population and all of the birds native to the region are on display, you can even press a button and hear their calls.
Natural History Museum in Metkovic
But no trip to Neretva would be truly complete without tasting the local cuisine – and there is no finer restaurant than Villa Neretva. It is an adventure, and not just for your taste buds. Just getting to the restaurant is a discovery. As it can’t be reached by roads or on foot there is only one way to go – by boat.
These small wooden boats were through history vital to the region. They carried not only people but goods and more importantly the fruit and vegetables to market. Hop into a wooden boat and after only a minute you are into a land that time forgot. The marsh lands very much resemble the Florida Everglades – but without the alligators. This must be one of the most pleasant ways to reach a restaurant.
Located at the foot of a mountain and with spectacular panoramic views over unspoilt nature the Villa Neretva is THE place to taste local delicacies. Frogs and eels, in all different dishes, are often on the menu – for when in Neretva you must eat like a Neretvan.
As nature sings in the background the food arrives. Our recommendation would be the mixed Neretva Brodetto with frogs and eels, a kind of risotto and absolutely magnificent. Over the years the restaurant has picked up many awards and recognitions and it is easy to see why. Local fine wines are also on offer and the restaurant staff are always happy to suggest a good pairing with your meal.
This is service with a capital S! The hospitality is unmatched and all comes from the central figure of the restaurant, Pavo Jerković, the owner and founder. And it could be argued that he is also the founder of tourism in the Neretva river delta. “Restaurant "Villa Neretva" was opened in February 1990. I opened it after returning to Croatia after 20 years of working in Germany,” explained Jerkovic.
“This region and this restaurant is in my heart and I believe that if you work with a passion then the results will show,” added Jerkovic.
Just try not to get too distracted by the views. The food is glorious and if you even if you don’t want to try the local specialities there is an international menu as well. And the icing on the cake is a relaxing boat ride back after your meal.