When Roots Call: A Love Letter to Rab

Born in the US to parents of Croatian descent, Chris Marcich has had a remarkable international career that included many years as president of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and shaping trade policy as a negotiator for the US government. Chris, who now helms the Croatian Audiovisual Center (HAVC), has had a lifelong romance with Rab, the island his family hails from. Here he explains what he loves about the island of his roots.

I first visited Rab back in 1964, at the initiative of my parents who wanted us to get to know our homeland and learn the language. There was a sense of adventure luring me to Rab but also an irresistible feeling this was the only way to get to the bottom of my identity. When I left, with my grandmother and two of my sisters, I had no idea this would mark the rest of my life so profoundly. I was nine years old at the time and ended up staying in Croatia and Europe for several years.

At the time, the roads on Rab island were unpaved, tourists were few and far between and, on the surface, life seemed difficult. Yet despite all that, the town was full of life and energy. Grannies chatted in the upper street in their particular Venetian dialect, my class had 40 children from the town itself, and there was a sense of ease, calm and happiness.

That’s when Rab became my home and the place I kept returning to regardless of where in the world I lived at the time. Still today, in our family house, I can feel the presence of my ancestors and I know this is where I belong. And I love knowing this is where the future generations of my family will gather and spend time together.

There is so much to love about Rab. The historic old town is enchanting, with churches tucked away within its ancient walls, its famed four bell towers and even an outdoor movie theatre. I take strolls through the park that begins at the edge of town, breathing in the scent of the sea and pine trees. At its far end, I pause at the town cemetery, to pay respects to the souls of those who came before us.

Culturally, Rab is a treasure trove of fascinating traditions, with the Rapska Fjera in July showcasing the island history with medieval reenactments and an impressive film festival in the second half of August.

The island offers a great diversity of landscape, featuring beaches for all tastes, hiking and biking trails through fragrant forests and a rugged rocky side facing the mainland. One of my personal favourites is watching the sunset over the spectacular Frkanj peninsula. I’m also in my happy place gazing at the changing light the sun casts on the city as I sip an aperol spritz.

It’s great to hop on a boat trip around the island, with stops at secluded bays and coves for a refreshing dip and a lunch of local shrimp paired with magnificent views.

Ever since my first visit to Rab, I knew I would move to Croatia one day. It was just a matter of time. And here I am.

FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE ON RAB

Of all the islands in the Kvarner Gulf, Rab is the most enticing – and it’s just a 15-min boat ride from the mainland! Not only does it have the highest number of sandy beaches in Croatia but it also features medieval Rab town, famed for its storybook beauty. Squeezed onto a narrow peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic, Rab town features four iconic bell towers rising out of its ancient streetscape of red-roofed stone buildings. Wandering around this medieval maze is a delight, as is cycling and hiking across the island on its many trails. Throw in a full spectrum of watersports and stellar food, and you’ll see why ancient Romans referred to the island as “happy Rab”.

You can’t leave the island without trying Rab cake, a traditional dessert made of almonds, Maraschino liqueur and orange peel. In addition to the best Rab cake, Kuća Rabske Torte in the old town has a museum dedicated to this iconic dessert.

The heavenly sand beach of Rajska plaža (“Paradise Beach”) on the Lopar peninsula, 12 km north of Rab town, steals the show when it comes to the island’s beaches. The most popular, it fringes the peninsula with its shallow crystal-clear water and an expanse of sand spanning 12 kilometres. Filled with amenities, it’s a perfect choice for families.

Bloggers, journalists, tourist guides, artists, entertainers and all kinds of hospitality experts and enthusiasts have gathered under the ValamArtists handle to lovingly bring you the best out of the Croatian holiday experience. Enjoy the ride!
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