Our names are Steven and Thea Robinson – we are founding shareholders and directors of Gecko Tours, Split – sometimes we are asked how did we come to have a connection with Croatia – it’s not like we are fluent Croatian speakers (in fact we’re not even close) or have a Croatian ancestry, so why? I thought I’d briefly blog our story.
Well, in late 2003, we had heard some good things about Croatia in certain more esoteric travel articles and this together with the fact that I always considered Split a slightly odd and unusual name to call a place meant we decided to spend a long weekend break here – away from our 3 kids who were then very small.
I’d come to Yugoslavia as part of my inter-rail experience in the mid 1980s but hadn’t thought much of that really – all rather sombre and military. We arrived, booked into a local Split hotel and thought wow – just how unspoilt and unpretentious the place was – none of the sophistication of Italy, the haughtiness of France or the fatigue or surly waiters of Spain, just a beautiful unspoilt land, fringed by translucent waters and all set against the brooding mountains separating Croatia from Bosnia – we just loved it. The people were straightforward, not always smiling or fawning but honest and what you saw was what you got and that appeals to us.
We ate well, drank better and on the Sunday decided to take the boat to Brac from Split – about a 45 minute trip – to take a look at a Croatian island. Then it happened, one of us suggested “just popping into an estate agents – just for interest” … Well, they immediately lined up 7 properties to see in 3 hours (trade in Croatian properties by foreigners was then thin and we were warmly welcomed !!) we saw all 7 and decided that we would not discuss them at all until the estate agent had left us and we were on our way back to Split.
Sitting back on the ferry, I told my wife that there was only 1 property for me and if we had the money it would have been “that ruin”, situated just 2 meters from the sea and unoccupied for 12 years that would be my choice. Yes, it had no roof (well of sorts – see the photos below) and yes we couldn’t go beyond the front door lest we fall through the “floor boards” but what a view, right out across the Adriatic … A strike for free thinking and individualism I thought and so it came as a surprise that this outlandish vote was seconded by my wife. By the time we docked 45 minutes later, I’d made a phone call figured out a way of extending our UK mortgage and we’d bought a ruin in Croatia, a place I had barely heard of a few months earlier and an island I had never heard of before and let alone ever visited. We asked around the next morning, found a local project manager and architect, became an “expert” on Croatian property law and the rest as they say is history. We had many many holidays there when the kids were small, just spending whole days in the sea and sunning ourselves on the terrace, hiring speedboats and dragging the kids and their friends on our banana boat. We rented out the property very successfully when we were not using it and it was just a great experience. In March 2017, we were contacted by U.K. Channel 4 TV and our experience has now been broadcast on “Homes by the Med” Homes by the Med (enter code “med13” and scroll to 12.30mins) an aspirational property programme for U.K. nationals thinking of taking the plunge abroad – such fame!!! https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p55026
Emboldened by all of this, we bought our second property in Diocletian’s palace in Split in 2013 https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p1300888 which has also been an unmitigated success and then launched Gecko tours in partnership with a young enthusiastic local Croatian called Baldo in 2014. Our aim is to show a deeper, more cultural (and yes, often gastronomic side) to Croatia which we have so enjoyed over the years. We hope you agree our tours reflect this more immersive experience, certainly our trip adviser scores for last year support this, and we’d be delighted to share some of this with you if this is your bag too.