If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably aware that I have just returned from Croatia Pole Camp, a 4-day pole retreat. I travelled there with my Pole BFF and we had an amazing couple of days. Croatia Pole Camp takes place in Pula, on the Istrian Peninsula in the north of Croatia, a truly beautiful part of the world. This year, the headlining Pole Stars were Sarah Scott, Marion Crampe, Nadia Sharif and Josh Taylor.

An amazing spot we found just a 5-minute walk from the hotel.

An amazing spot we found just a 5 minute walk from the hotel.

When we were considering booking our place at camp, we couldn’t find any specific reviews of Croatia Pole Camp. I’m hoping that this detailed review will be helpful for someone considering attending in the future.

Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit before you settle in to read because this post is loooooong. I’ll start with a brief overview of the celebrity workshops, then I’ll cover every aspect of our stay in detail.

The TL;DR review of Croatia Pole Camp:

If you’re looking for a slick, polished, ultra-luxe pole camp experience, Croatia Pole Camp is probably not for you. When you consider the low price point, particularly given the calibre of pole stars in attendance, that should probably be obvious. You’re paying for the opportunity to train with incredible teachers, not for any luxe extras.

If:

  • You’re passionate about pole,
  • You like the idea of spending a few days in an incredibly beautiful part of the world,
  • Taking workshops from some of the best pole dancers in the world is appealing to you, and
  • You can deal with basic accommodation, and very average food (or find alternative eating arrangements),

then I definitely recommend Croatia Pole Camp.

What do you get?:

The cost of Croatia Pole Camp 2018 included:

  • transfers to and from Pula airport or the bus station,
  • three nights accommodation,
  • breakfast and dinner during your stay (with the option to book a lunch package),
  • three workshops of choice with the celebrity guests (with the option to attend more celebrity workshops at an additional cost),
  • a range of other classes including yoga, stretching, conditioning, sensual meditation and sensual workout, facilitated by S Fitness (a pole studio in Pula),
  • a ticket to watch the Pole Art Croatia competition, and transfers to and from the theatre,
  • water provided for all workshops, and
  • a welcome pack containing a schedule, tourist information, leaflets from the event sponsors and your ticket for Pole Art Croatia.

The celebrity workshops at Croatia Pole Camp:

Josh Taylor:

During Croatia Pole Camp I did 2 workshops with Josh Taylor. Before signing up for the camp, I had no idea who he was. I am so deeply grateful to have discovered who he is and to have had the opportunity to train with him. It’s very clear that he has a passion for people and a passion for teaching. Josh is able to connect with his students and make each student feel like an essential part of his class. He recognises the successes of his students and celebrates that, and I walked out of both his workshops feeling uplifted and inspired.

Unicorn Porn Group Photo

Unicorn Porn Group Photo

The first workshop I took with him was Unicorn Porn. This is a choreographed pole dance in heels, including warming-up in heels! It was all basework with a focus on finding a flow. I’ll be honest, I chose this workshop almost purely based on the name, and I don’t regret that choice for a minute. I feel like I rediscovered what it is that drew me to pole 12 years ago. It felt like a little bit of the old me was coming back to life.

A detailed review of Josh’s Unicorn Porn workshop will be published soon, and you can sign up below to get that review delivered directly to your inbox.

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Striking a pose with the amazing Josh Taylor

Striking a pose with the amazing Josh Taylor

The second workshop that I took with him was called Floor Surfing. As the name suggests, it was a floorwork class with a uniquely Josh Taylor approach. It was part meditation, part interpretive dance, part traditional floorwork and completely inspiring.

A fun trick I learned in Joh Taylor's Floor Surfing workshop

A fun trick I learned in Josh Taylor’s Floor Surfing workshop

A detailed review of his Floor Surfing workshop will be coming soon, and you can sign up below to get that review delivered directly to your inbox.

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Nadia Sharif:

The workshop that I took with Nadia was called “Taste the Handstand”. In it, we ran a series of drills designed to help find the confidence to carry your weight through your hands and to find the point of balance while actively “fighting” the pull of gravity.

Striking a pose with Nadia Sharif

Striking a pose with Nadia Sharif

Working on my gymnastic style handstand

Working on my gymnastic style handstand

Working on my banana handstand

Working on my banana handstand

A detailed review of Nadia’s Taste the Handstand workshop will be published soon, and you can sign up below to get that review delivered directly to your inbox as soon as it goes live.

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Marion Crampe:

The workshop I took with Marion Crampe was called “Combos and Tricks”, however during the workshop, she said she also calls it “The Illusionist”. This is because she teaches a sequence of tricks that look impressive but are much simpler than they first appear. They also flow together to make a beautiful piece of spinning pole choreography.

Feeling like a giant next to the tiny fairy Marion Crampe

Feeling like a giant next to the tiny fairy Marion Crampe

A detailed review of Marion’s Combo’s and Tricks workshop will be published soon, and you can drop your email below if you would like it delivered straight to your inbox.

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Sarah Scott:

Group photo with Sarah Scott

The one and only photo I got with Sarah Scott – I was too distracted by her magnificence to ask for a picture.

Having the opportunity to meet Sarah Scott was 100% and without a doubt the highlight of Croatia Pole Camp for me. She is just as lovely in real life as she appears to be online, her technical knowledge of sports science as it relates to pole is incredible, and her ability to communicate that knowledge in clear and easy to understand terms is phenomenal.

The first workshop I did with Sarah Scott was her Off the Pole workshop. In it, she shared exercises and drills you can use off the pole to complement your pole training. I’ll be publishing a review of Sara’s Off the Pole workshop very soon, and if you’d like the article delivered directly to your inbox, drop your email below.

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The second Sarah Scott workshop I did was Handsprings 101. Handsprings are my current goal move, and I’ve always felt a little unstable with my balance when drilling them in pole class. I’m also very protective of my shoulders, so I don’t like practising them in twisted grip. In this workshop, she explained a little bit about the difference between twisted grip, true grip and cup grip in handsprings, and shared a series of drills to use to work towards a strength-based handspring. She also gave us some progressions to drill a handspring deadlift.

There’s a detailed review of her Handsprings 101 workshop coming very soon. If you’re keen to read it, drop your email address below and I’ll send it straight to your inbox as soon as it goes live.

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The town of Pula:

Croatia Pole Camp is located at the Hotel Brioni, which is around 5kms away from the city of Pula. It takes around 20 minutes to get into the old Roman part of the town by bus. The busfare is 11 kuna one-way, which converts to around €1.50 each way.

We spent a whole day wandering around the city, taking in the sights.

We started at the Arch of the Sergii, not out of any particular purpose, but rather, because we saw it, and decided it was as good a spot as any to get off the bus.

The Arch of the Sergii

We took a meandering path through the shops, following the clearly marked signage, and ended up at the Temple of Augustus. It’s an incredibly well well-preservedle quite close to the coastline. Having grown up in a country with a western culture as young as Australia, it is mind-blowing to think that a building like this, that was built between 2BC and 14AD is still standing!

From here we decided to make our way with some purpose to the Amphitheatre, a Colosseum type structure that is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. It’s probably the most famous tourist attraction in Pula. It was amazing to see, and because it is so well preserved, it’s easy to imagine how it might have looked thousands of years ago when it was first built. We found it particularly interesting to see the tunnels under the amphitheatre, where animals and gladiators would have been kept. When the Amphitheater was decommissioned in 5AD, the underground section was repurposed as an Olive oil press, and artifacts from this time are on display.

We stopped off in a nearby cafe for a coffee, a DELICIOUS filled croissant, and a free phone recharge. Despite my best effort, I can’t track down the name of the place. I believe it was next to the Tapas Bar Corso, quite close to the ZeroStrasse. You’ll know it’s the right place because it has huge artworks on the wall dedicated to the Croatian Water Polo team.

From here, we ventured up to Pula Castle, a Venetian Fortress at the top of the hill in the centre of the old town. It may have been the language barrier, but we found this fortress to be a little strange. There were lovely views over the town and the marina, and inexplicably, there were a selection of boat propellers and other machinery as well as a boat on display.

By this time, we were well and truly ready for lunch so we made tracks to the Pula Market. Sadly, we arrived too late to experience the market proper, but we had a lovely lunch at a restaurant called Furia, upstairs in the market building. I particularly recommend the grilled squid, it was delicious.

After lunch, it was time for us to head back to the hotel. The day was still young, so we decided to attempt the 5-ish km walk back, thinking we’d be able to walk along the coastline most of the way. Boy oh boy were we wrong.

When we first left the city, we found ourselves walking along a huge, ancient looking wall. This wall seemed to go forever without any break, standing between us and the waters edge. We eventually found an open gate, and we decided to investigate, because we were curious, and there was nothing listed there on Google maps. We found a creepy old building, and people were driving in to access the building, so I decided they were probably criminal masterminds from all over the world, coming to make plans for world domination. It’s possible I let my imagination run away with me.

We freaked ourselves out, and decided to return to the safety of the other side of the wall.

As we continued walking past the wall, we found some doors in the cliff on the other side of the road, which we can only assume are connected to the zerostrasse – an underground tunnel network, erected during WW1. While very interesting, they were also incredibly creepy, (check out the graffiti!) so we satisfied ourselves with looking in from the outside. We also investigated some ruined stairs, only to find a gorgeous church at the top.

We eventually did find our way to the coast, and after debating the possibility of walking along the waters’ edge, we decided to take our shoes off and give it a try. You won’t find any sandy beaches here, it was all pebble beaches and rocky embankments, full of rockpools teeming with life.

The final stretch of the walk back to the hotel was… strange… and we got lost, or slightly misdirected a few times. Ultimately we were very glad to have the security of Google maps making sure we were headed in the right direction.

That covers the two main things that you’re likely to wonder about when trying to decide whether or not to book a place in Croatia Pole Camp. If you want to hear more about the other aspects of the camp, like the accommodation, food, and other parts of our stay, keep reading…

The airport transfers to and from Croatia Pole Camp:

Sunset from the plane as we came into Pula.

Sunset from the plane as we came into Pula.

We flew directly into Pula airport from Rotterdam. We stepped off the plane, strolled straight through customs, grabbed the bag straight off the baggage belt and walked out into arrivals, expecting to see someone from Croatia Pole Camp, but no-one was there.

We were a little concerned that we had been forgotten.

We waited for around 20 minutes before I remembered that Nikolina, the organiser of Croatia Pole Camp, is very responsive to facebook messages. I sent her a message through the Croatia Pole Camp Facebook page, and she responded almost immediately to let me know she was on her way, and she asked us to meet her at the main entrance to the airport.

Nikolina herself came and collected us from the airport and delivered us to the hotel. While we were chatting on the drive to the hotel, she told us that we were the 10th airport transfer of the day, with one more to go! Every plane into Pula that day had been delayed due to winds, except ours, which is why she was late.

Being in the car with Nikolina was a lovely way to meet her and get to know her a little bit better. She’s an incredibly busy woman, and she pours her heart and soul into this camp, and Pole Art Croatia.

If you choose to come to Croatia Pole Camp and you don’t want to rely on a lift from the airport, the estimated Uber fare from the airport was ~€10.

The airport transfer to the airport from the hotel, while fine, was not ideal for my preferred style of travelling. I like to be at the airport nice and early, to allow me to drop my bags, have a cup of coffee and browse Duty-Free. We requested to leave the hotel at 7:30 am, for a 9:55 am flight. When the airport transfer times were announced, we were advised our transfer would depart at 8:15 am. We arrived at the airport exactly one hour before the gate closed for our flight. While we made our flight with no problems, we were a little stressed while queueing in the insanely long line to get through security and immigration. We also missed out on duty-free shopping, but after shopping up a storm at Croatia Pole Camp, my wallet was probably grateful for that! (keep reading for more details on the shopping).

Next year we’ll still use the hotel transfer to get to the hotel at the beginning of camp. It was, after all, a lovely way to connect with Nikolina. For peace of mind and a relaxed airport experience, we’ll probably take an Uber when we’re leaving.

The hotel that hosts Croatia Pole Camp:

Croatia Pole Camp is hosted at the Hotel Brioni Pula, a 2-star hotel in Verudela, a small peninsula to the south of Pula city. It’s apparently the main resort region of Pula, with 5 resorts owned by Park Plaza, and Hotel Brioni as the only non-Park Plaza property on the peninsula. It’s an absolutely GORGEOUS location, right on the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by a forest full of meandering walking paths.

Hotel Brioni is a very old, very dated hotel with LOADS of character. It really does feel a bit like stepping back in time.

I’ll be honest, I had read a lot of reviews of the hotel before arriving, and I had very low expectations. This was probably a good thing because honestly, the hotel was fine. The staff were friendly and helpful, although not all the staff were fluent in English. They were also kind enough to organise us a plate of dinner on our arrival, because we arrived after the dinner service was finished.

The hotel prepared us dinner for our arrival, because we arrived after the dinner service was closed.

The hotel prepared us dinner for our arrival, because we arrived after the dinner service was closed.

The lift from the hotel lobby to the accommodation levels is extremely old and quite disconcerting to be in, so after one ride in the lift, we decided to take the stairs. We were on the top floor, which is only 3 floors up, so it was nothing to complain about.

The rooms themselves are very basic, but for the price, I don’t think you can expect anything different. The rooms have a decently sized balcony with small table and 2 chairs. The room itself has 2 single beds pushed up against each other, and the beds feel quite old and hard. They were not particularly comfortable to sleep on, but after training pole all day, I could have slept on a bed of nails and not felt a thing. There was an old CRT TV in the room that I didn’t even turn on and a small desk area.

The very basic hotel room.

The very basic hotel room.

The rooms do NOT have Wifi – free wifi is only accessible in the lobby of the hotel. This wasn’t a problem for me, as my EU mobile phone plan covered me on my trip. If you’re travelling from outside the EU, it is a factor worth being aware of. The rooms also do not have an in-room safe, which I was aware of before arrival, so I left all my valuable jewellery at home and carried my passport with me most of the time. There is also no air conditioning in the rooms, so when the weather is warm, they become very hot. I managed this by keeping the window and the balcony door open during the day, which kept the room a very comfortable temperature.

The bathroom was fine. The shower was hot and had good water pressure, and there was plenty of room to lay out my toiletries. There was even a bidet if that’s your thing.

The food at Croatia Pole Camp:

The food at the hotel was the one thing that I didn’t particularly enjoy.

When reading online reviews of the hotel, the food was reviewed very highly, so my hopes were raised. Sadly, I found most of the food to be unappetising, or incompatible with my preferred way of eating.

Breakfast:

In my day to day life, I practice intermittent fasting, so I don’t generally eat breakfast, but I’m a complete sucker for a hotel buffet breakfast. When I stay at a hotel I usually treat myself to a hot breakfast and a pastry or two.

Unfortunately, the selection of hot breakfast foods was disappointing and lukewarm. There was, however, puff pastry squares that were stuffed with either jam or chocolate. These were tasty.

The breakfast buffet also included yoghurts, cheese, pickled vegetables, breakfast cereals (cornflakes, chocolate flakes and muesli), a limited selection of fruit, bread for toasting and an assortment of cakes and strudel.

There was a selection of juices available and coffee both from a machine (to make lattes/cappuccinos etc) and from an urn. The machine coffee had a strange flavour, but the urn coffee was fine and gave me a much-needed caffeine hit in the mornings.

The breakfast was definitely the best meal on offer at the hotel.

Lunch and Dinner:

The lunches and dinners at the hotel were the meals that I felt quite let down by. On a day-to-day basis, I eat quite plain, “clean” food, to help me to reach my training goals. I was hoping to continue this while in Croatia.

Unfortunately, the lunch and dinner buffet had very limited “healthy” options. The meats were almost exclusively served in cream-based sauces, the vegetables were all buttered and overcooked, and the salad vegetables were, for the most part, covered in dressing, with the exception of mealy tomatoes and dry cucumber.

After trialling the hotel restaurant for lunches and dinners, we ended up skipping a few meals. We either ate a protein bar (brought from home) and a banana (taken from the breakfast buffet), or we drank our calories (I don’t usually drink alcohol, but I make an exception when I’m on holidays!)

We had some free time over lunch on one of the days, so we ate lunch at the po0l bar at the Park Plaza, around the other side of the small peninsula. It was both affordable and delicious. We shared the squid pizza, the green risotto and a large bottle of sparkling water, and the entire bill came to 20 euros.

The event registration for Croatia Pole Camp:

Event registration was quick and easy. On Thursday (the first day of the camp) we went to the hotel lobby and checked in at the Croatia Pole Camp registration desk. I had paid in full before arrival, but it was also possible to pay cash at the registration desk. We were also able to register for additional workshops and reshuffle our schedules slightly, which came in handy.

The shopping at Croatia Pole Camp:

Oh my God, the shopping.

This year, the exhibiting retailers were Pole Dancerka, Mila Krasna, Boomkats Polewear, Vertical Love and Ninarozina Polewear. Most of the retailers were offering a discount of between 12% and 20%, and Pole Dancerka also had a selection of samples and seconds available for next to nothing.

Aside from the exhibiting retailers, Sarah Scott had a selection of her Off The Pole clothing available for purchase, Nadia Sharif had her Twisted Movement range, and Marion Crampe had some branded clothing as well.

I did quite a bit of shopping… I bought:

From Pole Dancerka:
From Nina Rozina Polewear:
From Sarah Scott/Off the Pole:
From Marion Crampe:
  • A “Twist Your Body” flowy tank top (not available online).

I could have bought so much more, but I had to maintain some semblance of a budget… but I was VERY tempted by the Mila Krasna stand.

The “free” training at Croatia Pole Camp:

There were a few free training session every day, with a variety of activities:

I ended up only doing one free training session, and that was a flexibility workshop with one of the instructors from S-Fitness, a Pula based pole studio. I enjoyed the class, although I always enjoy training flexibility. It was a fairly straightforward gymnastics style flexibility training, with a focus on static stretching and passive flexibility.

The morning yoga classes looked really lovely and were held behind the hotel, right on the water.

Yoga by the Sea.

Yoga by the Sea. Image credit: Croatia Pole Camp

The Conditioning class also looked amazing, taking full advantage of the incredible location.

Pole Art Croatia:

On Friday night, we went to a gorgeous theatre called the Dom Hrvatskih Branitelja to watch Pole Art Croatia, a national/international Pole Dance competition.

Transfers to and from the theatre were included, but we were not entirely sure where to meet the transfer drivers. It turns out, the vans were waiting for us at the front of the hotel, driven by members of the Twin Horn Motorcycle Club.

Pole Art Croatia ran for 3 hours, and included the categories:

  • Amateur
  • Semi-pro
  • Men
  • Doubles
  • Professional

It was a lovely show, and it was wonderful to see the mixture of performances from amateur to pro up there enjoying the beautiful stage.

The overall contest was won by Rania Pole Angel, and she so deserved it. Her performance was absolutely breathtaking.

I expect that the performances will be uploaded to youtube in the coming weeks, and I’ll link all the winning performances when they go live.

All in all my trip to Pula was a big adventure. There were massive highs, and a few lows (mostly related to the hotel food), but 10/10 I would, and will return for future Pole Camps.

If you like the sound of Croatia Pole Camp and you’d like to sign up for the next one, you can visit their website here. Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to the next one – I might see you there!