Archive for the ‘Croatia’ Category

The Balkans | Day 17 | Croatia | Rovinj

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Rovinj was [say it with me now]: “a cute stari grad.” It was also touristy, but had more personality than many of the other stari grads. It also had more stores with unique hand-made items from local artisans. But again, most of this recap is told through the captions, so read on after the jump.

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The Balkans | Day 16 | Croatia | Pula

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Pula was underwhelming, to say the least. I guess if you’ve never seen a Roman amphitheatre/ mini-coliseum, then it might impress you. But there is no other coliseum than THE coliseum in Rome. We had barely been at the Pula arena for 10 minutes when German Jules asked in a polite tone, “are you ready for the exit?” This was my favorite quote from the trip. A close second was a comment by Australian Jade in regards to a 5:45am departure time, which by her watch was “at the crack of stupid o’clock.”

One cool thing about the arena is that there are outdoor concerts in the summer, and if you don’t want to pay for a seat formerly used by the ancient Romans, you can sit at a cafe across from the arena or just stand outside it and hear/see it for free. When we were there, it was some weird electronic techno music—”music” being a generous term. Tomi said the last time he was there with a tour it was a piano concert. I would have LOVED to see that. A piano concert in summer nights of a Roman mini-coliseum would have brought Pula up from underwhelming to “whelming.”

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The Balkans | Day 15 | Croatia | Zadar

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In the morning we went to Pag Island for a cheese tasting. I’m not a huge cheese person in general, but those on the trip who were weren’t particularly impressed. The factory was pretty cool, but I would say don’t go out of your way to try Pag cheese. Afterwards, we stopped briefly in Pag town, which was just another cute old town. I didn’t even bother taking photos of this umpteenth Croatian stari grad.

We then returned to Zadar and explored its old town. Many people on the trip were old-towned-out by this point, which to be fair, I was too, but for some reason, I actually really liked Zadar. It blended modern architecture and commerce well with the old historical buildings. I liked the vibe of the town; felt a bit less touristy. They also have a cool sea organ, which are pipes built into the boardwalk/seawall and when boats go by and cause large waves it creates sound in the pipes.

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The Balkans | Day 14 | Croatia | Plitvice Lakes

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Soooo, PLITVICE. Somehow, somewhere, last year I came across this national park when I was researching the original Journeymoon. I had wanted to visit Croatia last year, but just didn’t have enough time or money. But, I was determined to get to this park, even if just for a day.

When I planned how to get there, how to squeeze it into my schedule, I was basing my journey off of transportation that was available in the summer at high tourist season. But the days I set aside for Plitvice were the last few days of October, and there were fewer options to get there. So, it would have ended up costing me about $900 just to get myself to the park. I decided it was not worth it, and would come back to Croatia another time and see more of the country. CUT TO: Journeymoon #2.

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The Balkans | Day 12-13 | Croatia | Split

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Day 12: Split, the palace and markets

We arrived from Hvar around mid-morning, checked into our rooms at Hotel Slavija which is located inside part of the ancient palace. There are roman baths in the basement of the hotel but we weren’t allowed to go down and see them as they were doing construction to build a restaurant in the baths. We all split up [heh, pun] and a grabbed a quick breakfast, then met our local guide, Suzi, for a private tour of Diocletian’s palace which was built in the 4th Century AD. After the tour, several of us went to lunch at a locals’ restaurant for ćevapčići, which was cheap and delicious. In the afternoon, we climbed up the steps of the Marjan hills/park for a scenic view of Split.

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The Balkans | Croatia | Special Feature

The Colors of the Beach

From the bronzed to blackened of the sun-blessed Italians, Spaniards, and Croatians;
to the milky to browning of the sun-discriminated Germans;
to the white, pink, and reddening Valentines-carnations-bouquet of the sun-punished Brits;
to the shade-covered granite black African married to the sun-worshipping snow white blonde to their sun-favored mocha colored 5-year-old son;
to the melting rainbow tones of the few Americans and Australians;
these are the colors of the beach.

The Balkans | Day 10-11 | Croatia | Hvar

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DAY 10: Ditching a party town for a partly ditched town

Hvar is the party island of Croatia. There were tons of huge yachts docked along the boardwalk of the old town, some equipped with bodyguards. Must have been some very important people partying in Hvar while I was there lying awake in my bed listening to stupid-loud drunks.

No one our on tour was a partier, and we were all a bit turned off by Hvar town and its tourist scene. We were on an Intrepid trip, after all, which promises more off-the-beaten path, local-life experiences. In fact, much of our trip had felt touristy. Granted we were there in high tourist season, but a lot of us were getting a bit frustrated with the itinerary. Fortunately, Tomi, our tour leader came to the rescue in Hvar, and took us on a hike through an abandoned village, Velo Grablje, where we snacked on wild blackberries and plucked fragrant lavender. This town used to be home to people who worked in the surrounding vineyards, but a disease wiped out all the grape crops, so the village was abandoned before WWII.

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The Balkans | Day 8-9 | Croatia | Korčula

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As I said in an earlier post, I really don’t have much to report on the Croatia towns, other than photos. So, I’ll answer some questions I’ve been getting about this trip.

Q: How is the food in Croatia?
A: In general, not great and over-priced. If you go to sit-down restaurants, the food is typically Italian per the Venetian influence, but there’s also a lot of seafood as well. I did have an amazing pizza in Lapad Beach, Dubrovnik, at Pizzeria Mamma Mia, which bluntly advertised on its sign “best pizza in town,” to which I was like, “umm, ok we’ll see,” but they weren’t lying! It was seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had and I was in Italy for a month last year AND lived in NYC for three years. So I know pizza.

But in most cases, expect to pay $20-30 USD per meal for mediocre food. My suggestion to avoid dropping so much money on food is to go to a bakery and get a pastry with meat. Tomi, our tour leader, took me to a great bakery in Korčula and then to the supermarket for plain yogurt to eat with the meat pastry, as the locals do. There are also hole-in-the-wall pizzerias with €2 slices of pizza or €3 meat and veggie wraps. Often on these long trips I will just go to the supermarket and by salami, bread, and cheese, and make my own sandwiches and get fresh fruit from the markets. Also, in the slavic countries, you can get their traditional dish ćevapčići, sausages and bread, for really cheap.

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The Balkans | Day 6-7 | Croatia | Dubrovnik

0600_dubrov_titleI had actually been in Dubrovnik since Day 2, but because of my day-trips, didn’t really start exploring it until Day 6. I went into the Old Town in the morning and weaved my way through the swarms of cruise ship tourists. I learned later from fellow travelers, that if you are staying in Dubrovnik, the best time to visit the Old Town is in the afternoon and evening because by then the cruise-shippers have returned to their boats. I wish I had known this because it was CROWDED. And I could only handle the heat and the crowds for a couple hours before I returned to my hotel in Lapad and went to the “beach”—a loose term in Croatia as most people just layout on concrete or rocks and jump into the water. There are very few actual beaches in Croatia, and those are usually pebble. The water is beautiful and clear, but I think the best way to enjoy it is to take a sailing trip where you can drop anchor in secluded bays to swim.

After I laid out on the crowded concrete, I returned to my hotel to meet my Intrepid group for the Dubrovnik to Bled 2-week tour. There were two Australian couples with grown children, one of them had six grandchildren; five single women from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, and USA (me); and our tour leader, a single guy.

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The Balkans | Day 5 | Croatia | Konavle Valley

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DAY 5: Konavle Valley with the Enchanted Nature Boy

I booked a half-day bike tour through the Croatian countryside, but I was the only one who booked that day, so I got a private tour with Marko, just like last year in Athens with Nikita. And let me tell you, private tours are the best!

We drove out to a winery where the bikes were stored. Wine-tasting was actually part of the tour. And apparently, if you are the only one on the tour and you do not drink, you should voice this before you head out on the bikes, or when you return there will be a tasting set up for you and you will get the stink-eye when the disgruntled owner packs up all the open bottles and drives home.

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