Croatia had been on my "list" for a long time. My sister travelled to Europe in 2008, and met some Croatians that regaled her with stories of the country's beauty and splendor. Before I left for Spain, I made sure I did my research on Croatia, and finally made it there in June. We rented a car for half the trip-amazing idea, as always-and saw a good chunk of the country. Here were some of the highlights:
Pula is on the peninsula of Istria, and is famous for its Roman buildings, which includes a stunning amphitheater. The amphitheater was built in the first century, and is extremely well preserved. You can walk around the entire thing, and there are far less crowds than at the Coliseum in Rome. It's even being transformed into a hockey rink for the upcoming exhibition match between Croatia and Austria.
We made Senj our headquarters for exploring the amazing Plitvice Lakes. Again, this stop was made because of a suggestion from my 19-year-old brother. When I told him we were going to Croatia, he Googled it and sent me a picture with the message, "You have to go here!" Once we did more research and saw how amazing the lakes were, we made it a priority.
The Plitvice Lakes blew my mind! We spent the entire afternoon exploring the massive national park. I had seen the photos of the crystal-clear water, but it was even more unreal in person. It was a hot day, but swimming in the lakes is prohibited. I did, however, almost take an unexpected dip when another visitor accidentally tripped me. Oops.
We also experienced the hospitality of the Croatian people in Senj. When we arrived to the town, we had directions to our guest house, but they were pretty horrible. Senj is not a big place, but we could not for the life of us figure out where were were supposed to go. The town is situated on a harbor, and a lot of it runs up onto the surrounding hills, making all the roads very steep and windy. After an hour of looking for the place, we finally stopped to ask for directions at someone's house. We approached a man and his wife who were outside working in their garden. They didn't speak English (in fact, I'm pretty sure they were trying to speak to us in German at one point), and we didn't know a word of Croatian. However, they called the guesthouse to get directions and then drove us right to the door. It's still amazing to me how well you can communicate with people without knowing a word in each other's languages.
|Spectacular view from our apartment|
|Drinks after a stressful day trying to find the guesthouse!|
Dubrovnik truly is the "Pearl of the Adriatic". You know how you build a place up in your head, imagining what it will be like, and it usually fails to meet your expectations? Well, Dubrovnik exceed all of my expectations. It was stunningly beautiful, easy to get around, and gave us some great adventures.
For some reason, I decided that sea kayaking should be at the top of our list of things to do. I've only been river/lake kayaking, so I'm still confused as to why I thought this was a great idea. The day before I was talking to my sister, and she asked me if I though I'd get seasick while kayaking. The thought had never crossed my mind, but as I am prone to all kinds of motion sickness, I packed my Dramamine gum and didn't think much more of it. The next day we headed to the cove and looked out at the massive waves. Our guide explained that since the waves were so big, we wouldn't be kayaking around the entire island, just along the coast to the beach where we would take our lunch break. We loaded up and began our journey. At first, I was fine, albeit a bit nervous because the waves really were huge. After 30 minutes, though, I began to feel nauseous. Watching everyone else bob up and down over the waves didn't help, and we were still far from the beach. "Well," I thought, "It's going to happen. I'm going to puke in the ocean." We waited a bit til we were at the tail end of the group before I spewed into the sea. It was around this time that I realized that I did not in fact enjoy sea kayaking. We made it to the beach, I tried to eat my sandwich, and dreaded heading back to the cove. Later I learned that Bryce was hoping I would say I was just going to take a cab back, so he could volunteer to go with me. However, I made it back to the cove without further incident, and decided that while I was glad I tried it, sea kayaking was not for me.
|Where we set off from on our kayaking trip|
|Walking around the old city walls at sunset|
The rest of our time in Dubrovnik was spent looking around the old town, which was beautiful with its city walls and red-tiled roofs. There is still some evidence of the war that ended in 1995, and there are a few bombed out buildings along the coast, as well as several memorials to those who served. We also spent some time lounging on the beach, of course. There are still so many parts of Croatia that I didn't get to see, but that will just have to wait for next time. I feel like I got a nice look at the culture and history of the country, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.