Tag Archives: Croatia

Split

Its beautiful here. The coast apparently hasn’t heard that its November, so its perfectly comfortable wearing just a short sleeved shirt out. I spent part of the morning sitting on a bench seaside waiting for Janice who was having trouble with her debit card. Croatian bank machines randomly decide they don’t like our cards and spit them out – I had the same problem in Zagreb. Everything was a little damp that morning because of the thunderstorm the night before. Storms here are so cool because you see them for hours as the roll in off the sea, slowly getting closer and closer to you. That morning, and for the rest of the day it was mostly clear, only a few clouds in the sky. Many Croats seem to be out and about – old men meeting friends for coffee, little old ladies with their morning shopping and families out with babies and small children.

Boulevard

When we arrived in Split the night before I was a little nervous about finding our way from the bus station to the hostel (based both on the trouble we had in Zadar and that the hostel owner told me on the phone it was hard to find). Luckily they had given us such good directions that we felt we already knew the way there. When we arrived, the hostel staff (Damien) greeted us and turned out to be such a nice guy. He gave us specific directions and recommendations for how to spend our time and both nights we ended up hanging out with him watching bad movies and laughing.

Our dorm was pretty empty both nights and as luck would have it, our companions both nights were Canadians – the first night was a guy from Milton and the second night we shared with a couple from Montreal. Canucks abroad… and together.

The next morning after we had sorted out the bank issue, we headed up the hill to one side of the harbour – Damien had recommended we have coffee up there. It was about a thirty minute walk up a series of staircases but the view was very much worth it. The town is so pretty and the view over the harbour was amazing. After coffee we headed down and bought train tickets for the next day before having a proper breakfast (plus more coffee) and writing postcards – hopefully everyone has gotten one by now (or the should arrive in the next week or so) If not, let me know because they may have gotten lost (or I put it in the wrong box!)

Up the hill

After our errands were done we headed up the shore to the beach and spend a few hours relaxing, watching the locals play frisbee in the water. We went wading ourselves – it wasn’t too bad! We wandered back into town to a fast food joint the Australian couple we met in Plitvice had recommended and ordered what was labeled “little fish” on the menu. Turned out to be battered, deep-fried whole minnows. Which weren’t bad – if you could look them in the eye! We followed our fish with gelato as we wandered around the ruins of Diocletian’s palace – a massive retirement home for an Emperor build in the 4th century (AD of course). Pretty sweet gig – ruler of civilization and then a sweet palace to retire to? How come there are no jobs like that anymore!?

Beach

Fried Fishies

Ice cream

But the ruins of the palace – the old gates, the Cathedral, the old temples, even parts of the mosaic floors that remain were incredible. So much fun wandering down an alley wondering where it will lead! After our adventures running around the ruins we went for dinner at a local restaurant (another suggestion from Damien) where everyone sat at big tables together. We ate fish (again served whole, thank goodness I can debone a fish!) and cevapici – they really are delicious! That night we hung out with Damien again and in the morning began our train adventures to Ljubljana!

At the ruins

Mosaic floors

Fish for dinner

Sunset in Split

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Plitvice and Zadar

That morning we got up early (5:30) and got ready before heading to the bus station to catch a bus to Plitvice, Croatia’s national park. Our host was sure that leaving the house at 6:30 would get us there on time, but between missing one tram and waiting for a connection, we were scrambling for time and arrived at the station five minutes before the bus was supposed to depart.

Luckily we made it on the bus, which was a little late and headed off through the winding roads and hilly countryside to Plitvice. We were dropped off in what looked like the middle of nowhere at about ten and then spent forty minutes wandering around trying to find a place to store our backpacks, because in off season, everything in the area is closed. We finally found one open hotel, stored our luggage and headed down the trail to the park. We had been told by the driver that the last bus continuing to Zadar was at two pm, so we chose a short trail to walk.

A ferry took us over the lake and dropped us off at a dock with a series of steps leading up, so we wandered up the trail and spent the next few hours walking through the gorgeous lakes and waterfalls. No picture or words can do justice to the colour of the water – such a deep blue, almost jade. And the fall colours everywhere were beautiful. Of course we took a million pictures (ok, maybe only three hundred) and even managed to spot some wildlife in the form of bright blue song birds and a woodpecker!

The lake the ferry took us across

Janice on the trail

In front of the waterfalls

Around one we were getting cold and hungry and tired from all the steps, so we wandered back to the hotel, collected our bags and trekked back to the bus stop where we met an Australian couple who had been travelling for about two months and had another two months to go. They had kids a little older than us back home and had done a similar trip to us when they were young so we chatted and shared food. While we have had really good luck with weather and such, they had had very poor luck this trip – three of four national parks they were planning on going to this trip had closed due to natural disasters and it had rained for two of the days they were in Plitvice. Once the bus came we boarded and drove down the mountain, through another series of mountains which had much more of a desert climate and finally to the coast where we were dropped off in Zadar.

We took a taxi to our host’s house (having gotten directions from Pam and directions from him via text on how to get into his place) and thus began our adventure with the host we never met. I can’t even be positive this person really exists. When we arrived he had gone to work, he worked late into the night and we were asleep when he got home, we were up and gone exploring the next day before he was up and when we came back he was gone. He was supposed to get home in five minutes when we called him but almost an hour went by and we had to leave to catch our bus. We communicated solely through notes and texts, aside from one desperate phone call when we were lost trying to get back to his place (before we realized we were less than five minutes away from his house!) So thank you to a complete stranger who was trusting enough to let two strangers live in his house for awhile!

Oh self taken photos - the only way we have photos of both of us!

On the warf

Speaking of being lost though, we have never been lost in a city as often as we were lost in Zadar. Our relatively decent sense of direction went completely out the window and we spent multiple hours lost, wandering around industrial areas looking for the downtown center. Luckily we did find it eventually and it was worth it – the pier was beautiful and the walled old town was too. They had these old roman ruins as well as a couple of gorgeous churches – one of which apparently is transportable! We ended up stopping for pizza at a little cafe by the sea and we accidentally ordered two smalls (we were going to share one) but they were delicious, so it was ok. After another adventure in being lost we found our way back to Ivan’s (our host) and eventually had to leave for the bus stop, but had trouble finding a taxi to get us there. We stopped at a bank and asked them to call us one and eventually we got picked up. Another very close call and we made it on the bus with exactly two minutes to spare! On our bus journey down the coast we watched a storm roll in off the Adriatic – very cool. Luckily, we were safely in our hostel in Split before it started to rain!

Street in the Old Town

The Church of St Mary

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Zagreb

The train ride from Vienna to Villach was one of the prettiest I’ve ever taken. We went through the mountains with pretty little towns down below and ruins of castles perched on cliffs and the whole time had our faces pressed against the windows being the lame tourist who take pictures from moving vehicles! But it didn’t matter it was so pretty. Once we got into Villach we were starving, so we bought pastries and more coffee before boarding the train again. When we realized we would have to go another five hours without food Janice made a mad dash back to the bakery to pick up some more supplies! Europe has certainly not been good for my coffee habit – I now drink coffee all the time – whoops!

We crossed through Slovenia (mostly passing through rougher neighbourhoods of cities and little farming communities before stopping at the Croat border to go through customs, which took ages and delayed us by forty minutes. We finally arrived in Zagreb and followed our host’s instructions to her house, which were very clear until we were supposed to get off the tram and cross the bridge. Of course there were multiple bridges going in different directions and we chose the wrong one. It took almost an hour for us to get sorted out and meet our host, Ivana, and we had a chuckle about running around in circles just missing each other multiple times.
It turned out that Ivana had a cold and had an exam the next week, so we only had a place to stay for two nights. We decided we would head down to the coast for a couple days before heading back into Slovenia. The next morning we headed downtown and explored for a couple hours – the food and wine market, the flower market, the vegetable market (yay markets!) as well as the Cathedral and main square. Then we met up with Pam, another couchsurfer who had offered to show us around the city. She took us on a fabulous tour and explained the history of the city – one side of the river had the religious community and the other the merchant community and they used to fight on the bridges till the water ran red. She also told us all about the problems in Croatian politics with corruption (the former Prime Minister is currently in jail) and showed us some very pretty architecture. We accidentally ended up following around a photoshoot of a group of guys who may or may not have been in band… and then we stumbled upon the filming of a political documentary (we think) so we escaped to the safety of the Museum of Broken Relationships. It was named one of the best museums in Europe in 2010 and was a really interesting experience. Some of the stories were funny – a present from an inconsiderate boyfriend led to the breakup, or the guy who made huge paper mache breasts and wanted his girlfriend to wear them (she dumped him) but many were sad – a woman whose husband was stabbed in front of her. It was all incredibly interesting to be able to peer into those aspects of other people’s lives.

Pam and Janice

Fortifications of the Old Cathedral

After the museum, Pam invited us back to her house for lunch. Her mother had prepared this huge meal using things they mostly grew themselves. We had roast chicken, roast pork, crackling, cevapici (little ground meat sausages sans casing), grilled vegetables, bean salad and a red pepper relish that was renowned among their friends and family. Everything was delicious! We mentioned to Pam that we were heading to the coast the next day and she suggested we check out Zadar and then immediately emailed a friend of hers to see if we could stay with him (he said yes) and then she gave us a crash course in Croatian! She was definitely one of the loveliest people I’ve met and I sincerely hope I get the chance to spend more time with her in the future.

On our way home we tried to stop at a grocery store near Ivana’s house to pick up some stuff to make dinner, but as we found out multiple times in Croatia, the Croats are slightly directionally challenged. Signs are often misplaced or incorrect and people will send you in the exact opposite direction of where you’re aiming. So we went back to Ivana’s and google mapped the store before trying again (and succeeding this time!) We had a lovely dinner with Ivana and her roommates and then settled down for the night. Onto Plitvice and Zadar in the morning!

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