Croatia – from Zagreb to Dubrovnik

1 Aug

We’ve just left Croatia, an arid but beautiful country along the Adriatic Sea. It is a country we spent 15 days in, soaking up plenty of sun rays, getting in lots of swims in the cool sea and where we certainly made the most of Croatia’s cafe culture, enjoying the fruits of the country like it’s delicious golden olive oil, refreshing beer and wine.

Zagreb
We began by arriving in Zagreb for a night, the capital in the north. We arrived there from Slovenia and it was the first time we had to produce our passports at the border since arriving in Paris a month ago. Zagreb was simply a stopover town for us. We ended up with a few days to spare before we planned to meet Steve in Split (further south along the coast) so we decided to hire a car in Zagreb and head to the Plitvice Lakes following a recommendation by the friendly hostel owner way back in Poland.

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Most famous of the National Park is an area of 16 lakes, all connected by cascading waterfalls. It’s very lush and we spent two days walking around the blue waters and up into the forest surrounding them. Like Lake Bled in Slovenia, it was a nice change to the cities we had spent most of our time in at the beginning of our trip.

Coastal Croatia
After Plitvice, we drove west to the sea. Just before we hit the coastal village of Karlobag, the sea came into view after plenty of winding through the mountains. We were finally there – a much welcomed sight after many hot days… We would soon take our first dip in the clear Adriatic Sea! We drove the rest of the day down to Split, following the coastline the whole way. It was beautiful to drive mere meters away from the sea, only occasionally the road would lead us inland and we would come face to face with the desolate landscape once again.

We finally hit Trogir, an ancient fishing village a few kilometres from Split. We spent the night there – dinner was thanks to the fresh food markets there, while we strolled around the Old Town and along the marina in this busy little town. The weather was amazingly refreshing with a sea breeze, a change from the constant heat we had been travelling through. Perhaps this is making up for the endless overcast days we spent in the UK!

Split!
Only 10 minutes from Trogir is Split airport, where we met Steve the following day. A familiar face makes its way to us through the crowds and its the first time I set eyes on my little brother in two years! We spent the rest of the day catching up at a cafe along the Split promenade, drinking ice coffee and eating cool cream cakes, similar to vanilla slice back home (delicious!) We spent the next two days swimming in the sea, drinking cocktails and, when we felt motivated enough, made the short trip inland to the old Roman city of Salona. We spent an hour or so wandering around the olive groves that now grow there amongst the ruins.

Split’s Diocletian Palace, which forms the Old Town today, is stunning and we spent our nights soaking up the atmosphere at the bars there and along the promenade. The town is quite beautiful, especially when a night-time storm would roll in and we would sit along the marina watching the lightning over the mountains behind the town, cooling things off before a massive downpour of rain.

Hvar
Following three days in Split, we made the quick catamaran trip to Hvar, one of Croatia’s thousand islands. It is known as the lavender island for its lavender fields, which are harvested in June. On our first full day on the island we came across lavender growing while driving around in an old convertible VW Beatle. We could scent the aroma of lavender in the air as we drove along the easterly part of the island. The island also grows and produces olive oil and plenty of wine, which we eagerly sampled and bought bottles of. Sightseeing from our bright green Beatle was a nice way to see more of the island.

Korcula
After more days of swimming, lounging on sunbeds and generally soaking up the island lifestyle, we caught another catamaran to the island of Korcula. The town of Korcula sits at the tip of the island and there are marble streets and staircases which make their way up to the church which sits pretty much in the centre. Many restaurants and bars are located along one side of the town which overlooks the sea, looking south to Italy. Again, we are met with beautiful clear seas surrounding the island. There are hardly any sand beaches in Croatia, so swimmers spend their time lounging on the rocks, diving straight in almost from where they lay as the water is deep enough close to the rocky shores. Just a short way out, we are unable to touch the bottom of the sea bed as we take a dip to refresh ourselves most days.

Dubrovnik
Only a night and a day in Korcula and we are then on a bus to Dubrovnik, the gem at the bottom of Croatia. It is part of the mainland but is separated from the rest of Croatia as the Bosnia and Herzegovina border splits mainland Croatia in two. Dubrovnik is indeed everything you hear it to be – an ancient walled city (about 56 per cent is now reconstructed due to the Homeland War with former Yugoslavia which began some 20 years ago), which wraps itself around a sea of terracotta roofs and marble streets. Outside of that is the clear Adriatic Sea, just beautiful, cool and refreshing, as it has been our whole trip along the coast of Croatia.

There is a lot to see in Dubrovnik, like a walk around the almost 2km of thick walls that surround the city. It’s hot and thirsty work in the plus-30 degree heat but the rewards in terms of the views is amazing. All we see is the complex labyrinth of terracotta rooftops beneath us contrasting with the blue Adriatic Sea. The Old Town itself is full of bars, restaurants and cafes, there is a beach a few minutes walk outside the city walls and a cable car zooms visitors to the top of the mountain which overlooks the city, offering some great panoramic views. We took the trip up to see  the setting sun over the sea and some of Croatia’s other islands north of Dubrovnik on our last night in the city.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dubrovnik is also close to bordering countries Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We took a day trip to Mostar, a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s the hottest city in Europe and we were met with 45 degree heat. We were sweating the whole time we were wandering around the streets… But it was worth it to see Mostar’s famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) which connects the two sides of the city over the river Neretva. The bridge stood for 500 years before it was destroyed in 1993 by The Homeland War with former Yugoslavia. The bridge is also famous for its ‘jumpers’, local men who jump the 25 meters into the river below. For 25 Euros, we could have jumped too. But the river below is incredibly fast-moving and actually quite freezing… It rarely gets over 10 degrees. It’s true… We went for a paddle and it felt like ice against our hot skin, although it was amazingly refreshing.

Moving on…
We’re now in Rome and our romp around Italy begins. It’s time for pizza, pasta, wine and gelato for the next month! Caio!

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6 Responses to “Croatia – from Zagreb to Dubrovnik”

  1. Grandma August 2, 2012 at 6:27 AM #

    Hi Melinda we are enjoying ur trip around Europe

    love you

    Grandma

    • mmeblog August 4, 2012 at 10:04 PM #

      Thanks. Wish we could experience it together xx

  2. jane cook August 2, 2012 at 11:10 AM #

    Beautifully written Mel. Glad you’re all having such a good time. Love Mum.

    • mmeblog August 4, 2012 at 10:03 PM #

      Having an awesome time. Can’t wait to get back to Australia to see you though!

  3. Amy August 3, 2012 at 9:09 PM #

    Sounds like you had amazing weather and a fab time in Croatia. Enjoy Italy and catching up with your family x

    • mmeblog August 4, 2012 at 10:02 PM #

      Croatia… amazing, amazing, amazing! Thanks. Right back at ya… hope you’re still enjoying the great continent of Africa.

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today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

An Australian Writer in (North) Germany

I am the world's oyster

Photography, Aviation, Nature, Culture, Nikon, Canon, Qantas, Airlines, Emirates, Airports, A380, 747

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