My Story of Croatia
After two wonderful days in Montenegro, we headed over to Croatia, with a first stop in the one and only, most popular: Dubrovnik.
Yes, one of the jewels of the Adriatic Coast, the town of Dubrovnik has become more and more popular in the past few years, particularly due to the Game of Thrones series, that used the stone-paved streets and stoned walls of Dubrovnik as filming location. However, the series is not what makes Dubrovnik great. The old town of Dubrovnik is like a fortress and a labyrinth of stone. We got there around 10 am and the streets were already packed and buzzing with tourists. Moreover, it was also, weirdly, scorching hot. The sun was blazing and warming up the many stones and making everyone sweaty. If you took the side streets and got lost in the labyrinth, you could get shelter from the sun and that’s exactly what we did. After meandering around for a while, the heat got the best of us and we really wanted to get to our accommodation that was all the way to Split – another great city on the Adriatic Coast.Here too we booked a studio with a kitchenette in a small town just outside of Split, called Stobreč.
TIP TIME: Compared to the other Balkan countries, Croatia is a bit more expensive, particularly in tourist areas such as Dubrovnik or Split. So if you are on a low budget, avoid the centres and look for accommodation and restaurants more on the outskirts.
After getting settled, we hopped in the car and headed to the center of Split. This center contains the remains of Diocletian’s Palace and is surrounded by stone walls. We wandered through the streets, marveled at the columns, and ate a sort of pizza-sandwich-shawarma on the steps of the ruins of the Palace of Diocletian. I have to say, perhaps it might have been the slightly cooler weather of the afternoon, or just me being more relaxed, but I liked Split better than Dubrovnik.
On the following day, we took a short trip to a nearby town, called Trogir. It’s located on a tiny island that’s connected to the mainland through a tiny bridge. And it is wonderful. The waterfront is the perfect promenade place, the stone streets – the perfect labyrinth to get lost in. There’s also a castle/fort and a tower – really fairytale-like. We also stumbled upon a choir singing beautifully, so pretty much perfect.
After the short trip to Trogir, we returned to Stobreč, to relax on the small beach that was nearly deserted and very quiet. And then, of course, we got hungry. On our car trips, we spotted a remote fish restaurant and decided to check it out. We were not sorry. Although it didn’t look like much from the outside, the inside was nicely decorated, and the food was absolutely incredible and at very good prices. The restaurant is called Bistro Torcida Stobreč.
The following day we left Split and headed towards Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of those places you always see pictures of on the internet and say “I wanna go there somewhere”. Well, I did, and it was amazing. Plitvice is a huge park with lakes, hundreds of waterfalls and splendid views. You can get there by car, park it in the designated parking lots at one of the two entrances in the park. You can also buy your ticket at the info point and get a map of the various trails you can walk. We decided on a trail that should have taken us about 5-6 hours. If you’ve read some of my other articles, you may have noticed we’re quite fast-paced tourists, which is why it only took us 3 hours 🙂 Besides walking, there’s an electric bus that will take you from the entrance, deeper into the park, and depending on your chosen trail, you can also take a boat ride and cross the lake. Every step you take and every corner you round it’s an opportunity to take the best picture.
TIP TIME: Try to reach the park earlier in the morning. It will be a bit less crowded. Also, it’s recommended to start at Entrance 2 – also considered less crowded. Moreover, if you go in the spring or summer, starting in the morning will spare you from the heat of noon. Despite being mostly in the cover of shadows, thanks to the many trees, having so much water around makes the humidity quite high, which in turn makes the heat less bearable. So make sure you have drinking water with you as well.
Once we got our fill of the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park, we started towards our accommodation, a few km away, in a quiet hill area. The villa we stayed at was modernly designed and had a pretty garden and a gorgeous view of the hills. This allowed us to get some well-deserved rest for the trip back home that started the next day.
We made a one-hour stop in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where we took a short walk around the city centre. Unfortunately, we didn’t really make time for Zagreb, but the city had a big number of museums worth visiting, so we made a note of returning someday and visiting them all. We then left for Belgrade, Serbia, where we were to stay overnight, before finally heading home to Bucharest, Romania. In Belgrade, we arrived in time for a free guided tour that gave us a better sense of the city and its history. Belgrade seemed familiar to me, although I’ve never been there before. Probably because there are some similarities between Serbia’s capital and Bucharest.
Getting back home, we took again the road along the Danube, this time driving more on the Serbian side. It was very enjoyable, so if you ever have the chance, do take this scenic route.