We spent 5 days in Dubrovnik and about 3 1/2 days exploring the old town and surrounding areas. There are LOTS of steps and hills as in other parts of Croatia so we really got a workout over the past 15 days. We’re really happy we were able to visit several other “Old Towns” throughout Croatia as several cruise ships make their stops here so the crowds around Old Town were huge which took away some of the enjoyment. To counter this we spent one day walking around the whole town along the top of the fortress walls and then spent yesterday evening exploring when the crowds had thinned out. We had a light dinner consisting of three beers, three glasses of wine, french fries and some chicken (Mc) nuggets. Total cost with tip, $90.00 Canadian. Typical of any tourist destination.
Croatia has been a pleasant surprise. Beautiful towns and country side, friendly people, the tap water is good and drinkable and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Our first Airbnb stay was great. Ina, the host was fantastic. From bringing us Turkish coffee in the morning and home-made cheese pies in the evening she went out of her way to make our stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. We hope our future Airbnb hosts can match Ina.
More hairpin roads, a customs border stop into Bosnia, a 10 minute drive along the Bosnian coast to a border stop with Croatia and a total 3 hour drive to Dubrovnik brings us to our final 5 days in Croatia. Needless to say (I keep saying this!), we found the road to our car rental to drop off our car but do you think we could find their office?!! The sign was about 24″ x 24″ and was located at the bottom of the building by the sidewalk on a very narrow road with no parking or anywhere to stop so we stopped in the middle of the road, put on the hazard lights and I set off to confirm that the tiny little red sign was indeed our rental drop off location. A couple of honks and Croatian curses from several not too happy drivers and we dropped the car off and headed to our first ever Airbnb rental.
Another beautiful coastal drive through hairpin roads to the seaside port town of Makarska known for it’s Makarska Riviera beaches and seafront promenade, all backed by the rugged east towers of the Biokovo mountains. Using the navigation skills of my intrepid copilot Joyce, we landed precisely at our hotel destination, a penthouse style apartment with a harbor view and a small $120.00/night price tag.
We took the ferry for a day trip to the Island of Hvar and then a bus to Hvar Town, a beautiful summer seaside resort town. Highlights of the town include its 13th century walls, a hilltop fortress and main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral.
We stayed on Route 8 which is a secondary, non tolled coastal route and continue to be impressed with the how nice and well-marked the roads are, until you get to Split. It was another of those “Amazing Race” experiences we’ve had so far where it is so easy to get to the town but next to impossible to find the hotel. We found the road our apartment was located on as we had in previous towns but in this case, the whole building where our apartment was located was covered in scaffolding so the address and hotel was not visible.
Split is the second largest city of Croatia and lies on the Dalmatian Coast on the Eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and is linked to the Adriatic Islands and the Apennine peninsula.
Split is home to Diocletian’s Palace, built for the Roman emperor on 305 AD and has existed in some form through the Byzantine period through the Venetian period, the Napolianic wars through World War II to present.
We toured the palace during the day but it was walking through the narrow streets at night that was truly a magical experience.
We stopped in Trogir en route to Split. The town was highly recommended by Tony at Villa Diana and it was a stop well worth it. We spent about two hours wandering within the walled the orthogonal street plan of the old town and stopped for a very delicious lunch of grilled Grouper, Squid, Sardines and Mussels.
Trogir sits on the Adriatic coast and its old town is known for its mix of Renaissance, Boroque and Romanesque buildings. In the 3rd century BC, Tragurion was founded by Greek colonists from the island of Vis and it developed into a major port until the Roman period. In 1997, the historic centre of Trogir has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites for its Venetian architecture. Needless to say, very interesting and full of remarkable and well-preserved history.
Our hotel and breakfast on our terrace. We stayed at Villas Diana which is about 1 km from Old Town. Martina was a gracious host and was ready to help us with any questions we had. The third photo is of a typical 60’s era Eastern Bloc apartment building that you’ll see throughout Croatian and Eastern European cities. It’s a gorgeous day today and we’ve spent the whole morning getting the blog up and running again. Phew! Should be good from here on.
Headed off today to the city of Zadar on the Dalmatian Coast. The countryside was lush with rolling hills and the roads were excellent, something we’ve really noticed to date. We connected off of a secondary road to a toll highway, speed limit 130 km/hr but don’t tell the local drivers as they flew past us at least 150 km/hr++!
There were several tunnels through the top of the mountains one of which was at least 5 km long. Pretty amazing engineering.
We made great time getting to Zadar but got lost once we hit the city. If you’ve watched the Amazing Race, that would be us! Eventually and through dumb luck we practically drove right into the front lobby of our hotel. Our accommodation is lovely, a one bedroom apartment for approximately $95.00 CAD per night.
We arrived around 1:00 pm and then set out for the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring the Old Town which is known for its Roman and Venetian ruins dating back to as early as the 8th century.
Also located in the Old Town is the Sea Organ built into the seaside promenade. The sea organ is an experimental musical instrument which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps creating a hauntingly beautiful sound. Also located on the promenade is the monument to the Sun. It consists of 300 multi-layered glass plates placed on the same level with the stone paved waterfront in the shape of a 22-meter diameter circle, with photo-voltage solar modules underneath. Lighting elements installed in a circle turn on at night, and produce a show of light. The monument symbolizes communication with nature through light while the Sea Organ symbolizes communication with nature through sound.
Did a 4 hour 8 km hike today through Plitvice Lakes. Very worthy of its UNESCO world heritage site designation. Two words of advice. DO NOT come here in the summer. It was quite busy when we were here with throngs of selfie stick-carrying tourists blocking the walking paths. A very big pain in the a..s! We’re told there can be upwards of 13,000 people visiting per day in the summer. Probably not much fun.
Today started in Zagreb with some light rain but fortunately it stopped just before we checked out of out hotel as we had to haul our luggage to the tram stop where we hopped a tram to a stop near our car rental company. We picked up our car and to a big sigh of relief we were able to easily navigate our way out of town. We took the main A1 toll highway south-west to Karlovac (toll cost less than $4.00 for 34km) and then headed onto a secondary road through beautiful countryside to Grabovac. Luck has been on our side so far as we were able to book a really nice guest house just outside of town. Our route is shown below. Tomorrow we will spend the day in Plitvice National Park. Pictures to follow.