Wednesday, May 14, 2014

At Long Last Croatia!

April 17th - April 30th. We said goodbye to Sarajevo and headed to one of the Top Ten Countries on our list - Croatia. Or as it is officially known in Croatian, The Republika Hrvatska. But that doesn't work very well in the travel brochures, now does it? 

This was the first time we've stayed in three cities in three weeks, but we really wanted to see the country so we started at the top in Split, hit the island of Hvar near the middle and ended up at the very bottom in Dubrovnik.

On the bus with the goal clearly marked!
We used a new means of transport this time. The bus! Ours was a fine bus, as buses go - not a luxury model, but not bad either. No WC or WiFi or any amenities, really, but big windows and a jolly driver. We had eight hours ahead of us so it was a good thing that this Assistant Travel Planner packed a full bag of snacks and activities (just like when the kids were little).

Goodbye snowy Sarajevo. Croatian weather was mixed but certainly warmer!
Roasted goat was tempting if you can deal with heads, tails, hoofs and hair!
We made several stops along the way to let folks off and on - and one longer break where you could eat slabs of meat cut from whole goats gently roasting on spits - which I would have done,  except the  hairy unshorn legs and the entire heads were still attached, and I am just not ready for my debut on Bizarre Foods.

The safe harbor in Split
Split was a city filled with ruins and rejuvenation
SPLIT: After a long day of beautiful, winding (as in corkscrew at times) coastal scenery, we arrived.  I had bus legs (sort of like sea legs). Split is a bustling harbor with ships coming and going at the speed of Seattle ferries x 2. It's major attraction is the Diocletian's Palace. The first bricks were laid at the turn of the 4th century. While a large tourist draw, it is still amazing on just an average day in the neighborhood you can quietly sit on a 600 year old bench while sipping a cappuccino. 

Michael enjoying local music in Split
In keeping with this city's cavalier attitude towards ruins - they have their own recycling program. You can stop by the official ruins 'boneyard' and pick up a chunk from ancient column or a lost body part from a statue, or just a few cool 600 year old bricks, and use them as part of your home - either as a coffee table or a door stopper, maybe a pizza oven, or whatever. You just have to agree to use them as found and not smash them into little bits of gravel for your garden courtyard.

The view from our deck
Our lovely airbnb hosts
Our apartment was on the top floor of a stylish 19th century building. I know I am repeating myself, but once again, it was one of the best we've landed.

We enjoyed some great food here - especially at our neighborhood bistro. I had Octopus Goulash twice - because when you can, you should. Especially since this is not something that I'd whip up at home.

Just looking at this photo makes me want to go back!
On our first visit we were treated to live opera sung around the piano. Why? Because the restaurant  owner loved opera and a few of his talented friends were available that night. Unexpected events like this are the key to Nomad Happiness!

Hvar might be one of the finest places on earth
HVAR: (Haaavarrr) Sounds like pirate speak! And this idyllic island is a place where you could easily envision pirates reveling in their booty around every corner. They would have been well mannered of course, and tidy. Because Croatia is a very well-kempt country, and Hvar was a perfect example. The cobblestones were swept, the doors polished, the chairs and umbrellas on the piazzas were in order, the gardens immaculate and the beaches pristine.

A quite morning coffee in the Piazza all to myself
Once we reached the top of the fort there were no more stairs left in Hvar!
The old town was filled winding alleys, hidden shops and stair-studded paths to explore. One of which lead to a castle at the top of a lookout that was well worth the hike. Early May was a quiet time to be here, not much going on so the locals were relaxed and helpful. It was easy to imagine how enjoyable it would be to spend summer days here. The many large cacti gave us a clue that it could be hot, but access to the sparkling sea was easy from just about anywhere. If I said our apartment in Split was great. Well, it just gets better. We hope to come here again - and our hosts were wonderful.

The view from the deck of our apartment
Who wouldn't walk 20 minutes to town with this scenery?
Hiking downhill? We did consider it for a minute.
Dubrovnik really is this beautiful
DUBROVNIK: Visiting this city has been on my list ever since I saw it on the Today Show a few years ago during a segment of "Where in the World is Matt Lauer". Now I couldn't care less where he is, and I hope his arrogant self will be fired... but that's another story.

The lovely narrow streets inside the walled city.
A TV channel was focused on the main street of the city 24/7
 Mr. Campbell and I reached this red roof topped haven by bus, but this time we were there in just under 4 hours - and we were not disappointed by this walled city by the sea.

Dubrovnik goes above and beyond the Croatian clean and tidy standards. It's almost like entering Disneyland just as the gates open. And it did feel like we were in a Fairytale at times. Most of the town is contained within the ancient city walls. They are so well preserved along with the buildings inside that you can't help imaging what it was like living here 800 years ago. Guess that's why Games of Thrones is filmed here.

Everywhere you looked you were in a Fairy Tale!
Again, I am glad we came in May so we could enjoy Dubrovnik without battling thousands of high-season tourists. After seeing the damage in Sarajevo it was hard to believe that this immaculate city also suffered damage and casualties in the 90's during the Bosnian war - but we saw the evidence in the memorial museum. We enjoyed a lovely concert one evening and continued to eat well. My good friend Ben Vogt passed along some  great restaurant tips since he and his husband Jeff come to Croatia every year. It's always so nice to have personal recommendations. Here's the link to our flat in Dubrovnik /1065106

Michael braving the ancient stairs
At least benches had been invented to go along with all those stairs
It was lovely but there were 444 stairs downhill from our door to the city center. And that meant 444 stairs back. Just going to the grocery store took up 234 of them!

Next up Ljubljana in Slovenia. That would be Loo-Bee-Yawn-Ah. See you there!

Thanks for following along!

Debbie and Michael Campbell
Senior Nomads

1 comment :

  1. Zivelji Hrvatska! So happy you finally made it!! oxo And now you're off to my Grandma's homeland - I have cousins in vinica, SL. oxo