Here’s a quick tip if you’re planning an overseas travel extravaganza – check your visa requirements. Because we hadn’t done that at all and had to scarper when we came to the end of our Schengen visa allotment! So off to Croatia and the Balkans!
Winding up in Croatia was a fantastic decision. Once we got used to the idea, and redid itineraries and landed in Zagreb, we kicked off a wonderful week and a half of exploring and discovering Croatia’s many delights.
Zagreb – Croatia’s Capital
Zagreb was a delightful city. We had a spectacularly comfortable apartment that was walking distance from the city centre and many tourist attractions. The food we had was also sensational – lots of complex flavours and an abundance of grilled meats and fresh vegetables. We toured the city on foot, looking at the massive St Stephen’s Church, took in the architecture and various local sites, shopped at the local markets and generally just enjoyed being in the city. There’s a wonderful buzz and inclusiveness of all walks of life.
Zagreb also has possibly the most interesting museum I’ve ever been in – the Museum Of Broken Relationships. It’s filled with the donated artefacts of human separation and social decay, each accompanied by the relationship story as told by the donor. The museum is a litany of personal grief and rediscovery – of recognising that the end of a relationship has its own traumatic effect, and celebrating the process of letting go. Some of the stories were heartbreaking, some light, some tragic and some all-too-relatable. It was a memorable place to visit. And they take constant donations from people ready to contribute their own story!
After a couple of days wandering around Zagreb, we hopped a local bus for the six hour trip to Split, home of cruise ships and summer parties.
Split – Coastal Croatia
Our accommodation was easy to find, as our fabulous Airbnb host walked down to meet us! Bags dropped (and ready for a wander after six hours sitting on a bus), we walked out and hit the town, despite the drizzling rain. Split is built around a Roman Emperor’s palace, and the architecture of the old city is still very evident today and a part of Split’s ebb and flow of life. We spent a couple of days exploring Split’s coastline and beaches, as well as investigating the Old Town. I became obsessed with locating a supermarket that lots of signs promised, but I could never quite find (I found it eventually, thanks to sheer determination and Google maps). We hit up some cool venues, including a bar called Sanctuary (run by a guy from Seattle who has mastered both banter and cheap cocktails) and a great restaurant called Bokeria. Bokeria was excellent – great service, amazing food (including my squid-ink calamari carbonara!) and a very comfortable aesthetic and ambiance. Definitely worth a visit again!
We also did a cruise on our last day, heading out in a RIB boat to see Hvar, the Blue Cave and some more local spots of note. It was fun for us at the front of the boat – while the people at the back may have been soaked! Hvar was a bit underwhelming out of season, but the trip it was still a great adventure and a great way to spend a Sunday.
From there, we caught yet another bus to Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik – South Croatia
The bus to Dubrovnik was both scenic and comfortable, and our lovely host picked us up from the bus stop and drove us to the flat, up the cliffs above old town. Absolutely wonderful was our reflection each time we gazed out at out stellar view, looking out over the whole walled city, the sea side hotels and across to Lokrum island. The island once held a monastery, and is today a nature reserve, we caught the ferry out for the day and took an inexcusable number of pictures of rabbits and peacocks for which the island is known…! Armed with awesome local tips, we spent the five days exploring Dubrovnik’s many stairways, alleyways, and streets. From bayside bars for sundowners, to tiny seafood restaurants with fresh fish to die for, to a walk around the uninterrupted city walls above the crashing blue waves, we loved it all. The hike uphill to our accommodation was definitely a help in burning off excess calories from Dubrovnik’s excellent restaurants (and our new found fondness for cheese bureks!)
The island once held a monastery and is today a nature reserve. We caught the ferry out for the day and took an inexcusable number of pictures of rabbits and peacocks for which the island is known…! Armed with awesome local tips, we spent the five days exploring Dubrovnik’s many stairways, alleyways and streets. From bayside bars for sundowners, to tiny seafood restaurants with fresh fish to die for, to a walk around the uninterrupted city walls above the crashing blue waves, we loved it all. The hike uphill to our accommodation was definitely a help in burning off excess calories from Dubrovnik’s excellent restaurants (and our new found fondness for cheese bureks!)