Imagine a parallel world, similar to ours in most respects. Imagine it’s sunny there, almost year round, with beautiful people soaking up the sun on every pebbly beach and outdoor patio. The weather is warm, hot even, but a cool breeze blows in off the ocean to keep it from feeling stifling. The food is inexpensive, the beer cheap, and ice-cream vendors compete with each other on almost every corner. Sprinkle in a few thousand years of history and some clothing optional beaches (to keep things spicy), then merge that world with ours. Not the entire world – just a sliver. Set it on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, call it the Dalmatian Coast and you’ve just described Croatia.
The beaches here are almost all pebbly, though the odd sandy beach can be found if you are up for a journey. Bathing suits run the gamut from barely there to not there to I’m pretty sure that’s just underwear.
Split, our home base for the trip, is the second largest city in the country and home to Diocletian’s Palace. Diocletian, a Roman emperor with a penchant for prosecuting Christians, early retirement, and fabulous retirement homes, built the palace in the 305 a.d. The town of Split grew up, around, and eventually over the palaces ruins as time went by. Today, very little of actual palace remains, but the entire area is UNESCO site and a fantastically atmospheric area to stroll around. You won’t need a car in Split; it’s walkable, and there’s very little parking anyways (our airbnb host showed us the some free parking near the soccer stadium, otherwise it would have been 20 euros a day for a pass). We spent much of our time touring the town, visiting the Cathedral of St. Domnius, Basement Halls (where some scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed), and nearby beaches like Bacvice:
We spent a day touring Plitvice Lakes National Park, a majestic park that was a popular destination for locals during the Yugoslavian days, and is even more popular now (over twenty percent of Croatias economy is tourism related). It’s also uncomfortably crowded during peak times – heed my warning and go early! – and the weather there is prone to fits, so pack something warm even if it’s summer. Here’s one photo, the rest can be found here in a special gallery:
The trip ended with a pub crawl for Teresa’s birthday (yes, I’m too old for a pub crawl, so are you, so is anyone, but it was still fun), and a chance encounter with Larissa and some of her friends who had just arrived in Split. Croatia is a jaunty, lively place, blended with Italian and eastern European influence and charm that (once you get there) is a very affordable place to spend some time laying on the
rocky as hell pebbly beaches, teasing a little bronze from the sun. Tomorrow we start the trip back, dropping off the rental car and catching the train back to Slovenia and flying home from there. We are heading back a little tan, and little hungover, and more full of gelato, pasta and sausage than I’ve been in a long long time.
Also, here is picture of a woman eating a sardine:
How we got there: Train from Ljubljana, Slovenia 18 euros, were we picked up the rental car and drove down to the coast.
Where we stayed: One night in Zagreb at ZigZag Hotel, then on to an airbnb just outside of the old town.
What we did:
Cathedral of St. Domnius
Plaza Kasuni (great little beach a long walk, medium bike ride, or short drive away from the center of town)
If you’re there, check out Paradox Wine and Cheese bar for great selection of local wines, Kantun Paulina for quick local sausage sandwiches (there is a loooong wait late at night, but early in the day it’s not bad), and book ahead for a table at Bokeria.
Day trip to Zadar – mainly to see/hear the Sea Organ, which sounds nasty but is a charming set of tubes and pipes set into the sea wall that chimes as waves and the tide ebb and flow.
Day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park – an amazing mix of waterfalls and crystal clear lakes (thanks to layers of calcium carbonate coating everything that comes in contact with the water). It’s 2.5 hour drive from Split to the park. If you go, get there when it opens to really enjoy it. The trail paths are limited and small, funneling everyone onto small planks that snake thought the park. At peak time it becomes it becomes more of a competitive scrum than a pleasing nature walk.