Friday, June 26, 2015

What You're Missing in Croatia: Part 1

Our last hurrah in Europe! Well, hopefully not forever, but for the time being. We had some time so we escaped for a week to do a tour of Croatia. We flew into Dubrovnik and rented a car to drive up the coast, and then flew out of Zagreb. This is only part 1, so be sure to keep an eye out for part 2 and part 3!

Our first view of Dubrovnik, on the way in from the airport.

Here is a map of the first part of our trip- we started at the bottom and drove up the coast

We got into Dubrovnik, found our hotel, and went straight down to check out the  city:

It was so hot that as we were walking down to Dubrovnik we had to stop and take advantage and take a dip at this local beach.

Pile Gate (L) and Minceta Tower (R) are part of the walls of this city. The walls were built in the 10th century and added on to at different points in time. Then we went on the wall walk- it is 1.2 miles long. And there is an incredible view everywhere you look:

Spectacular view from the top of the funicular.

Views of the marina

The next day we wanted to take a trip to one of the islands. A friend of Héctor's suggested this island, which is a national park, so we decided to try it out for a day trip. The national park doesn't allow cars so we rented bikes to ride around the two salt water lakes, and take breaks to snorkel of course!

This is the boat that took us out to the island. It was an hour and forty minutes both ways.

Taking my bike for a test ride.

Monastery of St. Mary (L) and an abandoned boat (R)

Warming up after snorkeling in cold water (L) and the only way to bike all the way around the lakes- taking a boat taxi! (R)

Our view at lunch.

Héctor loving his fresh mussels (L) and some out-of-this-world octopus salad (R)

Our last swim break of the day.

Zaostrog & Makarska:
The next day we took off and headed north. Our final destination was Split, but we stopped at a few beaches in the middle to relax, have lunch, and swim! The first place we stopped at was a tiny town called Zaostrog. It wasn't even a planned stop- I saw a sign and told Héctor to pull off, and it ended up being beautiful!

Relaxing and refreshing lunch in a covered terrace

I wanted to go to Makarska even before we left for Croatia, but I wasn't ready for how incredible it would actually be! We didn't stay for long, but enough time to enjoy a refreshing swim in surprisingly warm water and to marvel at the mountains that come right up to the sea.

By the time we made it to Split it was late afternoon, but our hostel was right downtown so we had plenty of time to check out the views. The most important landmark of Split is the Palace of Diocletian from Roman times.

Most of what's left of the Palace

Windy streets and old buildings 

Climbing up and at the top of the bell tower- Veeery scary stairs!


Krka National Park:
By this point we got tired of cities, so we headed in land to visit another national park, called Krka (please don't ask me how to pronounce that!). 

We started off at these huge (and impressive) waterfalls and then followed an educational walk up and around them to end up in the same place.  

Then we got caught by a crazy rainstorm! You can see the storm clouds right above the waterfall. It started raining right as I took this picture. We ran, but the car was fairly far away and by the time we got to there we were soaked through.

This town was an unexpected treasure. We decided to come here because it is used for filming one of the cities in the Game of Thrones, but it turned out to be my favorite city that we visited! Situated on a hill, it was a bit reminiscent of Venice but with stairs and incredibly steep and narrow streets and dead ends. We were only going to stay for the night and then zoom on to visit another national park the next day but we liked it so much we stayed to wander around the city during the day and relax a bit more.

The view from the castle on the hill

Cathedral of St. James has a roof made completely of stone. It took experts several years to fix the roof after the cathedral was bombed in 1991. 

 Then we took a walk out to an abandoned fortress that used to protect the harbor:

We were going to stay in Šibenik and spend some time on the beach, but we got caught by a storm so we sped up the coast to Zadar and were able to escape it!

The terrace where we had lunch (L)

Entrance to the city from Venetian times 

(L) Church of St. Donat- a Byzantine church that is 88 feet tall. You can see up close that they used stones from the ruins of the Roman forum to create the base of the church. (R) Church of St Mary from 1066 and has a renaissance facade. 

 This was the coolest part of the city- a sea organ. There were openings built into the side and top of the steps and when the waves crash against them it makes a kind of music

That's it for now- keep an eye out for part 2 and part 3!!

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