croatia

Split, Croatia

Split, our last stop on our great Croatian adventure. Unfortunately, we both rolled into Split with nasty head colds – boo – which meant we were tired and just a bit under the weather, even though the weather was awesome the whole time we were there. We still made the most of it, just took it pretty easy and took advantage of the numerous fresh juice and smoothie stands in the old town of Split!

Our second day, we took a great tour to Krka Falls National Park – it was completely stunning. We were both very sleep deprived that day, so taking a tour by minibus was perfect, since we didn't have to make any decisions ourselves and we got to see so many gorgeous sights we wouldn't have made it to otherwise. We had lunch at a very rustic tavern in the park, near a small waterfall. They brought out water, wine, fresh bread, homemade goats milk cheese, fresh tomatoes, olives, olive oil, a meat platter (which I refrained from) and…homemade liquor. It was all you could eat and drink for a very reasonable price (especially for the vegetarian..). They had us take shots of the VERY strong alcohol before lunch and we were positively giddy by the end of it. All throughout, the tour guide and the owners of the tavern hung out a little ways away from the table and played and sang Croatian folk songs – not on our behalf, but we got to enjoy it anyways. It was a lovely atmosphere.

In Split we also tried the most intensely chocolate gelato of all time, explored the local fish market (really cool) and quaint fruit market, went up the bell tower at Diocletian's Palace (and it scared the living day lights out of me, those things were not built to be climbed I'm telling you), explored faraway beaches that we needed a kindly old man to lead us to down a fairly sketchy path to show us the way to, and explored the old town. We walked the promenade almost every night at sunset, eating ice cream and people-watching, and went to bed early every day to help heal ourselves. Despite our sickness, Split still gave us some fun adventures and delicious treats.

Favourites:

  • Konoba Matejuska: we came here our last night based on the wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor and it was amazing. Incredible service and even better food. We had a really nice time.
  • Slasticarnica Tradicija: this is where we found the delicious, intense chocolate ice cream. It was amazing.

Hvar, Croatia

Our time in Hvar was wonderful. Our apartment was so centrally located and our hosts were so helpful with their recommendations – all of which were completely amazing. Hvar is a beautiful city, on a beautiful island, but I was unprepared for just how much of a backpacker/party destination it was. I guess I should have known, what with the famous Carpe Diem club being there and all, but I didn't realize Yacht Week was such a big part of the culture there (it's a program that is in essence a big party on a boat that stops in at different cities to party) – the boats would come in almost every afternoon to drop off a big group of very drunk people, some of whom, as one local told us, “don't know how to behave”.
 
Trust me though, I'm not complaining. We still had an incredible time. It was just up to us to make our stay in Hvar our own, and we went about it in a slightly different way than those folks. On our hosts' recommendation, we spent most afternoons at the beach on daybeds (when we could get them, they were often reserved!) at the further away and less crowded Falko Bar beach. All the daybeds on all the beaches were technically owned by the individual bars nearest to them, but happily you didn’t have to buy anything to use them.
 
One day, we rented a car, and I drove (eek!!) on the narrowest mountain road with extremely few road barriers (double eek), through narrow tunnels that looked to be simply chiseled from underneath the mountain, along gorgeous cliffs with amazing vistas, all around Hvar island. On a whim I pulled into a driveway off the narrow old road, and found an abandoned old house with colourful beehives alongside. When we were wandering around, we heard a bell ringing and decided to follow it (all the while wondering if we should be creeped out or not..). Eventually we turned a corner, and a donkey came over the hill towards us!!! He was the friendliest. It was such a good omen for the rest of our trip. That day we also bought 1.5L of red wine from a roadside stand for about $5, where the winemaker recommended a beach (Ivan Dolac) to us that was just beautiful. We sang and toured and found fresh figs and abandoned houses. It was a great day.
 
A couple days later, we rented a boat! A tiny little one, which I kept messing up the steering on in our initial (very casual) tutorial (nobody was overly concerned we'd never driven a boat before). Adrienne mastered it though, and we were off to explore the islands! It didn't go very fast, but we were fine to putter around, letting the ginormous yachts pass us. Another good omen – on our way out of Hvar harbour, we passed a little Island with – you guessed it – a donkey on it! Donkeys are the mascot of our trip, we have decided. After touring around a bit, we pulled into a little secluded inlet and went swimming around the boat in the blue blue water. We eventually took off again, with me driving this time (yep, managed to master it!!!) until I felt a bit seasick.. After I sun burned my back and ended up throwing up overboard (whoops!!!), I felt better and we had lunch and dropped anchor at a beautiful little beach (Robinson Beach) where we spent the rest of the afternoon reading and swimming. It was magical. Those two experiences were enough to make me feel like I experienced more of Hvar than just the harbour and nightclubs – though we definitely experienced those too! It was really fun to walk down by the main strip and ogle all the enormous yachts parked right up alongside.
 
Hvar was a mix of adventure and relaxing beach days. We ate some amazing restaurant food but also packed a picnic lunch of snacks most days, since the produce from the daily farmers market in Hvar was amazing. Unfortunately, we both ended up with head colds, which we are still fighting as I write this, a couple days later in Split. They're almost gone though, hopefully with one more good sleep we'll have kicked them!
 

We loved our time in Hvar. We loved walking around the city and soaking it all up.

Favourites:
  • Restaurant Marinero: this is located right around the corner from Kiva Bar, which is a really fun bar (pretty crowded) for dancing – they play great music – and right downstairs from a hostel. But the food is amazing (we went back a second time) and very reasonably priced.
  • Restaurant Luna: literally almost right beside our place, the food here was delicious and the service was excellent.
  • Falko Bar: great vibe, really relaxed. There were always dogs around, and good music. We never tried the food, but it looked great.

Korcula, Croatia

Korcula started off bitter and ended up sweet. I know it sounds petty of me to say that, considering how lucky I truly am to be spending this time in beautiful Croatia, but that first half day in Korcula didn't go so well, all things considered. Our host cancelled our accommodations just a day before we arrived, telling us the payment hadn't gone through (it had), but saying we could still have the room if we rebooked. When we arrived, though, her story changed and suddenly we had to pay cash (we had booked through, and had credit for Airbnb) or find somewhere else. All this after a 5AM wake up time for the ferry ride, on which I let myself get a bit too hot and dehydrated. So we were disoriented and suspicious when we arrived, a fairly bad combo.

After some lunch and some beer, we were fortified and happier. Deciding we didn't want to waste time looking for another place, we paid cash (and asked for a refund from Airbnb), and our host surprised us by giving us *back* money, insisting that the place was cheaper than the original booking price. All's well that ends well!

We ended up having a lovely two days in Korcula, which is a very small but beautiful town, very old, very picturesque. We spent our afternoons on the beach (perhaps TMI, but we found a secluded spot and did some topless tanning – that's a first!) and our evenings walking around the old walled city, along the promenade. We climbed up the steepest, narrowest steps to the tiniest tower to look out over the city. We perused some beautiful handmade jewelry. And we ate some really delicious food, including my first palachinke (a thin crepe with Nutella)!

The sunset on our last night was completely perfect, and I loved exploring the city in the evening, watching the pink sky and listening to all the hubbub. Like I said, it ended up being totally sweet.

Favourites:

  • Walking the promenade at night – the sunsets in Korcula were amazing.
  • U Maje I Tonke restaurant: delicious tapas-style food. Everything we tried was creative, homemade, and beautifully presented.
  • Marinero restaurant: set just off the main promenade, this restaurant is apparently owned by two fishermen, and the food was incredibly fresh. When we were there, an older (fabulous) woman who is American but has been spending her summers in Korcula for some time now was raving about the food to everyone who walked by. We weren't disappointed, it was delicious and well priced.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik was totally magical. Everywhere you turn, you're greeted by a view more beautiful than the last. It's picture-perfect. I think I wore myself out going on and on about how gorgeous everything was.

We stayed at a quiet apartment about 15 minutes by bus away from the Old Town, and we had the most gracious and friendly hosts (we booked through AirBnb) and the perfect view from our terrace.

We spent our (relatively short) time in Dubrovnik wandering, exploring, sightseeing, swimming, and soaking in all the beauty. It was at times overly crowded in the city but we made the most of our hosts' recommendations and had the most fabulous time. Our last night, we wandered over to the more distant Sveti Jakov beach, which is 80 steps down from the main road, and swam and sunbathed with all of Dubrovnik Old Town stretched out in front of us, and then watched the sun set. It was perfect.

Also notable from our time in Dubrovnik was my experience cliff jumping, my discovering lemon beer (more like lemonade), drinking cold water from the city's fountain, walking the city walls at sunset, seeing all the stray cats around the Old Town (remarkably clean-looking, though not too friendly), and swimming in the clear, cold waters of the Adriatic Sea.

I totally loved Dubrovnik, it was the perfect place to start our trip.

Favourites:

  • Restaurant Kamenice: the Old Town of Dubrovnik is pretty busy and can be overwhelming at times. This restaurant is central, serves great food (seafood and local Dalmatian fare) and is reasonably priced. We had this on recommendation from our hosts!
  • Sveti Jakov Beach: about a 15-20 minute walk from the nearest beach to Dubrovnik (owned by EastWest club, which is a two minute walk from the East Gate). We got lost the first time we tried to walk here, but undeterred we tried again the following day and were rewarded wonderfully! This beach is completely perfect.
  • Walking the city walls at dusk: it's far too hot and crowded during the day, but perfect as the sun is setting.
  • Restaurant Nishta: vegetarian restaurant, in Croatia! Crazy. Funny story, “nishta” means “nothing” in Croatian..but the food here was completely delicious, and I loved the organic blackberry wine.
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