Croatia Part 2: Dubrovnik, Split, & Zadar

After Zagreb, we spent the rest of our time in Croatia along the Dalmatian Coast. We flew to Dubrovnik for a few days, spent a week in Split with Carl and Jim, and ended with a quick stop in Zadar.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is BEAUTIFUL. Its Old Town dates back to the sixteenth century and is very well preserved. For all you Game of Thrones fans out there: Old Town is where many King’s Landing scenes were filmed. While we enjoyed wandering the small and winding streets, it can get crowded when a cruise ship full of other tourists join in so we escaped by walking around the city’s elevated walls. Outside of the Old City we spent the rest of our time exploring the various beaches and enjoying the scenic vistas.

Split

After Dubrovnik, we bussed a few hours north to meet our friends Carl and Jim in Split. Although not as iconic as Dubrovnik, we liked Split more: it felt more relaxed, had more things to do, and was beautiful in its own right. Split’s Old Town was made of beautiful white stones and offered panoramic views of the Adriatic. We went hiking and swimming, ate delicious meals, and explored the nearby island of Šolta. We ended up hiking across the entire island where we stumbled upon a secluded beach cove that we shared with about five other people. It was glorious.

Zadar

Per the ongoing theme in Croatia, Zadar also had a pretty Old Town area - but we really came for the sea organ. The sea organ is an architectural installation designed by Nikola Bašić. As the name implies, it is an instrument that is played by the sea. Underneath the marble steps are inlet tubes and sounding chambers. When waves push in and draw out, sound emanates from beneath in a sort of eerie melody that is supposed to resemble the typical Croatian male quartet. It was a great place to do some swimming in the Adriatic and pack in with hundreds of other people to watch the sunset.

Our two weeks in Croatia were a blast! It was awesome to explore as much as we did and great to see so many friends. Živjeli!

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Eight Months of Traveling Complete

Can you believe we have already been gone 3/4 of a year?! At this rate it doesn’t look like we’ll be making it back to the US in 2016… oops. Sorry, mom and dad!

In the last month we have traveled to fifteen cities/regions in four countries: Kraków and Warsaw in Poland; Derry, Bushmills, Ballintoy, Cushendun, and Belfast in Northern Ireland; County Donegal, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, and Dublin in Ireland; Inverness, Isle of Skye, Fort William, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, and Edinburgh in Scotland; and last but not least Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! We spent a week in Ireland with Vesper’s parents, and now we’re traveling with Laura’s parents for a while.

Month 8 Observations

  • Europe is pretty expensive. The UK is SO expensive. Unsurprisingly we are a bit over budget for this region.
  • We gain weight when the food is cheap and delicious and there’s an actual craft beer scene. Thanks, Poland!
  • We also gain weight when we travel with people. Probably something to do with eating regularly.
  • Our friends and family have been far more likely to visit in Europe than South America.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road is scary as the driver and as the passenger!
  • Ireland and Scotland are the first places we have been where English is the first language.
  • We have finally acknowledged our coffee addiction and purchased a small French press to carry around.
  • It’s hard keeping up with the blog when we have visitors. Posts take a lot of time to put together, and we don’t want to be on our computers when friends and family are here.

Fast Facts

  • Favorite Hike: The Lost Valley at the Three Sisters in Glencoe, Scotland
  • Best Beer Bar: Weźże Krafta in Krakow, Poland
  • Best Irish Pub Experience: Peadar O’Donnells in Derry, Northern Ireland
  • Surname We Never Found On Any Irish Souvenir: McMenamin
  • Surname We Found On All Irish Souvenirs: Williams

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Croatia Part 1: Krk, Plitvice Lakes, & Zagreb

We spent about two weeks total in Croatia, visiting numerous cities with friends along the way. After leaving Slovenia, our first destination was the island of Krk, followed by Plitvice Lakes National Park and the capital city of Zagreb.

Krk Island

We were told to visit the islands so our first stop in Croatia was Krk. Per usual, we found a super cute Airbnb in Šilo which conveniently had access to a small secluded beach. Most beaches in Croatia are rocky instead of sandy, and this place was no exception. Unless you have thick calluses or several beers, you will want to wear water shoes. Despite the rocks, our little beach was a beautiful place to relax for a few days!

Apart from our lovely beach we also visited Krk Town and Soline Bay. Krk Town is one of the oldest cities in the Adriatic. We spent a few hours wandering the Old Town and having one of the best - and accidentally far too expensive - seafood meals of the trip! We finished our island visit in Soline Bay where we covered ourselves in the detoxifying mud. It may or may not have had health benefits, but we had fun rubbing ourselves down in questionable black goo.

Krk Town harbor.
Maybe detoxifying, definitely mud.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

After Krk we drove east, almost to the border of Croatia and Bosnia. We had heard rave reviews about this beautiful waterfall park from numerous people and couldn’t wait to visit. We had read that summer could be crazy with visitors, but we did not expect the insane lines and parking chaos when we arrived. Instead of fighting the crowds, we grabbed lunch and came back later. With somewhat less congestion, we found free parking along the road about 10 minutes walking from the main entrance. On our walk back to buy tickets we decided to use a trail in the woods 10 feet from the road. It was not long before trail signs indicated that somehow we had entered the park and were almost to one of the attractions. This happy accident saved us a few hours in line and over $100 in tickets!

The park itself is beautiful but very overcrowded. Most of the park trails are skinny boardwalks that aren’t meant to accommodate the thousands of August visitors. We would definitely recommend visiting the lakes, but plan your timing! Either avoid high season or visit the park after 3 or 4 pm. This will help you avoid the tour bus crowds, escape the heat, and give you a more intimate experience with the park.

Crowds were a problem near the main attractions.

Zagreb

We didn’t really know what to expect from the capital. We had heard good things about all our other destinations but nothing much about this city. We actually came through Zagreb twice: once after Plitvice Lakes and once after Zadar before catching a train to Budapest. It was definitely the least touristy town we visited in Croatia. Most tourists - who seemed to be mostly Austrian, German, or French - stick to the coastal towns. As a result, Zagreb’s prices were noticeably cheaper than the coast and we took advantage of this at several craft beer bars while we explored Old Town.

St Mark's Church./figcaption> </figure>
Croatia Part 2 coming up next!

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Austria by Auto & Swimming in Slovenia

We met up with our friends Mark and Lehar in Vienna to travel through Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. We spent a few days seeing the sights in Vienna, then rented a car to drive through the Lake District, visit small towns, and work our way south.

Our favorite food in Vienna was käsekrainer. They’re basically the most delicious cheesy-filled sausages you’ll ever eat. Make sure you try one five when you visit! When we weren’t eating käsekrainers, we were strolling through town and visiting beer gardens. It was a great way to catch up with friends.

Käsekrainer: the best sausage ever!
Belvedere Palace Gardens and St. Stephen's Cathedral.
The Imperial Butterfly House.

After Vienna, we headed west to Austria’s Lake District outside of Salzburg. We visited the towns of Gmunden, Bad Ischl, and Hallstatt. We were originally planning to spend a few nights in one of these towns, but prices were outrageous so we went farther south into the Alps and found the cutest Airbnb! Our hosts were a Croatian couple who made us an awesome dinner of local meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies from their garden, and - of course - schnapps! They didn’t speak any English, but we got by with our very poor German and a lot of help from Google Translate. It was a great way to get to know more about the area, plus they gave us lots of tips for Croatia!

The village of Hallstatt.
Hiking in Hohe Tauern National Park.
The garden at our adorable Airbnb.

Along the way to Croatia we were able to spend a day in Slovenia. Lake Bled was a cute but crowded little tourist town, so we walked away from the city along the lake to enjoy a cool swim off the beaten path. Next we visited the scenic Lake Bohinj located in the Triglav National Park, home to the beautiful Julian Alps that make up Slovenia’s border with Italy. We were hoping to visit the capital city of Ljubljana, but the President of Russia was in town that day causing massive road closures and protesting that Putin a stop to our visit. Instead, we headed south to the island of Krk in Croatia to kickoff two weeks of fun in the sun.

Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj.

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Seven Months of Traveling Complete

We have had a super busy month - too busy to do much writing that is! We had a blast hanging out with Lehar, Mark, Carl, and Jim for various parts of our journey the last few weeks.

In the last month we have traveled to fifteen cities in four countries: Gmunden, Bad Ischl, Hallstatt, and Napplach in Austria; Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, and Brezje in Slovenia; Krk Island, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Šolta Island, and Zadar in Croatia; and Budapest in Hungary. We arrived today in Kraków, Poland, where we’re spending a week to eat delicious food, explore the historical sites, and relax after a whirlwind four weeks.

Month 7 Observations

  • Vesper’s new pet peeve is the European tendency to put the light switch outside the bathroom door. It hilariously irks him to no end.
  • Laura is now a pro at figuring out any washing machine make or model in any given language.
  • Our basic survival questions have transitioned from “Can we drink the water?” or “Can we flush toilet paper?” to “How do I use this Italian espresso maker?” or “Do we need to withdraw cash or can we get by entirely on credit?”
  • Renting a car is a great way to see the otherwise inaccessible country side, but it usually only makes sense with a group of people. In Europe make sure you plan ahead - last minute rentals are not cheap.
  • Croatian beaches are beautiful but mostly rocky. Pro tip: get some good water sandals if you’re going to visit - or just develop thick calluses like we did.

Fast Facts

  • Favorite City: Budapest, Hungary
  • Prettiest City: Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Best Freebie Moment: “Accidentally” wandering into Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • Funniest Rental Car Moment: A Croatian border control officer asking several times why our group of four had rented a smart car. “But seriously, you rented that? On purpose?”

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