“I think,” my mom commented as we relaxed one afternoon with our cold drinks, “that next time someone mentions going somewhere for a relaxing vacation, I will recommend Croatia”. Granted, it is not yet high season, yet (I assume) it was not yet in Italy either, and Croatia was definitely very relaxing. Nice weather, pleasant towns, friendly people, and good food. What more could a vacationer ask for?
We started with about four days in Dubrovnik. Inner fangirl me was cheering at the thought, as Dubrovnik is the Game of Thrones filming location for King’s Landing. I will admit, it was after I had already chosen this city that a friend reminded me of this fact, and ever since I couldn’t wait to go. My mom humored me (she has neither read the books nor seen the show) and together we went on a GoT walking tour of the city. It was very interesting, for both of us actually. More so for me, but we still got some amazing views of the city, and it made me look at certain areas in more detail than I would have otherwise.
In addition, we went on two other walking tours : a Jewish Quarter walking tour and a History of the War walking tour. They were both moderately interesting, I enjoyed getting to see the synagogue (unfortunately it is no longer active, at least not on a regular basis), but I found the tour guide harder to understand than some others (everyone in Croatia
spoke very good English). We did, however, receive an explanation for the odd layout of our Airbnb wherein the bedroom was on the ground-floor while the kitchen and bathroom were upstairs. Most homes were built like this, the guide explained, for fire safety reasons. Fair enough (be aware, if you’re staying in the Old Town especially be prepared for the very likely possibility that there will be a lot of stairs to get to your apartment). The War tour was also interesting, the guide had some unique stories and experiences to share but was perhaps a little too close to the situation to give a full perspective. It was nice, at the same time though, that she was willing to share her own experiences with us.
We also went on a kayaking tour which, although very exhausting, was very much worth it. It took us to a nearby swimming spot and Lopud Island. We stopped at various points along the way for our guide to explain different parts of the city and the island. This was very fun as we got to see the city from a whole new perspective. The water is was still a little cold this time of year, but so very clear, I couldn’t resist a quick dip into the sea (the wetsuit helped at least). One more body of water to cross off my swimming list!
In terms of food, definitely not Italian gelato, but still very good! And hey, who cares when it’s that hot as long as it tastes yummy! Some new and interesting wines to try, and I highly recommend trying some local sheep cheese. I thought it was delicious! You should, of course, also try some local seafood. Tuna, especially, seemed to be on every menu we saw. I do not, however, (personally) recommend what seems to be a local pastry coming in various flavors. I cannot remember or find the name, unfortunately, and so don’t know how worthwhile this warning is in truth. My mom had requested a fruit-filled pastry for breakfast and so I picked one with apple, thinking it might be a type of apple turnover. She described it, instead, as a “made like a sticky bun with fruit, that they deep-fried instead of baking it,” very busy and not top on the food list.
A funny coincidence, while we were there, however, was a two-day international half-marathon event they had going on that weekend. We came down to the main street in the morning and were greeted by volunteers in blaring yellow shirts and a barricade set up forcing visitors to go although to the gates or main square to cross the street. As we watched some of the runners during breakfast, we noticed that several wore a backpack with the writing Portland to Dubrovnik Marathon. My mom asked one of the organizers with a matching hat who confirmed that he is, in fact, from Portland our own hometown. So here’s to any Portland runners who were there participating : Congrats and good job! I hope you all enjoyed your time in Croatia as much as we did!
The first of those two runs, in fact, was over the city walls. The walls surrounding
Dubrovnik Old Town are still standing and for a fee visitors can tour the walls. Something I definitely 110% recommend. The views are amazing of both the city and across the sea. We did it on our last morning and I am so glad we did. It was a great note on which to leave the city.
From there we took another ferry north to Split, another coastal town in Croatia. Only a couple days there, but a well spent couple days. Our location was especially convenient as it was close to everything, the market, transportation (port, train, and bus are all in the same place. So wonderful!), and the very popular and interesting area of Diocletian’s Palace.
Not truly a palace as we usually see them, it is more of a walled area of the city with several buildings both current (homes, restaurants, shops) and historical (churches, bell towers etc.). A small area, but very nice to wander. I especially recommend a climb up the bell tower. The stairs can get a little disconcerting in the beginning (dark, narrow, and steep) but it gets better (after getting worse) and the view at the top was very much worth it. We also found it to be very nice to wander along the coast, as well as to stop there for a drink or two, relax and people watch. The market is huge, and there every day. Some of the food stands and such are still there later in the afternoon, but most are gone by then, so don’t put off your market visit too late, especially if you’re planning on buying food there!
We also, always a necessity for us, found the local synagogue of Split. No regular Rabbi there (it’s my understanding that there is only one Rabbi for all of Croatia and he is in Zagreb for the most part) but the community, although small, does gather on a regular basis for Shabbat services, even if they can’t make a Minyan (ten adults, or ten male adults in more conservative communities). The gentleman who showed us the synagogue was very friendly and happy to show us around the small building and answer questions. It was very beautiful and they had a showcase of Judaica dating as far back as the 17th century. Definitely worthwhile if you’re interested in Jewish History I think, and it’s nice to know that the community is doing their best to stay active.
Final verdict : I agree with mom. Croatia is definitely worth a visit. I don’t think I will return to Split or Dubrovnik any time soon, but only because I feel like I’ve seen most of what there is to see there. I would be interested in returning to Croatia as a whole though. Visit some other islands maybe, or even the capital of Zagreb, next time just to see something a little new of the country.
So, fellow GoT fans : jealous much? Haha. Now I feel like I have to go to Iceland or something to see the filming locations there (was definitely considering a 12-hour layover in Reykjavik on my next trip to the States for a quick visit to the area). Any other suggestions for where to visit in Croatia (always need more places to add to my ever-growing travel list) or favorite relaxing vacation-locations?