Rijeka was both a relief & a slight disappointment. A relief because it felt good to be out of our drenched clothing. After Plitvice we jumped on the last bus at 9pm and headed to Karlovac to jump on another bus to Rejika, needless to say we arrived at our hotel in the early hours of the morning. We had spent over 12 hours in cold, damp clothing and we were desperatley looking forward to hot showers. It was a disappointment because the weather for the last 2 days of our holiday were gloomy, our hotel was noisy and there isn’t much to do in Rijeka. However when we booked our flights we knew Rijeka was going to be our least favourite destination, we booked to fly out from this place because it was cheap and it enabled us to travel up the Dalmation coast in order to visit amazing places around Croatia. Ideally we would have loved to have finished up in Zagreb which is the capital but flying out from Zagreb was expensive.
For our last 2 days we opted to stay in a Botel (a boat converted into a hotel) we thought this would be a quirky aspect to our trip, I mean it’s not everyday you get to say you stayed in a botel! It was a cheap novelty but so noisy, not only did we unfortunatley have a room opposite the most vocal family ever known to man with an energetically loud tween and screaming toddler (this toddler continued to cry & scream during breakfast-clearly very spoilt) but right next door on another boat, someone decided to have a giant, extravagant birthday party in the middle of the week until 4am! The manager of our botel was as surprised as we were and told us “That party boat doesn’t usually allow for parties until the weekend” and he did go over there to try and tell the party to turn the music down. It would not surprise me in the slightest that that boat party was hired by some spoilt rich kid celebrating their 18th and has absolutley no care for anyone else but themselves. However me being the up-beat & positive person in the relationship I always look on the bright side and to be honest, no holiday is perfect, things go wrong and you just treat it as a learning curve. It was fun to stay in a Botel and there were aspects to Rijeka that were charming and therefore it is worth visiting this city for a day or two.
Plitvice (Pronounced Plitvica) Lakes National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia and in 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register.
The national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The national park is world famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
Through different climatic influences and the large difference in elevation within the protected area, a multifaceted flora and fauna has been created. The national park area is home to many endemic species. Those species that prevailed at the lakes before the arrival of man still exist. I have been to numerous National Parks around the UK & parts of Europe & I believe Plitvice Lakes is the most beautiful place I have seen. Plitvice is place from a fantasy novel.
We travelled to Plitvice after our 3 days of Split, we very nearly did not go, almost opting for another day mooching around Split. However at the last minute we changed our minds and stayed over night in a Cabin-like guest house in the woods of Plitvice Jezera. This part of Croatia has a very Austrian feel to the culture as oppose to the South where Dubrovnik is situated which has a very Italian feel which makes sense considering the South of Croatia has been very popular with Italian tourists and the further North you go in Croatia it boarders Slovenia,Hungary & Austria.
Milna is a small village on Brac Island off the coast of Split. We chose this beautiful sleepy village for a day trip instead of Bol because Bol is a massive tourist destination and hundreds of people would have been clogging up the beach and ruining the surrounding natural beauty. I do always try to avoid Touristy hotspots as it tends to ruin my day. Who wants to spend hours contained in a place full of screaming children, tomatoe burned Brits and miles of trash all over the sand? Not me. As an unconformist, I tend to try and venture to places unspoiled and peaceful.
After Dubrovnik we hopped on a coach and travelled up the coast to our next destination: Split. The distance between Dubrovnik and Split about 215 km following the coastal road and can take between 4 to 6 hours depending on traffic. We based ourselves in Split for 3 days and one of those days we ventured to a nearby island called Brač which I will blog about separatley next week. Split, upon first arrival appears modern and geared towards families on a budget holiday or for the individual who enjoys the nightlife. Along the promanade lie a row of take-away food stalls & souvenir shops selling plastic buckets and spades, beach balls and keyrings. On the opposite side of the road display an impressive port where large ferries and ships come to dock-I have never seen such huge ships up close and wanted to compare my tiny physique against such a grand vehicle.
Our holiday appartment was clean and modern and very spacious. The landlady gave us a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival plus had the cleaning lady do our washing at no extra cost. Split is perhaps a little rough around the edges and has a very contemporary & young feel to it in comparrison to Dubrovnik. It is quite vibrant at night with numerous bars and cafes playing loud music to entice tourists to enjoy a few cocktails and stalls & the art market remain open until 11pm; whereas Dubrovnik, (other than Jazz and Blues bars) calms down as the sunsets.
It’s not very often you get to say that whilst on holiday in a very beautiful country that you get to spend a day in another very beautiful country; But that is what we did. On the third day of staying in Dubrovnik we decided to book with an excursions and tour company to go on a day trip to Montenegro, we were not disappointed! Croatia is stunning and Montenegro is similar to Croatia however it’s beauty is magnified by hundred, this place is a little piece of heaven surrounded by lush mountains and lakes. Even the locals here are beautiful, their beauty is effortless and organic, no wonder many Montenegrin women become models! We almost booked another day trip to Bosnia however we sadly ran out of time plus needed to keep to our spending budget. During the day trip we spent time in three separate places and it really gave us a taster of what Montenegro has to offer. That being said, our guide even stated that Montenegro is rather small as a population in comparison to the country and it’s civilians are proud of that because they try to keep population numbers under control to prevent further industrialization or development of towns, they want to keep Montenegro largely unspoiled and natural. The majority of Montenegro is covered by lush mountains, epic lime stone peaks, glacial lakes and nature reserves with only a few small towns dotted in between. So it is safe to say we did actually get to see the majority of Montenegro in the space of one day however I do recommend slightly longer stays if you fancy going further afield and trekking in the national park where wildlife such as bears and wolves are dwelling.
Our first stop was a pit stop to view ‘Our lady of the Rocks’ which is one of the two islets off the coast of Perast in Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. It is an artificial island created by bulwark of rocks and by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks. The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks is the largest building on the islet; it has a museum attached. There is also a small gift shop close to the church and a navigation light at the western end of the islet. According to legend, the islet was made over the centuries by local seamen who kept an ancient oath after finding the icon of Madonna and Child on the rock in the sea on July 22, 1452. Upon returning from each successful voyage, they laid a rock in the Bay. Over time, the islet gradually emerged from the sea. The custom of throwing rocks into the sea is alive even nowadays. Every year on the sunset of July 22, an event called fašinada in the local dialect, when local residents take their boats and throw rocks into the sea, widening the surface of the island, takes place.
Lokrum Island is about a 15 minute boat ride from Dubrovnik and the boats that take you there are constantly running throughout the day until 6pm. There is no fee to be on this island but there is a small cost for the journey on the boat and you must keep your ticket for when you decide to go back to Dubrovnik. Jon and I opted to stay on Lokrum all day, we left out apartment after a slight snoozy lie-in at 11am and walked to the small port to catch a boat. We took a packed lunch of fruit, water and home made sandwiches from a lovely ‘Sandvich stall’ and leisurely strolled around Lokrum until sunset.
We spent ten days in Croatia, traveling up the Dalmatian coast in August of 2014. Jon & I wanted this holiday to be of a slower pace than Morocco, it was to be relaxed in nature and gave us the opportunity to explore the Dalmatian coast on our own without a tour guide; to help us learn how to travel around a country without the comfort of a tour company or package deal. Morocco in March 2014 was our first holiday together and so going on an adventure tour had the perfect balance of feeling safe with a certified guide yet having that back packer freedom to visit many locations around the country. This second holiday being European, reminded me a little of Cyprus and was rather easy going so backpacking on our own in Croatia was not a scary concept.
Our first location was Dubrovnik for 4 days. As well as this we also went on a day trip to visit Montenegro and another day trip to a nearby island off the coast of Dubrovnik called Lokrum and I will write about these places separately.
Dubrovnik being the first stop,was probably our favourite place to visit although we were glad we also spent time in about 8 other locations so that we can say we did actually visit the country.