Most people I know who would to travel focus on the most obvious: Hawaii, New York, Paris, London. I'm always looking for my travel bug to be inspired by reading articles in European media or listening to Rick Steves' radio show. Today I threw a pitch out on my Facebook page asking for inspiration. Where do my friends want to go? My friend Gen threw back a gem: Croatia. And since we Americans don't really think of Eastern Europe as a vacation destination, it was an absolute joy to research! So this is for Gen, TJ, and Isabel!
This photo of Croatia is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Croatia seems to have all the things I'm in to: gorgeous beaches, lots of nature, wine, good food and let's not forget: a ton of Roman and medieval history. Let's go ya'll!
Our journey starts by landing in over-the-top beautiful Dubrovnik (pictured above). This lively port city on the most southern tip of Croatia is an old medieval town which still retains is old defensive city walls. Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic", it was once a maritime city-state that rivaled Venice in its power of trade routes during the middle ages. The city of Dubrovnik has plenty of buildings dating back to this time, the Old Town section of the city is a registered World Heritage Site worth seeing. Buy a ticket to see the City Wall and you'll get to also see Lovrijenac, the medieval fort that overlooks the harbor and Old Town. Beware, its a bit of a climb on the stairs but worth the views.If you're looking for beaches to relax after you arrive, look no further as the Dalmation Coast where Dubrovnik is located. Dubrovnik's cuisine tends to be on the Mediterranean scale, which is awesome for me because I love that style of food!
This photo of Dubrovnik is courtesy of TripAdvisor
After Dubrovnik we board the train north (or drive, however you wish) to the coastal town of Split. One of the greatest things Split is known for is it's wealth of Roman ruins, which include the many buildings of Diocletian's palace that are still standing and being used as homes and businesses. What better way to to imagine the daily life of the Roman Republic? Split also has a medieval Old Town and a harbor. For a great view of the city, climb the bell tower at St. Domnius church and don't forget your camera! Split has beaches as well, and also sits right next to a collection of small islands off the coast. Which leads me to our next destination.....
The island of Hvar.
This photo of Hvar Island is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The little island of Hvar, just a short ferry ride away from Split, is a microcosm of European relaxation. Beaches, shopping, food, party boats, and old public squares filled with shops and cafes. Hvar is a major exporter of lavender, so you purple herb junkies can pick up all you like here. ha ha... I'm not a fan of lavender but I can understand where some would be.
This photo of Hvar Island is courtesy of TripAdvisor
After a ferry ride back to the mainland we board a flight at Split's airport for a short jaunt to the capital city of Zagreb. You could also take a train, but for me even though the place ticket is twice the price of the train, the time difference is worth it. A flight to Zagreb is only 45 minutes vs six and half hours on a train. Thank you Croatia Airlines!Zagreb is great old city full of classic architecture, like its National Theater. It has a zoo, botanical gardens and close to a couple national parks if you fancy a sojourn through the woods. Zagreb is also home to one of the oddest yet poignant museums I've ever heard of: The Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum isn't so much an art exhibit by one artist, as it is submissions by people who send in something commemorating the demise of a relationship. I've never heard of such a thing, but after reading the press material on their website, it kind of started to make sense. You can purchase things there too, but I think that would probably weird me out a little. If you want to get your nerd on, there's also an archeology museum featuring many artifacts from the Greek and Roman periods in Croatia's history, back when it was known as Ragusium, and not Croatia.
This photo of Pula is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Our next stop in Croatia is the Istria region which is has wine, truffles, and even makes olive oil. Not too shabby considering it was once a Roman colony. Roman ruins abound this region, with the cities of Pula and Porec offering medieval buildings galore. Porec also has the Baredine Cave to explore. There are fabulous churches all over the region but one of the best is the church of St. Blaise in Vodnjan, which is purported to have the largest collection of saint relics outside of Rome.
One of the best things about visiting Croatia, besides its temperate weather, is that its currency is not euro. Croatia is still on the kuna, which as today gets you 6.19 kuna for $1. A deal! Airfare is still a push for Americans, and it's going to average you about $1600 to fly into Dubrovnik and out of Zagreb to go home. Flying to and home out of Zagreb is a few hundred dollars cheaper, but then if you're going to rent a car it will be nearly equal. Be sure to consult rail maps before making your plan to Croatia, and consult TripAdvisor and Booking.com for hotels.
Let's go stimulate the economy!