I don’t exactly know how this plan came into being but before I knew it, i was booking a one way flight from Dubrovnik to Rome in the month of Feb 2017 for October 2017. That’s how far back this was planned and probably even before, as all I remember is talking about visiting Croatia this whole summer with my work colleague, travel partner and friend Carl!
Carl was THE chosen one. We have done several work trips together and enjoy the fact that neither of us is clingy, both have a thirst to see places, hike & bike and both of us respect time and are on the same beat. Besides traveling with my own self and Tom (the 2 perfect travel partners), family (my best friends), he probably is the only other person I would even consider undertaking a trip with. Meticulous, easy-going, honest and respectful, thank you Carl for sharing this trip with me.
Now the real adventure begins.
Itinerary followed : Plitvice Lakes- Zadar- Krka National Park- Roski Slap- Split- Hvar ( ferry)- Mostar- Ston- Orebic- Korcula (ferry) – Dubrovnik
Total distance travelled : Roughly 1000 kms
Expense per person: (This includes all the airfares, ferry transfers, car rental, gas prices, entry fees, accommodation and food) – $ 949.00 CAD
Best month to travel: End September into October
Dates: September 26th to October 4th 2017
DAY 1- Sept 27th 2017
Western Europe gets way too much credit for being beautiful, and rightfully so BUT Eastern Europe’s beauty is unmatched and is nothing short of captivating. Our trip started by getting on the company plane and leaving Toronto for Zagreb on the night of the 26th September. The flight was 8 hours long. I slept for 6 hours and spent the remaining 2 hours finishing up the movie :-Paris can wait- that I had started watching at home in the beginning of the month. I had an hour left to watch and this was the perfect time to finish it. By the time we landed I was fresh like a daisy and well rested to start out on our adventure. We picked up our rental car from the Arrivals level and before we knew it, were heading over to our first point of interest – PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK. It made sense to settle into our Airbnb in the lovely hamlet of Mukinje, relax and explore the area around and call it a day early enough, so we could be in shape for the following full day of burning calories.
DAY 2- Sept 28th 2017
Mukinje is not even 15 minutes drive from the Entrance no 2 of the Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was the perfect place to start our journey from, early in the morning at 7 am. Ours was the only car in the car park!
The route that we undertook worked in our favour. People tend to go to the small lakes making their way over to the big waterfall. We started in the reverse order and I managed to get good shots minus any humans in most of my pictures. We parked at Entrance 2 – South gate – upper lakes. There are several trails you can walk depending on your level of fitness and time available at hand.
- Trail E (2-3 hours – 5.2 km – easy) upper lakes to Proscansko Jezero starting with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake.
- Trail F (3-4 hours – 4.6km – easy) walk the upper lakes and sail across lake Kozjaka, then visit the lower lakes – take shuttle back
- Trail H (4-6 hours – 8.9km – moderate) starts with a bus ride to your starting point, walk the upper lakes then sail across lake Kozjaka, to the lower lakes – take shuttle bus back.
- Trail K-2 (6-8 hours – 18.3km -difficult) like Trail K-1 – explore the whole park.We undertook trail H and trail E. Our day started everyday at 7 am ( in the car en route) and ended at 7 pm ( reaching our rental airbnb accommodation par excellence)
After exploring this UNESCO world heritage site, we made our way over to ZADAR – the oldest inhabited city in Croatia on the Dalmatian coast. It’s well-known for its 12th-century St. Anastasia’s Cathedral & the bell tower and the round, 9th-century pre-Romanesque Church of St. Donatus. I climbed some 180 steps to reach the top of the freestanding bell tower for amazing views over the city and the sea. After wandering the city I bumped into Carl by the city walls and we decided to walk the port and take a little under water tour in the cutest yellow submarine. I didn’t capture any amazing pictures of the crabs or the sea creatures under water but surely managed a breathtaking shot of the sun setting over the Adriatic sea.
DAY 3- Sept 29th 2017
Idea was to head over to Split but it was nearly impossible to bypass KRKA NATIONAL PARK and ROSKI SLAP. Plitvice was beautiful, but Krka took my breath away. Named after the Krka River, the Park covers an area of just over 142 square km and includes 2/3 of the river itself. The top attractions of the Park are its magnificent waterfalls, including the famous Skradinski Buk falls which are one of Croatia’s most famous sights. The Skradinski Buk waterfalls are a collection of 17 waterfalls that range in height by over 45 metres. Unlike Plitvice, it is possible to swim by this magnificent waterfall. Roski Slap (slap being Croatian for waterfall) is another famous sight within Krka National Park. We had the option of taking a boat ride ( included in the entry fee) but instead decided to drive over to Roski Slap instead, so we could explore the park on foot and climb up the 600 steps to get the best view of the park down below and of course justify eating a heavy lunch in Krka.
After spending over 11 hours walking, hiking and climbing steps, it was time to head over to our airbnb accommodation in SPLIT. Another UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most impressive Roman Monuments. The day ended for us at 7 pm. Lights out by 8 as it was time to rest and gear up for the following day. On the agenda was to take a ferry across from the Split harbor to visit the beautiful island of Hvar, to return mid day & explore Split.
DAY 4- Sept 30th 2017
By 7:40 am we were sitting comfortably on the back deck of our ferry taking us over to HVAR. It was one of the faster ones as I was already walking up the fortress in Hvar by 9:15 am. There is no short cut to reach the top. It’s good to meander off, exploring every dirt path as you get to see pretty beautiful sights overlooking the harbor down below and the calm sea. There were hardly any people up there at that early hour so I spent a good few hours just taking pictures till I spotted Carl, sitting in a corner, sun screening himself. It became a joke between us as I would spot him throughout our trip at the most unexpected times, sun screening.
There are several vendors of pure Lavender essence for a mere €1 a bottle that’ll last you a good few years. It is rightfully called the “island of lavender” as lavender cultivation along with fishing and tourism is what sustains this Island. A party hub for young people and a docking port for expensive yachts, this is a happening place in the peak of summer season. After exploring the center and the area around on foot. it was time to catch Jadrolinija back to the mainland and visit SPLIT.
Diocletian’s Palace, rather an old fortress over being a palace, covers almost half of the old town of Split. It’s quite an impressive UNESCO world heritage site. Lined by loads of coffee shops and red cushions along the stone steps of the courtyard, you would be served drinks and finger food of your choice if you decide to rest your backside on one of these inviting little beauties. There are several walking tours that are available for groups but nothing beats getting lost in your own company and discovering areas of interest and chatting up locals. Climbing the bell tower of Saint Domius deserves a blog of its own. It was quite crowded but there was no way that I was not going to climb up the top to get the perfect view. The climb was actually very scary as there are only 3 metal rods separating you from the fall below. I was amazed at this one daring woman who was standing at the ledge of the tower taking a 360 video of the old town below. I spotted her again, over 30 minutes later and managed to capture her “balls”. Was she mad or was she mad brave?
For all those who believe in luck and good fortune, don’t forget to rub the toe of Gregory of Nin statue. It’s supposed to bring good luck. I’d say even if you don’t believe in good-luck, go and rub that toe. If you are like me and are not a big fan of too many people surrounding you all the time, it’s good to wander off outside the old town and visit the park
Strossmayer. Perfect green spot to relax and go over the beautiful sites you captured in your camera and memory’s eye. It was an amazing day well spent and by 7 pm it was time to head back and get ready for the following day.
DAY 5 – October 1st 2017
Since I had to cut short my vacation, ( work missed me!) we were discussing if visiting MOSTAR in Bosnia was a good idea or not, seeing that we were short on time. That would also mean that we wouldn’t be able to visit the town of Trogir. I had decisions to make. After googling Mostar the night before, there was no way that I was going to be so close to that magnificent place and not get to visit it. We were heading over to Mostar and in return sacrificing visiting Trogir.
At the border crossing we were asked if we were heading over to Mostar. I was impressed. Turns out all Canadians and Americans always go to Mostar while all Italians/ Portuguese and French always head off in the direction of Medjugorje – a pilgrim town. I was quite tempted to visit Medjugorje but was feeling more adventurous than religious that day.
Mostar is BEAUTIFUL. It is named after the bridge keepers – or Mostaris- who guarded the old bridge and is one of the most recognized landmarks of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I wish I was interested in history as there is so much interesting information regarding all that Mostar went through from being a part of the Roman empire to being taken over by the Ottoman empire, the influence of which is quite visible till date, with waitresses dressed in the most exquisite traditional fashion and the call of prayer from the minarets. The old town is buzzing with handmade jewelry, colourful lanterns, handmade leather handbags, pashmina, copper artwork and turkish rugs. The prices are fairly reasonable and people simply so talented.
Stari most bridge jump attracts loads of tourists. I noticed this man standing on the other side of the bridge ready to jump. He had been ready for over 1 hour I realized and decided to sit across from him at the bottom of the bridge from where I could capture him on my camera. I got talking to 4 men who were traveling over from Hungry. They informed me of a tradition that Bosnian men follow. Locals say a man will be a complete life failure if he doesn’t take the plunge. But this tradition, causing them to hit the water at about 80km/h in three seconds, is no longer just something for Bosnian men.It’s now an attraction for daring — or idiotic — backpackers passing through.The Mostari diving club pretty much mans the bridge daily and charges tourists a hefty fee of 25 euros if they want to jump.If a tourist successfully plunges, they are hailed into the club and can jump for free for the rest of their life. If not, well then I don’t really want to know the outcome of such a feat.
Mid afternoon, and it was time to head off to OREBIC
but not before stopping over to climb the old walls of STON- the European wall of China.
Crossed a lovely couple from Argentina while walking the 5.5 km wall only to see them back on the other side of Mali Ston and hearing Carl singing – don’t cry for me Argentina, to grab their attention from down below. Ah, memories! We called it a day by 7 pm in the comfortable airbnb accommodation in Orebic.
DAY 6- Oct 2nd 2017
This day ended up being the most hectic of all days. We had been stair climbing since we arrived in Croatia to hiking uphill almost every day. But this day was a day of cycling. Cycling off the beaten path on stones and wondering why the shoulders were hurting the following day!
We headed off in the morning on the ferry that took us, along with a fair amount of school kids, to the lovely island of Korcula. By 7:40 am I was already walking the quite inroads of Korcula, taking pictures of the St. Marks Cathedral. We then decided to rent bikes and ride over to the little town of Racisce. This also marks the day that I almost lost my wedding ring and successfully managed to put my cycle chain back on after it fell off.
Carl made a pit stop at the fruit store so he could stash up on his supply as that’s all that he was eating most of the days. I went on with my journey to Racisce, however along the way my bicycle decides to give me trouble. I had never fixed a fallen chain before only coz I knew how dirty your hands get in the process. But, when you are solo you need to suck it up and get dirty. By the time Carl rolled passed me my hands were black with grease but thankfully he had all the supplies needed to clean them up. A good splash of rubbing alcohol and tissues did the trick. I had removed my wedding ring and left it on a rock , later securing it in the inside pocket of my camera bag. That evening after returning back from our full day of cycling I noticed I didn’t have my ring on my finger. Panic of losing my ring set in and i tried replaying the events of the day in my head. Finally the penny dropped and I remembered that the ring was not left on the rock as I originally thought but, was in my camera bag!
The evening after a full day of expending calories it was time to grab a bite. We stopped at this cafe, which is where I had found Carl in the morning, drinking his coffee while I was looking around for a washroom. We decided to grab a bite at this same cafe as our day came to an end. Sitting there going though my pictures of the day I suddenly had this huge desire to eat a 3 egg cheese omelette. My body was craving for protein and fat. I just spoke my thoughts out loud. Next I hear this gentleman sitting parallel to where we were sitting say
” I am positive the chef can make you that!”.
me: “Can he? Could you translate it to the waitress that all i want is simply a 3 egg omelette with loads of cheese in it”
Him: ” no need, he will understand you.”
me: “should I go to the kitchen and tell him that myslef?”
Him: “You already did”
“Oh! you are the chef?????”
Him: Yes, Ma’am
Me: THANK YOU SO SO MUCH! You have no idea how happy I feel right this moment.
Him: You are very welcome. I’ll be back with your omelette in 5 minutes
I have to say it was the best Omelette I have ever eaten in my life, made with love and kindness. Needless to say I wanted to always remember this kind chef so decided to take his picture with his permission of course. If you ever wander over to Korchula please visit Cafe Marco Polo.
DAY 7th – 3rd Oct 2017
As always we left at the crack of dawn, listening to our favourite music channel on FM3 – Otvorenti, belting out tunes that would drive any musically inclined ear completely deaf and mad, and us, probably dead – prematurely hahaha
It was, as always, a lovely start to the day. I saw a partridge crossing the road and thought of my very own Partridge back home! We drove past the Old walls of stone and it made me feel a bit nostalgic knowing that I might never see this place again. So taking it all in, I bid it farewell in my heart and longed to see how the day would unfold and all the adventures that awaited us. We were heading to Dubrovnik – UNESCO world heritage site.
The drive itself is under 2 hours but we decided to take a little detour just so we could pass through Bosnia – we crossed the border twice in one day and loved that little adventure. Arriving in Dubrovnik wasn’t hard at all but finding a parking spot was a whole different adventure. It is best to park way outside the city center, the parking is still pricey but cheaper as compared to what you would be paying if it were in smack city center. We walked towards the old town of Dubrovnik, and decided to walk the city wall together before splitting to undertake our individual adventure and later converging at a designated spot for the afternoon lunch! We purchased the Dubrovnik
Card which includes free visit to City walls
. The adult entrance fee costs
150 HRK (visit to Fort Lovrijenac is included in the price). I decided to forego exploring the fort, and after our 2 hour walk around the city wall I decided to head over towards the opposite side of the wall to get a better view of the whole old city from Mount Srd. With some 400 m altitude, Mount Srd dominates Dubrovnik. There is an option of taking the cable car right up to Mt. Srd but the hike up there, in my opinion, is a way better option. It is a beautiful path uphill and you can stop and take as many pictures as you like – getting the best view without any glass hindering or anyone’s head coming in the way of your camera lens. From the top of Mt. Srd the view overlooking the old city is simply awe-inspiring. After 4 hours of legging around I decided to meet up with Carley to see what he had been upto. We had a hearty lunch and exchanged notes. While I was climbing mountains, Carley was climbing all the stairway alleys that Dubrovnik had to offer.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around the old town and soaking up in its beauty. Admiring the architecture and counting the number of stray cats that have made Dubrovnik their loving home. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful experience, a beautiful vacation.
Sun screen diaries, dedicated to Carl 😀