Croatia Travel Journal 2003
|This travel journal is from 2003. We went back to Croatia in 2009.|
> How it all began...
It was July 2002 and we were talking to our neighbours at Toscolano campingsite at the Garda Lake. They told us about their holidays the year before, when they went to Istria, Croatia. .It surprised me that they liked it so much over there, as I only knew the country just ended its homeland war. I thought that wouldn't be an ideal country to spend your holidays But because of all their stories I became very interested in Croatia and we were only back home for a few days when I was trying to find as much information by internet as possible. I recognized many of the names of cities in Croatia from the news reports a few years before. I became very enthusiastic by seeing the photos of beautiful coastlines and cities, especially Dubrovnik seemed great to me. After I got myself some magazines as well I decided that this country was worth visiting next summer.
> The Plan
We efinately wanted to visit Istria, as we knew many people who had been there or knew somebody that had been there. Despite the long distance all the way south to Dubrovnik we were very keen on seeing this city as well. After a lot of discussions, looking at photos, searching on the internet and hearing other people's stories we decided to do one week of mid-Dalmatia and a few days of Plitvice as well. The lakes at this place should have a wonderful blue-green color and there should be lots of waterfalls.
> Journey to Croatia
Finally it is July 2003: our holiday in Croatia is about to begin. After a night in a hotel in Ulm in the south of Germany we go further to Austria and Slovenia. We both never were in Slovenia before and are surprised by the difference with other countries we've been to. The hills and landscapes are pretty much the same as some places in Germany and Austria, but the houses and athmosphere are so different. Soon we come to the end of the highway and we have to follow many winding roads through the hills. We are glad we booked a night in Germany as well, as it would have been too exhausting to do it in one day. The driver has to focus on the road very well, as we are not used to curves like this in Holland. But after a few hours we reach the border to Croatia and we pass it very quickly. It doesn't take very long to find the village of Lovran after we crossed the border. We are going to stay in hotel Bristol for one week. The hotel is not very luxurous, but it's comfortable and right at the ocean. Unfortunately it takes us only a few hours to damage the rolling shutter at our window, because we try to lift it up too far. The man who has to fix it isn't there for a few days, so we have to sleep without anything but very thin curtains for the windows for four days. We wake up at 6 every morning with the first sunrays.
After the first walk in the environment and a fresh swim in the ocean (with a rocky beach instead of sand) we drive to Pula. We expected to arrive in Pula in about 40 minutes, but that's not the way it works in Croatia. The roads (mostly at the coast) have many curves and cross many hills, so maximum speed is about 60 kilometers an Hour. After one hour and a half we arrive in Pula and the weather is wonderful here. In Lovran, where our hotel is, the weather is cloudy and not as beautiful as here. We find out that the East coast of Istria is cloudy many times when the rest of the peninsula is sunny. So now we know why all the tourists stay on the West coast. Pula is wonderful: many Medieval buildings, like the Arena, Mary-Formosa Church and the buildings at the central square. But we find the small and very old villages of Istria much more interesting to spend some time: colorful Labin, quiet Plomin, and Graciöce, where time stood still for many years. In the only shop in Graciöce the woman that serves us even cuts our bread and puts the cheese on it, as we didn't bring a knive, what a service! These quiet villages, including the fairytale village on a hill: Motovun, and the real quiet Oprtalj attract us much more than these busy and touristic places like Porec, Vrsar and Rovinj, looking even busier than the French Riviera. We also love the mountains behind our hotel in Lovran, where we even risk our lives to pass a few dangerous dogs.
After this week we pack our belongings in the car again and drive further to the South. The landscape becomes very rocky, the mountains get bigger and we see many pearl-white islands at the coastline. The coast is very spectacular and extremely blue. We love the Velebit-mountains that we have to pass, we certainly wanted to spend more time here, but we already booked our apartment in Omis. After Zadar we lose the coastal road when we try a shortcut. Suddenly the wonderfully blue landscape turns into a ravage of houses with hundreds of holes and without any windows. At first we don't even notice what happens and some-one even says: "Hey why are all these houses empty?" But suddenly we realize this is the countries' souvenir of the war that took place here in the 90's. We see many broken houses, complete villages abandoned and the roads are in a bad condition. But just as quickly as it disappeared it's there again: the blue and sunny coastline. After an 8 hour drive of 60 kilometers an hour max we arrive in Omis, a very special, medieval village with narrow streets and a castle at the Cetina river and mountains.
From our apartment we can see the ocean, the blueest ocean we've ever seen. And the warmest ocean as well, with a great view of rocky cliffs at one side and pearl white islands on the other side. We have a great day when we visit Makarska, with breathtaking views over the coast. We also pay a visit to Split, but this city is a bit of a disappointment, not as beautiful as we expected. But the ancient Salona, close to Split is fantastic, great how you can discover the ancient areas with the history of Split here. We also drive in the direction of Trogir on the Castle-Road, where there have to be 7 castles. We are disappointed when we can't find a single one of them! We follow the entire Castle-Road for about 5 times in both directions, but no castles... You can imagine that we were surprised by seeing a few of those castles on the internet when we were back home. Where did they hide them for us? One of the best things for us during this week is that there are hardly any Dutch tourists in this area. This makes us feel very far away from home and gives us a real holiday-feeling. But the absolute best thing during this week is our tour on the Cetina River in a rental boat. We follow the river between high rocky mountains to a small cafť in the forrest. It isn't easy to get ashore with dry clothes, but somehow we manage. We have a soda and get on our way back to the place where we rented the boat. But now we have a different kind of problem: the motor suddenly stops time after time and we even get into the reet plumes. It's a great mystery for 2 experienced captains as we are (not!!)...is the motor broken? Eventually we find out what the problem is. The laziest one of us is lying on the deck to get tanned in the warm sun and that's why the back side of the boat incuding the motor gets out of the water every time, haha.
After this week we drive further in the direction of the sun. The rest of the 4 hour drive to Dubrovnik is just as beautiful as the first 8 in the week before. It takes us a while to find Bellevue Hotel, but we come very close to the old city center because of that. What a gigantic city walls and enormous gates, it's exactly as I had imagined... We get rid of our car and suitcases at the hotel and are surprised by the best view we ever had from a room. we quickly go to the city center. Many things to see, all beautiful and so old. The tour on the city walls is warm and thirsty, but certainly worth it. We have a great view over the city and the coastline. Unfortunately the men who sell cold drinks also know that it's hot and thirsty on the wall and we have to pay 6 euro for 2 drinks, as we don't want to die because of thirst. One of our days in Dubrovnik we go to the island of Lokrum that's only 10 minutes from the city by boat. On the island we have a beautiful view over Dubrovnik.
> Plitvice Lakes
The warmest day of our holidays is on the day that we drive back to the north for a visit to Plitvice national park. It's 38 degrees and when we get back on the road to the apartment where we stayed the week before we sneek into the park and park our car for a dive into the ocean. We are sure the owner of the appartments "Ruskamen" would have had no problems with that. When we continue our trip to Plitvice we first have to cross a mountain-landscape and then the landscape becomes very dry. But suddenly there is forrest again and we arrive in Plitvice. Our hotel is only a little bit further and on our first evening we go out to discover the environments. We are curious what we will find behind a small fence and follow the path we see. At the end of the path we find something that used to be the floor of a small house once. There are more of these floors and we finally realize that this must have been a holiday park with houses once. Everything got destroyed during the war. We even see the former street lights: burned and with many small holes in it. We find traces of tanks and bullets on the floor. Really scary. There are many damaged houses in the environments, a complete difference with the beautiful park of Plitvice Jezero, the national park that's also on the world heritage list of Unesco. The entire day we walk around in this park with the 16 blue-green lakes and 92 waterfalls (didn't count them) without getting bored. As all good things come to an end once, this is the end of our best holiday untill this far. We've seen many things and found it a real adventure to discover Croatia.
> More Info
Also check our Croatia info page, where you can find a lot of information about Croatia and come see our Croatia Photos.