Extreme Croatia

When I first learned that I would be living in Germany for a year, I immediately began my making of lists. Lists of what to pack, where to go, what to buy, etc. etc. Point is, I made a lot of lists. On my where to go list, I only had a couple of definites: Croatia and Edinburgh. As you have seen, I did make it to Edinburgh, and it more than exceeded my expectations. Up until March, I didn’t think I was going to end up making it to Croatia, but my friend Jordan and I found a last-minute cheap plane ticket, and the date was set for April 6 – 9.

The first thing I’ve been asked about Croatia is, did you make it to Dubrovnik? No, I did not. The main reason for my Croatian dream was Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is a g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s, gorgeous, gorgeous park located inland and it is filled with clear lakes, wooden plank walkways, flowers, waterfalls… it is truly one of the most beautiful settings I have ever been in. When we were there, it wasn’t as green as we wished…the trees had not completely grown back yet, but the water was still my favorite shade of aquamarine and the weather was long-sleeve t-shirt and jeans type of weather: perfect for hiking. We spent a day, night, then another half-day exploring these sights. The Plitivice Lakes is the #1 rated spot to visit by Croatians. Dubrovnik doesn’t even make the top 10, which surprised me.

The first picture/view of the hike.

The beginning...

Some smaller waterfalls and lakes below...

absolutely adore these walkways.

The "big" waterfall and some of the lakes below… our starting point of day 2.

Love.

After visiting the lakes, we drove our fire red rental car through the mountains of Croatia into Split, which is located on the coast. It was raining when we arrived, so we checked into our hostel, found some food, then hung out in our hostel for a while. We were tired from hiking and driving, so we decided to relax for the night and hope that it was sunny explore-the-beach-type weather the next day. Staying in at the hostel turned out to be a grand idea, because we met some amazing people. Almost everyone at the hostel was from an english-speaking country: Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, and, of course, the USA. We all sat around and played games, then went out to explore the town a bit. I found that Croatians in their 20’s are very hostile towards tourists. They did not like us joining them in their local haunts, but that’s OK. I learned how to do the Irish Jig from my new Irish friend a group of us ended up making it to the beach that night on the walk back to our hostel. I wish I would have had my camera…the Adriatic Coast at night is definitely a sight to see.

The beautiful coast in Split.

Jordan admiring the view…can't get enough.

Thinking about how lucky I am and wishing it was warm enough to swim.

Loved this sweet, colorful dock… there was a little boy fishing off the end of it.

In the morning, we got our wish: it was sunny, explore-the-beach weather…although the temperature was not warm enough for bathing suits. Jordan and I explored to the beach, looked around a bit, then hopped back in our rental car to drive to Zadar, where we would be flying out of the next day. I do have to say that we did not get to see much of Zadar while we were there, and the weather was rainy and cold, but it was nevertheless a very clean, white, charming city, even despite the rain (or maybe in spite of?). Because we did not get to spend much time in Zadar and I loved what I saw, I want to visit again someday. It is on the coast as well, and our hotel was close to the harbor, where the old town is also located. We walked around in the rain a bit to find some dinner, and while it was pretty deserted (being Easter Sunday), I could just imagine it with people bustling around the streets with shopping bags and drinking coffees outside of the many cafés.

(Unfortunately, there are not any pictures of Zadar due to the fact that we were terribly tired, cold, and therefore, regrettably lazy.)

The coast of Croatia really reminded me of how I picture Greece to be…when we were driving inland around Plitvice Lakes, however, it reminded me a lot of when I was in Switzerland or Austria. From one extreme to the other. I think that accurately describes Croatia…it is a country of extremes. The extremely breathtaking views and aquamarine water, the cliffs…it is truly a country worth visiting, and in my experience, I think the less-tourist-packed cities like Zadar and Split were great choices rather than Zagreb and Dubrovnik. One day, I would like to make it back to those, but I think the vast amount of my time will be spent in the Plitvice Lakes, Zadar, and the surrounding islands.

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My Fairy Tale Home: Edinburgh

What can I say about Edinburgh? I miss it already. I was there for only 5 days, and I would move my life there today without any reservations. Maybe that’s a little naive, but I can picture a life there. I love it. It’s like living in a fairy tale.

I realize I probably sound like the little boy who cried wolf, because I’m pretty sure I’ve said that I loved every city I’ve been to and that I can’t wait to go back, but Edinburgh is different. I seriously want to go back and live there….for a couple of years, at least.

(And before I go any further, I want to apologize now for the amount of pictures in this post. I realize it is probably taking forever to load, but I couldn’t narrow it down any further!)

Love this street

We arrived late Friday night at the Edinburgh airport and took a bus into the city, where we walked to our hostel. It was late, so we just wanted to get some quick dinner and go to bed in order to be refreshed for the morning. We bought some delicious fish and chips (unhealthy meal #1 of trip) and sat on a bench in the middle of the Grassmarket eating our fried food. One guy yelled, “FISH AND CHIPS” at us in capital letters. A bit strange, but factual.

Our GINORMOUS fish and chips

The next morning, we woke up early to eat breakfast at an American-type diner that we had heard about through a cousin of one of my accomplices. It was only a short walk from our hostel, and it was indeed American. They had eggs, bacon, waffles…everything. I got some scrambled eggs and toast. Then some waffles since I haven’t had any in the 7 months I’ve been here (unhealthy meal #2… okay, won’t do that anymore. you can count for yourself and judge). It was perfect. The best part was they had water for free. Yes, I said free. How amazing is that? Why can’t Germany and the rest of Europe figure out the great invention of free water? The second best part was the bathrooms were also free. In fact, we didn’t have to pay for water or a bathroom the entire time we were in Scotland. Imagine that! Get on board, rest of the EU.

The American diner experience

Continuing on…next was our free tour of Scotland with New Europe SANDEMAN’s Free Tour. I’ve done these tours a couple of times in my travels and they never dissapoint. They are free…all they ask is you tip the tour guide as much as you think the tour is worth. You can give as much as you want. Most people give between 5 – 10, but I’ve seen people also give 20. The Edinburgh tour didn’t dissapoint. Our tour guide (Brendan from Ireland) was awesome and we learned so much about Scottish history. If you are traveling anywhere in Europe, I’d suggest googling this tour group and taking one of their tours. They are always much more informative than any other tour I go on, last about 3 hours and you get to see a lot of the city and find out what you would like to re-visit.

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile

Jordan and me in front of Edinburgh Castle

Where people used to be nailed to the door from their ear when they were caught lying/stealing/etc. In front of St. Giles Cathedral.

The rest of our days was spent seeing as much as possible and eating a lot of great food. Here are a few highlights:

-Walking to the top of Arthur’s Seat, part of the ancient volcano that Edinburgh is built through/around. It was quite a hike, but definitely well worth it. Spectacular views.

On our way up to Arthur's Seat

Still on our way up...

Halfway up… Alita and me enjoying the view

Andddd Jordan and me enjoying the view halfway up

to show how insanely windy it was the whole entire time at Arthur's Seat

At the top!

Taking in the great view...

-Eating at the Elephant House Cafe, which was made famous as it is the cafe where J.K. Rowling birthed Harry Potter and wrote the first few books. We actually ended up being sat at the exact table that she is rumored to have sat. It had drawers, which we of course opened, and found dozens of letters and notes to J.K. Rowling and other travelers. Very interesting. It also overlooks Greyfriar’s Kirk (Graveyard), which has 2 famous graves: one hosting the names Tom Riddle Sr and Tom Riddle Jr, the other William McGonnagal, both of which did in fact inspire characters in her books. The cafe overlooks a school as well, which inspired the four different houses of Hogwarts. You can definitely feel Harry Potter while walking around Edinburgh. That might sound incredibly nerdy, but I don’t care. The books are awesome, no shame, and you can definitely see how Edinburgh inspired them.

The drawers and letters!

Tom Riddle's Grave

Part of Greyfriar's Kirk

-Tiny bookstores filled with old, used books. We had a ball in there, finding really old books (which I had to end up shipping home… too heavy for RyanAir’s 10kg limit).

-We (some of it just I after they left on Monday morning, I stayed until Wednesday) also did a ghost tour, pub crawl (both with same tour company), went to the National Museum, National Library, Writer’s Museum, the top of Carlton Hill (great views at dusk)…

Pub Crawl…or Ghost Tour?

definitely pub crawl… have I ever mentioned how cool we are? dance dance.

Edinburgh is truly a place that I suggest visiting when you have the chance. It really exceeded my expectations, which were already high. They have great museums, libraries, arts, and people. Although I think we met more Irish and Australians than Scottish people, but they were all very friendly. Plus, it was great to be in an english-speaking country for a few days.

So if there are any Scottish men out there reading this that want to marry me (between the ages of 23 and 33), just leave a comment; I’ll be in touch. I want to live in Edinburgh.