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.
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.
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.