Cleansed by the Adriatic Sea and the Calm Coastal Life [Croatia]

[This is the third of a four-part trip recap; Previous Post: Risky Roads Lead to a Fortress of Underrated Attractions [Montenegro]]

October 27, 2015 – Within the Walls of Dubrovnik

The drive by the Adriatic Sea with twists and turns reminded me of an Audi commercial. When we had planned our time in Croatia, we certainly wanted to stay by the sea. Dubrovnik, Croatia has become a popular destination for many foreigners, boosted by the must-see show Game of Thrones. We weren’t planning to stay in Dubrovnik, but we wanted to stop over for a few hours to explore and to eat.

Upon arriving in Dubrovnik, in which I was driving, I had to parallel park on a steep hill while a fair amount of traffic was behind me. I remember whipping in the spot so fast that Robyn looked at me like, “How the hell did you do that?” Ok, sometimes you get lucky. Being in a new country meant a new currency. We needed to pay the parking meter, but we did not yet have Croatian Kunas. We tried exchanging our Euros at a small shop, but of course, got denied. We went to the ATM to get some Kunas and then went back to the same store to exchange for smaller amounts and coins. The store owner was not happy!

After a long walk up a hill, we arrived at the Old City, protected by the Walls of Dubrovnik. The fortress is absolutely incredible, with views of the bright blue Adriatic Sea bringing the old stone to life. It literally felt like I was brought back to 1000 A.D. It was a beautiful sunny day, and quite a few tourists were out and about. We ate lunch on the edge of the fortress, accompanied by a pigeon who was obsessed with what I ordered.

After lunch, we entered the protected walls through a gate where we were welcomed by the Large Onofrio’s Fountain. A few vendors were selling Game of Thrones paraphernalia, however, I have yet to see the series so I was not tempted. Next, we walked along the Stradun, the main limestone pedestrian street flanked with small shops and outdoor seating. We made our way out to the City Harbor, bustling with those beginning to take out their boats. 

Within the Walls of Dubrovnik, it was easy to find hideaways. It felt like an old video game I used to play where I had to avoid certain obstacles and search for the object that would propel me to the next game level.

We left the fortress and headed back toward our car. The views during our walk were incredible, as the midday sun glistened off of the sea. Our car was still there when we arrived (a constant concern). I continued to drive out of the city, headed to our Croatian stay, a couple hours more north at Split. Bosnia has a small sliver of land that juts to the sea, so we had to go through the Bosnian border crossing and drive in Bosnia for about 20 minutes before re-entering Croatia. We arrived at the Bosnian exit border crossing, where I exchanged our documents with an officer. After I received the go-ahead, I continued to drive, only to be yelled at and halted by officers. Apparently, this was a 2-in-1 border crossing, where I would get checked by the Croatian border entry at the next window. It was like paying for your McDonald’s drive-thru meal at the first window and then driving off! All calmed down, and we drove off into the Croatian sunset.

We arrived in Split, where we met Darko (our Airbnb host), and he helped me maneuver the car into a small slot where we could park. Our place was really nice – we even had a back patio where we could hang out and enjoy the weather. Remember those clothes that failed to dry in Montenegro? Well, our first order of business was to put those on a clothesline on our patio. The majority of them were still soaking from our washing machine failure. 

We walked down a hill to the old city on the sea for dinner; the old part of the city is stunning white stone with elaborate buildings, columns, statues and monuments. The shoreline is lined with palm trees and night entertainment. We had a nice Italian dinner, and then walked back late to our stay and planned our next day.

October 28, 2015 – A Day at Sea, both Supetar and Split

The next day, we checked out our clothesline debacle – most of our clothes were drier but still damp. Luckily, we still had enough unworn clothes to keep going. We walked down toward the Adriatic Sea to purchase our tickets for a ferry to Supetar, an island about an hour from Split. There are several options within the ferry schedule to a number of islands off of the Croatian coast. Some people even drove their cars on the gigantic ferry, a convenient way for islanders to explore the mainland when they arrive, and vice versa. 

Upon arrival, we walked around the island, which was mostly residential. Each home had several trees in the yard, including olive, pomegranate, kiwi, lemon, lime, and orange. Others had bushes of lavender or grapevines hanging from woodwork. The island seemed very Italian in a way, with stone buildings untouched for centuries. The waterfront had a nice strip of cafes and shops, where we sat down for a fancy glass of ice cream and coffee by the sea. 

Before our return ferry to Split departed, we hurried over to the water, where we could walk out on a pebble beach. The water was so incredibly clear. Robyn and I took handfuls of water and splashed it on our arms and faces. It felt like a nice spa facial. We even took back a water bottle full of seawater so we could cleanse the following day. 

The afternoon back in Split, we spent a lot of time to explore the city and look for unique souvenirs. Most striking is Diocletian’s Palace, accessible by the public and another awesome feeling of being so close to history. We ran into a few flower and food markets as well as some antique tables, where Robyn got a good deal on a silver platter. I found some street art of Brac stone with Croatian letters carved into it. Nearby, we ran into the gigantic statue of bishop Gregory of Nin, where we accidentally ran into a large swarm of Asian tourists. Run!

Later on, I went commercial and walked into my favorite clothing store ZARA to see what I could find. Because Chicago has such high taxes, shopping at ZARA tends to be a complete rip-off. Luckily, I was able to buy a large winter coat, a pair of shoes, a sweater, and a pair of pants for just $230! (I later checked the prices in Chicago and it was about $100 that I saved by shopping in Croatia.).

We took Darko’s advice and ate at a restaurant near the sea called Buffet Fife, where I had a lamb and green pea soup with a side of cheese and olives. It was delicious! After a fulfilling dinner, we walked around some more and stopped for some ice cream and drinks as we sat and listened to live music at Diocletian’s Palace. I would find myself shutting out all noise and thinking, “Wow, where am I? This is incredible. I’m sitting at the steps of history just having the best time.” 

Despite the crazy streets, my sense of direction was impeccable in Split, leading us to the right place time after time. Once home, we used the fresh saltwater to cleanse our bodies before hitting the hay.

October 29, 2015 – On to the final leg, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Again, we woke up to the majority of our clothes on a clothesline on the porch. Luckily, most of them had dried from the day before, so we stuffed them in our luggage and headed out on the road again. I noticed my wallet was quite diverse with currency, as I had USD, Macedonian Denars, Euros and now Croatian Kunas. What’s next?

IMG_6505

We drove more inland this time, as Bosnia & Herzegovina inched closer. The drive again was absolutely stunning, with trees blessed with fall colors on the mountains surrounding our highway. While I loved the drive along the sea, this was a nice change in scenery and pace. We were excited to arrive at the final country of our long journey, Bosnia. We all know Bosnia from the Balkan War in the 1990’s as a place of destruction and despair. Now about 20 years later, I was intrigued to see how the country had evolved in both image and attitude. We arrived at the Croatian-Bosnian border, once again, an usual level of security…

[See my next post to learn more about Bosnia & Herzegovina]

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