Croatia was the final destination in our three month Balkans trip and it was extremely easy to lap up everything Dubrovnik, Korcula Island, Split, Vis Island, Zadar and Zagreb offered in sun drenched July.
UNESCO listed Dubrovnik, the very popular Game of Thrones and cruise ship town was our introduction to Croatia. This 15th century walled fortress city with its steep calf burning stairs and marble streets plays to its strengths as a tourist magnet. The Old Town is fabulous, although busy. Outside the Old Town are some stunning beaches and landscapes that are worth exploring.
A ferry ride from Dubrovnik is beautiful Korcula Island. Its walls encircle a small old town and outside the walls lies a surprisingly large island.
Lucky we were to stumble on an Arriva bus which departed Korcula Island for Bosnia. We exited Croatia to explore Mostar and Sarajevo (I’ve blogged these two towns separately) before returning to Split Croatia.
Home to the Diocletian Palace built in 305 AD for the Roman emperor, Split is a bit of a mixed grill but makes for an interesting stop. Inside the palace walls are narrow cobbled lanes with many shops and cafes as well as 3000 people who have made their homes here. Split is also a very busy transit centre with quick and easy access to buses, ferries and trains. Tourists are everywhere!
An hour’s bus ride from Split is Trogir below. We spent the day here.
Vis Island has the honour of being my favourite place in Croatia. A two hour ferry ride from Split, it is the furtherest Croatian island and this, as well as its role as Tito’s military base 1950s to 1991 (with a heavily enforced exclusion zone) saved the island from tourist development. A small and extremely comfortable stone apartment on narrow cobbled Ribarska (Fisherman’s) St in the village of Komiza became our home for five relaxing nights. Fishing is still the lifeblood of Vis.
After Vis Island, we enjoyed a few days in medieval Zadar, quite liking that it wasn’t too crowded. Plenty of boats head to the nearby islands and national park for the day.
Zagreb is Croatia’s very interesting capital city. It’s not on the coast so it’s possible to miss the potential of this city. There are gracious Austro Hungarian buildings, an established cafe culture and a one of a kind Museum of Broken Relationships.
Croatia did what Croatia was meant to do – allowed us to indulge in a few weeks of laid back, easy going travelling. The Croatian coastline and islands are every bit as good as the guidebooks say.
The hardest part of any holiday is leaving and coming home. We’re winging our way home with vast libraries of memories (and photos) built up over 3 months travelling the Balkans. It’s a fascinating part of the world and it’d be easy to become a card carrying member of the region.
One thing that stands out is that the Balkan people have taken some big hits given the complex issues that go with sharing borders but not sharing race, culture, religion; issues that quite frankly confused me and forced me to rethink my position on the oft quoted ‘He who travels far knows much’.
The waters while still at the moment, run deep. Scratch the shiny tourist surface and you’ll witness Serbia’s rawness over Kosovo and Bosnia and its fear of a greater Albania, as well as Croatia and Bosnia’s fears of a greater Serbia. For the moment, this powder keg geographic region is held in check by the promise of EU membership. The tradeoff? A higher GDP and standard of living that hopefully won’t be compromised by conflict.
So, will I return? Absolutely. But right now, I have a husband who is champing at the bit to hook the camper trailer to the car and get out amongst some Aussie beach and bush.