Thursday, August 8, 2013

Croatia

Kyle and I recently had great friends from DC make the trip over here for a visit.  As you know from the previous post, we spent the first few days on day trips to Rothenburg, France, and a day at the pool. The highlight of their time here was definitely our trip to Croatia.  Kyle had four days off, which was the perfect amount of time to soak up the sun on the Dalmatian coast!

Our flight into Split arrived at 7:30 in the morning, so we had our entire first day to take in the sites.  Before our trip, I really didn't know anything about Croatia other than it was part of Yugoslavia, so our guide book came in handy!  Also, a Facebook friend from Croatia made an entire itinerary for us, complete with where to eat and drink.  So we were set!  We started off renting a car at the tiny airport, and headed to Split to see the city.  It's located right on the coast of the Adriatic sea.  The highlight of Split is definitely Diocletian's Palace, built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian beginning in the early 4th century.  It's not really a palace anymore, but many parts of the palace still exist, such as portals, courtyards, a temple, and colonnades.  It was so cool to walk through the narrow Roman streets and imagine what it must have been like.  Now there are shops, cafes, and gladiators trying to get you to take a picture with them, but it has an amazing atmosphere.








As we walked through a beautiful courtyard in the palace, we caught our first glimpse of the Adriatic sea.  It is absolutely gorgeous, with all shades of blue from turquoise, to teal, cerulean and all shades in between.  We walked along the seaside promenade and back to the car to get our swimsuits.  It was a hot day in the mid 90s, so nothing sounded better than to cool off in the sea!   We went for a quick dip before heading to the town of Trogir where we would be staying for the next few nights.



Trogir is a beautiful ancient town, first founded by Greek colonists in the 3rd century BC.  The historic part of town and the harbor are located on a small island.  Our hotel was less than a 5 minute walk from the island, so it was a perfect location.  The owner of the hotel didn't speak a word of English.  He did however speak German and Croatian.  Jason speaks Czech, which sounds a lot like Croatian, so between his Czech and our little bit of German, we were kinda sorta able to communicate, along with many gestures!  After checking in, we went to walk around the historic little town.  It seems like every corner we turned through the narrow cobblestone streets was another photo op.  Once you make your way through the maze of streets to the other side of the island, there's a beautiful little harbor lined by cafes, bars, and multi-million dollar yachts!  We relaxed at a nice bar by the harbor with tropical drinks, enjoying the sea breeze.  We went back to the apartment to rest and clean up before heading back to the island for dinner.  We ate a delicious meal in a beautiful little courtyard restaurant.   It was a perfect end to our first evening in Croatia!













A lovely place for dinner!


The next day we were heading about an hour north of Trogir to a park called Krka.  It's very similar to the more well known Plitvice Lakes waterfalls, but I can't imagine that Plitvice would be any more beautiful than Krka!  The park is along the Krka river, where there are many trails, boat rides and such to see, but the waterfalls are the main attraction.  As you walk along boardwalks over lake and river, you get to see a series of waterfalls and cascades of the beautiful emerald water.  It's much more impressive than it sounds!  Along the way there are little pools that have fish flecked with gold scales that shimmer in the sun.  They seemed like magical fish!

Heading down to the river valley







Come on Kyle!  We wanna swim!!


Near the end of a trail is a huge outdoor restaurant where we ate a great lunch before swimming in front of the largest of the falls.  It was a VERY hot day, in the upper 90s, so a swim by the falls sounded like heaven!  The water was surprisingly cold, but it was so refreshing!  It was absolutely perfect swimming in the crystal clear water, right in front of the prettiest waterfall I've ever seen!






I'm glad we saw this water snake AFTER we went swimming!


On our way back to Trogir from the park, we stopped in a beautiful little village called Primošten.  It's a gorgeous town that sticks out on a little peninsula into the sea.  It's very small, with a lot of restaurants and beach shops, but the historic town center has kept it's character and is topped with a simple, elegant, small church.  We stopped for drinks at a small market to enjoy while relaxing for a bit on the rocky beach.  We snoozed in the sun before heading back to Trogir.




After cleaning up, we went out for a great dinner at Pizzeria Coccolo, just down the street from our hotel.  We went out for an evening stroll and drinks by the harbor after dinner.  Just as we were finishing our drinks, the wind started picking up and we could see lightening in the distance.  We went back to the hotel to sit on our balcony and enjoyed watching the storm.


Kyle really wished he had his tripod, but this is still pretty cool!

We were all in the mood for a beach day on our last full day in Croatia.  The beach in Primošten was beautiful, so we headed back there.  This time, we stopped in a beach shop to pick up some cheap inflatable rafts to make lying on the rocky beach more comfortable.  We found a great spot, and as we were all struggling to blow up our rafts, a nice lady took pity on us and brought us a pump to finish the job.  It was another hot day, but there was a nice cool breeze blowing off the water the entire time.  The water was too cold for Kyle, but I loved taking a nice refreshing dip in the sea!

Primošten in the distance




Liz, trying to decide if she would brave the cold water

She went for it! (pic from Jason's camera)


Taking in the beauty (Jason's pic)

I don't think any of us were ready to leave, but we had dinner reservations at 8 for a great restaurant in a town about 45 minutes away from our hotel.  The Pelegrini restaurant is a favorite of my Facebook friend that wrote the itinerary.  It's in an awesome town called Šibenik.  We were running a bit late.  The parking lot I found on the GPS isn't exactly what Americans would call a parking lot.  It was full, so we parked illegally (and got a ticket for it, even though it seemed like the whole town was parked illegally!) and started the search for the restaurant.  We only had a small map in the guidebook and the address of the place.  The tiny, winding medieval streets were not even labelled on the GPS.  As we were searching, there was a gorgeous sunset over the water, so we kept stopping to try and get some quick shots on the way.  After walking through winding streets and up stairs that lead to nowhere, we finally found the restaurant and were about 40 minutes late.  Luckily they still had a table for us, and it was all so worth it!  We ate in an amazing courtyard outside that had candles, a fountain, twinkly lights, a view of the sunset and eventually the starry sky.  The food was superb and had an Italian/Mediterranean flair.  We had a wonderful bottle of local red wine and a perfect dinner, and a perfect end to our trip.

View of Trogir on our way to dinner

Šibenik







Pic from Jason's camera.  Love these guys!

Our flight was early the next day, so we didn't have time to do anything.  We dropped off the rental car, tried to figure out how to pay the parking ticket, and were back in Germany at 9:30, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing.  Croatia is such an awesome place.  They definitely spoke the least English out of all of the places we've traveled in Europe, but I guess that makes the experience a bit more exciting. We had gorgeous scenery, sunny skies, excellent food and drinks, and fabulous friends to travel with.  I think our trip was a great success, and as usual, I can't wait to go back!