One night: Saturday, June 2 to Sunday, June 3
Our next major stop after Zadar, Croatia was Budapest, Hungary. However, we refuse to spend more than six hours a day travelling, so we couldn’t head straight there. Instead, we decided to break it up by spending a night in Zagreb.
Since we only had one night, our list of things to do was compact: check out the Nikola Tesla staute just off Nikola Tesla street, have a pastry at Vincek’s and have a beer at Tolkien’s House. Missions accomplished! Also, there just happened to be this street festival going on while we were there (Cest is d’Best), so we got to check out some cool acts at various squares to boot.
The Tesla statue just off Nikola Tesla street. Seems every town in Croatia has a Nikola Tesla street.
The Tolkien's House bar
The Grounded Sun sculpture got a dung beetle added to it during the street festival
Where the sea organ plays and
The sun is welcomed
Sunset by the Sea Organ
The Sun Salutation's nighttime light display
Plitvice Lakes Park
Cascading waterfalls and
Boardwalk trails to hike
The big waterfall
On one of the boardwalks
Pag – barren island
Where sheep nibble salty grass
To make paški sir
Salt fields in the distance
The sheep responsible for this island's tasty cheese
Five nights: Monday, May 28 to Saturday, June 2
We continue up the Croatian coast from Split to the smaller seaside town of Zadar. This is another five night stay, but we have a couple of day trips planned as well. In the meantime, our apartment is located near the footbridge to the old city center, just a few buildings away from the Maraska factory where they make Maraschino. You can look out from the balcony and see part of the harbor and historic Zadar.
The old town of Zadar is pretty attractive, located on a small peninsula and built on top of the old Roman settlement. The square (trg, in Croatian) built around the old Roman forum is particularly scenic. Besides the ancient features of the town, there are also a couple of impressive modern art installations: the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. The Sea Organ is effectively a series of organ pipes built into the sea wall so that when waves lap against it a nice series of tones are produced. The Sun Salutation is a model of the solar system – the sun is a large disk made of solar cells and LEDs while the planets are additional LED disks. During the day, the solar cells produce energy that is used to power the LEDs overnight starting at sunset. Overall, very impressive! However, I’m wondering what it is about Croatia and solar system-themed art installations (see the Zagreb Summary).
Our first day trip was to Pag island. It was an interesting contrast from the rest of the countryside we’ve seen so far as it was fairly dry and desert-like. Historically, the primary industry has been salt production via evaporation in large lagoons. We checked out the “Permanent Exhibition of Salt” museum, which was interesting. Pag is also known for its lace production as well as Paški Sir, a local sheep cheese which was pretty tasty.
Our second day trip was to Plitviče Lakes National Park, which may be the most scenic natural area we’ve seen on our trip. It consists of a network of lakes and waterfalls that you can access via hiking trails and boardwalks. You should check out our photos. This was also a notable trip (for me at least) because it marks the first time I’ve driven a car in Europe! At least Croatians drive on the correct side of the road – I’m not looking forward to the UK.
Five nights: Wednesday, May 23 to Monday, May 28
For some reason, my internal idea of Split was that of a small, ocean-side town. In reality, it’s the largest city on the Dalmatian coast and the second largest city in Croatia, after Zagreb. That said, we still treated it as a place to hang out and relax for five nights, which is pretty much what we did.
Our apartment was near the old-town area of Diocletian’s Palace. This is a pretty amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, the fairly intact remains of a Roman palace being used as a part of the living city. It is also located next to the Riva, a café-lined promenade that hugs the waterfront. The Riva was a great location for carrying out our lounging plans. Plus, we were there over the weekend and caught a few acts of live music, though they skewed towards 80’s covers (Scorpions, Billy Idol, The Cure).
For getting out and about, we spent one afternoon hiking west up Marjan hill. It was a pretty scenic track through a Mediterranean pine forest (with cacti), plus there were the occasional hermitages built into the sheer rock walls. The loop back to town runs along the coast and takes you by the villa of Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. The gallery was very interesting, plus he also has an impressive sculpture outside the Split city walls of bishop Gregory of Nin.
Being on the water, we had to take a spin by a local beach. It was an easy walk down to Bačvice beach, which was quite scenic and looked like yet another great place to hang out and do nothing. And speaking of the water, our culinary focus has shifted to seafood (with the occasional ćevapčići thrown in). So far, we haven’t been disappointed and look forward to more great seafood as we head up the coast to Zadar.
Split, Croatia – where
Lunch in a Roman palace
Can be had by you
The ruins of Roman emperor Diocletian's palace are now filled with shops and cafés.
A street inside the palace
Hiking Marjan hill –
Pine trees and hermitages,
Looking towards the islands from Marjan hill
Hermitage towards the end of the peninsula
Waterfront at night
Cafés, promenade, and boats
80’s cover bands
You can hear the Dire Straits and Bon Jovi perfectly clearly from way over here
Catamaran pulling up to the dock
Cafés, grilled food, awesome art
My kind of city!
Lunch near the Dolac market.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The sometimes poignant, sometimes funny Museum of Broken Relationships
Last day in Zagreb?
Scavenger hunt for planets
Yes we are nerdy
Grounded Sun sculpture
Found the scaled model of Venus near the Dolac market.
Gazing at Jupiter
Four nights: Saturday, May 19 to Wednesday, May 23
As we crossed from Slovenia into Croatia on our way to Zagreb, we officially entered the
seventh eighth country of our trip (if we include Monaco). It was also the first time we crossed a Shengen border since our arrival, so it was kind of exciting to experience Slovenian and Croatian border controls. Yes, we are easily entertained.
Zagreb was a comfortable city – it’s not overly dense and the urban plan includes a lot of green-space, which made it nice to explore. We’ve been relaxing a bit more on the trip at this point, so we didn’t plan too busy of a schedule. For museums, we went to the Natural History Museum, which was fairly quaint and hodgepodge. It seemed a bit more like an old naturalist’s dusty attic than anything else. More interesting was the Museum of Broken Relationships, which included donated artifacts from people’s failed or otherwise broken personal relationships. Finally, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which had some really interesting installations as well as a focus on Croatian artists through the turmoil of the 20th century.
We continued exploring the city by checking out a couple of pieces of installation art: The Grounded Sun and Nine Views. It’s basically a scale model of the solar system spread throughout the city! The sun itself and the first three planets were pretty easy to locate in the heart of the city. From Mars onward, it got a little trickier. Since Neptune and Pluto were kinda off the map, the last planet we tried to locate was Uranus. However, after taking a tram to the outskirts of town and probing around the supposed location, we never actually found it.
And of course, there was food to be eaten. Croatia is not letting me down – our first meal was at a brewpub, where we shared a large plate of grilled meats and veggies! Subsequent lunches and dinners were equally impressive, though I wonder if I’ll get tired of delicious grilled foods. I will definitely test that hypothesis! Also, there was one bar I meant to try but never quite got around to. It’s called Tolkien’s House and apparently features a heavily themed LOTR interior plus a huge beer list. Since we’ll be staying in Zagreb one more time on our way out of Croatia, I think I’ll be paying it a visit.
At the brewpub
Pork stuffed with ham and cheese!
Ginormous grilled meat plate, topped with bacon!!