Thursday, October 16, 2014

Croatia: Questions & Answers

Where did we go?
We went to Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia.

Where is it and how did we get there?

Dubrovnik and Split are both in Croatia. Croatia is across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and it borders Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. We were able to find direct flights to and from Croatia and both flights were a little less than three hours long.

How long were we there?
We were there for five days, about two and a half in each city.


What language do they speak?
They speak Croatian but most people we interacted with also knew English.  There wasn't a language barrier at all.


What currency do they use?
The use kunas.  The conversion is about six kunas equals a dollar which is pretty close to the conversion rate for Swedish crowns.


Were things expensive?
No.  The food and lodging were both really reasonable.  We were stayed fairly under budget on this trip.

Would we be able to live there for a year?
I am not sure.  I really loved Dubrovnik.  It was truly beautiful and I'm sure I'd love the warmer weather but I'm not sure I could live here for a year.  It seems pretty "out of the way" and it would be hard to travel to other places in Europe from there.  Plus, the number of tourists and cruise boats every year would start to wear on you I think.


What was most memorable thing about the trip?
The most memorable thing was probably being in Dubrovnik when Game of Thrones was filming.  It was so neat to see the sets and to walk down the same streets that will be on the show next season.


What was the food like?
The food was really good.  They have a lot of Italian influence so the food reminded me of what you might find in Italy.  They had lots of pizza, pasta and olive oil!  They also had quite a bit of fish.  They had several Croatian dishes as well that were really good.

Least favorite food?
I don't think I had a least favorite food.


Favorite food?
Prosciutto and the ice cream!

Would we want to go back?

We would definitely go back.  Even though there wouldn't be much to see that we didn't already see on this trip I wouldn't mind strolling along the old city streets holding hands with Jake and eating ice cream!

What was I most surprised by?

I was most surprised by the beauty of Dubrovnik.  It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.

Did we do anything we thought we wouldn't do?

We didn't think we would get to see Game of Thrones filming when we booked the trip but it ended up working out perfectly!

What did I learn about myself on this trip?
I learned to relax a little bit more and just go with the flow.  Sometimes we over plan our itineraries on trips and then we get stressed out rushing from one place to the next.  On this trip we still had an itinerary for each day but it was much more relaxed and we both really enjoyed it.

Split, Croatia (and some Game of Thrones)

If you missed the blog post about our time in Dubrovnik click on the link to read about it.  We had an awesome time exploring the Old City in Dubrovnik.

On Monday, September 29th we had breakfast and stopped by the Pile Bay once more before taking a bus to the main bus station in Dubrovnik.  We then transferred to a long distance bus that would take us from Dubrovnik to Split.  The bus was similar to a charter bus.  We got to the station around 8:45 am and our bus left at 9:00 am.  About an hour into the five hour trip we stopped for a break.  I was starting to wonder if we were going to stop every hour, which seemed a little excessive to me but then again I don't stop much on road trips. #teacherbladder  Our stop was about fifteen minutes and then we were back on the road again.  Over the next four hours we only stopped for about a minute or so to let people off or let people on and then we had one longer break that was less than 10 minutes.  I thought it was interesting that our long break was only an hour into the trip and then the rest of the four hours didn't have much of a break especially since we traveled through lunch from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.  We bought food at breakfast to take on the bus for lunch which we were both thankful for since we didn't stop.
The view on the bus ride was beautiful.  We were on a road right along the coast most of the time but for a little bit we were inland.  We had to go through part of Bosnia on our way from Dubrovnik to Split so we had to stop at the border and get our passports stamped but then we were on the way again.

We were going to take the bus to the main bus station in Split but we noticed other people hitting the stop button and getting off earlier so once we got close to our bed and breakfast we pushed the button and hopped off.

When we were looking for hotels in Split I wanted to find one with a pool since we stayed in the city in Dubrovnik without a pool.  We found a bed and breakfast, Luxury Rooms Jagoda Palace, that was about 5 minutes from the beaches and 15 minutes from the city and it had a pool.  (We actually never got in the pool!  It was pretty small and I didn't realize how out in the open it was even with the privacy fence.  We opted for the beach instead since it was only 5 minutes away.)  We didn't realize it was in such a residential area but the room was beautiful and the breakfast was amazing.
 The picture on the left is the view from the street which doesn't look that impressive but the view from our window (picture on the right) was pretty nice.
They have three bedrooms and we ended up with the biggest one.  The bathroom was huge! One of the ladies that runs the bed and breakfast showed us to our room and told us which restaurants and beaches were the best and brought us coffee, juice, cake and fruit.  She was very enthusiastic and nice.

These signs are all around the city.  Split hasn't been a tourist destination for very long like Dubrovnik.  They have only really started trying to attract tourist for the last two years or so which means they don't really have hotels in the city.  Locals who live in the city have started renting out their apartments (apartman) or single rooms in their houses (sobe) for tourists to stay at while they are visiting Split.  We also saw sings like this in Dubrovnik but they also had hotels.  Split pretty much only has bed and breakfast type places or private rooms you can rent out.

After we finished our afternoon fika we headed to the beach.  Most of the beaches in Split are rocky or have pebbles instead of sand.  I thought a sandy beach sounded better for laying out so we walked to that one first but it was really busy and the view wasn't very pretty.  So we walked back towards the rockier beaches and found one that was still sandy but less crowded.  
 The spot was picked was pretty shallow and didn't have many waves since it was in bay.  The water was pretty chilly but I still got in! (I should clarify, I love going to the beach and laying out and looking at the water.  I do not however, love fish or the possibility of being touched by a fish so sometimes when I go to the beach I don't actually get in the water but that doesn't mean I don't love going to the beach!)  This time I actually got in the water up to my thighs, it was pretty cold, but it felt pretty good since it was sunny and 75 degrees.
 We saw so many speedos!  I was surprised by how many we saw and most were not very flattering.  Jake felt very overdressed and that was even in his shorter European swim trunks.  Most girls wore two piece swimsuits.  There were lots of tan sunbathers out while we were there and most were older, which makes sense considering it was a Monday afternoon.

We spent about two hours at the beach before going back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  We had dinner at Dvor which was directly above the beach where we spent the afternoon.  We already had it marked on our map of places for dinner and then when our hostess at the bed and breakfast recommended it we knew we had to try it.

 The view was really pretty even though we couldn't see the actual sunset.
Jake had a shrimp appetizer that had powdered olive oil which was strange but really good.  I had duck breast with potato puree and some fried cheese ball goodness (I obviously can't remember the name).  I had duck for the first time in Beijing and it was really good so I decided to try it again and it was good.  Seafood freaks me out, both eating it and touching it, but poultry is apparently fine.  Jake had some smoked fish, we can't remember the name.  They also gave us a free mini appetizer and free mini desserts.
Such a great view.
Since we had an early dinner we decided to walk downtown to see Split at night.
 The bell tower of St. Domnius.
 The St. Domnius Cathedral
We were surprised to see so many shops still open.  Most of them closed at 9:00 pm which is really late compared to Stockholm where most places close around 6:00 pm and even earlier on the weekends.
We walked through a few shoe stores and grabbed some ice cream while we strolled through the city.  It was a really beautiful city all lit up at night.

The next morning we had a Game of Thrones and Old Town Split tour starting at 10 am.  We had an amazing breakfast at our hotel.  We saw pictures of the breakfast spread on booking.com but once we arrived and saw that the bed and breakfast only had three rooms I wondered if the breakfast would still have as many choices . . .
and they sure did!  We had cereal, meat, cheese, veggies, several kinds of bread, yogurt parfait, hard boiled eggs, fruit, croissants, pudding, cookies, juice and milk plus she would make us hot breakfast as well.  We both had eggs freshly prepared just for us.  Not a bad way to start our day :).

We met our tour guide and drove to Klis Fortress which is about 20 minutes outside of Split. When we got to our tour guides car we noticed she was parked on the sidewalk.  Apparently parking in Split is a mess and now places are starting to charge for parking, on random days, so locals avoid it by parking on the sidewalk.  I was SO thankful we didn't rent a car to drive from Dubrovnik to Split so we didn't have to deal with parking.
They filmed some Game of Thrones scenes at Klis fortress but our guide didn't spend must time telling us about that which was okay because the fortress itself is also really neat.  We didn't know much about the history of Croatia before visiting but apparently it was tossed around for a while being controlled by different countries.  This fortress was always the key to the city and hard to attack because of the location and that it had three terraces.  





 This is the only picture of just Jake on our tour.  He was in charge of the camera (hence me being in all the pictures).  Also, this tour guide didn't offer to take as many pictures as our tour guide in Dubrovnik.  She also didn't seem to be as excited about Game of Thrones which was fine but she pretty much just brushed over the filming that took place here so we really didn't find out where specific scenes took place.  It wasn't that big of a deal because we still enjoyed learning about the history of Split but since the tour was supposed to be about Game of Thrones that was a little frustrating.
After exploring the Klis fortress we headed back to the old town part of Split.  She walked us around a few of the outer wall parts that are still up and visible.  Then we walked through the narrow streets.
 One of the gates into the old town part of Split (with guards of course).

 Our guide.
 This is right outside Diocletian's Palace.

 In the basement of Diocletian's Palace.  A few Game of Thrones scenes were shot here.
 Sweet ceiling.


 Mosaic from the baths that were in the Palace.

 This shows you what the insides of houses look like here.  The living room and bedrooms were on the lower floors and the kitchen was on the top floor in case it caught on fire it wouldn't burn the whole place down.
 After the tour we stopped by this place for a little afternoon fika.  
After our chocolate pick me up, we walked to the water and sat on a bench for about 30 minutes and fell asleep.  We walked over to this part of the dock and had a great view of the city along the water.
We walked up to a lookout point and had a great view of the city.  The sun was going to go down about 30 minutes after this picture was taken so we decided to go to the top of the mountain to get a better view but then we realized we wouldn't be able to make it before the sunset.
 This was the view as the sun was setting.
 We stopped by the store just to see what it looked like.  It was about what you would expect, until you see the columns.  It was pretty neat that they displayed them so nicely in the store.
 My view at dinner.  We weren't that hungry so we had a pretty light dinner outside by Diocletian's Palace.
 This bell tower was right next to our table.
After dinner we wanted to get some ice cream.  Jake decided to ask a few people working in the nearby shops to recommend their favorite place.  We picked one of those places and grabbed some ice cream.  She told us it was a few stores down from Diocletian's Palace.  We were walking from the opposite direction but we thought we found it.  After a few bites of our ice cream we stumbled upon the actual ice cream shop the lady recommend which was good because the first place was awful.  We threw those cones away and got new ice cream that didn't taste like bubble gum when the flavor was supposed to be caramel.  I've always been a big believer in not wasting calories on food, especially sweets, that don't taste that great.
 We ate our ice cream right by the restaurant we had for dinner while watching these couples dance to live music.
We don't typically by souvenirs when we travel, especially not a typical souvenir.  We try to think of things we already need and then if we end up finding it on our trip then great!  I have a pair of shoes from Amsterdam, my favorite colored jeggings from Taiwan and we both bought wallets when we went to Taiwan and Beijing last year.  On this trip I bought chocolate flakes that are caramel flavored.  I thought they would be good in a homemade caramel mocha latte and I was right!
 The next morning before our flight we decided to hit the beach again.  I wanted to layout and relax and Jake decided to get in again.
These guys were playing a game where you hit a tennis ball (with the yellow covering removed) to each other and you can't let it hit the water.  We saw several groups playing this game and they were going all out diving in the water to make sure it didn't hit.
 I was super comfortable and enjoying the sun when a school group of about 25 kids between the ages of 4-6 took over!  So much for relaxing!  They were cute but kind of loud.  We went back to the hotel shortly after they arrived.

We went back to the bed and breakfast to shower and pack up.  We stopped by a grocery store to get something for lunch before heading to the bus station to get on the shuttle to the airport.
 The bus station.
 Jake enjoying a sandwich before we got on the shuttle bus. 
We ate lunch at the airport before we boarded our flight.
This picture doesn't do Croatia justice at all but it was our last view as we were flying back to Stockholm.  Croatia was beautiful!  I hope we have inspired at least a few people to add this country to your list of places to visit.