“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway


27 June 2014

Croat Craziness

We arrived in Zagreb following a smooth bus journey from Slovenia. As we drove into the Croatian capital I noticed a stark contrast in structures to Ljubljana. The scars of communist rule and the recent conflict are still clear to see on buildings around the city. Many of the beige concrete structures bare the tell tales marks of gun shot and mortar shell. A number of these practical but hideous high rises have been creatively transformed by graffiti artist adding some much needed vibrancy to the city.
Despite loosing much of its original Austro-Hungarian structures a few gems still remain and a few nights in the Croatian capital was more than enough time to see everything.
The Funk Lounge Hostel provided a great base in the city and the staff were enthusiastic, helpful and would kindly hand out free shot vouchers for the adjacent bar while they dealt with any questions you raise. Needless to say we latched onto this as you do when free drinks are available. The hostel also offered a minibus transfer to either Split or Zadar with a halfway stop at The world famous Plitvice National Park. You can get to the park by bus for a much cheaper price, however convenience was a priority to us and the friends we made in the hostel were also keen to make the same journey. Not all went to plan though as Jono and I had intended to travel to Split with our new buds Charlie and Sinead. The gods were against us (I’m not religious so it was more likely a blown gasket) as the minibus broke down the day before and our small group disbanded. This sadly meant Sinead had to make the journey before us. Hopefully our paths will cross elsewhere in Croatia.
Plitvice is the pin up of Croatia’s tourist sector, it’s turquoise lakes, dense woodland, many waterfalls all with a mountainous backdrop meant that either a couple of amateurs like us could get the perfect photo. You could easily spend a couple of days here with apartments and hostels in surrounding villages, however in our case we had 6 hours. Just a word of warning that in peak season the lakes are overrun with large coach parties so patience is required while waiting for people to make there way along the narrow walkways.
The Dalmatian Coast was a welcome sight when we arrived in Zadar, we had not seen the sea since arriving in Holland and the small beach (more rock than sand) just outside the old town was a treat. The town has a few sights with its sea organ (not a euphemism I promise), pretty churches and the solar light show, although outside the attractions are non existent in the new town. The Canadian and German girls we travelled with also found that if you look lost there are no end of locals who will help you out. Apparently if your a lanky, skinny Brit with a layer of sunburn you may struggle to find the same degree of assistance.
After two nights we continued along the coast to Split with our new Canadian friend Charlie
Like Zadar, Split has an old town however it is much larger and with a greater array of attractions. The Diocletian Palace is the towns centre piece and there are always walking tour guides operating in the UNESCO heritage sight.
We stayed at the Split Wine Garden Hostel (right next to the big yellow Theatre) as it was by far the cheapest in the Old Town. Don’t take notice of the online reviews, although the facilities are limited it was a great place to rest your head. The wine bar at the hostel offered a great local platter for 140 kuna (around £13) with six glasses of local red and white wine and a large plate of local food.
Our visit was timed to perfection as Croatia played there second group game of the World Cup against Cameroon. A huge screen at the docks and a final score of 5-0 to Croatia created the conditions for bedlam and I have never seen so many flares in such a small place. The celebrations continued all night and I was left wondering what the party would be like after the England game the following day (fingers crossed eh)……………………………………………..(next day arrives) and the England results had the effect of a lead balloon. Typical but at least I have a few cans of lager and a coastal backdrop to soak up. Next stop Bosnia Herzegovina.

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