Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Croatia May 2007

Looking over Fratarska garma

Croatia is a beautiful country with lush vegetation, nice old towns, crystal clear blue water, and a long history of war, with the most recent being the war of independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. Tourism is just starting to pick up again after the war and the damaged buildings are completely restored in most areas. It was nice to visit a country a little off the beaten tourist path and that is not overcrowded by giant tourist hotels and tourist areas. We stayed in many guesthouses along the coast which was a nice change from our usual hostelling, we felt spoiled! It was also a nice change to hostels as it was interesting to see how people in Croatia live.


A little piece of Heaven on Earth:

Spent a day walking around Plitvice National Park. It is easily one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen! It felt so magical, made up of 16 turquoise lakes surrounded by dense forest and containing many waterfalls, many of which connect the lakes to each other and one of which is the tallest waterfall in Croatia. The water was so clear that you could see right to the bottom and often without any distortion. There were many fish in the lakes which must make a tasty treat for the bears that live in the forest, apparently the last remaining bears in Europe. Unfortunately swimming wasn’t allowed which is probably for the better as us dirty humans/tourists would probably ruin it! It was such a nice relaxing day wandering along the many wooden and forested trails around the lakes and through the lakes. Our pictures really don’t do the beauty of this park justice -- you really have to go to and see it to believe it. It was breathtaking, I could easily spend every day there… being a ranger there would be amazing! It’s hard to imagine that the war in the 90’s actually began here with the park ranger being the first casualty from the war, the park headquarters being taken over by the Serbs, and the hotels being turned into barracks. The beauty of the park was somehow not spoiled (luckily because that would have been awful) and you would never guess that the facilities and hotels of the park had been destroyed. An amazing park, if you ever make it to Croatia we highly recommend it! It was definitely the highlight of our trip!



Every city we went to got prettier and prettier. Started off in Zadar, in the middle of Croatia and spent a morning wandering around the marble streets of its old town and its fruit and vegetable market. The highlight was walking along its sea-wall and coming across the sea organ there. As waves are pushed through the holes in the side of the sea wall this causes air to pushed into different length pipes that are under the walkway which have small openings onto the walkway. It produces various pitches of sounds which surprisingly are quite musical and nice to listen to. Spent a bit of time sitting there listening to the different “songs” that the ocean played. It was especially fun when a bit boat went by causing giant waves and causing the organ to play louder and faster and more notes.


We then headed south along the coast to Split and had a nice afternoon exploring its old town. Diocletian’s Palace was interesting to walk around and the streets were quite pretty. At one point we felt like we were in Egypt as there was a sphinx, a restaurant called Luxor, and a sleepy cat lying on a little pillow in front of the cathedral. Got up early the next morning and took a long ferry along the coast south to Dubrovnik. The ferry ride was a nice alternative to the bus as we could get up and walk around when we got stir-crazy and were able to enjoy the scenery around some of the many islands of the Adriatic Sea. The water in general of the Adriatic is such a nice shade of deep blue and closer to shore shifts slowly to a greeny color and becomes transparent. It really is beautiful to look at and of course makes swimming great as you can see everything around you and you know exactly how deep the water is for diving off the rocks as you can see everything below you!


Dubrovnik was our favourite city, but that was hardly surprising considering its reputation. The old town is very pretty with its marble streets and red roofed houses. Dubrovnik was damaged really badly in the 1990’s war with 68% of the building being damaged and leaving holes in 2/3 of the roofs, although we saw very little of this due to the restoration of the city. During the rebuilding of the city they tried to use traditional methods but this proved difficult as some procedures were lengthy, especially with the restoration of the tiled roofs so now the roofs of the city contain different shades of red. The traditional method was to shape the tiles to a curve on a man’s thigh before baking them. We walked around on top of the city walls which allowed us to have a nice view of the old town and see over the red roofs out to the deep blue sea and over to the little island, Lokrum, just off its coast. The walls themselves are impressive, stretching 2km around the entire town, towering up to 25m tall, and up to 6m wide in some areas. We also had a chance to go out to Lokrum and spent an afternoon walking around the island, relaxing by its lake and rocky beaches, and swimming in one of its coves before catching the 15minute ferry back to Dubrovnik. There were many peacocks on the island and we got to watch a couple of the males do their “mating dance” to try to attract a female. I’ve never seen a peacock open up its feathers (besides on TV) and it was impressive. It was also very neat to see how it shook its feathers making the stiffer gray second fan of feathers vibrate quickly back and forth and make a loud ruffling noise behind its huge front blue-green display. We watched it for at least 30 minutes but the female didn’t seem interested at all, she just kept looking for food on the ground and trying to walk around the male’s massive width. He was very insistent but we left before we could see if he ended up having any luck…. poor male peacock! hehehe


Mljet Island

Out of all the Adriatic Islands we chose to visit this one as 72% of it is covered by forests and the rest is made up of fields, vineyards, and small villages (no village was longer than about 2-3 city blocks). It is also apparently the island that captivated Odysseus for 7 years. We stayed in the Northwestern end of the Island which is a national park consisting of 2 lakes and very dense forest. The people of the island produce wine and olive oil and cultivate medicinal herbs and fish. The family we stayed with made amazing food. They would fish in the morning for dinner and grow their own vegetables; We had the best tasting mushroom soups we’ve ever had here! It was delicious! Although the weather wasn’t on our side we had a great couple of days, although our plans of kayaking fell through as the wind would have made it difficult to paddle in one direction. The first day it rained in the morning but gradually got better and we had an amazing day of hiking around the two lakes. By the end of the day it was sunny but the wind was still strong, so strong at some points of the day that I felt I was going to be blown over! At least it wasn’t so strong when we were climbing over the peak of one of the mountains, which offered beautiful views of the island, the lakes and the ocean.


We rented a little car, a “mini brum”, as the bus system runs only once a day and we wanted the option of exploring other parts of the island. The car was great, such a beater though! I had to hold the wheel slightly crooked to make sure it drove straight, putting it into reverse was a nightmare, and it was so tiny we probably could’ve pushed it if we had to, hehe, loved it!  And it was great cause the car company decorated all their cars differently. We got the giraffe! Hehe The funniest one was the mouse which had fur all over it and even had a nose with whiskers and a tail! Haha


The last night we fell asleep to the thunderous sound of a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning.



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