A LITTLE HISTORY – THANKS TO WIKIPEDIA.
I was going to copy and paste a bit of the history of this fascinating country which was formerly a part of Communist Yugoslavia, but it’s a long and interesting history, and you really need to read it for yourself – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatia
We bused from Naples to Bari, Italy, crossing the country in 3 1/2 hours – but not without a small little glitch. And I must admit up front, this was totally my glitch.
I’m the person in charge of getting us from place-to-place. Whether by bus, plane or train, I do the research and purchase the tickets.
Bus tickets in Europe can be purchased from several websites and FLIX Bus is a biggie which we had used before. There are a couple of rules you need to always remember when booking online. Rule #1 – You must read the small print above your departure city to see the name of your bus company. Though FLIX has a fleet of bright, lime-green buses, you won’t necessarily be on one of their buses for the route you have chosen. Rule #2 – and this is the most important rule – keep in mind that in Europe you are working with a 24-hour clock.
When I bought our tickets from Naples to Bari on the correct date departing Naples at 1:15 getting us into Bari at 5:45, which gave us plenty of time to catch a cab to the port for our overnight ferry to Dubrovnik departing at 9:00, I forgot Rule #2.
We sat and waited and waited for our bright, lime-green bus to arrive for our 1:15 departure. It never showed up. A red bus that said it was going to Bari came and went but not ours. I finally meandered into the bus station to be told the tickets I was holding were for the 1:15 AM departure and they were not for a green FLIX bus, but a big red bus. So now what do I do? Thankfully I only had to buy another 2 tickets on next red bus that is leaving in 40 minutes. It will get us from Bari in plenty of time to catch the ferry! Phew! Only another $30!
I have taken car ferries several times during my previous travels. From Athens to Venice (2 nights). From Manchester, England to the Isle of Man (3 hours) and now from Bari to Dubrovnik (11 hours). We managed to get a room with 2 bunks at the last minute. We were thrilled as we had been told they were sold out and we would be sitting up all night in the ‘sleeper lounge chairs.’ Not a pleasant way to spend the night at this age.
We had a decent dinner in the ship’s dining room and watched though one of the big windows as the ship pulled away from the dock at 9:00 p.m. sharp (opps – 21:00.) We were happy to be able to lay our heads on fairly comfy pillows and sleep most of the very smooth crossing. We set our alarm and we are up for a 7:00 a.m. breakfast buffet (not so good) before docking in Dubrovnik at 8:00 a.m.
We grabbed a cab and headed a short way out of town to our next Airbnb. We were thrilled to find that the pictures were correct – it was a lovely flat and the view was incredible – it just had 3 flights of stairs to climb reach it!
The flat was located on the banks of the Ombla River, supposedly the shortest river in Europe. It is a combination of seawater meeting fresh water. The water is crystal clear and the turquoise color is beautiful.
We meet Anica, our beautiful hostess who spoke perfect English. She is the soon-to-be-daughter-in-law of our home owner Anka. Anica is a notary (a European lawyer who deals in legal documents, not trying cases before a jury). She told us it takes at least two years to organize a Croatian wedding. It’s a two-day affair with guests numbering about 200, and the bride rents her wedding dress as the cost of a new dress is prohibitive. She and her fiance, Anka’s son who is a mechanical engineer, live with his family until the wedding which is being held one and a half years from now. Her father-in-law-to-be was our luggage lugger and taxi driver when we couldn’t get to where we needed on a bus. It was a real ‘family affair’ couple of days.
Dubrovnik has become one of the busiest tourist destinations in the entire world. Its beautiful seacoast and gleaming red-tiled roofs make for a picturesque setting at any time – but then that little TV show, GAME OF THRONES, used Dubrovnik as the location of King’s Landing. There were 19 other filming locations throughout the city and surrounding area (including the stairs for Cersei’s ‘walk of shame’) and GOT fans flock to see all of them en mass!
I shouldn’t have been surprised to walk down one of the tiny side streets and find Tyrion Lannister and one of the Mother of Dragon’s dragons just waiting to say hello. Seriously, hundreds of thousands of fans have descended on Dubrovnik in the past few years. There are specialty GOT tours and cruises and everything GOT you can possibly imagine. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Game of Thrones and please don’t spoil it as I haven’t seen the final 3 episodes, but the numbers of tourists that this one show has brought to Dubrovnik (they filmed in Split as well) has been overwhelming.
We only stayed for 2 nights in our beautiful riverside flat so the first night, after a delicious lunch at Bogo on the river, we caught the bus (a 5-minute walk from our door) for an evening Free Walking Tour of the Old Town. We bought a 2-day City Card which gave us unlimited bus rides for 2 days, entry to walk around the Old Town walls and a tour of the fort on the hills that Napoleon built. We finished our first night with a lovely dinner overlooking the harbor.
The next morning, to avoid the crowds, we got to town at 8:30 a.m. to walk the walls that circle the Old Town. The temps have been brutal so an early tromp up 800+ steps and a 1 -1/2 hour walk to circumvent the town was a true test of the energy we two ‘old broads’ can endure! Take a good luck at the first photo of just the first flight of stairs we had to climb to get to the top of the wall to begin the walk! And, yes, we did enjoy the young man doing his daily yoga routine on the rocks far below!
After the wall walk we found a nearby restaurant that served Bloody Mary’s and an American breakfast. Just look at those exhausted, smiling faces!
We thoroughly enjoyed our stop in Dubrovnik, which included a taste of the homemade moonshine our hosts were making on their back porch, the delicious food and friendly hospitality. HINT: Book your stay out of town and enjoy some peace and quiet away from the GOT madness. This will allow you to really appreciate the beauty of this city on the Adriatic.
We boarded the right bus on the right day at the correct time for our 4 1/2 hour trip along the beautiful Adriatic coastline to Split.
To get to Split either by bus or car you must pass through Bosnia-Herzegovina. We were stopped going in and our passport stamped – and, we were stopped going out and our passport stamped – as Bosnia-Herzegovina is not part of the Schengen countries, and their borders are still closed and monitored by guards. Doesn’t matter that the distance between the borders is less than a 30-minute drive.
And, the bus also stopped twice. The first time was for a 15-minute potty break and then they stopped only 10-minutes later for a 30-minute driver lunch break! At least this time they stopped at a small restaurant with a gelato stand (great for breakfast!) and a beautiful view of the town of Neom sitting on the water.
I wish I could have been able to take more photos from the bus as the views of the mountains falling into the sea were so dramatic. I got this one that I hope gives you just an idea of the beauty of this country’s coastline.
Our little Airbnb in Split was a stand-alone tiny house, which Joyce will be the first to tell you was too tiny. It was located in the Old Town which means no cars or taxis can take you to your front door with your luggage. The owners of the tiny house actually send you a YouTube video with walking directions from the bus station once you make a booking.
It was a wee bit to far up, down and around for us to walk, so we grabbed a taxi which had only to go around the block and into a side alleyway where he could drop us. Our hostess and her grumpy husband met us and took us through the narrow, winding streets to our location. Once there we found a really small, almost-spiral staircase up to the 2nd level where the twin-bed bedroom and large bathroom were located. Grumpy took all our bags up those stairs, and we settled in for 3 nights, once again very happy for the air conditioning as we are right in the middle of a huge European heat wave.
Split is located directly on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and is known for its beaches and the fortresslike complex at its center, Diocletian’s Palace, erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century. Once home to thousands, its sprawling remains include more than 200 buildings. Within its white stone walls are a cathedral and numerous shops, bars, cafes, hotels and houses.
We found some delicious, fresh fish for lunch one day and even a restaurant that had a club sandwich on its menu another day! We fell in love with a nearby bokeria (meaning they serve local Dalmatian food) Konoba-Luçac that our hostess recommended. With their huge and extremely varied menu and great customer service, we chose to eat there each night we were in Split! Over the three nights we dined on fresh mussels, frites, pizza, wild boar stew, Greek salad, caprese salad and langoustine adriatic risotto, fresh hot bread and each evening began with a shot of their homemade mint liqueur.
We did some major shopping at a fabulous store called Senka Jurisic – Think Pink as we felt it was our duty to raise the economy in Split for a day! It was so much fun. Joyce struck her ‘model pose,’ and they put our photos in their funky and fun clothes on their Facebook page! Joyce bought the necklace and pants, I passed on the white top with polka dots that made me look like a blob with dots – but got 2 other really cool tops!
We strolled down the beautiful seafront promenade, enjoying the breezes and ogling the big yachts and many river cruise ships docked along the quay. We stopped for an espresso and loved the extremely wide and car-free marble-paved streets (but both noting that if they were wet they would be like ice!)
We were happy to find the city market, which opened every morning at 6:00 a.m. We found a huge number of tents and tables filled with a delicious selection of fruits and veggies, clothes, hats and ‘real Croatian’ souvenirs. A quick 5-minute walk from our Airbnb and we had blueberries and melon, strawberries and bananas to add to our granola and yogurt. And, as a side note – the Croatian beer was really quite good – and they served it in liter mugs! I came close to dropping it – would have been a shame to spill!
As I briefly mentioned, we were in Dubrovnik and Split during a REALLY HOT spell, which we found drains our energy quickly. We did a little less sightseeing in Split than we normally would have because of the extreme heat. We were thrilled to see that our next stop, Lake Bled, Slovenia had a forecast of cooler temps and even the possibility of rain! Oh, Happy Day!
Until next time……