As promised from my last post, here are a few day-to-day highlights. Unfortunately, our camera was lost/stolen on our very last evening in the Croatia-Montenegro region, and we lost all our photos, so I don’t have as many photos as I would like to share, but there are a few from my husband’s phone and a few that I got from a photo CD that we purchased at the airport – so hopefully that will suffice instead.
Day 1 – Zagreb:
We spent most of the day checking out the city center of Zagreb. We first checked out the town square and our daughter immediately went for the pigeons! She loved them! She thought it was pretty cool to get pretty close to them and then see them fly away! We explored the Dolac market, which is an open air market with colorful red vendor tents, and explored more of the streets surrounding the area. Our walk took us by several churches (although we should have read our guidebook better as we both wore shorts and weren’t able to enter the churches because of our attire) and then through these very quaint streets. At one point we walked through this little church chapel that was built right into the road/sidewalk. We also saw this cute older couple with their dog playing traditional Croatian music. Our daughter just stopped and listened to them for the longest time.
One of the highlights of Zagreb is St. Mark’s church, which we went to visit on our walk as well. The design on the roof is pretty spectacular and colorful. There were small narrow stone streets that led us through one area lined with restaurants with lots of outdoor seating. Our daughter loved to be independent and walk on her own as we explored the area. We also headed down to the main street to grab some croissant and coffee. The trams in Zagreb are pretty amazing – they actually share the same road as the vehicle traffic, so as we were driving around we had to make sure that we weren’t in an oncoming tram lane.
Although we could have probably spent a little more time in Zagreb, we felt like we saw the majority of it in the 3/4 of the day we spent there. In the late afternoon we headed out toward Plitvice National Park for our adventure there the next day. We stayed at our first airbnb place at Branka’s house. Her father cared for the guest house and he loved our daughter, but she liked him as well. Most of the time she doesn’t like strangers, but when he held her she didn’t make a peep and she later referred to him as “papa.”
Day 2 – Plitvice National Park:
I pretty much touched on our day at Plitvice National Park earlier in yesterday’s post – but it was definitely a highlight of the trip, even with the less than ideal weather. We started with the C loop trail and then took the boat ride and when we got to the first stop, we decided to get off and do the F loop as well – it really filtered out the large tourist groups. After we completed the F loop, we took the boat again across the lake and at the top of the hill there was a bus (that looked like a train – I originally thought we were going to go on a train when I read the material about the park!) to take you back to the other entrance of the National Park. However, we were enjoying our time so much that we thought it might be nice to walk back (it was on the opposite side of the lake from which we came from). To be honest, we probably didn’t need to walk back and we really didn’t see too much, but on that section I think we only ran into about 5 other people, so it was pretty peaceful with just our family.
We spent 5 hours within the National Park and I think we pretty much saw everything. That afternoon we drove to Zadar to spend a night there. Zadar has an unique Old Town, it is on an island with a bridge connecting it to the rest of the city. That evening we went into the Old Town for a dinner of pizza and gelato. There were a few pizza and gelato places we saw in Zagreb, but once you hit the coastline you’re more in Dalamatian territory, which has more of a Venetian feel. Both were equally delicious and we enjoyed our evening walking through the narrow stone streets of the Zadar Old Town. The little gelato shop in Zadar that we stopped at had one of the coolest displays of gelato that I have ever seen.
Day 3 – Zadar/Sibenik:
In the morning, we head back over to the Zadar Old Town to explore it more. We stopped to visit various sites like St. Donat Church, ruins and museum. One of the things I enjoy most about Europe is how their culture today still revolves around the past. As part of the ruins there was a little sidewalk cafe as part of it. One of the most unique places in Zadar were the steps built along the pier that ran into the ocean, which were constructed to be a sea organ. As you stood above the stairs you could hear the different notes being played and it really did sound like an organ.
Late that morning we drove 90 minutes to our next stop along the Dalamatia Coast – Sibenik. We were going to stop at Krka National Park on our way there, but when we stopped to inquiry about parking were told that we would need more time than we had. So we postponed our visit to Krka and continued onto to Sibenik. When we arrived, we enjoyed a picnic lunch along the Promenade, which provided a view of very expensive yachts and settled into our place for that evening. Our place that evening was right in the middle of the Old Town, so we had to transport our bags a little ways (although not far) from our car to our place. We were tucked away in this little square in the corner of the Old Town, and it was very authentic to stay there for the evening. When we met the airbnb owner that afternoon she was surprised to find that we were from Canada and visiting Sibenik – she said typically most visitors here are from within Europe; however, we really enjoyed our stay in Sibenik.
While our daughter enjoyed a nap that afternoon, I went on a run through the Old Town of Sibenik. There were so many stairs there! Almost like a stair workout in a stadium back home! That evening we went for a seafood dinner at the Admiral’s. We tried a squid dish with swiss chard and potatoes. It was actually really good, but it took a while to get our food so it ended up being a late night for our daughter and it took lots of entertaining at the table and some walks on the small Old Town street right below the patio. Our daughter’s theme for our whole trip was to run! She loved it….I would say “1, 2, 3, Go!” so then anytime she wanted to run she would start backing up and say “two, two” and that would be my cue to say “go”.
Day 4 – Sibenik & Krka National Park:
The next morning, Alex went to go grab us some fresh bread for breakfast and some coffee. It was so cool that he could just wander out to the streets and get us everything we needed for breakfast in about 10-15 minutes. We explored more of Sibenik in the morning. We made the climb up to St. Michael’s Fortress, which sits at the highest point of Old Town Sibenik, and toured there. (Thank goodness we didn’t try to take the stroller with us that day – lots of stairs!) St. Michael’s Fortress is basically a castle, but what’s cool about it is that they actually use it as a performing arts space today. How cool would it be to see a show in a castle? We also stopped to get some gelato in an old monastery garden (although there are still some active monasteries and nunneries in Croatia). We also visited St. James Cathedral, which was beautiful from the outside and inside.
Our daughter graduated to her own ice cream cone this day – we sat next to St. James Cathedral and watched the people passing by and the children rollerskating around the town square. She was quite good at handling the cone and impressively didn’t make a mess, although we made sure to bring a bib along in our day bag. 🙂
After lunch we drove back to Krka National Park. Once we parked we took a bus to Skradinski Buk falls. These were pretty magnificent waterfalls as they extended across quite a bit of area and there were a few different levels of the falls. At the bottom there was a place that you could swim. We didn’t end up swimming because it was a little cool and Clara was sleeping, but there were quite a few people who were. Like Plivice, there were some wooden boardwalks that you could take all the way around the back side of the falls, which is where there were more little falls. On that walk, we also saw a wild fox, although he wasn’t too wild because we probably got within 10 ft. of him! They also had a nice display on how the waterfalls were used to help with power, mills, washing, etc. in history. After exploring there for about 1 1/2 hours we took the bus back up to the parking lot – although we almost got taken out on the bus ride – 1 big bus against oncoming traffic on the narrow road.
Krka National Park actually expands quite a bit of area, and you could pay for a boat ticket to take you to the other areas. However, there is also a road that will take you to the other areas of the park, so we took our car and drove to Roski Slap. The falls at this location weren’t quite as impressive, and we ran out of time to hike up the pathway that takes you up to some caves, but the drive there was nice. We saw some cool, quaint small villages with the locals just hanging out and chatting with each other.
We drove the rest of the way to Split that afternoon and arrived in Split before dinner. We settled into our new airbnb location (we would stay here 2 nights) and it had a homey feel to it, especially since I had to do some laundry and hang the clothes out of dry on our little clothes line next to the balcony (on the 5th floor…luckily I didn’t drop anything!) Being on the 5th floor we also got a good workout in with carrying our daughter up the stairs, as well as our bag and stroller! We headed into Old Town Split, which was walking distance away from our place, and explored there for a bit and had our staple meal of pizza and gelato, as well as stopped at the grocery store for some groceries. The city of Split has a cool feel and the Old Town & Diocletian’s Palace made it one of the more interesting Old Towns we visited.
Day 5 – Split:
We started out the day by driving out to Klis Castle/Fortress, which is where some of the filming takes place for Game of Thrones. Parts of the fortress were built in the B.C. time era, which is pretty spectacular when you think about it still being here and the amount of work it must have been to build it on the huge hill on which it stands overlooking Split.
After exploring the fortress and having lunch, we went to Bacvice Beach, which is supposedly one of the most popular beaches in Dalamatia. However, because it was not technically summer (although still nice temperatures) it wasn’t as crowded as it could have been, and it was a little sad to see all the cigarette buds in the sand. We played for a bit in the sand and my husband and daughter ventured out into the water a few times.
While my daughter napped that afternoon, I took off for a run along the Split Promenade and then followed a path along the ocean which lead to Marjan Park. There were some great pebble beaches and green space along the path and I really enjoyed my run that afternoon. After my run and some dinner back at the apartment, we headed back to the Old Town to try some new flavors of gelato and to explore it a bit more.
Day 6 – Split to Brac Island:
We rented bikes in the morning (they even had a child’s seat on the back) and rode them to Marjan Forest Park, which is a park on the peninsula of the city. The bike path took us along the harbour and it was amazing some of the large yachts that were there. We stopped for a pastry and coffee along the way and even stopped to play at the Croatian playground for our daughter.
We started the rest of the bike ride up to the top of the hill within Marjan Park, and it was a steep ascent. Our daughter did really well on the bike ride and seemed to enjoy the seat and the view she got, but like anything after a while got a little restless. The part where she got the most restless was as we were ascending the steepest part to the top. So it was a workout to try to sing songs with her to keep her entertained and ride the bike up to the top at the same time. Along our ascent we saw some of the older little churches that were built directly into the rock faces – they were adorable. The steep climb to the top was definitely worth it and the views over Split and the coast were amazing.
After our bike ride we rode our bikes down to the oceanside path and tried to have lunch at one of the beachside cafes; however, it was Monday and we quickly found out that the cafes are closed and don’t serve food on Mondays, only drinks. We threw rocks from the rocky beach into the ocean for a bit – our daughter really liked doing that and then went back to the Promenade to get some lunch and return our bikes.
The remainder of the day we explored the upper parts of Diocletian’s Palace as well as visited the cellars/basement. The cellars were interesting because it has some of the most well preserved areas as most changes to the area occurred above ground. Part of the cellars were used as a market/vendor space and then the hisotrical elements of the cellar are in a preserved area where you pay admission. Diocletian’s Palace was built as a retirement home, and at the time it was constructed basically the back door was directly to the ocean – talk about oceanside access.
Later in the afternoon we caught the car ferry to Brac Island – just in the group of islands off the coastline from Split. The ferry ride was 50 minutes and then we had another 45 minute drive to the opposite side of the island to the town of Bol that we would stay in for 2 nights. The drive was scenic with the little towns, the fields of olive trees and the vineyards. Our first night in Bol we enjoyed a night of take out pizza and some vino! 🙂 The wind was really strong on the island and it got cold quickly in the evening, so it was nice to stay inside that night.
Day 7 – Brac Island:
We hiked up Vidova Gora in the morning. Vidova Gora is the tallest mountain on the island and we basically went from sea level tot 778 meters high. It was pretty steep and rocky at times, and it was quite the workout when carrying the hiking backpack with our daughter in it as well. It took us an hour and 45 minutes to get to the top, but when we did, you could see for miles and even across the bay to Split. We didn’t actually go to the summit, but supposedly there was a restaurant up that that we missed. However, we decided to head down and on the way down it took us about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
After the hike we walked around the streets close to the harbour and grabbed some lunch at a pastry shop and enjoyed some gelato, before heading to the beach Zlatni Rat. This was another rocky beach but there were tons of activity going on – there were kite surfers and many of the yachts would anchor near the beach and then swim to shore. We enjoyed our time there mostly by throwing rocks into the water. Near the water the rocks actually created a little bit of a slope down to the water, so we sat on the edge of the slope. However, there were so many rocks that sometimes you lost your footing, as they acted like quick sand.
For dinner that evening, we headed to quaint seaside town along the bay and enjoyed dinner at a seafood restaurant on their outdoor seating area. The outdoor seating areas were perfect with our daughter and we always liked it when we could get our table next to an empty table or two. We had a delicious seafood risotto and some seafood spaghetti.
Day 8 – Brac Island to Markarska:
Our second morning on Brac Island we took the 10:30 a.m. ferry back to Split and then went for lunch and did a little shopping for souvenirs before heading to our next destination Markarska. The drive there was very scenic with the oceans and the mountains meeting each other along the coastline. We arrived at our Airbnb destination and met our host Marin and our daughter particularly enjoyed meeting his cat.
After dropping our items off we we went down to the beach as it felt warm – even though it was September 30th! The views of Markarska were awesome with the little beach town at the base of the mountains. The beach was nice, but a rocky beach, but our daughter again liked playing in the rocks and throwing her tube back and forth like a frisbee. However, you could tell that Markarska is mostly a summer destination spot as the beach was not busy and many of the beachside shops were closed for winter already.
We walked around the Old Town for a bit (although it was smaller than the previous ones we had been to) and enjoyed an authentic Croatian meal that was chicken and a rice blend; and of course, gelato – only 5 kuna here! On our way back to our airbnb we stopped in the town square area (with a little church behind it) and played a little ring-a-round the rosie with our daughter. She also enjoyed watching the other children that were playing tag in the square as well.
One of the best things about Markarska was our airbnb host, Marin. He invited us out to his outdoor kitchen in the evening to chat. He provided lots of insight about Croatia, such as unemployment, as well as pay, was bad. He told us that the average pay per month was 800 Euro/month, and gave us a little insight to the intense soccer rivalries within Croatia and how dangerous it can be.
Day 9 – Markarska to Dubrovnik:
Before heading to Dubrovnik (we tried to plan most of the long driving trips in the afternoon with the idea that our daughter could nap in the car….that didn’t always work), we went down to the Markarska oceanfront for a pastry breakfast and coffee and a walk around the park at the front of the bay. The park was nice as it had a little church at the top, as well as some statues overlooking the bay. It also provided some great views back at the town with the mountains in the background.
We had one more coffee with Marin before the 3 hour drive to Dubrovnik. To get from Markarska to Dubrovnik, we had to drive through Bosnia. In this part of Europe there were still border crossings between countries. When we arrived at the Bosnian border crossing, they basically just looked at the cover of our passports, saw that we were from Canada and the US and handed them back to us to pass through the border (they didn’t even open them to verify that it was us). So that we could say that we stepped on Bosnian soil, we stopped for a coffee and some photo ops. I didn’t get to go into the shop to get the coffee, but my husband said that they seemed to have a slightly different accent than the people in Croatia. Although we didn’t see any war damage, etc. through the part that we drove through, there were parts of it that looked a little more industrial than where we had been in Croatia – but it also wasn’t a tourist spot. In total we were only in Bosnia for about 10-15 km.
Once we arrived in Dubrovnik and checked into our new airbnb – this one had to be my daughter’s favorite as they had toys for her to play with – we headed to the marquee Dubrovnik Old Town for the evening. There was a charge to walk around the Old Town Wall, but it was definitely worth the fee. We got some awesome views and perspective of the Old Town below, as well as the ocean on the other side of the wall. It took us a little over an hour to walk around and in parts it reminded us of the Great Wall of China as there were some stairs or steep sections in parts.
After our hike we had dinner at a restaurant in one of the alleys of the Old Town, which had a quaint location. The Dubrovnik Old Town was very well preserved and parts of it even reminded us of Edinburgh because of the stairs to get from the entrance of the Old Town (from modern day Dubrovnik) down to the centre of the Old Town. At the centre streets of the Old Town, they had these little gutters that lined the streets and our daughter loved to follow these down the street – it made it easier to keep her focused and going in one straight direction.
Day 10 – Dubrovnik to Montenegro:
In the morning, we went back to the Old Town to explore it more during the daytime. We checked out some of the churches and alleys and walked along the side of the Old Town that meets the bay. There was also a nice little market happening in some of the sections of the Old Town, so that was fun to see as well. One of the most unique places we came across was a “Kitty Hotel”. Within all of Croatia there are lots of stray cats; however, they seem to be well treated and this one little area we came upon was set up as a little haven for cats – there was food, water and some areas for the cats to lay down in. There was also a little sign that asked for people to donate to help supply food for the cats.
In the early afternoon we drove to Montenegro as it was only about a 90 minute drive from Dubrovnik. Again between Croatia and Montenegro we had to stop at the border crossing and get our passports reviewed. They reviewed ours quickly, but it seems like some other vehicles spent much more time at the border crossing. Shortly after crossing the border we came upon a police officer standing on the side of the road next to his vehicle and he motioned over to Alex to pull over. He told him that he was going 72 km in a 50 km speed zone. At that point Alex got out of the car and went to talk to the officers, and he explained that he was from Canada and was just here for the hike up Kotor. They actually let him go without the ticket, thank goodness, as they said the fine was a range of 50-250 Euro.
As we drove into Kotor the view was pretty spectacular with the bay in the middle of the mountains. We checked into our place and then headed to the Old Town of Kotor. We immediately did the hike up to the Kotor Fortress. The trail was steep in places and there was a combination of stairs with basically a trail of gravel/stones to the side of that. I found that going on the stairs was better, and felt safer, especially with the hiking carrier on my back. We really enjoyed the hike up to the top and there were some really scenic spots, especially as you turned back to view the Bay of Kotor below you. There was one little spot where there was a window in one of the structures and in the little valley below you could see this tiny little church – it was very cute. The hike probably took us about an hour to get up to the top – but we were taking lots of pictures – and then we headed back down.
We headed back to our place on the opposite side of the bay and went to a local restaurant that was at the bottom of our street. We sat out in the patio area and it had a great view of the Old Town with the old city walls lit up at night. The waiter couldn’t speak English well and the menu wasn’t in very descriptive English, so we were exactly sure what we were getting. We tried to ask if a couple of the items had sides with them, but our waiter didn’t understand. But the price seemed too cheap to have sides, so we ordered a bunch of different items, like risotto, seafood skewers, spaghetti and a couple of salads. Wow! We definitely ordered way too much food! However, we could definitely tell that we were off the tourist path based on these prices. (Montenegro uses the Euro as their currency) We ended up having them package up the food for us to take home because there was so much leftover that we thought we might be able to eat for lunch the next day.
Unfortunately, this was also the place where we accidentally left our camera. It was dark out on the patio when we left (we were basically just using candlelight) and we must have been distracted with the other items and our daughter that it somehow got forgotten or we thought we had placed it in our backpack. Unfortunately, when we realized it, the camera was already gone.
Day 11 – Kotor, Montenegro:
Unfortunately, this was one of the worst days on our trip, due to losing the camera and the memory card on it. We waited for the restaurant to open and then talked with the owners and waited for the waiter to come to work to see if they perhaps picked it up the night before. Unfortunately, none of them recalled seeing it. We ended up putting up reward posters, but we were never contacted.
In the afternoon, we HAD to go back to Dubrovnik to catch our flight back to Germany, so we drove back and then flew to Frankfurt. We stayed in an airport hotel that night.
Day 12 – Trier, Germany & Luxembourg:
As we were flying standby the availability on the flights back to Canada weren’t looking good until the following day, so we made the decision to stay in mainland Europe. We rented a car and then decided to drive to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – to add a new country to both of our country lists. 🙂 Even on the autobahn, it was about a 3 hour drive, so along the way we stopped in Trier, Germany for lunch.
The Trier square was a very iconic European square. There was some water fountains, the cute multi-colored buildings surrounding the square and lots of activity, especially since it was a Sunday. Considering none of the shops were open, it was mainly just people out and about for the day or out enjoying lunch at one of the outdoor seating areas of the patios. There were groups of individuals playing music as well – at one point we had a whole band dressed in pink sitting next to our table at the restaurant.
We sat outside and enjoyed a traditional German meal of schitzel, bratwurst and some pretzels. Our daughter seemed to enjoy the pretzels, as well as the french fries like she did in Croatia. I really enjoyed all the outdoor seating in Europe because while we waited for food, we could go walking around with our daughter as she has a low attention span for sitting in one place for a long period of time.
After our lunch in Trier, we headed to Luxembourg City. We headed to the older part of the city here to explore. Luxembourg City was unique in that there were higher parts of the city, but then there were also parts of the city in the valleys below – which also meant a lot of climbing stairs and walking up steep hills again. 🙂
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get exploring as soon as we would have liked because we were completely out of diapers for our daughter and we needed to get some. We tried to find some in Trier but everyone said the stores were closed on Sundays. We eventually asked a girl at a bus stop where we might be able to find a store on a Sunday afternoon that was open and she suggested that we go to a grocery store near the train station. So we loaded back in the car and headed there. Thank goodness they had some there because I don’t know what we would have done otherwise – our poor daughter was in the previous diaper for way too long because it took us so long to find a place. So needless to say we quickly realized that shopping isn’t something you do in Luxembourg or Germany on a Sunday.
We went back to the main area to explore and walked around the ruins (for lack of better term) and then into the Old Town streets along the canal. It was a very unique city and when you were down in the Old Town, when you looked up it was amazing how high the walls were along the edges of it. We didn’t end up having a whole lot of time in Luxembourg, but I think we got the gist of it, and we can now add to our list of countries that we have been to.
Day 13 – Back Home:
This was our travel day back home. That morning we woke up early (but I was still able to fit in a run that morning, which was a nice way to explore the area of Luxembourg by our hotel) and drove back to Frankfurt. We thought we would just stop at McDonalds on the way out of Luxembourg for breakfast, but when we drove up to the drive-in we realized they were closed! They didn’t open until 10:30 or 11 a.m. – and they didn’t have a breakfast menu – interesting learning for us! (By the way, we amazingly NEVER say really any North American fast food restaurants during our stay in Croatia, nor any North American big box stores! – I was really impressed with that!)
Our flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver was very full (this flight was really long – about 10-11 hours). Originally Alex and I were sitting apart from each other, but we were able to ask the single guy next to me if he’d be interested in taking Alex’s seat. Luckily he obliged and I’m sure it was a good decision for him to do so, as he would have been sitting right in between a couple with a small baby and then me with my daughter in my lap squirming around. For this flight we unfortunately didn’t get a spare seat so our daughter had to sit on someone’s nap the whole time. Luckily though we were in one of the bulkhead seats so there was a little room at our feet for her to play at, as well as the flight attendants brought out the bassinets that attached to the bulkhead. Unfortunately, I think our daughter only slept about 50 minutes of that 11 hour flight, but at least we could sit her in the bassinet for her to play her games so that our legs could get a rest from her sitting on them. She did really well on the flight again, but of the over 20+ flights that she has ever been on, this one on the descent seemed to bother her ears. However, she was starting to get a cold, so I’m sure that’s the main reason why.
The Lufthansa flight attendants were very helpful and friendly too. Our daughter got a little stuffed duck from them as a boarding gift and she still carries around that duck with her even 2 months later. You could definitely tell that Lufthansa was a family friendly airline; when we went to check in for our flight earlier that day they had a special line for families with young children and then a step so that the kids could step up and see what the agent was doing over the counter.
When we arrived in Vancouver we had a couple hour layover and then caught our flight back to Calgary. By that point we had all been awake for almost 24 hours straight, so it was an early night to bed for all of us!
Overall, we really enjoyed our trip to Croatia and we would definitely consider going back sometime. It had a lot of culture and history, but it was nice that is wasn’t overpriced either. However, like we always say there are so many other first-time places to explore before making a 2nd trip back! 🙂