Croatia is without a doubt a stunning country, rugged mountains and great scenery. Not the heart thumping, take your breath away scenery you can see in New Zealand (I know, I am bias) but earthy Mediterranean coastal and rural village after village with coloured houses that is just extremely quaint.
I was lucky enough to experience many sights in Croatia despite not making it to Dubrovnik the country has a wealth of activities to do and see along the way.
We started out our whirlwind journey in Zagreb, much like many old European cities the first port of call was a market, where you could purchase any number of antique books, jewelry or nick-knacks. Zagreb is a well organised city, easy to get around with frequent trams and buses. Taxis are expensive, especially from the airport but there is a city bus that runs every 20-30 mins. There are 2 key walking routes, upper and lower Zagreb and you must make time to do these. Especially St Marks square to see the church and administrative buildings. You are rewarded with the best views of the city.
90% of visitors to Croatia end up in Plitvice National park and to be honest once you get there you understand why. 16 lakes interconnected, ranging in vibrant azure blue to deep green in colour depending on the level of calcium carbonate in the water. It is truly stunning. Make sure that you book accommodation that books food if you are going in the non peak season as restaurants are limited.
The roads are well maintained, well sign posted and can be very expensive. Every major road has a toll for using it. I think in one day I spend £16 on road tolls. You must invest the time to route plan where to get on an off the major roads and utilize the coastal road where possible. It is there where you will see the delights of many coastal towns like Senj, Opatija and Pula.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about Croatia was the food. The food was fresh with vibrant colours, home made bread with locally picked and produced olive oil, delicious. Of course another highlight was truffles. We made a trip into the mountains high above Buzet, the capital of truffles and joined a tour with the Karlic Tartufi family who have been hunting and selling truffles for 30 years across Croatia and central Europe.
Our morning started out with tasting local brandy before sitting down to a breakfast of scrambled eggs with shaved truffles, soft cream cheese infused with black truffles, meat and sausage, hard cheese drizzled with honey with truffles, before setting off with 3 truffle hunting dogs. The breakfast itself was worth the trip up the windy single track mountain roads.
Despite not finding any truffles on our trip, it made me realize just how hard being a truffle hunter is, it is for this reason it is not listed as a potential new career.
Is Croatia worth it? Absolutely, I would love to go back see Dubrovnik and more importantly do some scuba diving in those crystal blue waters along the coastline.1. St Marks Church – Zagreb, 2. Waterfalls at Rastoke, 3. View of the city of Krk, 4. Hui Yi & I in Plitvice, 5. Plitvice, 6. Dancing at Jazz Cafe in Rovinj, 7. Maiden with Seagull at Opatija, 8. The Sea Organ at Zadar.
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