A Travellerspoint blog

Croatia

A day in Kings Landing (Or for the non-nerds - Dubrovnik)

all seasons in one day 30 °C
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"Come with me and take this city!" - Stannis Baratheon

Foodie moment

As promised we headed back to our favourite place in Hvar for lunch before we caught the Catamaran off the island. This time we revisted an old favourite Pasticada Njok (Gnocchi with marinated beef) and Dalmation stuffed bread and Stuffed peppers. Not as amazing as the night before but still great, and the waitress was so happy to see us come back it was worth it for that!

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Mark's carnivore dreams were answered again with a meat plate ordered at the river front restaurant near our apartment

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The search for a cheap lunch led us to try a Croatian (well South Eastern European) speciality, Cevapi. It is minced pork and beef rolled into sausage shapes, and then served in a flatbread with salad and ajvar sauce (Capsicum and garlic relish). Not healthy exactly but tasty and cheap!!

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Cultural moment

Until now our bus travel experiences have been fairly painless, today was an exception. Our bus was over an hour late with nobody able (or wanting to) explain where it was, or when it was arriving. When it got there the driver had an impossibly slow process of putting the bags on while charging even more money for the bags than on previous journeys ( in Croatia the bus drivers charge you for each bag you put under the bus separate of ticket price. When people ask why they have to pay they always act like its not their decision but the money goes straight into their pockets!). Then when we finally got on the bus, everyone had ignored the seat numbers so instead of my seat near the front that i had asked for I was stuck down the back! The border checks on the buses are also ridiculous, as the Croatian police will get on at the border and take everyone's passports off to check (this takes at least 30 mins) and then the passports are handed back out to everyone on the bus (find yours in the pile, grab a couple of spares if you want!), then the bus drives for about 5 minutes and then the whole thing happens again, this time it is the Montenegrin border guards! The whole process adds at least an hour to the journey, and to add to the comfort factor the driver doesn't want to waste petrol so he turns off the engine and therefore the air conditioning!!

Wow moment

Stari Grad Dubrovnic really is as breathtaking as they say! The best view is from its walls, you can walk around the entire perimeter looking down on it from every angle. The cluster of red roofed houses clustered together on the edge of the bright blue ocean is an amazing contrast. On ground level the lane ways weave up and down the hills, and there are big open squares filled with restaurants. A really great thing is that the town is full of fountains where you can refill your water bottles... finally something for free in Croatia! There is still evidence of the seige on Dubrovnic in 1991, particularly as many of the UNESCO sites were particularly targeted by the Yugoslav people's army, but much of it has been restored. The hardest thing to deal with in Dubrovnik is the heat when walking around the walls (can take up to 2 hours and there is no shade or top up locations for our water bottle) and the HUGE amounts of crowds. It is a prime spot for cruise ships and when they come in the place fills to the brim. On a side point though, while we were there I spotted my old place of employment - The Disney Cruise lines - ahhh the memories!!

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For those fans of Game of Thrones they may know that Dubrovnik is Kings Landing in the show, it is fun hunting around for the places that filming has taken place in the city. One of the main places for filming is Fort of Saint Laurence which is just outside the Stari Grad walls. This is where scenes such as Joffery's name day tournament was filmed etc..

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Anyone who is really interested can go to this blog: http://ageekabroad.net/kings-landing-dubrovnik-game-of-thrones-filming-location/ and try to match them to our pictures, its kind of cool!

What we learnt today

Whilst in Dubrovnic we hired an audio tour which covered the old town, walking around the walls and information about the war of independence. Some parts that stood out are:

When the old town was first being built and fortified there was a rule that all people entering the city must bring a stone with them to contribute to the construction. This also had the added bonus of creating a sense of ownership within the residents.

The Croatians were the inventors of the idea of quarantine. The word comes from the Latin word Quaranta, which means 40. This is related to the fact that Dubrovnic had a practice of enforcing 40 day isolation of ships and people prior to entering the city. This was to contain the black death, and the practice was called quarantine.

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Dubrovnic at its peak was a town full of aristocrats with an interest in the finer things in life (perhaps similar to Game of Thrones!). Due to the strong trade opportunities it was a wealthy town, and the residents enjoyed this, but of course when something is so good other people want to be a part of it and Dubrovnik has faced many attacks on its independence through history.

Dubrovnik's old town was almost completely flattened during the War for Independence when Croatia attempted to break away from the struggling Yugoslavia. The siege on the town by the Serbian and Montenegrin troops lasted for seven months. The fact that Dubrovnic is separated by land from the rest of Croatia (there is a small piece of Bosnia which cuts through Croatia to the ocean) meant support was limited, and it was quite amazing that the small number of troops were able to hold Dubrovnic throughout the seige and come out successful.

Posted by travellinglise 08:36 Archived in Croatia Tagged dubrovnic game_of_thrones Comments (0)

Birthday Boating in the Pakleni Islands

sunny 30 °C
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"Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest" – By Larry Lorenzoni

Foodie moment

For my birthday voyage we put together a delicious picnic, complete with meat burrek (spiced mince), homemade cheeses (Goat and Sheep's milk - one hard, one soft), fresh strawberries, tomatoes and peaches and a bottle of red wine! It was so delicious, especially looking over the turquoise waters.

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My birthday dinner was at a tripadvisor recommended restaurant, which was up one of the winding stairways that lead away from the main square. Konoba Menego prided itself on true authentic Croatian cooking, and NO PIZZA! The food was fantastic and the Croatian red wine from the Pakleni islands was delicious. We ate Dalmation Njok (Home made gnocchi with prawns in a creamy sauce) and Fillet Dalmatia (Beef fillets stuffed with cheese then wrapped in prosciutto, served with prawns and herb butter with a side of grilled vegetables). Finally some great Croatian cooking, and with a lovely waitress we were very happy! We've promised we'll be back tomorrow for lunch before we leave!!

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Cultural moment

Today we got to see how the other half live. Hvar is full of expensive speed boats, yachts and sail boats, which are either being rented for a holiday or owned by the people on them. As we cruised around the bay in our (small) boat, dropped our anchor with the other (big) boats in a picturesque bay and sun-baked on the deck listening to (other peoples) music, we got a taste for how nice it must be to have the money for a boat... oh well, we'll just have to live with faking it for a day for the time being.

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Wow moment

As a special birthday treat we decided to hire a 10 horsepower 'speed' boat, so we could head out to the Pakleni islands at our own pace. It was so much fun zooming through the water, pulling in to bays and beaches we came along on the way. We stopped in the popular Palmizana island to have lunch. Touted as the sand beach of Croatia, we were disappointed to find only a tiny strip of sand taken up almost entirely by sun lounges. Either way it was a beautiful spot and after lunch, rather than lie or sit on concrete or rocks as others were doing we headed back to our boat... drove it out into the bay and dropped our anchor to float and sunbake out on the water. Apart from one close call with a champagne cork from another boat, it was incredibly relaxing! We then headed around to another island, with a beach called Zdrilca. This was our favourite beach by far! Although it was a rock beach it had huge bean bags on the beach to lay on (free of charge!!!), a carpet leading into the water so you don't hurt your feet when entering and the beers were affordable. The restaurant Tri Grede looked great too but we weren't hungry. I wish we had found this little gem earlier rather than blowing our money at Carpe Diem!!

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What we learnt today

Boats are fun!!! We highly recommend it! Oh, and we also learnt that the pull out anchors on little boats like ours are fairly useless at catching on the bottom, so floating on the spot is pretty much impossible!!

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Posted by travellinglise 04:23 Archived in Croatia Tagged hvar pakleni_islands Comments (1)

Islands in the sun

sunny 30 °C
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Carpe Diem - Seize the day! - Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Foodie moment

With a limited amount of money to spend (see below for reason), and feeling very hungry we chose pasta and beef thai salad at Carpe Diem Club for lunch. Food was good.... but waaaaay overpriced!!

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Cultural moment

Before coming to Croatia we had thought it would be be a bit of a backpackers meca... still Eastern Europe enough to be cheap, but touristy enough to have those small luxuries of menus in English and easy to understand sight seeing. This may have previously been the case but now, due to the prices i'm guessing, it attracts a much more wealthy crowd. The tourists are people who are on a cruise, or have rented (or own) a sail boat or younger people who are generally on a short vacation (and therefore have a lot of money to spend in a short time). This was especially the case in Hvar, which likes to tout itself as the new French riviera! If you look for cheap options such as fast food and supermarkets, you can find them... but if you are counting the pennies like us, we found out you have to be very careful in Hvar - people around you may be knocking back jugs of cocktails and bottles of wine at beachside bars but on our budget, that equals a full meal for the both of us!

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Wow moment

Today we jumped on one of the water taxis and headed over to the popular Carpe Diem beach club. Once again the beach was rocks and concrete so we decided to splash out on two recliner sun beds (they were incredibly comfortable but $30 for the rental! Eeek!) Then we continued our extravagance by having a cocktail (hey, its my birthday week after all). The location was beautiful, the water cold but refreshing and the sun lovely to lie in. There was a DJ playing music and it was a really nice day. Until we hit our money problems (see 'foodie moment' and 'what we learnt' for more)

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What we learnt today

There is no access to ATMs or paying by credit card on the islands around Hvar! This is crazy to us... particularly becasue of the prices of food and drink on the island, people must have been carrying around stacks of cash to pay off their tabs at the end of the day!! We, unfortunately, got caught out by this... having to count all our pennies to buy lunch and not even be able to afford a bottle of water (there also isn't fresh water on Carpe Diem Beach - Mark topped our water bottle up in the bathroom and managed to fill it with salt water - Oops). We are sure we are not the only ones stuck without money on the islands, its not made obvious anywhere... at least we asked before running up a big bill... I wonder what happens to those that can't pay at the end of the day!

Posted by travellinglise 08:56 Archived in Croatia Tagged hvar carpe_diem_club Comments (0)

Birthday week begins in Hvar

sunny 30 °C
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"Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you" - Walt Whitman

Foodie moment

Not a foodie but a beer moment today, and im not even sure if it is a good one! As with most countries, Croatia has many types of beer, but there are many distinctive flavoured ones that caught our eye. You can get orange, lemon or even grapefruit flavoured beers - we tried the orange one and consensus was that it smelt horrible but was pretty drinkable especially on a hot summers day!

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Cultural moment

Our bemusement in regards to what is called a beach in Croatia continued in Hvar as we walked to some along the coast of the island on our first day. The beaches are actually just big rocks on the side of the water. The crazy thing is people lie on the rocks to sunbathe as if it is perfectly natural, which looks terribly uncomfortable! If you want more comfort you can hire a chair to lie next to the water but in Hvar this can be very expensive!

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Wow moment

Hvar Town is stunning, and the best view of it was from our hotel balcony! We had some amazing accommodation whilst in Hvar, we had to climb up some steps to get there (and with our sore muscles from canyoning that was easier said than done!!) but the view was actually breathtaking! We were even lucky enough to have a large old fashioned sail boat framed within the harbour in our first glimpse of the view, which added to the wow factor even more! The town itself is really pretty to walk around, with sail-boats and mega yachts bobbing in the harbour, big open cobble-stoned squares, the sapphire blue sea shimmering in the distance and tiny stalls selling home-made products made from lavender and honey, as well as tables full of fresh fruit, smoked meats and cheeses.

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What we learnt today

Hvar claims to be the sunniest place in Europe with a uniquely sunny microclimate and an annual average of 2724 hours of sun. We certainly cannot disagree with that as the sunshine and blue skies in Hvar seemed to be never ending! It was interesting when we asked our host if they had got any rain from the crazy storm that had battered us in Split the day before (only a one hour boat ride away) and she replied that they had been told they might get some rain but it just never happened! Hanging onto that sunniest place title once again!

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Posted by travellinglise 07:15 Archived in Croatia Tagged hvar Comments (0)

Crazy Canyoning - Croatia style!

storm 20 °C
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"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."- Helen Keller

Foodie moment

Situated with only the Adriatic sea separating Croatia and Italy, Split has many Italian influences, especially in regards to food. There are as many pizza and pasta restaurants as those that serve the national cuisine. We decided to try one of them tonight, and we were not disappointed!! A tasty pizza and delicious gnocchi bolognese had us rolling out at the end of the meal!

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Our other foodie moment was me sharing one of my childhood memories of a favourite food with Mark. When i was younger, and living in England, my Aunt Barbara lived in Spain and whenever she visited she brought Turron with her as a treat for me. Turron is a nougat type sweet which is made of almonds, it has a crumbly texture, and as i told Mark the best way to eat it is crumbled on ice cream. He agreed!

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Cultural moment

Today we came up against an annoying cultural moment. We wanted to get tickets to get the catamaran out to the island of Hvar, there were limited seats available and we really needed to catch that particular one (the ferry took us twice as long and dropped us in the wrong part of the island meaning we would have to get a bus). We went to the office two days before when we wanted to get the boat and we were told that they only sell the tickets on the day! I'm not sure why - but i do know its a massive inconvenience!! Tickets go on sale at 7am for the 11 am catamaran so we will have to get up at 8am to get the ticket, then go back to our accommodation and have breakfast/check out.. the worst thing is not knowing if you are even going to get a ticket.. because its so last minute it will throw all our organisation out.

Wow moment

We wanted to try something different and we saw that there was a canyoning tour available, so we booked it in. We were picked up in a mini van and taken for a 1 hour drive into the mountains. There was a group of about 15 of us and we all had to kit up into wetsuits and safety gear. Looking very professional, we made our way down into the canyon, clambering over rocks and sheer cliff faces. Once down into the canyon, our guide told us all to get into the river. We apprehensively jumped in, lucky we were in wetsuits, the water was cold! We rode rapids and swam over waterfalls, climbed over rocks (in and out of the water) and up and down cliffs (including pitch black caves!). We had the opportunity to do a cliff jump which was about 10 meters high and we both did it! The views above and in the canyon itself were amazing! After about 3 and a half hours, the tour was over, lucky for us as we were absolutely knackered! We got back into the van just as a huge storm rolled in, perfect timing! I highly recommend anyone to do canyoning if you have the chance, it was really fun and a great work out!

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What we learnt today

Today, thanks to canyoning, we learnt that we have muscles in places we never knew we had muscles, and they will hurt (badly!) after canyoning!! And I'm sure it will only get worst tomorrow...and the next day...and the next!

We also learnt that Croatia is entering into the EU as of the 1st of July. This will be a big boost for their tourism and economy. I think most people were happy about it, but there is some hesitation from residents about what the expectations will be of them after they join. I guess it is understandable after you learn how hard they fought to become independent from Yugoslavia, and now they perhaps worry they may lose some of that independence.

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Posted by travellinglise 10:18 Archived in Croatia Tagged adventure split catamaran canyoning turron Comments (0)

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