Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Sweet September: Croatia

We ended our September travels (and our two years of Euro travels) with eight days in Croatia. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we loved it even more than we expected. We started off in Dubrovnik, which ended up being our favorite place in Croatia, and definitely near the top of our favorite places we'd visited over the past two years. The city itself was small, but after a few days in busy Rome, we were ready for a chill place with a beach.

Pretty tiled roofs and insanely beautiful aqua water - hard to beat.

View from a walk around the city walls.

Another view of the roofs.

Ken enjoying a dip in the super clear water before our kayaking trip.

We kayaked around an island called Lokrum, just off the coast from the Old Town, and stopped in this fantastic cave for lunch and a swim on the way back into town. The kayaking trip was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip - so fun! (And a great arm workout to boot.)

View of the Old Town and Lokrum from the hill we walked up to get to the guest house where we stayed.

We absolutely loved our room at the guest house! A really nice girl ran the place in the house her family owned, and they had a great garden around the house. We had a view of the Adriatic from our room, there was a pomegranate tree and a lemon tree outside of our window, and there were olive trees outside the front door. We kind of wanted to move in forever.

We absolutely loved Dubrovnik, and will definitely be back some day!

After a couple of days in Dubrovnik, we headed up the Dalmatian coast to catch a ferry to the island of Hvar. We happened upon a ferry stop we didn't know about on the way, and ended up getting to chill on the nice beach in Drvenik while we waited for the ferry, rather than spending another hour or so in the car. Fantastic!

Ken at sea.

More amazing water, and the ferry.

Sun's out, guns out. Ken decided to purchase this tank top in Drvenik to even out his t-shirt tan line. It was in heavy rotation for the rest of the week, and luckily it was able to receive at least one washing during the week.

View of the gorgeous coastline from the ferry.

The ferry dropped us at one end of the island of Hvar, and we needed to get across the island to get to our next destination. So, we drove the entire length of the island, and it was spectacular. This was the view most of the way. Hvar was colonized by the Greeks in the 4th century BC, and they set up an agricultural layout of a bunch of stone walls. These walls and the agriculture have been continuously maintained, and it was really cool to see the tangles of olive trees and lavender fields covering the island among all the stone walls.

Olive trees. Everywhere.

We stayed in Stari Grad, which was supposed to be a more laid-back town than Hvar Town. It was definitely quaint, and very lovely.

We loved this boat we kept walking by.

The main part of the town was full of charming buildings and narrow alleys.

We took a short walk out to the Stari Grad Plain near the city to check out more olive trees.

After a couple of days in Stari Grad, we took the ferry back to the mainland, to the city of Split. We checked out Split for a couple of hours before driving to Zadar to stay the night there. Basically, Split and Zadar were quick stops before the longish drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park we were making the next day. So, I didn't take any pics in either city. It was nice to see them briefly, though.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is in central Croatia, so we drove across the interior to get there, which was uneventful other than the farms all around. There are apparently 16 lakes in the park, but we just wanted to make a somewhat quick trip through since we weren't staying a night there, and needed to get to Istria. So, we just checked out the first lake we came across.

The water is very closely protected, and you can't swim or anything here (much to Ken's disappointment). So, the water is really clean and pretty.

After our quick trip to the lakes, we headed to the small hill town of Motovun in Istria. The main tunnel to the area was closed, so we ended up having to drive around the east coast of the peninsula (which added quite a bit of time to the journey). We were definitely a little put out with all the time in the car that day. However, when we finally reached our destination, it was totally worth it.

Motovun is the town on top of the hill there, surrounded by vineyards and a bunch of other hills. We drove up just as the sun was starting to set, and it was gorgeous!

Ken navigated the car through the narrow streets winding up the steep hill, and we were led to our fantastic apartment with amazing views of the valley and surrounding hills. We watched the sunset from the walls around the town.

Here's our apartment the next morning - it was above a truffle shop (the tuber, not the chocolate). I am borderline obsessed with anything truffled, so this was almost too much for me to handle. Istria is known for its truffles, and every restaurant in the town boasted a truffle-laden menu.

A glorious lunch of pasta with truffle shavings. We ordered pasta with white truffles and pasta with black truffles to do a comparison taste test. Ken doubted my ability to discern between the two, but I proved him wrong.

Lovely view of the valley at lunch, and Ken examining our souvenir black truffles from the shop below our apartment.

Needless to say, we absolutely loved Motovun! It's a tiny place, so you can conquer it in a day. We were definitely here for the truffles and the scenery. There isn't much going on beyond that.

The last main stop of our trip was Rovinj, on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. We swam and enjoyed the last day of sunshine of the trip, and stayed one night there. I didn't take any pics because I was all photoed out at that point. The last day of the trip was cloudy, so we drove to Pula and chilled for the evening before catching our flight to Oslo the next morning.

This is the only pic I have from Pula. We were both really done with the dining choices of Italy and Croatia after two weeks of the same stuff. So, we hunted down the McD's in Pula (after Ken spotted a sign at a bus stop, then I spotted a McD's cup on the ground with the telltale striped straw). Sometimes, when you're out traveling in a faraway place for awhile, familiarity is all you want, and McD's and BK are generally the only familiar places. I was especially thankful to this particular McD's for having a special version of delish curly fries on their menu. It was a good fix, and I'm sure I won't eat at a McD's for years now that I'm back in the U.S. 

I'd say the Moments of Zen were the entire time in Dubrovnik, the impromptu beach/ferry find in Drvenik, driving across beautiful Hvar, and the truffle pasta and views in Motovun. Not a bad way to wrap up two years of travel!