Croatia is the place to vacation in Europe these days.
It is gaining popularity because…
- It is beautiful/amazing/warm/ and full of history
- Affordable alternative to Italy: the Adriatic Sea, islands + strong exchange rate
- For all of you fans, Game of Thrones is filmed here
- The list goes on and on
The train ride into Split was very scenic. I spent time reading about the 1991 Yugoslavia War and independence of Croatia. Evidence of the war still lingers in the tiny villages along the train tracks but it is easy to see how resilient the people are here, how communities have been restored and that the area is thriving. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking in parts- rivers that we could see from the train going through Plitvice Lakes National Park were absolutely crystal clear and bright turquoise. Green, lush, jungly trees. White cliffs. Stone bridges. Rolling hills. Tree covered mountains.
Arriving into Split, we were ready to explore and indulge. Old town is full of romantic outdoor cafes. We found a beautiful garden restaurant in an old white building, with ivy growing up the walls, garden lights and green shutters on the windows. The currency exchange is almost 9:1 [Croatian Kuna to British Pound]. This made it affordable for us to eat out and treat ourselves to wines, seafood, and I even splurged on trying mussels for the first time!
Our first morning in Split, we woke up extra early and went for a walk along the promenade (the ‘Riva’) curious to check out a hill on the other side of old town. We walked to the top of Marajan Hill where we stood in awe for quite some time. What struck me was the change of scenery from the dear UK. The leaves of the palm trees, looking up and seeing them on a backdrop of clear blue, bright skies. Not a cloud to be seen.
The morning sun was shining on the Roman ruins walking back through Old Town. Split is lovely with all its alleyways, hidden courtyards and ivy covered walls. It was early yet, so the streets were quiet. On our way back to the flat, we picked up coffees (note: coffee and cream is coffee and ice-cream, fun little surprise) and fresh juices. Ryan picked up a delicious smelling apple-baklava-filo-pastry goodie from a street vendor called, strudel od jakuba. Most places in this region have their own variation of a strudel, and Ryan was happy to try each one in search of ‘the best.’
We enjoyed our goodies on the steps of Diocletian’s Palace, definitely the number one thing to see in Split. The ruins of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, date back to the late 3rd to early 4th century A.D. I love history and this was making my head spin a little because I think it is the oldest place that I have physically been in. There is a sphinx here that Diocletian himself had built and is part of the original palace, 2,000 years old!
The outdoor open market was another highlight for me – it was full of fruit, cheese, antiques, dried fruits, nuts, fresh lavender and flower vendors. Such a cultural experience! We bought some fresh goat cheese, dried apricots, almonds and juicy peaches.
We finished our day in good style – enjoying life’s simple pleasures (gelato and coffee) in a city that does such a wonder job of weaving the past and present.
If we had a bit more time it would have been fun to swim at the beach or take a boat trip out to one of the nearby islands. Our time was lovely in Split and we eagerly boarded our bus for the our next stop, Dubrovnik!
Currently, there is also no train line between Split and Dubrovnik so this meant the end of our Eurail pass. This might change as Dubrovnik is becoming such a popular travel destination. For now, buses are the best way to get there. The journey to Dubrovnik is 4 hours with some fun along the way. We saw an incredible place called Fortress of Klis, baby donkeys (yes, baby donkeys!), more turquoise rivers and even made a rest stop in Bosnia – one of my favourite stamps in the passport because it is so random.
Up next: Dubrovnik, Croatia
We got off our train in Slovenia and did not have access to wifi.
I thought this might happen. We had to go old-school and use the travel books that I checked out from the library in Edinburgh. We played the tourist part well. Picture us and our huge fold out map trying to read street signs and all three of us pointing in different directions. ☝🏼👇🏼👉🏼
Ljubljana (pronounce it how you wish, here is some assistance… [ljuˈbljàːna] ( listen)…. ) is a very walkable city and I was confident that we would find our listing. With the help of a sweet old woman, she looked at our address and led us to our straight to our apartment. We dedicated a couple of days to Ljubljana and I am so grateful that we did. Slovenia, and it’s capital city, is a gem. After arriving, we walked along the Ljubljanica River, a river that winds through the middle of old town. The clouds were radiant. All different colours and it was the first sign of warmer weather since leaving the UK. The bridges were lit up at sunset and people sipped on their drinks or licked their gelato along the waterfront.
One of my favorite activites in Ljubljana was walking the central open-air market. Row after row of of vendors selling fruit, vegetables, street food and flowers. The berries and cherries were so sweet and juicy and there was table after table of bright flowers and fresh herbs.
Ryan, excited to get some street food, found a HUGE sausage pita meal. It was honestly the most sausage I have seen in one sitting. I lucked out as the market was closing and scored a huge bag of… sauerkraut! A very kind lady insisted that I take it at no cost as she was getting ready to leave. So delicious. So obviously, we paired with the huge sausage platter.
One of the many unique architectural wonders in Ljubljana is ‘Triple Bridge’, it connects new town with the old and is quite the feat for being constructed in 1931. Another bridge worth seeing a few blocks down is called the ‘Cobblers Bridge’, the oldest bridge in Ljubljana.
We spent the afternoon strolling through the old town as there are so many cool cafes with outdoor tables and shops. Keep your eye out for dragons. I had too much fun counting them and laughing at all the random nooks and crannies they hide in. True story, Ljubljana has a long history of dragons (read more here).
Want to read more about this diamond city? Read 11 reasons to visit Ljubljana. What cities have you been to that exceeded your expectations?
Up next: Zagreb, Croatia