Location: Rovinj, Plitvice Lakes, & Zagreb Croatia
The locals tell us that more and more Americans are visiting Croatia. After spending a week there, we can certainly see why. They have a beautiful Mediterranean coastline, amazing natural beauty in the interior and lots of waterfalls. Most people we encountered spoke English making it easy for us to communicate. We were impressed by the cleanliness of the streets and cities. We’d read that the tap water is amongst the best in the world and we can now confirm it. While we encountered our share of tourists, it was less congested than other destinations we’ve visited and thus left us feeling more relaxed. All in all, Croatia was a warm and welcoming place to visit and offered good value compared to other more popular destinations in the Mediterranean.
We spent a couple of days in Rovinj, which is directly across the Adriatic Sea from Venice. We really liked it here. The old town is located on the edge of the sea with lots of narrow winding streets filled with small shops and restaurants. The people were friendly and there was a nice easy feel to the place. Prices were more affordable than other Mediterranean seaside resorts we’ve visited. We could have spent more time here.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a wonderland of aqua blue lakes and cascading waterfalls that connect them. The park service has done a masterful job of building paths and walkways providing fairly easy access to all of the beautiful sights that the park has to offer. Like most visitors, we walked for hours taking it all in.
As if we hadn’t had enough waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes, our host in Korana tipped us off to a small village in Slunj called Rastoke. This was a real hidden gem as there were waterfalls galore intermixed with gristmills, cafes, restaurants and guesthouses. If we ever want to sleep on top of a waterfall, this would be the place.
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is another colorful eastern European city. It’s easy to get around and very walkable. The streets are clean with lots of squares, parks and sidewalk cafes. The daily market was lively with lots to offer. There were numerous museums including one that was a bit out of the ordinary.
Our first 2 nights were spent at Apartments Andrea in Rovinj. It was a large apartment providing more space than what we’ve become accustomed to. It was spotlessly clean making it feel brand new. The a/c was excellent while the wifi was fair.
We spent 3 nights at “Private House San Korana” in Korana. Upon arrival, the owner Ivica welcomed us with a beer and filled us in the key things to do and see in the area. We were back in an attic that we shared with a mouse, ants, spiders and mosquitos. The accommodations were basic but functional. There was no a/c but it really cooled down at night. The shower and the wifi were poor. The best thing about this place was its location just outside Plitvice Lakes National Park. The cascading water just outside our window served as our white noise to sleep at night (until the dogs woke us up early in the morning with their barking). In addition to the dogs, Elizabeth also got an animal fix petting the pony and rabbits.
We finished up with 2 nights at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Zagreb. We had a well-appointed room with decent a/c and excellent wifi. The highly rated hotel restaurant was a disappointment while the rooftop gym was among the best we’ve seen on our trip.
The Mediterranean food has been scrumptious. We enjoyed good seafood and an Italian influence was noticeable in many dishes. We were especially pleased to start finding turkey available once again. The fish is often sold by its weight before it is prepared. Thus we got to meet John Dory before we ate him. Then, they brought out a plate with his bones along with the meal.
Wine selection was usually limited to local Croatian wines. We tried a number of local whites and reds. The white wines were refreshing but we were disappointed in the local red varietals (e.g., Dingac and Plavac). A waiter sold us on a local cuvee consisting of Merlot, Syrah and Grenache. It turned out to be the best local wine that we shared.
We hopped on another Ryanair flight taking us from Paris to Pula, Croatia. We just barely made the flight, as Elizabeth kindly and deliberately helped us cut 4 lines to do so. We were impressed and grateful that fellow travelers were so accommodating. Upon arrival, we picked up a car from Avis. This time, we were given a Peugot 207. It was well broken in with 90,000 km on it. The diesel engine and manual transmission made for good fuel efficiency. We turned the car in when we got to Zagreb and used a combination of taxis, trams and buses to get around. All were convenient to use.
We express our thanks to our buddy Raymond of Toronto. We met Raymond in Taiwan early on our trip last year and he inspired us to visit Croatia and see Plitvice Lakes. Thanks Raymond!
For Your Amusement:
We read that the 2 most popular beers in Croatia are Karlovacko and Ozusko. So, we decided to do a taste test. The clear winner was Karlovacko. Although, the Ozusko draft we were served the next day was quite satisfying.
We’ve seen glue in tubes like this before but never a popular sandwich spread. If you guessed mustard, you’d be right.
Highlights: Rovinj & Plitvice Lakes.
Next Up: We’re heading northeast to Budapest, Hungary.