Croatia: Sorta Kinda Like Italy
Croatia has a pretty cool range of places to go, and different vibes.
I heard a lot about Hvar being so cool, but in the end, I did not really like it. We only stayed a couple days, because it is expensive and posh and poncy, and chock full of people. I would say that it is sort of like a swanky Ibiza. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really dig it... and I do not like Ibiza.
Everyone likes to go hang out at the marina and see the luxury yachts. To be honest, that does not appeal to me very much, so we ate some seafood there – Croatia has probably the best fish soup in the world! – and watched the yachters, but that does not do very much for me. Fish soup does a lot for me, and I had black squid pasta, which uses the black ink from a squid, so you get a big, black bowl of soupy pasta, and it turns your teeth black during lunch, which is kind of funny.
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The one really cool thing in Hvar is the famous club there, which is a castle on the very top of a big hill. So at night you walk up this huge hill, usually with a beer in your hand, and you party inside of a castle. They have cool lights set up outside like any club, but it is actually a medieval castle.
Dubrovnik was overrun with tourists when we went in June-ish. I got upset, it was so touristy. The main area - with all the cool historical stuff - had huge signs with all the different flags and menus with pictures of burgers and English fry-ups. I felt like we were totally brutalizing their culture.
That being said, there were cool things to see in Dubrovnik, the most famous being the old city walls. Some of them are as old as being from the 13th century, and it really is amazing to see something so old and amazingly strong. You can walk around and see places where cannons have fired into the walls and put dents or holes in them… pretty cool!
There is a beautiful fountain at the entrance to the old city, and that is one of the top tourist spots. Also, there are two famous monasteries that you can check out if you like religion.
Take a hike to the very top of the city walls. If you are in reasonably good shape, it will take about 45 minutes to get up there. Then you should just walk around the city and look down. Dubrovnik is SO beautiful from above. You can see the old town, the walls, and also people swimming in the sea, below, in the bluest water you can ever imagine.
One really fun thing you can do – although to be honest, it is somewhat dangerous – is to go to a cliff bar, and there are two that I saw. They are both called Buza – or maybe that is the word for bar, I really do not know – but you can go get a beer and a little bit of food, and do one of two things: either watch people jumping off the cliff walls, or actually do the crazy thing, and jump off the cliff walls. It is a LONG way down to the bottom, and I did meet a guy later, in Hvar, whose friend was in the hospital after breaking her back doing this exact jump. However, we saw dozens of people jumping, and aside from some very very painful belly flop incidents, no one was ever injured at all. I guess everything comes with risks, but jumping off a cliff, into rocky sea water, is probably a little more risky than most… though it is a lot more fun than simply crossing the street. J It is VERY important when you jump to push yourself out hard enough that you do not hit the rocks. This sounds obvious, but after you have been hiking around the old city all day, then drinking beers in the sun, it might not occur to you. By the way, my friend’s friend who broke her back did not hit a rock, she just fell badly on the water.
Moving right along… We got a rental car in Croatia, and it made everything so easy. The roads are in fantastic shape – I think we heard that all the roads had recently been redone, and it looked like that rumor was true. I loved driving through, just stopping in smaller towns, even not on the coast, which is what Croatia is now famous for. Croatia is a weird mix of beach culture that looks like Italy and a more land locked vibe that smacks of being is quite Eastern European, with goulash and stews galore.
I think Croatia is beautiful, and though it actually is not nearly as cheap as you would expect it to be – in terms of cost, it is up there with Italy. I mean to say that there are unspoiled parts you can find, and I just loved the more authentic areas, but there are definitely extremely touristy areas that I did not love, and being a Westerner, I sort of felt like it was my fault. I heard that no one has been to Croatia, and it is undiscovered, but that honestly just was not true.
One place that IS undiscovered – so far! – is Mljet. We got rid of our rental car in Dubrovnik and took a ferry to Mljet, an island off the coast. What an amazing surprise!
Mljet is completely isolated. It is a tiny, empty little island the likes of which I did not think existed. We took a ferry from Dubrovnik and then a bus to the actual town part, with people. Most of the island looks like a nature preserve. Walking around, we just found a woman renting out a sobe (room) for very cheap and rented a boat for maybe $15 per day. A little boy took our money, untied the boat, and he pointed to the throttle, which had only a picture of a turtle and a rabbit to show fast and slow, and we drove a friggin’ boat straight into the Adriatic by ourselves. It was totally magical…. Was it safe? Well, I am not entirely certain of that, but it was certainly fun.
We stayed in a part of the island that had some old Roman ruins, which was just so cool. There was nothing set up – no tourist station, no one with brochures – so you literally just walked into Roman ruins. There were fallen columns and cool carvings, and we got to touch everything. I have to say that you really should be respectful – do not be rough with these old, precious things. Do not sit on them. For pete’s sake, do not kick them. Just enjoy being so close to something so amazingly historic and special.
I heard that there is a really swanky resort on the other side of the island, where we did not go. I also heard there was great scuba diving there. For us, we just took out our boat and got in the water off the coast. You could see for what looked like an eternity, the water was so clear.
We found someone in Mljet who spoke English, and we had heard about a place called the Odysseus Cave, and he took us there on a tour. There are so many different types of wildlife, you will not believe your eyes!!!
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