We’re back from 3 weeks in Croatia, with some time in adjacent countries. I don’t have the discipline to write a genuine blog, but here’s some tips we discovered. I’ve skipped places where I have nothing to say.
The squid, especially the grilled/roasted/stuffed squid is much more tender and yummier than the squid in California. The chocolate croissants are cheap, good, and available. Burek and burek-like stuff are also cheap, pretty good (it varies) and available. The strawberries are good but every basket has wildly varying ripeness, from mush to white. The local Croatian chocolate is much cheaper than the western Europe brands, and quite good. The most common vinegar is balsamic.
In mid-April through early May the farmers markets had a new-to-me vegetable: “wild asparagus”. From what I can tell by looking at the leaves, it is not an asparagus. One online link suggested it might be a hop. The woman selling it insisted “salad” so I cooked it and added vinegar—quite good. On-line recipes suggested using in egg dishes, and they were even better that way.
The ticket for the walls also covers Fort Lovrijenac aka St. Lawrence Fortress, which is west of the city and scenic. You can do the fort on a different day than the wall. I think the ticket also lets you split the wall into at least 2 different pieces, if weather or fatigue suggest that.
We took the Drvenik-->Sucuraj car ferry. It works well and is easy to find. Once you get there, there is a ticket booth that opens before each ferry. You can pull over, buy your ticket, and then get in the car line: keep driving down the ferry road, look for the line of cars parked with drivers, do a U turn and join the line. There’s also parking. We wanted a quick bite for lunch, but this was mid-April, shoulder season, and the fast food joints were closed and the cafe was for coffee/tea/beer. However, there is a supermarket close to the ferry but not visible. Walk NW on the shore road for 2 minutes and there it is.
The drive across Hvar took much longer than Google’s 1 ¼ hour. Our car’s speedometer was calibrated off by 10 kph and Mike obeys the limit mostly so we were slow, but it is also just a winding drive.
We found an apartment in the neighborhood north-east above Hvar harbor. It was great. I have written a separate review for “House David”.
The small market near the apartment had hours that turn out to be fairly common in Croatia: 7am to noon, then 5pm to 7pm, if I remember properly. Farmers markets tend to be morning only, as is true in general.
In late April, the fish market was dead. The restaurants looked like they were just for hanging out and drinking beer/coffee and smoking. The supermarket was less appealing than the ones on the mainland. But simple pasta dishes and wine with our spectacular terrace apartment view kept us happy.
We took the ferry from Stari Grad to Split. The ferry is about 1 mile outside Stari Grad and has a huge free parking lot. We parked there and walked along the pleasant seaside path to Stari Grad in order to spend some time touring the town before taking the ferry to Split.
Split is a very large city with the usual intimidating driving and parking. We stayed in the much-reviewed Apartmani Trogir and enjoyed it. We drove into Split twice. My tip: there is an attended parking area near enough to Diocletian’s Palace, for 5 kuna an hour (less than $1/hour). The advantages of an attended place are that you don’t have to guess how long you will be or have change or worry about the car contents. The place is off Plinarska Street, and Google maps says it is about 28 Plinarska. Then it is maybe a half mile to the Palace. We ate at Buffet Fife, much reviewed and excellent.
Sibenik is a good stop on the way to Zadar. Good art in the churches, and pleasant to stroll the squares and waterfront.
Zadar was much more fun than I expected. The “Greeting to the Sun” is wonderful—the local children and I felt compelled to play jump rope with the traveling lines of light, and to twirl with the clouds of light. The rowboat to the mainland substitutes a boat ride, which Mike always likes, for a longer walk, and is just cool. The “Permanent Exhibition of Church Art”, in the convent next to the Cathedral is really good: I was thrilled by the paintings, the sculptures, and the reliquaries.
Everything has been said before: the place is extraordinarily beautiful, you can do it all in one solid day, and the food is limited. Luka kuca restaurant, the snack bars, and I think the supermarket were closed once the park was closed. This left the hotel restaurants. We stayed and ate at the Jezero and got the trout because the lake was full of trout. It was pretty good, but if you don’t want white-tablecloth food you better have picnic stuff with you. The hotel offers half-board, but I don’t know the terms. If you stay at the park’s hotels you can get 2 days admittance for the price of 1. The superior rooms were not a lot more money ($10?) and fabulous view. Wifi does not work in the rooms, but does work in Jezero’s lobby. For Skype or just a quiet wifi niche, I suggest the table and chairs to the right of the main lobby, next to the stairs.
Pula: if you are conserving money, you can see the coliseum aka arena from the southern edge of it. There are parks and places to sit near by so it is easy to buy lunch from the market (near the Arch of the Sergians, due south of the arena) and bakeries and then sit and munch, looking at Roman stuff. The altarpiece in the Franciscan Monastery is truly thrilling if you have a thing for 15th century art like me.
Porec: The Basilica is really great—and free.
This is a small tourist town outside Zagreb, just over the Slovenia border. We stayed there overnight so we could return our rental car the next morning in Zagreb. It is a pleasant place, with a river, parks and walking/bicycling area, hotels, cafes, a church, small museum, and the usual baffling driving/parking in the tiny downtown—but then we were popped out of the town square area and found a parking spot and walked around. We stayed at Hotel Lavica, which had its own parking, wifi, breakfast inside or on the patio near the river, and nice staff.
The trams are free for 2 stops in any direction of Jelacica Square. This saves both money and figuring things out. This radius includes the train station.
On Saturdays the town has music and dancing at the Bandstand from 11am to 1pm, (dancing by locals who show up because they like to—really fun) and historical characters in Gradac from 5pm to 7pm explaining stuff (mostly rained out for us).
We spent more time in Zagreb than planned due to events, and I am glad we did. It helped that the rain paused for part of the time—we had a lot of rain throughout the trip. On the rain-free half day we strolled through Botanical Gardens (good turtles, one frog), the park “U”, the main square of Jelacica, the Cathedral, Kaptol & Gradec area. All very pleasant. The next day was a Saturday and there were various events scheduled, plus rain and museums for us. In the morning we did the Strossmayer Gallery, followed by the Bandstand music and dancing. Had lunch at Kerempuh—excellent tripe soup—looking over the marketplace. Got to watch the wind flip the market umbrellas. The Zagreb history museum was ...interesting...but I wouldn’t do it again. More interesting for what they choose to say and how than the specific contents—but it was raining. The organist in St. Katherine’s church was practicing (“pre-Bach” said Mike “and he’s good”) so we spent a while there. That night we went to a concert in St. Marks—very fine music and interesting seeing all the locals meet and greet each other—clearly a community. Three music events in one day, and none of them planned!
First the bus station—the airport shuttle leaves from the north end of the station. The station is big and has shops and stuff. The airport is about the same size, but has a nice park (not raining!) with benches where you can hang out if you left plenty of time.
Hope these pieces of advice are useful to someone. Thanks for all the advice that I used from tripadvisor.