Croatian Adventures, Part II – Plitvice & Zagreb

One of my first views of Plitvice National Park

Nothing says “Welcome to Plitvice!” quite like this view.  After a 5-hour bus ride from Split to Plitvice (pronounced pleet-vitse, based on the Croatian pronunciations I heard on the trip), we arrived at the park in the early afternoon on Saturday eager to explore and see all the lakes and waterfalls.  Although we didn’t have quite enough time to see everything, we walked along the trails for a solid few hours and took lots and lots of pictures.  Here are my (many) favorites.

Autumn in Plitvice

Reflections

Gorgeous trails

Autumn leaves and waterfalls

You know you’re good roommates when you can travel together without killing each other (and get along well – that too!).

See the hint of a rainbow?

The trail took us around most of the lake, so we got to see this view from every angle.

Happy

The side of Plitvice you usually see in pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go down there – next time! (Note: this is when my camera died…poor quality iPhone 3 pictures starting with this one.)

THE BIG ONE from afar!

Close up of the big waterfall.

We ended our afternoon in Plitvice Lakes National Park at the big waterfall, and then headed back up to the main entrance to catch our bus to Zagreb.  I was exhausted at that point, so I knocked out on the bus.  Once we arrived in Zagreb, we took a taxi to our hostel and then went out to dinner.  The hostel receptionist recommended a place nearby for Croatian food (where  the servers don traditional Croatian dress), so we headed there and enjoyed an amazing meal.

Starter: Pumpkin soup with homemade croutons

Starter: meat and cheese filled pastry (if I remember correctly..)

Main course: Sesame-covered turkey fillets with mashed potatoes and a cucumber yogurt sauce

It was quite late by the end of our meal (we’ve caught on to the whole European long dinner thing) and pretty chilly out, so we decided to go back to the hostel and get some good sleep before our early morning the next day.

On our way to the train station before daylight on Sunday, we passed through the square that our hostel was right next to.  Too bad we couldn’t stay in Zagreb longer!

A “piazza” in Zagreb

Sunday was full of travel – we started out before sunrise and arrived in Rome after dark.  Along the way, we passed through Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and Italy via 2 trains and 2 buses.  Quite the adventure.  But it sure was beautiful!

View of Austria from our bus to Venice!

Another breath-taking view.

All in all, a wonderful trip to Croatia.  I already want to go back (Dubrovnik, you’re next!).

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Croatian Adventures, Part I – Split & Trogir

Last weekend my roommate and I hopped across the Adriatic to Croatia… well, ‘hopped’ makes it sound deceivingly short and simple.  We actually took a 12-hour, overnight ferry from Ancona, a port town on the eastern coast of Italy.

All aboard! Taking the overnight Blue Line ferry from Ancona to Split.

View of the port from inside the ferry

It was a really long ferry ride, but I luckily slept through most of it (when I wasn’t working on my essay due Monday, that is).  Besides, the view from the deck in the morning made it completely worth it.

The first thing I saw when I walked out onto the deck in the morning, just as we were approaching Split. Good morning, Adriatic!

Close-up of the coast

Enjoying the view

Once we disembarked and went through passport control, we set out to find our hostel (and took lots of pictures along the way, of course).

Split, Croatia

The boardwalk!

Not a cloud in the sky

Our hostel was awesome – it was a really clean and spacious converted apartment unit run by a friendly young woman who lived upstairs.  It’s called Sweet and Cheap for anyone planning on going to Split anytime soon, and we booked through hostelworld.com (hostelbookers.com is also good).  After dropping off our stuff, we headed to the farmer’s market we had passed on our way.

Farmer’s market in Split

Farmer’s market in Split

There, I bought ingredients for a delicious trail mix – almonds, hazelnuts, and dried pineapple and papaya pieces (a very non-GORP GORP, if you catch my drift).  Snacks in hand, we set out to explore Split.

Courtyard in front of Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian’s Palace and Mausoleum (I think..)

Diocletian’s Garden (note the bag of trail mix)

The fish market in Split

The streets of Split

We stopped for lunch at a very non-touristy restaurant (or so we’d like to think), which the receptionist at the tourist information office recommended for authentic, traditional Croatian food.  Then, we decided to find the beach.  Always a good decision when it’s sunny and warm out.

Stuffed Pljeskavica, grilled minced meat steak stuffed with cheese and served with ajvar (the red pepper paste above) and onion

View of the train tracks leading into Split (on the way to the beach)

Beautiful, clear Croatian water

The beach – what better way to enjoy the perfect weather?

Soakin’ up some sun on the other side of the Adriatic

The beach

After we had our fill of laying out under the sun, we decided to go to Trogir, the historic town just a half an hour bus ride from Split.  It was a quiet little town with less of the cruise ship tourists and not terribly much to see — but worth a visit nonetheless.  We took our time just wandering around until sunset.

Trogir

Trogir

The ‘boardwalk’ in Trogir – not nearly as buzzing as in Split, but beautiful nonetheless

A soccer field, old fortress remains, and mountains (with the ocean just to the left). Just beautiful.

Sunset in Trogir

After sunset we headed back to Split for dinner, which ended up being one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe thus far.  We shared a champagne and smoked cheese risotto and that night’s special, a lentil and sausage dish, while sitting outside in one of Split’s many cobblestone squares.  The rich and creamy risotto was perfectly balanced by the simple yet hearty lentils…delicious.

A delicious (and complimentary) cheese spread for our bread

Champagne and smoked cheese (gouda?) risotto

Lentils with sausage

It was the perfect ending to our long first day in Croatia.  Next up: day 2/3 in Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zagreb!