Montenegro

Hello everyone!

It is hard for me to kick-off this post in a way that adequately conveys how much we loved our time in Montenegro. It is an incredible country with so much to offer. Hopefully by the end of this post I will do the country justice and have you all adding Montenegro to your list of countries not to miss!

We arrived from our short, but incredibly expensive bus ride from Dubrovnik ($26.51 CAD for a 2.5 hour trip!) To the small town of Kotor. Stepping off the bus and walking into the town we were mesmerized by the incredible beauty around us. The 360° view surrounding the town of Kotor is one of the most impressive to date. Stunning mountains with limestone cliffs, a historic fortress atop a cliff, and of course the bay itself. There is a great debate about whether the bay of Kotor is a fjord or not, with the current decision being that it is not. Despite the battle over its classification, it will wow you none-the-less.

image

We hadn’t booked accomodation ahead of time but had the address of Old Town Hostel and went to check it out. It is located within the walls of the old town, where immediately you are brought into another world upon entering.

image

We were warmly welcomed by the staff and told of their winter promotion; stay 3 nights and get 2 nights free! We were originally planning on only staying 2 nights, but after our first day and night in Kotor we realized we needed to take advantage of this promotion. (Also, our hangover did not permit us to do anything on our second day in Kotor, more on that later.)

The Old Town Hostel is separarted into two buildings, the East and West wing. Both parts are in a building built in the 13th century with many interesting artifacts located throughout the buildings. Really, really cool hostel that is fully equipped with everything you need, and the most amazing staff. If you are headed to Kotor make sure you stay here, you won’t be sorry.

After checking in we headed to grab a bite to eat at a local place that is referred to as “the butcher” which was recommended by the hostel staff. The story of the butcher is that originally he was operating only a butcher shop, but a large supermarket opened up a few towns over and began selling meat for a lower price than he could even obtain an animal for. Rather than be driven out of business he decided to turn his butcher shop into a small restaurant as well, providing both BBQ and roasted meat. There are only 3 tables in the place, and they are rarely empty. For 5 euro you can pick any type of meat you want which will be grilled infront of you, along with a side of potatoes that are slow roasted in the drippings of roasting chickens for 12 hours, a salad, and a massive bun of homemade bread. The butcher is also what you would picture a butcher to be, a massive man with a very intimidating accent. He seemed impressed with our ability to finish our meals, and insisted on giving us more potatoes. We barely were able to walk out of there. If you are in Kotor, eat there! It also still functions as a butcher shop where you are able to purchase meat to cook yourself, if that appeals to you.

We staggered back to the hostel insisting we weren’t able to consume anything else for the entire day, food or liquid as we were bursting at the seams. We relaxed for a few hours and then the hostel staff broke out a bottle of Rakia, which is a fruit brandy that is the considered the national drink throughout the Balkans. The brandy can be made from plums, apples, blackberries, etc and is anywhere from 40-70%. Most families make their own Rakia throughout the Balkans. This led to an entirely hilarious night, and a very rough next day. Luckily we were (beyond) due for a laundry and catch up day, so we were somewhat productive for how rough of shape we were in.

The next day was a much more productive day, starting with a trip to the fortress atop the hill that overlooks Kotor. It definitely was akin to a stairmaster workout, we could feel our thighs burning on the way to the top. We were rewarded with incredible views every step of the way so it made it more than worth it. When we reached the top there was only 4 other people there, with 2 going back down shortly after we arrived. We stayed for a few hours at the top, taking in the breathtaking view and marveling in the fact that it was completely free. Kotor is (in my humble opinion) infinitely more beautiful than Dubrovnik, and so much cheaper! Check out the photos below, they will speak for themselves!
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

After our venture to the fortress we headed to the walls of the old town which are also free to walk. It was definitely a shorter walk than it would be in Dubrovnik, but still fantastic. When we arrived back to the hostel we met two other travelers who were arranging a tour of the country for the next day. Usually Chris and I avoid tours if at all possible, but for 29€ a local tour guide would take us on a 9 hour tour around the country seeing a major portion of the country. We enjoyed our tour on Hvar Island so much and this tour sounded very similar, so we decided to go for it. Although it did blow our entire daily budget, it fell on one of the days where we were staying for free, so it was not an issue. We headed to bed early that night to ensure we were well rested for the next day.

Our tour started at 9am with our first stop being the town of Perast. Perast is famous for the two tiny islands in the middle of the bay a short distance from its shores. The first island is St. George which is a natural island and has a small chapel and a graveyard, where locals are still being buried to this day. The second island is a man-made island called Our Lady Of The Rocks, and our tour guide told us it was created by sailors over the years throwing rocks for good luck into the bay at that point for luck on their voyages. A chapel was then built on top and today it is a major tourist attraction.

image

image

Our tour guide was quite the character and had us entertained the entire day. He chain smoked like no one I have ever met and had hilarious tales of why Serbians live long. His granny is 94 and starts each day with 2 shots of rakia, smokes 3 packs a day, and he claims it is those very things that keeps her alive!

After stopping to view the islands we headed towards the mountains and were rewarded with a different perspective of the islands from above.

image

Our next stop was to view the Salt lake which, ironically enough, is a fresh water lake. It was a beautiful view and allowed our guide to inhale 2 cigs while telling us all his drunken stories from parties on the lake.

image

We then stopped for a coffee and bakery break. For 1.5€ each we had an excellent coffee and delicious cherry danish and nutella filled croissant. Did I mention how much we love Montenegro? We couldn’t find a crappy expresso in Italy for that price!

We continued on our way towards the Ostrog Monestary. The ride there was very reminiscent of traveling in South America; the road barely wide enough for two cars to pass, sickening switchbacks carving their way up a mountain, and of course, cliffs on either side without any type of guard rail providing stomach clenching views. Stay tuned for an epic GoPro video. The Ostrog Monestary is carved directly into the mountain and has incredible views of the surrounding valley and mountains.

image

image

image

image

We continued on to the town of Cetinje where there is a very famous monestary. Within the monestary there are numerous relics of importance to the history of Montenegro, and one peculiar relic; the right hand of John the Baptist. The hand is only on display for holidays, so we were not able to see it, but we found it rather interesting the hand is kept there. We walked around the very cute little town and then gladly sat down for a traditional lunch. I do not know the name of the meal, but in essence it was meat, stuffed with another type of meat and cheese, with a massive amount of cheese on top. (Fat free 😉 The homemade bread that accompanied the meal was unlike any other bread we have encountered; it was spongy almost like a sponge cake, but tasted like bread. Our tour guide enjoyed a beer, to which he grabbed the salt shaker and added an inordinate amount of salt to the beer (while continuing to chain smoke). Montenegro people must have good genetics because their lifestyle habits are doing them no favors! His claim was the salt was good for his throat. Perhaps Dr.Oz will confirm that in a future episode.

After lunch it began to downpour, so we made our way slowly back to Kotor stopping every now and again to try and take in some of the views through the fog.

We were very satisified with the tour, we were able to see so much of the country that we otherwise would have missed. We left at 9 am and returned at 6pm, and if hadn’t been for the rain it would have been even longer. The tour guide was a riot, as well as very knowledgeable. In high season the price is higher, as to be expected. For the same tour it would have been 55€.

For those of you wondering, my pharmacist skills did kick in and I asked the guide how many cigarettes he smokes a day. His answer? A pack. (I witnessed him smoke a pack and 3/4) His secret to good health? Rakia. I will say no more!

The following day we did some planning for the upcoming days and figured out how we were going to catch the train to Belgrade. We went out that evening for a few beers before turning in for an early evening.

The following day we tried Burek, a traditional food throughout the Balkans. It is like a meat pie, but in a pastry form. Very delicious. We then caught the bus to Bar, about an hour and a half away and 7€ ride. We then bought tickets for the nighttrain to Belgrade. I will save that “adventure” for my Serbia post.

So- did I convince you? Will you be adding Montenegro to your next EuroTour itinerary?

Look out for my post on our time in Belgrade in the next few days!

Kathleen

Croatia Budget

Budget pp/d: $40 CAD

Number of days spent in Croatia: 13

Actual expenditure pp/d: $37.99

Cheap things: Hostels, Groceries, items at bakeries, beer (2L of beer for under $2 CAD), wine, and most importantly: all of the amazing things we did in Croatia were free! We did not pay admission to anything except the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Expensive things: Buses were incredibly expensive throughout all of Croatia! For a 2 hour busride it was $27 CAD! Ouch. They always charge 7-8 kuna ($1.20 to 1.48) on top of the bus ticket to store each bag under the bus. Eating out was also very expensive, we cooked pretty much all of our meals during our time in Croatia.

Chris’ Corner #2: Fun at Kathleen’s Expense

Bok (hello),

And welcome to instalment 2 of Chris’ Corner.

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks through Croatia and I have had the time, but not the energy, to write this post.  But, after being called out today by Kathleen in her post, it provided me with the necessary motivation. Oddly enough, a big night last night of Serbian grape liquor has also provided me with motivation to write this, in a last ditch effort to be able to label this write-off of a day as a “productive day”.

Shall I set the scene for this epic tale to follow:

The debacle starts 10 days ago during our stay at Plitvice National Park, Croatia.  We had not eaten much all day, and were starved for a big supper.  We had brought groceries with us, and cooked up a pesto pasta to curb our appetite after a big day of hiking.  I had the bright idea of adding some winter salami to the pasta (which we had left over from making sandwiches). There was one hiccup- when I fried it up to add it to the pesto, it released all of its salt into the pan, and made the pesto taste literally as if I dumped a kilo of salt in it. It was not edible- and coming from me that is saying a lot. We scarfed down what we could manage without throwing up, threw the rest out, and spent the rest of the night lying in bed with massive tummy aches and blood pressures bordering on a hypertensive crisis.

The next morning we woke up thirsty, hungry, but without much remaining groceries and were faced with the insurmountable obstacle that lie before us: a 7 hour bus trip to Split.  Our only respite was that Kathleen and I made a pact to treat ourselves to a massive and delicious meals as soon as we arrived in Split.  For those of you who follow the blog, you know how big of a deal this is for us to say “screw the budget, we are going big tonight! We deserve it!”

The bus ride was as can be expected: continually more hungry, thirsty, and tired but getting through it because of that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- that big meal.

We arrive to split and get a recommendation for a restaurant from the hostel worker. The recommendation was to a restaurant with “regional traditional food. Both meat and fresh seafood. Very delicious and serving sizes so big you won’t be able to finish.” I am thinking “hell ya, teleport me over there”. We pretty well sprint over there and looking around the restaurant, the meals looked delicious.  I settled on the “mixed grill” and Kathleen opted for the “pan fried fish” which a lady at the next table over was eating. It looked delicious.

We were basically salivating as we waited for our food, the meal that we had been dreaming about for the whole day. Mind you, at this point, we had barely ate for the preceding 48 hours and spent a day hiking and a 7 hour bus ride.

The food arrives and my plate consisted of a large serving of French fries, a chicken breast, a pork chop, a steak, a foot long sausage, and a hamburger: PERFECT. I dived in.

Now this is where the punch line comes in. I looked at the plate that is handed to Kathleen and am trying not to laugh hysterically. I cannot do it justice in words, so instead I have included some pictures for your viewing privilege. Basically, it looked like they took whatever the fisherman had straight from the boat, right into the fry pan. No need for any North American customs like  filleting the fish, cutting off their heads, deboning them, etc etc. Just a massive plate of various seafood, a lot of which was a mystery of what it even was.  I thought Kathleen might burst into tears, but instead she handled it like the champ she is, saddled up, and dove right into it as if it was no big thang.  She was hating every second of it and was so devastated, but she didn’t want to give me the satisfaction of showing it. She managed to eat everything except 15 fish (yes, there was about 60 pieces of seafood to start).

I am guessing that the lady next to us had not ordered the “pan fried fish” even though, her meal literally was a pan fried fish.

I passed the time laughing and taking pictures, but I did the romantic thing and donated my beer to her cause, considering she needed to be a bit drunk in order to take on the plate in front of her.

I won’t say anything more than that: the photos below tell the tale better than I ever could.

The kicker to it all is when the bill shows up. Her meal cost about 14 dollars canadian. It was the most expensive meal she has eaten all trip. That was the last straw: she was visibly distressed.

Hopefully this brightens up your Monday, and for those of you who know Kathleen well , I am certain you will get a good chuckle out of it.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Until next time,
Chris

Croatia: Part 2

Hello everyone!

Continuing from where I left off on the last post, we were able to catch a bus from entrance #1 at Plitvice down the country to Split where we stayed 3 nights. Split isn’t usually a place people recommend staying any length of time as most people are of the opinion you can see all the things to see in a few hours and then move on. It is very under-rated in our opinion as we loved the vibe of the city and found there was plenty to fill your days with.

Our first day we spent the morning wandering through the open air market and exploring Diocletian’s Palace which was built at the end of the 4th century and is still in use today as there are many shops, apartments and homes that are located in the palace. It is incredibly beautiful and it is so mind-blowing how functional it still is. We bought groceries at the supermarket in the palace and it was an exceptional experience, we felt like royalty!

image

image

image

We then made our way to Marjan, the hill on the small peninsula in Split with a beautiful view of the city and tons of walking trails. We walked for several hours in the +17 degree sunshine, stopping at several benches to relax and soak it all in. We came across old monasteries that were built into the side of a cliff, and stumbled upon a gorgeous beach that we dipped our feet in the stunningly clear water to test the temperature, which was definitely too cold to swim in. A stay in Split should definitely include a trip to the top of Marjan, it was a great way to spend the day.

image

image

image

image

image

After our hike we had our first go at making almond chicken, which has become an easy staple in our backpacking recipe rotation. I will leave sharing the recipe up to Chris who promises to also blog today.

The following day we caught the 2pm catamaran from Split to Hvar town on Hvar island. We debated about which island to visit as there are numerous that all have different things to offer, but in the end we went with Hvar as it is the most popular (in summer) so we figured people must flock to it for a reason, and we thought it had the most potential to have restauarants and bars open in the middle of winter, as most islands pretty much shut down in winter. We also discussed seeing 2 islands, with a night on each, but in the end we opted to stay for 3 nights all on Hvar island to relax and not feel like we were rushing around. These were excellent decisions.

We stayed at the hostel called The Shaka which is owned by Amir who is a beauty of a guy. (For those of you wondering I am only mentioning hostels we had exceptional experiences at and strongly recommend.) Amir upgraded us from dorm beds to a private apartment with a kitchen and balcony that was amazing to watch the sunset!

image

We mentioned to him we were interested in wineries on the island as I had read they have ideal growing conditions as Hvar is the sunniest place in Croatia with over 2800 hours of sunshine per year (on average) and therefore produce some exceptional wines. Amir called around to try and get us a few tastings but everywhere was closed. He then offered to take us in his car on a tour of the island and to give us wine that his family produces. It was a no brainer for us to take him up on this offer – what better way to enjoy the island! We headed out at 10 am the next day and drove along both the old and new roads on the island and were able to see the entire thing in a little over 2 hours. It was so beautiful! He also told us a lot of the history of the island which was very interesting, they had a massive fire a few years ago that destroyed all of the lavendar plants on the island which was a massive loss as they were a huge producer of lavendar oil which is very expensive.

image

After our tour we went for a walk all along the coast enjoying the sunshine and fantastic views. The slow pace of island life always breathes new life into me.

We received 1.5 L of red wine and 1.5 L of white wine. I much enjoyed the white, but wasn’t as much a fan of the red. For the whole island tour and the 3 L of wine he only charged us 80 kuna!

The following day we walked the opposite way all along the coast and found a bench sheltered from the wind where we relaxed for most of the afternoon. Two of the most easy going days of the trip!
image
image

That evening we hiked up to the fortress that overlooks the town for yet another spectacular view of the town.
image

We then splurged on a bottle of wine, paying $14 CAD (usually we go for the $2 CAD bottles). Chris had researched which type we should get and also how to know we were getting a quality wine. In Croatia they label wines as follows:
1) Stolno (ordinary table wine)
2) Kvalitetno (quality wine)
3) Vrhunsko (premium quality)

This classification system is then followed by the type of grape. We tried a Vrhunsko Plavac Mali, as the plavac mali grape is a relative of the zinfandel and is one of the more famous types wines produced on Hvar.

It was well worth the splurge. It was an outstanding wine and we paired it with dark swiss chocolate.
image

The following day we caught the 7:30 am catamaran back to Split, and then a bus at 10:00 am to Dubrovnik. Thankfully in Split the boats leave from the same place as the buses, so it was a very easy connection. If you are ever looking for delicious, cheap food by the boats/buse go to the Take Away Cafe. We had incredible chicken wraps for 12 Kuna which is around $2 CAD. They also have amazing donuts.

Our bus to Dubrovnik took around 4.5 hours and was uneventful. We had booked an apartment on booking.com called Tina Apartments, and we had agreed to meet at 3:30. Chris and I were there at 2:30, and waited until 4:15 before we decided to make other arrangements as it was clear the person was not showing up to deal with our booking. We stumbled through the old town where I was able to steal some Wi-Fi from a restaurant to find directions to a hostel. We finally arrived at the hostel which had only re-opened for the year the day before so the poor worker was very overwhelmed. I took the time waiting to get checked in to contact Tina Apartments to let them know how long we waited and that we had to make other arrangements, and I received an email that they had “only just arrived home from waiting for us” and they asked where we were as they could come meet us now. I highly doubt that they had even come to meet us, as we were definitely at the right place and no one was there. I have since checked my credit card and they have charged me for the nights stay as they called it a room cancellation! So angry. Obviously, do not book with them.

The hostel was acceptable, Dubrovnik is just overpriced. It was $22 CAD each for a dorm bed. Insanity. The next day we woke up to the sounds of pouring rain. We had a long conversation about whether to stay an extra night (we had planned to leave for Montenegro that same day) and sightsee the following day, or just say forget it and head out the same day. It came down to the fact we didn’t have much kuna left and didn’t want to get dinged to withdraw more, and the fact we didn’t enjoy the feel of Dubrovnik. I know that sounds crazy, but sometimes places just don’t feel right. We packed up and headed to the bus station to catch a bus to Kotor, Montenegro and couldn’t have been happier with our decision, Kotor is unbelievable.

Sadly, this means we did not walk the famous walls of Dubrovnik featured in Game of Thrones. (It costs 100 kuna to do this so I doubt we would have anyway- so expensive!!!) We did get an incredible view of Dubrovnik on the bus ride though- more than makes up for it!

Worth mentioning is we were hassled by the border guard leaving Croatia for “not reporting our stay in Croatia within 2 days of arriving.” This carries a 500 kuna (80 €) fine, which he thankfully did not enforce. Not a single person mentioned this to us at any point in time, and we crossed Croatia’s border many, many times. I therefore have no idea if it is legit or he is FOS, but it would be worth asking when you arrive to your first hostel.

Summary: Croatia is unbelievable. If you can, make a point of coming here. This is the first place so far on this trip we will 100% return too. Apparently mid-June and the end of August/start of September are the best times to visit as the weather is beautiful, you can swim, and there aren’t as many people. Be warned however, that prices will be much higher than what we paid. Our hostel in Split cost us 55 kuna for a dorm bed, and in high season that same bed is 300-400 kuna a night. Ouch! Transportation is expensive within Croatia, and it does increase in high season as well.
If you aren’t chasing summer, a visit in winter is fantastic as well. Even though it is the middle of winter the weather was fantastic, prices were rock bottom, and we had most places to ourselves. If you like a bit of adventure, coming in winter is highly recommended.

I will post the budget for our time spent in Croatia a little later.

Cheers,
Kathleen

Croatia: Part 1

Hello everyone!

I am very excited to recap our time in Croatia for you all as we enjoyed our time in this country immensely. I am splitting the post into 2 as it would otherwise be a monster of a post!

Our first stop was in Pula which is in the north of the country along the coast. We stayed at a wonderful AirBnB apartment halfway between the coast and the old town. We spent the first day enjoying the beautiful sunshine and +12 degree weather walking along the coast on a beautiful pedestrian walkway. We sat down and enjoyed the sunset before heading back to the apartment to cook supper.

image

image

The next day we headed out to explore a bit of Pula, which is a rather sleepy place in the wintertime. We did have the amphitheater basically to ourselves to admire from the outside, as it was too expensive to go in considering you could see it all from the outside!

image

image

Unfortunately, it did rain for the next day and a half so we took the time to re-charge our batteries in the private apartment. As fun and cheap as hostels are, it is important to take a timeout and have your own space periodically while traveling. The rain was a blessing in ways as it forced us to stay inside and relax, as we headed to Italy/Germany from Pula and were non-stop for almost 2 weeks!

From Germany we were awake for an unprecedented 48 hours making our way back to Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, but we arrived safe and sound to the very homey feeling hostel by the name of Mali Mrak. It is nestled in the suburbs of Zagreb, and is run by Igor who is an absolute fantastic host who is very passionate about his country and went out of his way to accommodate us. The first way he did this was upgrading us for free from a dorm to a private room with the most comfy bed! He said since it is winter it would just be empty so he was more than happy for us to occupy it. Depending on how you look at it it is either a very good or very bad business decision, but for us it was definitely a good one. We were thrilled and thus left good reviews, I am writing this blog post, we tell people to stay there etc. I definitely think it comes back around.

We spent our first day in Zagreb exploring the city and stopping in at the Museum of Broken Relationships. This was a definite highlight of our visit to Zagreb, it is one of the most unique experiences we have had. You can google to find out more about it, but in essence it was started to provide an outlet for people to deal with failed relationships through creation. Each exhibit was an item with a written story explaining its significance. Some explanations were only a word or sentence, others nearly a page. Also included was where the relationship took place and how long it lasted. As you made your way through the exhibits you felt so many emotions, your heart heavy with the sadness in each article donated to the museum. I have never had such a personal experience in a museum, I suppose that is how true lovers of art feel. It was powerful and very thought provoking. A very real reminder to appreciate all the relationships you have in your life (it wasn’t just romantic relationships, also relationships with parents, friends etc). If you are in Zagreb- go to this museum!

image

To deal with all this emotion we headed to a local brewery called Medvedgrad (half kidding) for lunch and to sample their beer. Both were well worth it! We had two traditional dishes, goulash soup and a specific type of pasta topped with sausage, sour cream and chives. I personally enjoyed the pasta dish a lot, it was very simple and had a lot of flavor. The beer sampler allowed us to try their 6 beers, of which we loved their light beer and one of their darker beers. It was a perfect drowning of our sorrows.

image

After lunch we continued our walk around Zagreb and ended the day at Amèlie, a cake shop that is rated the #1 thing to do in Zagreb on tripadvisor. This is a well deserved ranking. It is decorated perfectly, I just loved all of the furniture and pictures on the wall. The cakes were out of this world amazing. Both workers said their favorite cake was the brownie, which Chris and I were somewhat hesitant about as we often find super chocolate-y things to be too rich, but decided to try it as if it is both workers say it is their favorite it must be good. It was not at all what we expected it to be. It was not heavy like a cake, nor dense like a brownie. It was a hybrid between a pudding and a fudge consistency, and melt in your mouth heavenly. It was $3 CAD for a slice and worth every penny.

image

image

That evening we made carbonara pasta and relaxed after our very full day of exploring.

The next day it was beautifully sunny and warm so we decided to get outside and do some hiking. A kiwi had done a hike a few days earlier and had suggested it, so we headed to catch the trams to make our way to the “mountain.” We killed ourselves laughing when we got off the final tram as our instructions were to head towards the “mountain” to catch the trail, but there was no mountain, just three measly hills. We had no idea which way to go but eventually just tried all options until we found the way. The first half of the hike was a bit of a let down as we were hiking on a logging road with really nothing interesting to see, but it was nice to be outdoors. Half way through it was like a line was drawn and all of a sudden we were immersed in a winter wonderland! It was so bizzare. The trail was a bit difficult to navigate as it was compacted down so much that it was like walking on a sheet of ice, but we kept on. We made it to the top in about an hour and 45 minutes, where we found a ski hill and tons of Croatians cross-country skiing as well. We walked about 2 km down the road to find a restaurant recommended to us by Igor, where we enjoyed a bean and sausage soup with the equivalent of 2 loaves of bread, and 2 beers. Great reward for the hike. We asked the bartender about catching the bus down and were given somewhat vague instructions, so we headed back to the start of the trail to try and figure out the bus. Of course, no body had any answers or even knew where to wait for the bus. By this time it was 3:15 pm and we were concerned about whether or not a bus was even going to show up, and then the risk of having to hike in the dark. We made the decision to book it back down the trail while there was still lots of light. It was a very entertaining “hike” down as it was so icy it felt more like skiing. It took us only 50 minutes to make it all the way to the bottom! We then caught the trams back to the hostel and turned in early for the evening.

image

image

image

Funny story about the tram ride back: we bought tickets for the tram our first day in Zagreb and caught on very quick that nobody validates their tickets like they are suppose to when getting on the tram. We decided to only buy those tickets, not validate them, and plead ignorant if caught. On the tram ride back there was a ticket inspector with a very official badge that demanded to see our tickets. I don’t know if she simply didn’t care they weren’t validated, or didn’t know enough English to fine us for not validating them, but she let us off without an issues. She did fine basically the entire rest of the tram, so we were very lucky!

The next day was Valentine’s Day, which we spent most of relaxing and planning the rest of our time in Croatia, and also part of our Africa leg as one of our flights was pulled so we needed to do a bit of research. That evening we made carbonara pasta, drank champagne, and headed back to Amèlie for a few slices of cake. Valentine’s day isn’t particularly a special occasion for us, but we had a lovely day and spoke often about how lucky we are to be on this amazing adventure together.

The following day we headed to Plitvice Lakes National Park bright and early on the 7:30 am bus. We almost didn’t get on the bus as all the tickets were sold out, but we were the first ones on the platform as the ticket attendant suggested we just go and try to get on, and the bus drivers said no problem just go on the bus and you can buy the tickets on it. Great! We counted ourselves lucky. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a debacle as they over-sold the bus by 1 seat and so one unlucky soul had to stand the 2.5 hours to the park.

We found it hard to find information about the park, how to get there, where to stay etc. Luckily, Igor was wonderul and looked up what time the buses were going, and set us up with a beautiful apartment to stay at. There was numerous buses that were going throughout the day, so it wouldn’t be a problem getting there. In terms of where to stay, 7 minutes walking from the park entrance #1 there is a road called Rastovaca where every single house is advertising rooms for rent. My suggestion if you can’t have your hostel book you somewhere in advance is to just walk down that road and knock on doors until you find a place! We stayed at House Ana which is number 22, and had a beautiful apartment with a kitchen for $22 CAD each. It was so conveinently located, all the apartments listed on hostelworld were super far from the park entrance, so this was perfect. My only suggestion would be to bring groceries with you (which we did) as I have no idea where the closest supermarket would be.

Plitvice Lakes was one of my must-do items for this trip. I can’t remember when I first heard of the park, but ever since I have wanted to go. We were unsure what it would be like to visit in the winter, but it was breathtakingly beautiful and again, there was barely any tourists. We were told that in high season people que in line to make their way down the walkways! It seemed we had the park to ourselves, and the price of admission was 55 kuna whereas in summer it is 180 kuna! Crazy!

What I will say about visiting in the winter is the walk ways are not very well maintained, and considering you are walking along a cliff the icy conditions were not ideal. It felt more like an adventure, but a rather unnecessarily dangerous one. In winter you aren’t suppose to go down into the gorge, they have the walk ways closed off, but everyone goes around them and goes down anyway. It was definitely icy getting down, but very well worth it. You can walk out through the lakes and waterfalls which give incredible views. We spent three hours making our way throughout the parts of the park that were open (there is a large section that is closed in winter, but you see the largest and most impressive waterfalls) before heading back to the apartment to make supper and relax. It was a fantastic day and I am very happy we were able to make it to the park. My only other suggestion to those looking to visit in winter would be to make sure the park will be open when you are looking to go! The week before our visit it was closed completely.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Stay tuned for part 2 of our time in Croatia! Hopefully I will have it up tomorrow.

Cheers,
Kathleen