Croatia road-trip [summer 2o16] || 10 days, no plan and the two of us

We were about to give up on the idea of going anywhere. We were pushing through the beginning of August with a failed plan and no idea what to do. Last minute vacations by the sea are crazy expensive. Also, unavailable. I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that everything was booked, because DUH, obviously. I was just disappointed. I know it’s not the end of the world, but the sea is so deer to me and missing a summer of not being by the beach and having salty hair was really crushing my heart. I sounded spoiled to myself, so I figured what the heck, so we are not going. It’s okay.

Of course, life is funny that way, and also, I am persistent in what I want. But mostly, I am blessed with good cousins. We got ourselves a room in Zadar, Croatia.
Being blesses with cousins, means visiting them, as well. So, our first stop was Jošan, Lika.
However our adventure doesn’t start there. It begins in Novi Sad at the bus station, a day before of our trip.

Being 21, in love and careless really doesn’t come in handy in the situations when you have to “adult”. So, we thought it was a good idea to buy a ticket a day before trip. Well, everything was last minute anyway. Sadly, the employees at Novi Sad bus station were of no help. We asked a simple question of the bus’s route, so we know that we will be able to get out in Jošan, which is a really small village that you pass through if you take one of the two routes there is. Two hours later, having talked to three counter ladies, information desk, a dude that calls himself some kind of manager of something, him calling the bus driver who knows the bus driver of the bus we are taking, who also didn’t know anything and calling the real bus driver who didn’t pick up, to finally end up at the last counter, praying this lady will know something. Of course she did, after we went through hell talking to all the other clueless workers…
And yes, if you were wondering, the bus was taking the route we needed.
I mean, it’s funny actually. It is. Go ahead and laugh. Laugh at humanity and how dysfunctional we are.

We were approaching the destination after travelling over night for about 9 hours and I haven’t slept at all. Around 8am, on a foggy and incredibly cold, cold, cold morning in the middle of August (that’s Lika for you) I sort of, kind of, told the driver to stop 2km before my cousin’s house.
Now here’s the situation. The two us, two suitcases, two backpacks, two sweaters and summer pants, fog and 2km of highway to walk. Trucks passing us, trying not to kill us. Us stopping every time we see a truck, trying not to die. You get the picture.
I was so exhausted and tired that all of it was hilarious to me and I laughed the whole way. My boyfriend wasn’t amused.
Ooops.

Once we made is safe and sound, we were greeted with delicious breakfast- homemade eggs and bacon and black turkish coffee. It was chilly outside, but the house was so cozy, all I wanted was to curl up in blankets and get some sleep. But, I couldn’t. We were on an adventure, and the plan was to get my Uncle to drive us to the National Park Lakes of Plitvice, which was about 45minutes from the house.
So, one Guarana later and I was ready to go.

As soon as we got out of the car, I knew it was going to rain sometime soon. But, it’s summer and a little water won’t hurt right?
The park was filled with foreigners, none of which spoke Serbian/Croatian. It didn’t feel as if we were on the Balkan half-island. After we took a detour figuring out how to get to the entrance- of the nature???- we found it. However, no one cared to check our 180 kuna ticket, which we realized was a waste of money, but by that time it was too late- we were already on the tiny boat that takes you across the first and biggest lake that’s a shortcut for those who don’t care enough to walk all the way around the woods.  Or in our case, have not slept the entire night and are short with time, because the clouds were layering up above our heads. You know, the usual struggle…

Oh my, wait… But I haven’t shared the first impression of when we saw lake Kozjak. You know what- here’s a picture, but even that can’t do it justice.

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I have already visited this park, and yet I felt as if I never seen it before. Nature simply rocks, let’s face it. Although, having gazillion tourist with strollers and kids and dogs and god knows what else walking around it and charging them for something Planet Earth gave to everyone to look at is plain stupid and mean. Also arrogant, but I don’t want to get into that stuff in this post.
My tips for this beautiful mother-nature given place:

One, don’t go in July, August or one of those months when just everyone goes. It’s gets “too-much-human”.
Two, no, you cannot swim in the lakes, it’s called Plitvice Lakes National Park for a reason.
Three, although they make money out of it from tickets, no it’s not an adventure park, there are no food trucks on each corner… There’s no corners for that matter- it’s woods and lakes. It’s beautiful, so bring your own food and drinks if you plan on seeing all of it- it takes a full day.
Four, don’t be stupid, follow the sings and respect what you’re seeing. It’s not man-made, despite men charging for it.
Five, sadly pictures will never do it justice. I’ve attempted videos as well. Not the same.

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For those wondering, yes around 5pm the rain started to pour like crazy and we were soaked wet. We caught a random bus that drove to Zadar, but asked to throw us out in Jošan. It was a nice bus driver and a very nice day.
Long story short, we came back to my cousin’s house, ate a pot of creamy vegetable soup and fell asleep at 8pm.
And you know what?! IT WAS THE BEST GODDAMN SLEEP I’VE HAD IN YEARS. Once you visit Lika and get to experience sleeping in it, you’ll crave that good night sleep everyday for the rest of your life. Okay, I might be a bit overdramatic, but trust me I know why. Because it’s true.

We spent another night in Lika, only the second one was in the bed situated in my grandparents’ old house in the town called Gračac. My parents grew up in that town.             I don’t like it. Well, that’s a lie. I like it, but for short period of time.  You might think now that it’s a hell hole, but it’s really not. It’s peaceful and quiet and nature surrounded and trust me there’s things to do- well nature based things. But ever since I was little I’ve been spending my summer vacations there and I got bored with it. I know everything and since it’s not my hometown, I’m okay with visiting for only couple of days. However, the two us found ways to entertain  and it was actually quite enjoyable.

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We left the next day, because our plan was to go to the beach and this was just a quick stop to say hello. Fortunately my cousins were in the town visiting at the same time, so they gave us a ride (its about 100km) and we didn’t have to struggle in the bus again. On our was down the mountain Velebit ( and this way down is not at all fun, let me tell you- it’s pretty scary, at least to me) we stopped by monastery Krupa. It’s centuries old monastery surrounded by nothing but nature and c l e a n water. Even if you are not into monasteries and religion stuff, this is a place worth seeing. The vibe surrounding it, the nature around it, it’s breathtaking. I know that word doesn’t do it justice, because it’s overused, let’s be honest, but I really have no explanation except that it’s definitely a new experience and that it’s definitely a place and a feeling that will get stuck in your mind and memories. A picture can’t do it justice either, but here’s one:

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Three hours later and there we were in Zadar,  unloading the trunk and bringing the suitcases and backpacks into my cousins house ( I realize I have a lot of cousins, it’s a big family on both sides, what can I do). As soon as I stepped out of the car I could smell it. The fresh summer breeze and salty air. Palm trees in my cousins garden and the rest of the beautful fruit trees around us; everyone wearing bathing suits, ready to jump into the sea… I died and was reborn, like a phoenix.

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We were greeted with food, of course. It is the Balkan custom, I don’t know about you…
On such a beach-vibe dinning table were fresh figs from the backyard tree, recently fried smelts on a blue plate, fresh cherry-tomatoes from the garden and carafe full of fresh and cold homemade cornelian cherry juice. Right there was when I knew the next 7 days were going to be epic.

Later we moved our things to the apartment room across my cousins and got ready and headed downtown where the magic happens- by the sea, watching the sunset and then drinking some cocktails. We were blessed to have the company of my two cousins and their boyfriends. Not only did we have people to hang out with, but we also had locals who knew Zadar upside-down.

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Zadar has plenty of beaches. The ones we went to, that were specifically in Zadar are  “Gradska Plaza” and “Borik”. The first one is where the locals go and it’s free, situated next to old town. The second one is 15kunas for the day per person and it’s where most of the tourists go. It’s huge, but it’s still a bit crowded. However, it was mid-August and we were in Zadar, thus there is no beach were there are no people. I enjoyed both and I was glad that we choose to go to a different beach everyday.

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One of those days we all went together to “Nin” and its famous beach that has healing mud puddles. The beach is all in sand and has endless shallow water. So, it’s good for families or people that like to play sports and games in the water. We spent most of our afternoon playing pass with a small ball. And for the rest of the time half of us was trying to escape the other half who were eager to get some mud on us. I wasn’t keen on it, it smelled really bad…

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Coffee, beer, cocktails and food. That’s probably the next best and most important thing, after beaches. I have to say, being blessed with cousins we were blessed with home cooked meals. Fish was, of course, our main ingredients on the table, most of the days. There were occasional fast food visits; ah, the curse of the new world; but, in the spirit of true food lovers, we have tried to eat the local kitchen and to eat good quality food. I don’t recommend eating in the mere downtown in Zadar, because the food is too pricey. But, of course, if you didn’t rent an apartment with kitchen or stayed with cousins, you’ll probably fall for the trick and visit those restaurants. In that case, I can only recommend searching deeper into more empty places, because those are probably much better than the crowded once that have the luck of being in the midst of the tourist-traffic. If you are looking for good pizza, I recommend Crazy Pizza, a grab-and-go 10 kunas slice. I assure you that it is better than any other crazy, expensive restaurant pizza. My main advice to you would be, buy it in the shop and make it yourself, especially if you are trying not to spend crazy amounts of money, as usually the summer vacations go. Ask locals for tips and explore deeper into the city. The sea side, in my opinion, is the best “seat” and “eat” choice there is.

Nightlife in Zadar isn’t the greatest, and I am not sure why. There are a lot of bars, but very few clubs. The ones that are probably the best choice are also the most expensive choice. We went to “Ledana” an outside club in the old town. I can’t say it was bad, I loved it, but I’ve been to better clubs. However, the fact that it’s outside, surrounded by nature and cool design, with good music and cocktail- masters, I’ll give it a 7.4/10. But come on Zadar, you can do better than that! There’s more and more young people coming and visiting, I believe we deserve more choices for the summer clubbing.

The two of us are big on walking, so we did a lot of that in order to avoid taxi rip-offs and also bus tickets- which are not cheap, at least not for a one way bus ticket. They are however a better choice than a taxi. Depending where you are staying and whether or not you are a young and looking for adventure or a family with little kids, many places are walkable distance. We were a 25 minute walk from old town, so we mostly walked. But, if you are not going to “Gradska Plaza”, then a bus is your second best choice. We did take a walk back from “Borik Plaza” all the way to old town and then to our apartment room. I don’t recommend if you can’t handle two hour walk. We made a lot of stops, though, took picture, chilled by the sea side, ate… It seemed closer, but we were tricked. I loved it, tho!

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We took advantage of Zadar’s position and tried to see as much as possible around it. There’s a ferry for 20 kunas per person, that takes you to the Island Ugljen and back- no  time limit (just watch for ferry schedules). Even tho it’s just across Zadar, the island has a totally different vibe. Less crowd, a lot of locals and just a peaceful atmosphere. The water is so clean and warm. We had a picnic-lunch and stayed for about 5 hours. Ferry ride was about 20 minutes, and it stops close to the pedestrian bridge that connect the old town to the city. We then walked back to our room, showered and later had a fun night with cousins, eating pizza and playing Uno. Ah, the summer breeze and smell of the sea air… My favourite.

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There’s another cute little town, only 45 minutes CITY bus ride from Zadar, it’s called Biograd n/m. It’s 20 kunas per person,one way and it’s totally worth it! I’ve been spending a lot of my summer vacations in this little town and I will never miss a chance to go back to it. It’s a perfect family destination, but everyone should come visit it at least once. It’s literally Zadar, only smaller and much more convenient. Everything you need is by the sea side, one long seafront walk between tourist necessities and the beautiful sea. Hotels, camping grounds, rooms, restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, street foods, ice cream, playgrounds, sport courts, and more… All in just a short walk. We started on the far right end, in a café and ended up on the furthest left side, in between the rocks and on the last possible beach, without any tourists there. Our day ended with epic sunset by the city pool, located across the hotel “Ilirija”. Such a breath-taking scenery and a perfect wrap up to an amazing adventure and a day in Biograd.

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Before I finish, I would like to mention that for some reason the locals in Zadar and people who work in those tourist places were very impolite, almost rude. I realize they’re sick from the tourists, I am the first one to know how it is in tourist business, but we encountered some very unfriendly faces. Was it us or are there more people that share our experience? I wonder…

Our last day in Zadar  started with a morning coffee, at my cousins house. Then we went for our last sea dip, browsed a bit more through the old town and headed back for lunch. I went shopping (I know?) in search of a wedding dress, that I needed for a day after we came back home. It was a success if you were wondering and at 10pm we were on the bus station, waiting for our bus to take us in and finish our 10-day-croatian adventure. On to the next one.

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There’s also a story on how we bought our bus tickets for the ride back to Novi Sad, but I’ll keep that one to myself.

So, yep, there you go. Thanks for sticking with me to the end. I hope you had a good time reading this. Feel free to leave me comments and positive vibes. Stay tuned for more escapades, you never know where I might end up next.
And remember- venture to adventure,
S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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