After my sister and I returned from our ladies and babies trip to Provence in August, we had a week of recovery time before Colby and I saddled her with our children and bolted to another country. We spent 9 magical days traveling through Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) with a quick hop across the border into Slovenia. We flew into Dubrovnik, where we rented a car, then spent a few days, then drove over to Mostar, BIH, and back into Croatia with stops in Zadar and Zagreb, as well as Ptuj, Slovenia, flying out of Zagreb at the end of the trip.
Croatia was a little slice of heaven. If you're looking for grand architecture and towering cathedrals, it's not the place to go, but for 100% natural beauty and fascinating history it can't get much better. The country is still recovering from the War of Independence that was fought from 1991 to 1995, but the places that we visited felt completely safe and you'd have to look awfully hard to find many scars from the war.
The fact that we had an amazing time is not to say that we did not have our share of... hiccups along the way. From the start, I was more than a little disgruntled to find that my luggage had never even made it onto the airplane out of Frankfurt, so I landed in Dubrovnik with nothing but my carry on. We fly so infrequently, I've gotten quite lazy about preparing for luggage mishaps, but through some miracle, the morning that we left, I moved one extra set of clothes from my big suitcase to my carry on. So, our first day in Dubrovnik started with a trip to a local supermarket to stock up on toiletries in case my bag never caught up with us, but happily, when we returned to our hotel that evening, my bag had joined us.
And speaking of our hotel--I'm ready to move into the Royal Princess full time. I was a huge dummy, and didn't take any pictures of the room, but it was a pristine, beautifully decorated 164 ft2 one bedroom apartment with a kitchenette and a furnished balcony overlooking the ocean. We ate at the hotel the first evening, and it ended up being one of the best meals of the trip, and the included breakfast was delicious, classy, and extensive. The resort is a little outside of the downtown, but that was a bonus to us since that meant it was quiet and right on one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. We just had to walk a few minutes to catch a bus and then it was a 10 minute ride to the gates of town.
Our first order of business was to explore the Old Town with the help of Uncle Rick. He gave us a great self-guided tour through the sights along the main road, and then a peek into the winding, narrow alleys connected by steep, crumbling stone steps. This was definitely the part of Croatia that was flooded with the most tourists, and still, we heard very little in the way of American accents. I think it's just recently beginning to be discovered by Americans, thanks in large parts to the ships that dock there on Med cruises.
Next up was a stop at Cafe Buza for drinks and watching insane study abroad students leaping from rocks 30 or 40 feet into the ocean, then onto our Croatian food tour. Our guide confessed that because Croatia itself is such a new country, Croatian food is something that is still being developed and explored by its chefs. However, there is a heavy Mediterranean influence in the south, along with Russian and German influences due to geographic proximity as well as the bleed over of culture from their long occupations in Croatia. But in Dubrovnik, the focus was most heavily on seafood, pasta and pizza.
We decided to walk off our food tour treats with a ramble around the old town walls, which we agreed upon as our favorite part of the day. It was perfect timing for a stroll as the tours from the cruise ship were mostly gone and the sun was setting in a stunning display of colors and light. The walls that seem to rise up straight from the ocean were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Our last stop of the day was at a glowing, bustling restaurant just off the boat docks for drinks and dinner before we made our way back to the hotel. We were done with the Old Town, but not quite done with the southern coast of Croatia as we rested up for our kayak and biking tour out to the Elafiti Islands bright and early the next morning!