Let's do this! I'm on a blogging roll! Croatia: Onward!!!
So, after our magical time in Dubrovnik and the Elafiti Islands, way back in *cough, cough* August... we moved up the coast to Zadar. We actually stopped for an overnight in Bosnia in Herzogovina, but I will save that and Slovenia for their own post. We stayed in the lovely Hotel Niko, across the bay from historic Zadar, and took advantage of their amazing in house restaurant every night. If it ain't broke... It was a hopping spot, close enough to the old town for easy access, but far enough away that we were dining amongst the locals.
Our first evening in town, we took the bus into the old town to see the main sights. Zadar has a very Roman feel to it with columns littering the ground and imposing basilicas and towers. I loved how the detritus from toppled columns had been arranged into a sort of "garden" in front of St. Donatus, a 9th century church.
Juxtaposed with all of that ancientness were two modern public art installations that rely on the environment of Zadar to produce their effects. The first was the Sea Organ, a series of steps that invite you to sit and enjoy the waves lapping at their base while "a system of polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity that turns the site into a large musical instrument, played by the wind and the sea." (Wikipedia) What this produces is a semi-eerie, completely beautiful composition as the waves crash beneath the steps and emit a sound that I can only imagine must be like the songs of mermaids and sirens of seafaring lore. The second was the Sun Salutation, a sort of flat disco ball that perplexes tourists during the day as it secretly soaks up the sun's energy, then as darkness falls explodes with a frenetic discotheque of light as the brightly colored lights dance and play across the ground.
The next day was spent driving the 2 hours out to Plitvice Lakes National Park for a day of hiking. The park covers nearly 75,000 acres of land and contains sixteen interconnected lakes formed by travertine barriers which prevent any mud from entering the water, producing the most crystal clear aquamarine water I've seen in my entire life. I attempted to capture the beauty in photographs, but truly nothing I've seen can compare to some of the scenery we came across that day. If for no other reason, Plitvice should be one reason to move Croatia to the top of your travel bucket list.
Our last day in Zadar, we awoke to stormy weather which led to the cancellation of the chartered island cruise we had booked. Much to our surprise, the weather had cleared by mid-morning, so we decided to take advantage and head out to a nearby beach--Nin's Lagoon--for a day of relaxation and floating. Though I beg to differ with all the locals who claimed the water was "like bath water". Clearly they have never swum in the Gulf. Now THAT is bath water! Mucky, jelly-infested bath water...
Our final stop of the trip was an overnight in Zagreb where our flight would take us back to Frankfurt. We didn't get there until after dark since we decided to make the trek into Slovenia for the day, but as lovely as it was, it was indeed a fairly generic city, so I didn't feel like I was missing out on too much. Certainly the most cosmopolitan place we saw on our trip, the nightlife was bustling and the streets were crawling with fashionable young professionals. We took in the exterior of the Zagreb Cathedral, ate at a hip, tasty pizza place and then crashed at the elegant, comfortable, ridiculously affordable 5 star Hotel Esplanade.
Croatia is 100% in my top 5 favorite countries I've visited. It is unique, approachable, stunningly beautiful, and incredibly varied in the experiences it can offer. From beautiful beaches to natural wonders with a fascinating history and background, it really lacks for nothing that a traveler could want. Hurry up and add it to your travel calendar, because Croatia is just on the verge of being discovered and you can be a total travel hipster and tell everyone you went there before it was cool *wink*!