A lot of adventures, a lot of mishaps, a lot of gelato
Croatia, without a doubt, is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life.
In the six or so days I spent travelling through Croatia I am pretty sure my face looked like this the entire time:
Jess and I arrived in Zagreb in the morning from Milan and caught a bus to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most stunning place I have ever been too. The bus was a couple of hours, and with our stop not being the last one, we spent the whole trip continually falling asleep and waking ourselves up again with a jump. Yes, it did lead to weird looks and stifled laughter from our fellow passengers. Travel tip: set an alarm on your phone for fifteen minutes to half an hour before your stop and just comfortably sleep instead of this awkwardness:
After arriving at Plitvice Lakes we checked into our hotel, got our walking shoes on and started to explore the vast nature heaven before us. The national park is famous for its cascade lakes and their distinct colours. It also features caves, waterfalls, cliffs, and various flora and fauna. I was super excited at the possibility of seeing an otter (my favourite animal) but alas it was just not meant to be unfortunately.
We arrived at the entrance to the park and Jessica asked the woman selling us our entry pass when the park closed. She was met with an incredulous stare and this reply: “Um, it doesn’t close. There is no gate.” A park ranger just in front on us started laughing his head off at this exchange. I could not help but laugh, the difference in language, even the English language, between countries can provide some entertaining mishaps.
We walked along the tracks, or what we thought were the tracks, and subsequently got lost in the Croatian wilderness, just making it back to the hotel before dark. Not that I am complaining, I saw some seriously beautiful scenery and had the best workout I think I have had…well, ever really.
The next day we got up bright and early and spent the day walking through the entire park, following the trails, exploring the caves and taking a million pictures along the way. It is the most serene place to walk and just be alone with your thoughts and the beautiful nature surrounding you. Whilst I did not see an otter I did see some very cute ducks and butterflies.
After spending a good few hours walking around we went back to the hotel, picked up our bags and hopped on the bus back to Zagreb to catch our flight to Dubrovnik. Once we arrived at the airport we found a large crowd of people surrounding a group of males wearing identical red shirts. This would have not even registered with me except that they were also surrounded by cameras and news crews. That’s when we saw that they had the Olympic symbol on their shirts. So we deduced that they must be a famous Croatian sporting team and that we had to figure out who they were.
After spending the flight speculating all the possibilities we finally got our answer when we spotted a tag on one of their bags: vaterpolo (Croatian for water polo). Now it took us getting to our accommodation and googling “vaterpolo” to realise it was water polo. So it turns out that we ran into the 2012 Gold Medal Croatian Olympic Water polo team! SCORE! Travelling around the world creates some of the most random life moments, and is definitely one that is going on the list.
Our accommodation was Rooms Ramona, a guesthouse, which is owned by a woman Maria and her lovely family. If you are staying in Dubrovnik I definitely recommend staying here if you want to have a homely feel to your stay. It is also only a ten minute walk away from Old Town.
The next day we woke up and went exploring in Old Town. We just walked through taking in the sights, the small cobblestone alleyways, the designer shops, the fountains, and the numerous delicious smells emanating from the nearby restaurants.
After spending the morning walking around Old Town it was starting to get quite hot, so we decided to go to the beach. We went back to the hostel to get our swimming gear when disaster struck: I decided to walk into the bathroom. While this seems like the safest thing in the world to do it is actually fraught with danger for a clumsy person like myself. When walking in I all of a sudden felt a sharp pain in my foot. A piece metal from the floor had come loose and jammed right into the top of my foot. I was not really that alarmed, I tend to have situations like this on a regular basis. It was only when it would not stop bleeding that I started to worry a little bit.
My conversation with Jess was as follows:
Jess: “What did you do?”
Me: “Just hurt my foot, it’s bleeding”
Me: “Woah, this is bleeding…Holy crap Jess this is really bleeding!”
Jess: “Let’s see-OH MY GOD!”
So panic ensued, Maria was called, and she promptly started praying “Santa Maria” once she saw my foot and the blood all over the floor. After I realised I could not walk on my foot it was decided that it was probably best for me to go to the hospital to get checked out because Jess thought I might need stitches. After visiting the local emergency room and a triage nurse, I was advised I would have to wait four hours for the foot doctor to check it out, because he was the only one who could help but was in surgery. I decided instead to just go to the private clinic up the road, who were amazing and had me stitched up and bandaged in twenty minutes (travel insurance for the win). I did have an awkward moment when the doctor went to put the anaesthetic into my foot and I, in jerk reaction, kicked him in the face with my other foot. The nurses then held down both my feet and sung this upbeat original song to me as I had the anaesthetic attempted to be put in for the second time: “Don’t move your foot, keep your foot still, don’t move your foot YEAH, keep your foot still.” It was an…interesting experience!
Maria and her family were amazing, driving me to the hospital, talking to all the doctors and then getting dinner for both Jess and I and setting it up on the roof for us, which had an amazing view of Old Town Harbour. So I have now incurred my first injury of the year and my first stitches ever. The doctors told me to rest up to let the bruising go down and get the stitches out in a week. I am giving a huge shout out to Jess, she was such a trooper looking after me, cleaning me up and staying with me at the doctors, hospitals and clinics, she was the absolute best.
After all the drama of the afternoon it was nice to just relax on the roof, have some food and take in the beautiful surroundings.
After a good sleep and dosing up on pain medication we went back to Old Town and climbed the Old Town Walls, a series of defensive stone walls that surround the city that were built from the 12th – 17th centuries. There was breathtaking views of the city and the sea.
After climbing the walls for a few hours , my foot was killing me and Jess was really starting to come down with the flu, so we went back to our room for a well deserved afternoon nap!
We were very lucky to be in Croatia during the weekend we were because it was when Croatia was being accepted into the European Union. Meaning that there would be huge parties happening all over the major cities. We were very fortunate to see a concert by Severina, a huge Croatian pop star give a concert in the middle of the plaza. Everyone was dancing, jumping and having fun, it was such a great atmosphere!
The next day we went to Banje Beach and just relaxed after being on the go for the last few days. In the afternoon we went on the Dubrovnik Cable Car around sunset to see the sun set over the whole of Dubrovnik. It was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life.
We then went for a great dinner and watched the famous Dubrovnik Orchestra and Choir ring in the welcoming into the European Union at midnight. We celebrated with a glass of free champagne to celebrate.
We also had the weirdest experience of finding Santa in the crowd, I am not even joking:
Although we may have been hindered by injury, illness, doctors, hospitals and medication we still had an amazing time in Croatia. Dubrovnik has to be one of my favourite cities in Europe that I have travelled to, and the help and generosity I received from the Croatian people was second to none. Beautiful settings, beautiful people, beautiful food and beautiful culture, what more could you want?