Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb. Our last stop in Croatia. And our last stop with Marine. After this, Marine will go back to France and we will move on to Serbia. It's so sad to say goodbye after so many good times together! But I know we will meet again soon, so I will wipe the tears off of my laptop's keyboard and I'll tell you a bit about Zagreb. 

Zagreb is a really cool city! It has a pretty large metropolitan area and a smaller historical center filled with cute pedestrian streets and beautiful architecture. There's also a cute strip with fun bars and restaurants. In the old town, we found a super quirky shop with unique jewellery and other trinkets called PMS: Prostor Manufakturne Slobode (that's Croatian for Manufacturing Space of Freedom). The eclectic lady that runs the shop told us about a live blues concert that was happening that night in Zagreb’s oldest tavern. Sure enough, we found Pod Starim Krovovima (another odd name which translates to "Under the Old Roofs") and all its surrounding bohemian crowd. It felt like we were transported back in time in that cozy tavern that reeked of beer and cigarettes. Everyone was smoking inside (because that’s what people do in Eastern Europe) and the blues-y tunes were heartfelt and soulful. It was an incredible experience and I’m so glad we went!

Šibenik, Croatia

Sibenik (pronounced sheebehneek) is a cute town on the coast, with a very Venetian design to it. Its tiny windy roads seemed quaint and adorable! And the food was amazing. We had some shrimp and seafood risotto - yum! On our way back to our Airbnb, we stumbled on to a free, open-air, arty film screening. It was the SUPERTOON Animation Film Festival. We got the chance to appreciate some amazing work and called it a night. 

The next day we decided to take our airbnb hosts' recommendation and check out the St. Nicholas Fortress (Tvrdava Sv. Nikolelocated close by. It was so cool to see such a unique and well preserved fort! I loved that it wasn't all fixed-up for tourists so we had the place to ourselves and you could climb on anything you wanted! It was also probably haunted. BOO! So much fun.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is Kings Landing. Shame stairs and all. No joke, Game of Thrones was filmed all over this town. I’m so glad our Hawaiian friends urged us to go there because WOW it’s sooooo gorgeous!! It was my favourite stop in Croatia and I’m still dreaming about it. Everything there was absolutely magical and the pictures don’t even do it justice. We stayed in an adorable airbnb with grapevines in the patio and just a short walk away from the center. We made friends with some cool Spanish musicians that ended up serenading us songs until the break of dawn which by the way is ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING in Dubrovnik and if you can do it, it’s a MUST. We had octopus burgers in a nicely designed family-run restaurant and we made friends with a girl that worked in a wine bar. She later left the bar open for us that night when the other bars were closing and we ended up having a real FIESTA with the Spanish music, the delicious wine and all the new friends we made. Absolutely unforgettable.

Split, Croatia

The first thing we noticed upon arriving in Split is that people there love to bathe in the beaches at night. A bit of a strange tradition, but I like it! Split has a really beautiful historical center and it’s where some Game of Thrones scenes were filmed. And of course, we found a cool hidden jazz-wine bar in the midst of all the neon lights and mainstream clubs (check it out: Marcvs Marvlvs Spalatensis). After we got a few drinks in us, we jumped right in the water with all the locals, and swam straight to a floating bouncy castle! What a great night!

In Split we sort of hit a bump in the road (quite literally) when Marine’s car got a flat tire. No biggie, 5 euros go a LONG way in Croatia and before we knew it, we were heading off to the National Park Krka! The park was so beautiful with waterfalls so romantic, they ooze with poetry! After a few hours of fun in the park, the winds start picking up and the clouds start to settle in. Guess what? A HUGE STORM just showed up out of nowhere, completely uninvited and with an attitude problem. We scrambled our stuff together and hid in a souvenir shop. The boats heading back were too packed so we stayed in this crammed shop with about 50 other tourists and had a picnic! Hell, a little rain won’t put our spirits down! We shared some chips and wine with the family siting next to us while our friend went out to check on the situation and walkie-talkied us the updates. Everyone in the shop was happy to get the lo-down on the boats and we were all able to get back without barely getting a drop on us. haHA! The power of the walkie-talkie! 

Pag Island, Croatia: Dancing in Zrće

We met up with some old friends and headed off to Pag Island where all the crazy Summer festivals happen. To get to the island, we hopped on a ferry - and our car came with us! It was pretty sweet and simple and probably saved us a bunch of time on the road (the alternative was to drive further down to road to the bridge). From the boat we admired the dry, almost Mars-like island we were approaching and wondered if we made sure to book an airbnb with A/C.. we did! Our airbnb was actually amazing and the host was so great that he even offered to drive us around like a taxi, if we ever needed a lift.

We weren’t exactly in Novalja’s town center but in my opinion, where we were was even better! Our apartment was right next to a beautiful beach where we could spend the day relaxing, and right in the other direction, just a few minutes away by foot, was the infamous Zrce Beach (where the festivals take place). Lucky for us, first night we were there, the festival was completely FREE! I guess it must have been a pre-festival party because there weren’t any big headliners, but who cares! A free party is a free party! That night we had our first taste of the crowds of people dancing, the crazy light shows, and the amazing stage performers in the Croatia Rocks festival! Every day and night, each of the FIVE stages showcased some sort of crazy-over-the-top spectacle. There were fire breathers, dancers dressed like jellyfish, barely dressed bald ladies (what?!) with shimmering nipple tassels on their silicone boobs, and endless more. There were also bouncy trampoline nets that catapulted people to the water and some strange crane attraction that would dangle drunk people in ways that seemed extremely unsafe… but hey, it was a sight to see for sure! The crowd was young and the music was mainstream, but fully equipped with our bikinis, face paint, and water guns, we danced the nights away to the beats of a few amazing DJs and some really talented performers... including my personal favorite, Jungle

Rijeka, Croatia

After about a 5 hour drive through Italian and Slovanian landscapes (and border crossings), we made it to our first stop in Croatia! Rijeka has a bit of a raw and rugged beauty, but after traveling in more comfortable and familiar places in France and Italy, we welcomed the change with open arms. The language is now too unfamiliar for us to decipher, the currency is no longer Euros, and the buildings are all a bit run down and destroyed. We have reached eastern Europe! Driving in, we saw Rijeka's large port with hanging cranes that looked majestic with a light cloud of mist hanging in the sky as the sun began to set. 

We settled into our sad excuse of a hostel and quickly made some friends. Later that night, we would find out that we were staying a stone throw away from all the best parties. The port area is lined with bars and clubs in every direction (some even on the water). Truthfully, they were all a little on the trashier-mainstreamy side, but that was part of the fun. And on weekends, they stay open ’til the sun comes up in case your feeling extra energized and want to keep dancing all night long!

During the day we wandered around the open air markets that offer an endless array of cheap and delicious fruits, veggies, meats, and seafood. We also found some very cool artsy-hipster coffee shops (check out Dnevni Boravak Cafe). Then, midday came along and it was boiling hot. The large pedestrian street in the centre of the city, where all the shops and fashionable boutiques are, seemed like an endless desert. Our hostel’s AC was down, so we went on a mission to find a fan, and after some pro hand gesturing, we were miraculously directed towards a mall. The helpful local guy said it was a bit far but we decided to try walking anyway. I’m glad we did, because otherwise we wouldn’t have stumbled upon the beautiful rock beaches on the way! We decided to stop for a quick dip and wow, it was gorgeous! The water was perfectly crisp and refreshing. Exactly what we needed. After getting the fan (and WALKIE TALKIES CAUSE WHY NOT) we were getting a bit hungry. That’s when we found Konoba Na Kantunu right by the water. I highly recommend this restaurant. The food, the service, and the price were all worth going back again everyday. I still dream about those fresh anchovies and the octopus salad… Mmmm. Overall, Rijeka seems to be a little grungy-artsy city that fills up in the Summer with in-land Croatians for parties and swimming - definitely worth checking out for a few days!

Fun Fact: Croatia in Croatian is Hrvatska which actually sounds more like "Krvatska" (and not at all really like "Croatia").