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Published: September 19th 2009
The train from Lesce Bled to Zagreb unfortunately ran about an hour or so late, which meant that once again we wondered if we’d be in time for our flight to Split (echo’s of our mad race for our flight in Bucharest ringing in our heads). The train finally arrived and we settled in for the 3 hour journey through to Zagreb, stopping en-route for the general passport checking and stamping. We arrived in Zagreb with about an hour and a half to go before our domestic flight down to Split. Luckily we managed to get a tram to the city then an airport bus to the airport and then checked in in record time and made our flight! We had originally planned to train to Zagreb then jump on another train which took 6 hours to Split. However, we found a cheap local flight at the last minute before leaving London and decided to take the 40 minute flight option instead. Two days later we found out that the train we were originally going to take to Split had de-railed and 13 people were killed - scary stuff!!
We were pleasantly surprised by Split, I think we had
pictured it as nothing more than a small port town, but Split is absolutely bustling and has loads of character; the whole town is built within the walls of an old palace. We had a great apartment overlooking the harbour. There is a great “Riva” or promenade and loads of restaurants, bars and markets. ... And loads of Aussies! Sailing around Croatia appears to be a very Australian thing to do, in the town of Split every accent you hear is Australian - it was crazy! We spent the afternoon/evening strolling around Split’s cobbled paths and soaking in the atmosphere. We were already falling in love with Croatia.
The following day we were starting a 7 Night sailing trip in the Adriatic, along the Croatian coast. In the morning we headed down, found a company rep and were pointed towards our particular boat. There were loads of boats in the harbour that day as Saturday seems to be the day they all start their week long sailing trips. After setting our stuff down in our cabin, we headed back into town for drinks (it was scorching hot! In the high 30s) and then headed back to the boat again
in time for an introduction to the yacht crew and an unexpected three course lunch!
We spent the early afternoon settling into the boat, relaxing, reading and stopping off for swims in picturesque bays with crystal clear water. Late afternoon we sailed into Makarska. Makarska was humming! The centre of Makarska is the old town with narrow paved streets, and a main church square with monastery. What’s surreal is the bullet holes you can still see today in the old buildings. Along from there is the resort area with long pebbly beaches, a palm-fringed promenade and loads of restaurants and markets. There were all types of people - from beautiful bronzed supermodels in bikinis and heels (heels?!) to fat tourists in unforgiving speedo’s. The place had a great atmosphere and we spent a few hours at a great restaurant (awesome gnocci!) and people watching. As we walked home late in the evening we were stunned to see how much beach equipment was abandoned on the beach: towels, lilos, umbrellas, togs, chilli-bins etc etc - it was crazy - we suspect the locals probably collect it all and re-sell it to the tourists the next day!
following morning we ate breakfast as the boat left the port of Makarska and headed off to Mljet. En-route we stopped for another swim and basically spent the sailing time trying to choose between reading, sunbathing or having another drink. Ahhhh life is tough! The island of Mljet is a National Park, the port is a small, quaint village. We whiled away the afternoon walking around the island, taking a boat to an island within a lake within the island (yes, you read that right!) and Martin had a swim in one of the salt water lakes on the island - insisting that it was one of the warmest waters he’d ever swum in!
The next day we were off to Dubrovnik. We stopped en-route for more swimming and Martin got out our snorkel sets but there wasn’t a lot going on. The water is crystal clear all up the coastline, but there are not a lot of colourful fish/coral. Dubrovnik is often called “The Pearl of the Adriatic” and it rightly deserves it’s name. It quickly became one of the best cities we’ve ever visited. The highlight of our trip to Dubrovnik was walking the city walls.
The old city of Dubrovnik is completely surrounded with walls and forts, including the Old Port. The walls stretch for almost 2km around the city and the history of the walls goes right back to the Middle Ages. In parts the walls run 4-6 metres wide and they are still functional today. It was a hot day and up on the walls we were baking, but were in constant awe the entire walk around - the views from the top of the walls of the turquoise waters, and the terracotta roofs within the walls were awesome. I don’t think we can aptly put into words the experience of being in Dubrovnik and walking the old city walls - we definitely recommend a trip there! After several ice creams and wandering around the charming city back down on the ground we headed back to the boat to relax for a while before heading out for some great pizzas in the portside area.
The following day we didn’t leave port until 12 noon and while previous days we would often randomly pass, follow or convoy other boats down the coast, for much of today we didn’t see another boat on
the water. It was a beautiful sailing day, after a few swims, arriving into the very cute and quiet village of Trstenik. It was a tiny village in a quiet bay, largely rimmed by mountains and it took us about 5mins to explore the whole of it! But it was a great place to try local wines (Trstenik, though small, has several wineries) and a few cocktails, overlooking the crystal clear water of the bay while the sun set. That night there was a ‘Captain’s dinner’ on board our boat which was a three course dinner followed by some drunken singing including everyone on board trying to sing national anthems (there were 20 of us on board - a combination of Welsh, Canadians, Croatians, Austrians, and Czechs in a variety of ages and family groups). Overall a pretty good night though!
The following day, you guessed it, more sailing, relaxing, drinking, reading and sunbathing. Spent about 5 hours in a secluded bay, once again surrounded by beautiful crystal clear waters and stunning scenery. That evening we sailed into Korcula, which is said to be the most preserved medieval village in the Mediterranean (though you do tend to hear
this a lot while in the Med about everywhere you go) :-) There were great cafes lining the walls overlooking the coast, markets in the streets and the place came alive at night with restaurants and bars.
Sailing in Dalmatia was a great holiday and at times it seemed to luxuriously stretch forever head of us and at other times it just seemed to be going far too quickly. Already we were up to day 6 of the 7 night trip. We had a great time today sailing up the coast and our Captain sailed us within metres of sheer cliffs for part of the day which soared above us and had us out on deck snapping away our cameras trying to capture the views. It was very surreal to be out there in such a beautiful piece of the world. In the afternoon we docked in Hvar, supposedly home of ‘the glamorous people’. We were a little worried it might be a bit pretentious, but actually there was a mix of people there and we found the area very charming. Though there were a lot of luxury super yachts to attest to the wealth of some of
the holiday makers. There was a fortress over-looking the town though we didn’t walk up to it. We wandered around the cobbled streets and had our daily doses of ice cream and drinks on the waterfront. Kristi was stoked to find a shop selling Havaiana’s and got yet another pair (you can’t have too many!) :-) and Martin found some fishing lines and sinkers in another shop. We had dinner at an outside restaurant near the church, and bumped into the Welsh couple from our boat (who were great company and we’d spent a fair amount of time with them) in the mini market so stocked up on a few more drinks for the evening with them. Found out Hywel had also stocked up on some more fishing equipment!
BOL EN-ROUTE BACK TO SPLIT:
With fishing equipment in hand, the following day was spent by Martin and Hywel hanging lines over the end of the boat catching a fair number of fish that were the right size to be “bait” for the bigger fish they were going to catch “later”. We headed to Bol for swimming and Kristi floated around on a lilo soaking up as much sun as
possible. While hanging about on the upper deck at one point, Kristi was most shocked to see a boat very similar to ours pass by quite closely - with one major difference. It was a nudist boat! - quite amusing to see a lot of nude people 'hanging' (!) around on the decks! After Bol we stopped at a secluded bay which made us feel like the only people on earth - awesome! And then, before we knew it, it was time to head back to Split! Sailing in was surreal, up until then it felt like the 7 night sailing trip had been a great duration, but suddenly it felt like we’d been in Split just yesterday! Docking in port, we wandered around town and then got drinks and dinner with Hywel and Kirsten.
In the morning it was time to say good bye to the crew who had cared for us and fed us for a week! It's worth mentioning that the food on the trip was nothing short of fantastic, a vast range of dishes and obviously a great deal of fish - we never met a meal we didnt like! We packed up and were
off heading to the Split office of Avis by about 9am. We collected our car and then jumped in ready for our planned drive to Bosnia. Well, the next 10 minutes were spent driving up random alleyways that got narrower the further you went, skinny alleyways ending in dead ends and reversing down one way streets.... but we eventually managed to find our way out of Split and took off along the coast to the soundtrack of Croatian music and 80s music in English which we managed to find on the radio. We had no map - deciding to wing it, but eventually decided to stop for a map :-) and then things progressed a little faster! We headed inland a little and found the main highway heading towards Dubrovnik. The highways were great roads in Croatia and it took us surprisingly little time to reach the point where we branched off to find our way on smaller roads to Bosnia.
After our trip to Bosnia and Montenegro, we actually came back into Croatia on our last day before flying back to London, taking us very little time to drive from Budva,
Montenegro to Dubrovnik, Croatia. After crossing the border back in we felt like we were coming home. Croatia had won a place in our hearts and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The summer weather was awesome, the people were friendly, the scenery and coastline spectacular, the water a stunning turquoise and soooo clear, altogether a charming way of life. We’d allowed plenty of extra time not knowing how long the border crossing would take and so ended up in Dubrovnik with 5 hours to spare before we had to be at the airport. After stopping briefly in Dubrovnik, we headed back South about 30 mins to a town called Cavtat to spend the afternoon. Cavtat was great, another charming coastal village to while away the afternoon wandering around the water’s edge, buying more Havaianas :-) and relaxing with ice cream, drinks or both :-) It was a great way to end our summer holiday to Europe, relaxing in a beautiful spot in Croatia - a place we will always remember fondly.
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