I've been getting quite behind on the blogging front over the past week, so I'm just going to give an overview of everything I've been up to since my last entry.
On Monday and Tuesday nights I stayed at a hostel in Supetar, which is the principle town Brač, the closest island to Split. Supetar is a pretty little seaside town with a population of just 3,000 and not a great deal to offer aside from beaches, cafés, bars and restaurants. The hostel I was staying at had only recently moved to its current location, and partially as a result I was the only guest in the whole place. It wasn't as lonely as it sounds though, as there were seven members of staff: one Croat, two Americans, three Australians and a Swede. Every summer the hostel offers guests guided tours of the island, but as it's only the start of the season, the manager was teaching the staff the route while I was there. They took me along with them, so I essentially got a free tour that usually costs a couple of hundred kune. The tour showed me all of the main sights of the island: a small factory that uses local ingredients to produce soap that's sold all over the world; a little old church which miraculously has a century-old tree growing out of its roof; the highest point of any Adriatic island, providing wonderful views; and the supposedly-famous shifting, triangular beach of Bol.
After Brač I had intended to visit the island of Korčula, but at the last minute I decided against it, returning to Split for another two nights instead. After a relaxing two days in Split, I set sail for my next island destination: Hvar. Hvar is the most well-known and often-frequented of Dalmatia's islands, due largely to the beauty of Hvar Town, which is sometimes referred to as "a little Dubrovnik". Unfortunately, as in Dubrovnik, mass tourism has rendered Hvar slightly more pricey than nearby Brač and Split. I found it interesting to note the different types of tourists found in different parts of Croatia. While Dubrovnik was dominated by white-haired coach groups and Split by young backpackers, on Hvar there were a lot more "sun-seekers": young people who come (largely from the UK) for a week-long break during which they lie on the beach all day and go out drinking all night. Admittedly there is not a great deal else to do on the island, and I did spend much of my time on the beach. However I did spend one afternoon going for a lengthy and rewarding walk up to the fortress that looks down upon Hvar Town, and then along the top of the coastal cliffs and into the tranquil woodlands of the interior.
After Hvar I returned to Split for one more night (I've really become fond of this city, and was sad to finally say goodbye!) before heading to Zadar, a city 150km further up the coast. In Zadar my hostel was not very central, but rather located in a peaceful and pleasant suburb. From there it was a really nice half-hour stroll along the seafront to the Old Town. Zadar's Old Town is the biggest and most urbanized of the Adriatic Old Towns I've visited yet, feeling a lot more like a real city centre that just happens to be historic. Zadar's most famous attraction is its perplexing "sea organ": a series of holes in the ground along the seafront, which emit harmonious sounds somehow caused by the waves of the sea.
This morning I woke up early in order to get a 09.00 bus from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park (which is located en route from Zadar to Zagreb). I arrived at Plitvice at about 11.00, and - after finally finding lockers in which I could store my luggage - set off to enjoy the outstanding natural beauty of the National Park. Plitvice covers an area of 297km2, and is dominated by a series of spectacular lakes, which are at different elevations and connected by waterfalls. There are several different routes around the park, but I preferred just to go for an aimless wander rather than following a map. As such, I can't be sure that I saw everything that the park has to offer, but I feel I saw all the main things. The landscape was truly amazing, but I couldn't help but feel that visitors are somewhat restricted in what they are able to see: I would've liked to have been able to go off the beaten track a bit more, though I suppose that isn't possible due to the wildlife (bears, wolves, lynxes and wildcats all roam free). Also due to my limited amount of time, I couldn't visit some of the less frequented routes deeper into the park. Anyway I really regret not having a camera today, as Plitvice was arguably as picturesque as Montenegro.
From Plitvice I took a bus to the Croatian capital Zagreb, where I arrived this evening. My hostel here is not very central, and so far all I've done is gone for a walk around this part of the city. The general feel of the city reminds me slightly of Berlin: what I've seen so far is a lot more urban and ex-Communist-feeling than any other part of Croatia I've seen so far. Tomorrow I'm planning to get up early and spend the full day seeing everything the city has to offer: I'm reliably informed all the essentials can be covered within a day. Then at 10.00 on Saturday I am getting a train to Budapest,: I'll be sad to finally leave the former Yugoslavia!
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