We awoke early to make the journey to Heathrow Terminal 5. The early start made slightly better by Phils’ ability to get us into the BA lounge for some bacon sandwiches and fruit salad (it was too early even for me to take advantage of the freebie fizz). Upon arriving in Croatia, we took the easy option and got an expensive taxi from the airport to the centre of Zagreb where Phil had booked us an apartment. After pulling up at what looked like a bit of a dubious building, I was slightly concerned at what Phil had booked us into. Soon Dominik our host arrived, and showed us into a lovely small modern apartment and gave us lots of friendly help and advice on what to do during our stay in Zagreb. Needless to say, Phil had actually come up trumps. Apartment Staub was a one minute walk into the centre of old town and perfectly situated to explore the city.
I had not heard of anyone who had been to Croatia going to Zagreb, which I thought odd seeing as it is the capital, but knew either this meant it was going to be a complete waste of time or an underrated gem. Thankfully it was the latter. A beautiful old city with magnificent architecture, lots of outside cafes and bars and a friendly vibe – I loved it. We spent our day and a half walking around the city and taking in the sites; Ban Jelacic Square, the Gornji Grad and Kaptol, St. Mark’s Square, Dolac Market, numerous grand buildings now museums and exploring the winding side streets. As with most small cities, this was enough time to settle into the Croatian way of life – eating and drinking.
Phil took part in lots of beer tasting, I tried the house wines only to be bitterly disappointed. I decided to try the local brandy and ended up with a disgusting herbal tea tasting brandy shot….so I have come to realise that trying to be a cheapskate and order glasses of house wine is not a good idea. Either buy wine by the bottle or stick to beers.
We picked up our rental car in the morning and with the help of GPS we navigated our way to our next stop – Plitvice Lakes National Park. This has to be undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and scenic places in Croatia. The national park is the largest in Croatia and on the UNESCO World Heritage register. We stayed in a simple room at a guesthouse called House Ines, where the hostess was very friendly and welcomed us with tea and biscuits. We were just a short drive to the national park entrances, so did one walking circuit on our first afternoon, (circuit E) and the lower lake circuit (circuit B) on our second morning. You can really fit this all into one day, and it would only be about eight hours of walking, but due to a mystery foot injury I somehow gained, breaking up our visit to the Park was ideal. The lakes were incredible! If the weather wasn’t quite so nippy and I squinted my eyes, I could have believed I was in the Caribbean – the waters were that crystal clear and that blue! The park is a little cheeky because you do have to pay for parking and the entrance fee and you have to pay for a map if you want one (it isn’t needed). Despite me having a mysterious bruise on my foot and limping my way around the circuits, we had a great time. As we were slightly off season, there were not too many crowds and we managed to keep ahead of the large bus tour groups. Pictures don’t do the place justice but hopefully they give you an idea….
After leaving the mountainous National Park area, we stripped off a few layers and continued our road trip to the town of Zadar situated on the Adriatic Sea and about ten degrees warmer. Zadar is a lovely old town, surrounded by large city walls with towers and gates. There are multiple old Churches dating back to the 9th century, the remains of Roman Temples and plenty of outside markets and cafes. One of the “must see” attractions is Zadar is watching sunset whilst listening to the Morske orgulje (sea organ). A series of marble steps are situated on the city coastline leading down to the water and concealed under these is a system of tubes that function as a large musical instrument, played by the waves and the wind. Bizarrely it reminded me of the tune from “Close Encounters”. After dinner and drinks, (I’m not a fan of Aperol spritzs it turns out), we continued our road trip to our next stop for the night…..