I have a bit of an obsession with taking pictures of sunsets. (Side philosophical question: Is it possible to have a “bit” of an obsession?) We parked ourselves on the beach in Starigrad and just snapped away until the sun set firmly into the earth.
Monday night, we drove north to a tiny town on the Adriatic sea – Starigrad – which appears to be used mostly as a point of departure for hiking the Velebit mountain range, including Paklenica National Park. That was our plan, at least.
In typical fashion, I suffered from delusions of grandeur in planning our route — an 880 meter climb that would reward us with sweeping views of the sea. That was until one of the guides informed us that the final 130 meters are “hard,” “very steep,” and “on cliff.” The following conversation ensued:
Me: How bad can it be?
Friend: I am not hiking at the edge of a cliff or scaling a mountain wall.
Me: Let’s try it. We can turn back if it gets too crazy.
Ten minutes later, we turned around.
Still, it was a strenuous, sweaty, long and beautiful hike through Paklenica, and we enjoyed seeing a completely different part of Croatia, not just its gleaming coastline. Paklenica is not as famous as some of the other national parks in Croatia, but it is a hiker’s paradise and not nearly as crowded. I highly recommend it. Proof below.
After our mildly disappointing evening in Split, Croatia, we decided to split (pun intended). We picked up our rental car earlier than planned (see below) and drove to Krka National Park. It was beautiful, but extremely crowded and we spent almost as much time waiting on line for a boat to transport us as we did enjoying the park. Still, glad I had a chance to see these incredible waterfalls.
And by we, I mean my travel partner drove and I navigated, but I did do a mighty fine job of navigating if I do say so myself. We have one more day of driving left, but here is my observation of the day: Europens drive fast. On Croatia’s main highway, the A1, the speed limit is 130 kilometers, or approximately 80 miles an hour. That is speedy.
Long blog post ahead. Read at your own risk.
After a much needed day of catching up on sleep and sitting by the pool (and complaining about my camera) we headed to Mount Srd (pronounced surge), a fortress high above the old city of Dubrovnik built by Napoleon in order to keep tabs on his new subjects. The mountaintop also hosts a small museum detailing the important role Mount Srd played in Croatia’s war for independence.
In the early nineties, Mount Srd was bombed repeatedly, destroying the cable car that transported people to the mountaintop, and unexploded landmines made the mountain inaccessible. In recent years though, the landmines have been removed and the cable car has been rebuilt. At the top, we were met with stunning views of the old city and the sea as well as reminders of Croatia’s not-so-distant war-torn history.
After our trip to Mount Srd, we hopped on a four hour bus ride to Split, the highlight of which was the 15 minute drive through Bosnia. I have officially been to Bosnia! Apparently, when the land was divied up Bosnia got a tiny strip of land along the coast and every person driving from Dubrovnik to Split or vice versa has to go through border control.
Next up: Split. The guide books rave about Split and its center city built atop the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. We were slightly underwhelmed. Not that it wasn’t interesting to see, but Split lacks Dubrovnik’s beauty and charm, and a couple of hours in Split is more than enough.
For a person obsessed with taking pictures, finding a spot of something on my lens that keeps showing up on my pictures is nearly a vacation tragedy. But that first-world problem aside, day 2 in Croatia was beautiful, at least until the jet lag kicked in, and then all I could think of was: MUST. GO. TO. SLEEP. The cafe owner did not look too pleased when I attempted to take a nap on her bench.
Today, we took a one hour boat ride to the island of Lopud and hiked up to see fortress ruins that rewarded us with beautiful vistas of the water and the surrounding islands, which I attempted to capture digitally despite the camera problems.
P.S. If anyone has any thoughts on how to get rid of the spot on my SLR, I will be super grateful and happy.
The flight to Frankfurt (en route to Croatia) was delightful (although “The Five Year Engagement” starring the normally awesome Jason Segal was disappointing) and I quickly found the business class lounge in Frankfurt which is even nicer than the lounge in Washington DC. Bonus points for Frankfurt: The wifi appears to be working like a dream and I just watched Allyson Felix win gold in the 200 meters. Go Team USA!