The Recollection Diaries: Croatia

My Recollection

Strongest memory: The day we spent transporting from Split to Dubrovnik is a memory that will never escape me. We made our way to the bus stop early as we had been told that the buses often change departure bays at the last minute and are not prone to waiting so we wanted to be prepared. The bus was scheduled to take 5 hours. We were watching Google maps on our phones closely, as  we were interested to see how the border crossing was going to work with the need to pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina. Long bus trips (which includes five hour ones) require planning: snacks, hydration stops, entertainment source, preservation of phone battery – you get the gist. Especially when you’re prone to travel sickness. Well my planning soon went out the window as our bus was stopping every few hundred metres at all the local villages to pick up people trying to get to the next town. By the time we arrived (about 7 hours later), I was severely parched and definitely in need of a bathroom. We then got in a argument with the taxi driver who refused to put his metre on, and after naming an extremely exorbitant fee (which we disputed because we had seen the sign of ‘set prices’ at the taxi stand) claimed it was for our baggage. Yeah right! Luckily Summer put a staunch foot down and we didn’t fork over the extra money. It was a great example of a ‘travel day’ ending up literally taking the entire day.

Memorable meal: We met up with Summer and Jamie in Split for a few days and journeyed with them down to Dubrovnik. Summer had made her budget well known to us, so we were basically home cooking every meal. Basically we each took a night cooking; I made fajitas on my night, which I thought were delicious! My most memorable meal however was the dinner we ate out at on our last night in Croatia which was at a spot near the beach in Lapad, the area we stayed at whilst in Dubrovnik. We had done our research (if we were only eating one meal out we wanted to make sure it was a good one) and we had a really nice meal out as a group on the patio. Burgers and beer, followed by a crepe with M&Ms (or was it M&Ms with a side of crepe?) – yum!

Best activity:  Hiring kayaks in Dubrovnik. Andy and I went out one afternoon for a few hours, sticking pretty closely to the walls of the Old Town and meandering around to where the marina lies. There is an island that is possible to visit (I have done it in the past and accidentally stumbled across a nude beach) but on this occasion we preferred to just drift in our kayaks on the water, soaking up the iconic sight that lay before us. The orange tones of the city, contrasted against the green hillside and the bright blue sky is a pretty spectacular sight. It is also far less crowded on the ocean than what it is amongst all the tourists walking the city walls – and much cheaper too!

Favourite place: Plitvice Lakes were my favourite Croatian destination in 2019. Previously, I would have awarded that to Dubrovnik, but the expense and popularity of the city meant that this time round I found it rather exhausting at times. On the other hand, while Plitvice is certainly very busy, being immersed in lush scenery provides a much more calming experience. The main trails were obviously the most popular, so it was also easy to get away from the crowded spots as there are plenty of side paths to be taken. A key piece of advice is to steer away from being near the entry gates when the tour buses arrive (about 10am) because that is when things become overwhelmingly busy!

Unforgettable sight: The Old Town of Dubrovnik is obviously a contender, whether it be from up on the city walls or from the water by kayak.  However, in this instance there is no going past the Plitvice Lakes, seen from a vantage point. The expansive turquoise waters are shrouded by green foilage and the similar array of colours makes for such a stunning sight. There are pools, waterfalls, streams and so many trees. It is just green on green on green! It is one of those bucket list destinations that I had seen so many photos of in the past few years and I thought the sights we saw truly lived up to those expectations.

Andy’s Recollection

Strongest memory:  If I judge my strongest memory to be the first to come to mind, then the sunburn that I suffered in Split sadly wins this award.  Split was unrelentingly sunny, and after a long day spent getting too much sun on one of the rocky local beaches, I remember cursing the city for its reflective white buildings and pavements, and general lack of shade.  I guess that it was precisely the medieval charm of the Split’s downtown that particularly punished me for not using proper amounts of sunscreen, which is a shame when you think about it.

Memorable meal:  One of the easiest memorable meals to date: in Zagreb, we searched for a top “cheap eats” restaurant and were recommended the Sri Lankan Curry Bowl.  Good south Asian curries had proven elusive during our time in Europe, so I was excited.  We both ordered variations on what appeared to be their specialty dish – a rice-based curry tower similar to biryani.  My favourite meals are those that are not only so tasty that you can’t help but eat them at pace, but that are also served in a large enough quantity that, despite the pace, you struggle to finish.  Sri Lankan Curry Bowl’s signature dish ticked both boxes by some margin.

Best activity: The ocean swimming in Croatia is unparalleled.  The crystal clear water temperature is refreshing yet inviting, and still as bathwater.  We swam almost every day that we were on the Croatian riviera, and I almost began to take the swimming for granted.  When we next got in the ocean (the Atlantic, in Lagos), I was swiftly reminded just how good the Croatians have it in the Adriatic.

Favourite place:  My favourite spot in Croatia was the Lapad area of Dubrovnik.  Though lacking the postcard-ready charm of the Dubrovnik old town, the neighbouring bay boasts a beautiful swimming beach, pretty hilltop views, and a collection of trendy beachside restaurants offering a variety of cuisines.  The prices are high (after all, the neighbourhood exists to cater for cashed up tourists that visit the old-town by day and watch the sunsets at the beach by night), but there are some great affordable restaurant options if you look a couple of blocks back from the water’s edge, and it’s free to walk around and soak up the buzzing evening atmosphere.

Unforgettable sight:  The walled old town of Dubrovnik is the iconic jewel of Croatia’s tourism crown.  Though the heaving crowds that it draws may detract from the experience of being there, the sight of the city’s orange rooftops and towering fortifications are undiminished and undeniably compelling.  The price of climbing the walls has skyrocketed recently (now 35 Euros, where Nicole had paid just 10 Euros four years earlier), so we settled for seeing the old city from within, and from the surrounding water on kayaks.  Taking in the city from (almost) every angle combined to form an image of a stunning town that I won’t soon forget.


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