> How it all began...
It was July 2002 and we were talking to our neighbours at Toscolano campingsite at the Garda Lake. They told us about their holidays the year before, when they went to Istria, Croatia. It surprised me that they liked it so much over there, as I only knew the country just ended heir homeland war. I thought that wouldn't be an ideal country to spend your holidays. But because of all their stories I became very interested in Croatia and we were only back home for a few days when I was trying to find as maninformation on the internet as possible. I recognized many of the names of cities in Croatia from the news reports a few years before. I became really enthousiastic by seeing the photos of beautiful coastlines and cities, especially Dubrovnik seemed great to me. After I got myself some magazines I decided that this country was worth visiting the next summer.
> The Plan
We'd certainly visit Istria, as we knew many people who had been there or knew somebody that had been there. Despite the long distance all the way south to Dubrovnik we were very keen on seeing this city as well. After a lot of discussions, looking at photos, searching on the internet and hearing other people's stories we decided to do one week of mid-Dalmatia and a few days of Plitvice as well. The lakes at this place should have a wonderful blue-green color and there should be lots of waterfalls.
> Journey to Croatia
Finally it was July 2003: our holiday in Croatia was about to begin. After a night in a hotel in Ulm in the south of Germany we went further to Austria and Slovenia. We both never were in Slovenia before and were surprised by the difference with other countries we've been to. The hills and landscapes were pretty much the same as some places in Germany and Austria, but the houses and athmosphere were so different. Then we came to the end of the highway and we had to follow many curved roads through the hills. We were glad we booked a night in Germany as well, as it would have been to exhausting to do in one day. The driver had to focus on the road very well, as we are not used to curves like this in Holland. But after a few hours we reached the border to Croatia and we passed it very quickly. It didn't take very long to find the village of Lovran after we crossed the border. We should stay in hotel Bristol for one week. The hotel was not very luxurous, but it was comfortable and right at the ocean. Unfortunately it took us only a few hours to damage the rolling shutter at our window, because we lifted it up too far. The man who had to fix it wasn't there for a few days, so we had to sleep for four days without anything but very thin curtains at the windows. We woke up at 6 every morning with the first sunrays.
After the first walk in the environment and a fresh swim in the ocean (unfortunately with a rocky beach instead of sand) we drove to Pula. We expected to arrive in Puka in about 40 minutes, but that's not the way it works in Croatia. The roads (mostly at the coast) have many curves and cross many hills, so maximum speed is about 60 kilometers an Hour. After one hour and a half we arrived in Pula and the weather was wonderful here. In Lovran, where the hotel was, the weather was cloudy and not as beautiful as here. We found out that the East coast of Istria is cloudy many times when the rest of the peninsula is sunny. So now we know why all the tourists stay at the West coast. Pula is wonderful: many Medieval buildings, like the Arena, Mary-Formosa Church and the buildings at the central square. But we found the small and very old villages of Istria much more interesting and nice to spend some time: colorful Labin, quiet Plomin, and Graciöce, where time stood still for many years. In the only shop in Graciöce the woman that served us even cut our bread and put the cheese on it, as we didn't bring a knive, what a service! These quiet villages, including the farytale village on a hill: motovun, and the real quiet Oprtalj attracted us much more than these busy and touristic places like Porec, Vrsar and Rovinj, looking even busier than the French Riviera. We also loved the mountains behind our hotel in Lovran, where we even risked our lives to pass a few dangerous dogs.
After that week we packed our things in the car again and drove further to the South. The landscape became very rocky, the mountains got bigger and we saw many pearl-white islands at the coastline. The coast was very spectacular and extremely blue. We loved the Velebit-mountains that we had to pass, we certainly wanted to spend more time here, but we already booked our appartment in Omis. After Zadar we lost the road at the coast when we tried a shortcut. Suddenly the wonderful blue landscape turned into a ravage of houses with hundreds of holes and without any windows. First we didn't even notice what happened and some-one even said: "Hey why are all these housesempty?" But suddenly we realized this was the countries' souvenir of the war that took place here in the 90's. We passed many broken houses, complete villages abandoned and the roads were in a bad condition. But just as quickly as it disappeared it was there again: the blue and sunny coastline. After an 8 hour drive of 60 kilometers an hour max. we arrived in omis, a very special, medieval village with narrow streets and a castle at the Cetina river and mountains.
From our appartment we could see the sea, the blueest sea we've ever seen. And the warmest sea as well, with a great view of rocky cliffs at one side and pearl white islands on the other side. We had a great tour when we visited Makarska, with breathtaking views at the coast. We also visited Split, but this city was a bit of a disappointment, not as beautiful as we expected. But the ancient Salona, close to Split was fantastic, great how you can discover the ancient areas with the history of Split here. We also went in the direction of Trogir on the Castle-Road, where there should be 7 castles. We were disappointed when we couldn't find a single one of them! We followed the entire Castle-Road for about 5 times in both directions, but no castles... You can imagine that we were surprised by seeing a few of these castles on the internet when we were back home. Where did they hide them for us? One of the best things for us during this week was that there were hardly any Dutch tourists in this area. This made us feel very far away from and gave us a real holiday-feeling. But the absolute best thing during this week was our tour on the Cetina River in our rental boat. We went on the river between high rocky mountains to a small cafť in the forrest. It wasn't easy to get ashore with dry clothes, but somehow we managed to reach the shore. We had a soda and got on our way back to the place we rented the boat. But now we had a different kind of problem: the motor sudenly stopped time after time and we even got into the reet plumes. It was a great mystery for 2 experienced captains as we are (not!!)...was the motor broken? Eventually we found out what the problem was. The laziest one of us was lying on the deck to get tanned in the warm sun and that's why the back side of the boat incuding the motor got out of the water every time, haha.
After that week we went further in the direction of the sun. The rest of the 4 hour drive to Dubrovnik were just as beautiful as the first 8 on the week before. It took us a while to find our hotel named Bellevue, but we came very close to the old city center because of that. What a gigantic city walls and enourmous gates, it was exactly as I had imagined... After we got rid of our car and suitcases at the hotel and being surprised by the best view we ever had from a room we quickly went to the city center. Many things to see, everything beautiful and so old. The tour on the city walls was warm and thirsty, but certainly worth it. We had a great view over the city and the coastline. Unfortunately the men who sold cold drinks also knew that it was hot and thirsty on the wall and we had to pay 6 euro for 2 drinks, as we didn't want to because of thirst. One of the days that we were in Dubrovnik we went to the island of Lokrum that's only 10 minutes from the city by boat. On the island we had a beautiful view over Dubrovnik.
> Plitvice Lakes
The warmest day of our holidays was on the day that we drove back to the north for a visit at plitvice national parc. It was 38 degrees and when we got back on the road to the appartment where we stayed the week before we sneeked into the parc and parked our car for a dive into the ocean. We are sure the owner of the appartments "Ruskamen" would have had no problems with that. When we went on to Plitvice we first had to cross a mountain-landscape and then the landscape became very dry. But suddenly there was forrest again and we arrived in Plitvice. Our hotel was a little bit further and on our first night we went out to discover the environments. We were curious what was behind a small fence and followed the path behind it. At the end of the path we saw something that used to be the floor of a small house once. There were more of these floors and we finally found out that this used to be a vacation parc with houses once. Everything got destroyed during the war. we even saw the former street lights: burned and with many small holes in it. We found traces of tanks and bullets on the floor. Really scary. There were many damaged houses in the environments that were such a complete difference with the beautiful parc of Plitvice jezero, the national parc that's also on the world heritage list of Unesco. We walked the whole day at this parc with the 16 blue-green lakes and 92 waterfalls (didn't count them) without getting bored. As all good things end once, this is the end of our best holiday untill this far. We've seen many things and found it a real adventure to discover Croatia.
> More Info
Also check our Croatia info page, where you can find a lot of interesting information about Croatia.