After days of discussions and contemplating which countries we should travel to in Europe, the pin landed on Croatia. The land of beaches and parties they said, we did the former and much more along the way. In this post, I am going to talk all about our 2-week odyssey to the land of the Game of Thrones, the land that has seen one of the worst ethnic wars in the world and the land that has risen to almost winning the World Cup.
Well, I say why not! But a lot of my friends and colleagues asked me this. Some didn’t even know of the place. The history of Croatia is interesting and sad, they used to be a part of Yugoslavia in the early 90’s. They wanted to split away from the union of the 4 countries now. Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. Serbia wasn’t too happy with that decision and they bombed Croatia, Croatia retaliated too. Many of their major cities were bombed mercilessly, rendering many dead and homeless. Croatia’s economy crippled. It was sad to read about it but even sadder to hear it from the people who actually witnessed it and fought the war. Regardless Croatia is very peaceful and developed now and is a great place for history buffs, Game of Thrones fans and people who want to meet other great people. We planned to spend 2 weeks in the country and with a budget of Rs. 4 lakhs, we decided to spend it all. 1 Kuna is 10 rupees.
The Visa Fiasco
We thought a country like Croatia with the low difference between the Kuna and Rupee will be a great destination to wing it. We were so wrong! Croatia turned out to be stricter than any other country we’ve visited in the past. The visa came in two days before our flight. Oh yeah! and they call each and every place we list, confirming that we’ve actually made the reservations.
Here’s a useful checklist for you if you’re Indian, you need a Croatian Visa, they aren’t in the Euro Zone yet.
- Book an appointment at the VFS office here
- Visa form to download or book online
- Pay Visa fees – EUR 60
- Get Travel Insurance – Any popular travel insurance will do, we booked ICICI Lombard Coverage of 30,000 EUR
- Cover Letter (click here for the template)
- Purpose of your visit.
- Details of your location and stay
- Duration of Stay in Croatia.
- Driver’s License – This is optional
- 2 Copies of a valid passport
- 2 Copies of your photos
- 35×45 mm
- taken against a light background
- full face taken straight forward 30-36 mm from point of the chin to the head of hair
- Copy of your tickets
- Itinerary (Booking details printouts)
- 3 months banks statements, make sure they are the latest.
- 3 years IT returns
- Receipt of cash purchased or a copy of your international credit card.
Day 1: The land of Art
That’s Croatia’s capital city and we planned to spend 2 days there. We thought how fascinating the capital can be right? It surprised us this one. Getting out of the airport we walked with our backpacks to Central Hotel Zagreb. The hotels close by, just maybe a 2 km walk. Opposite to the hotel, you could see a range of graffiti, some were intelligent pieces talking about the environment and others were childish caricatures. We went off to sleep in our tiny room, we had a cycle tour the next day.
Day 2: The Cycle trip
On a trip to London, I had done this cycle tour, which covered the entire city. The tour guides give you facts about the city, some interesting local things about the place. We did the same in Zagreb and it was awesome, we did this bike tour, https://www.zagrebbybike.com/
Call blue bike up instead of pre-booking, it turns out much cheaper than booking this on Tripadvisor.
Our tour guide took us through the ancient streets of Zagreb, she showed us some street art, one of the most interesting ones was when a bunch of art university students went around the city to install the planetary system as hidden structures and it was a puzzle for the whole town to solve, they weren’t very obvious at first, for the fact we were standing beside the sun for so long. Our tour guide shared some personal experiences from when she was a university student in the 90’s, she was stuck in a tunnel along with a friend for around 6 hours , we walked through the tunnels on this tour.
Croatia and Serbia are still fighting over Tesla’s nationality.
Cycle tours are a great way to get around town and see more in less time and it’s super fun riding along with other tourists.
When it comes to food, the concept of restaurants serving food is relatively new with the spurge of tourism, apparently people used to get their own food to cafes, order a coffee and sit there for hours, so, don’t expect the food to be very good. Google and look at the ratings of restaurants before you eat.
Day 3: Plitvice National Park – The power of communication
Plitvice pronounced Plitvichee, is one of the best lake and national parks in the world, it’s a must see when you go to Croatia. But the highlight wasn’t the place, it was the people we stayed with which I talk about for hours. I rather did not talk to them, but signed to them, used google translate and spoke with in precise words, but yet we managed to communicate, it still brings a smile to my face to think about how we tried communicating with a Croatian and German that day.
We rented a car from Zagreb to go to Plitvice, I was driving, and driving like a tourist, followed the speed limits and yes got honked at for that. The traffic’s decent in Croatia, it’s a left-hand drive on the right side of the road and the rentals are pretty easy to get, fill a form and produce your Driver’s License, that’s it, you can opt for an Insurance if you’re paranoid, we were. There was a deposit fee, which we got back in full, no damage you see, for I was driving like my grandmother.
We did an overnight stay at Plitvice, we took a one day ticket for the park, which cost us around 110 Kuna, here’s an awesome link to get to know about Plitvice, the writer has everything listed in it, prices, what to do, what to see in here.
There’s a lot to walk there, so wear good shoes to trek, you can carry your own food there to have a nice picnic, but the restaurant inside the park is not too bad, they have some decent set meals that can be had. They have buses running inside the park that take you from point to point.
We came back to our homestay, it was a walking distance from the park, with beer and sat at the porch, when Ljubika, the homeowner joined us. She knew little English and she was with her German friend who knew none. We spoke with each other for 3-4 hours signing and using google translate. That what I love about these trips, they open up your minds to find innovative ways to communicate with each other, it’s refreshing, to be in a foreign country where people have no idea what you’re speaking 🙂
It gets cold in Plitvice, even in summer, carry warm clothes, no matter which month you go therein.
Day 4 – Land of the most beautiful sunset.
Next up was Zadar. This was our rest stop, we had 3 days here. And they were spent well. Although our stay Hotel Iva wasn’t the best, it was a well-kept apartment in the newer part of Zadar about a 15 mins walk to the main city center, where the Zadar port is. The new part of the town is very different from the old, I would like to put it as it’s a little grey as compared to the colorful city center. There’s some mean graffiti in places and that side of town has a very weird feel to it. We would always hum “Imperial March” entering some of the squalid streets.
I’m not trying to scare anybody but I just felt like I saw a post-war scene entering there, whereas the city center possessed a very vibrant scene. There are a few hostels/hotels in the area that you can consider rather than the budget homestays away from the port.
Day 5 – The day we met our quirky tour guide.
Knowing how much we had enjoyed the cycle tour in Zagreb we went all in for the tour here in Zadar we had a lot of time to kill, 3 days was great, we went with ZZum this time around to book the tour. Again it’s better to book at the location, turned out much cheaper. We took the afternoon slot for the 2.5 hrs tour. This covered the whole city, we rode for more than 20 kms, with one of the funniest and quirkest tour guides I have come across. We dubbed her to be the Croatia Pheobe of sorts. She’s actually a history teacher who does the cycle touring to get some exercise and impart and refresh her history knowledge through this medium. Zadar has some very interesting art installations near their port, like the sea organ installed below the promenade, you can hear it’s sweet sound as the waves hit the pipes or the monument of the sun which lights up when you step on it. Alfred Hitchcock had once said that Zadar has one of the best sunsets in the world. Unfortunately we were unlucky every time we went there, we were either late or it was cloudy, but there’s this certain peace to the place, the steely grey waters the warm winds and the sound of the sea organ combined just makes you want to just sit there and stare into space, clearing anything that’s in your head, being one with the sea.
Day 6 – When 2 Indians, 2 Australians, and 2 Belgians met on a boat.
There are many islands around Zadar to explore. Many companies that run boats to those un-inhabited islands. We went with Kornati Excursions. The boats alright, don’t go with many expectations, it was small and cramped, like any other ferry you’ll go on in India. They served food, ham, and cheese and for vegetarians, it was just cheese, vegans just got bread. They had unlimited beer for all. The ferry showed us multiple islands, the word un-inhabited has a very exotic ring to it, but in reality, they were too small to be lived in. They took us to an island which had some ruins from houses which were destroyed during world war 2, they were also used as army posts, we trekked the whole place in about half an hour to later join the rest in the water, some were tubing, some just swimming, I snorkeled, it was more do what the f**k you want kind of thing.
The Captain’s place or Island is more like it
For lunch, the boat took us to an island where we had some local delights and wine, oh so much wine at the captain’s own house. We were paired with this other couple from Australia and Belgium, oh the stories we told each other dunking down at least 3 jugs of free wine. These moments are the ones that stay by, meeting strangers and sharing random things with them, that’s the joy of travel.
Day 7 – Time to Split
Split is a town in the Dalmatian region which is very tourist heavy, so we planned a 2 day stay there. As I told you before, the months of July near the coast of Croatia are super hot, temperatures going into their 30s we now decided to trek in this weather to the mighty Mt Mosor. We booked this trek with Iris Adventures. That day we had traveled from Zadar to Spilt which was a 3-4 hour ride, we pretty much just fell on the bed when we reached there.
Croatia has amazing roads, but it’s public transportation is so-so, trains are not recommended, this is not a traveller talking but the locals, either Uber it or rent a car both are not too heavy on the pocket.
We put up at Jupiter Lux Rooms, I would recommend this place in Split, it’s a budget BnB with modern rooms and lots of privacy, the home-owner has someone attend to you, so you need to phone them that you’re arriving, they provide breakfast at Konoba Pizzeria Feral just opposite to their homestay.
In Split, I recommend you try the mussels and the squid ink risotto from the restaurant just adjacent to the BnB, Konoba Fetivi, a delight for a seafood lover, it was the first time I tried anything made in squid ink.
These seven days were about adventure, history and art, the next seven were about luxury and beaches. That’s coming up next. Follow my blog to know when!
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