Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thoughts on Croatia - the Dalmatian Coast

  • Croatia has a stunning and dramatic coastline called ‘the Dalmatian Coast’ which runs North from Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea. This is where the mountains plummet down to the turquoise Sea. It is quite something.

  • Dubrovnik is a charming and beautiful city, saturated with tourists. The old town is built within the well-preserved city walls, which are several hundred years old. When you walk around the old town, you can imagine at times what it might have been like for people living in the city 400 years ago.
  • This romantic reflection will last for a few seconds, before the next group of boisterous American tourists walk around the corner eating ice creams and spouting superlatives. Despite the expected crowds, I would highly recommend Dubrovnik as a place to visit, and a good spot to start a trip up the coast.

  • July and August are very hot – up to 35 degrees in the day and around the mid 20s at night. Don’t bring jeans, do bring flip-flops. Be warned - you may be hesitant to leave the confines of an air conditioned apartment during the hours of 9am and 6pm.

  • Beer is cheap in Croatia, especially outside of the trendy tourist areas. Prices as low as €1.50 for a pint if you like to drink with the locals! Nice.
  • Croatians are good at making pizza, and sandwiches. Fruit and vegetables are also tasty and cheap. Dinner options were less pleasing, since the local delicacy seems to be a dry piece of fish with soggy sliced boiled potato and some spinach (and I’m not exactly fussy).
  • The Adriatic Sea is a gorgeous colour, and is great for swimming. I stupidly forgot my swimming goggles.
  • In the absence of sand, the term ‘beach’ has a broad interpretation in Croatia. A ‘beach’ can mean anything from jagged boulders which protrude from the trees and then abruptly drop into the sea (sun bathing can be awkward), and a rocky/dirt terrain reminiscent of a construction site. In fact, to describe Croatian beaches as ‘pebble beaches’ would somewhat embellish the truth in many cases. Buy a rollout mattress, or pay a beach vendor €5 to make use of a beach chair for the day. If you can get a comfortable enough spot, and spend plenty of time in the water, then you'll get over this pretty fast.
  • Choose your Croatian holiday spot carefully, as plenty of them seem to be over-run by families (relaxing on the 'beach' while being surrounded by noisy kids can be challenging) and resorts.
  • Split is four hours north of Dubrovnik by bus along the picturesque Dalmatian Coastal Route. The bus trip is very scenic, but the lack of air conditioning and soaring temperatures may limit your enjoyment. Brac and Hvar are islands off the Coast of Split, both are popular tourist destinations. I can see why.
  • Dubrovnik and Hvar are full of glamour, wealth, beautiful people. In contrast, The island of Brac is full of resorts, families and couples. Hvar is full of super-yachts that back up onto the promenade - Here is darth vadar's one.

  • Hvar town (on the island of Hvar) is a bustling party-town with an aesthetically-pleasing and historic sea-side town centre, lined loads of great bars and cafes. Hvar is a guilty pleasure. It is the most pretentious place that I have ever been, but yet I liked it. Maybe it's because they have bars built into the rocks (the ‘beach) where you can drink cocktails and Coronas in the sun, in the company of fancy people who wear sparkly sunglasses worth €400.
  • On the islands you can hire small boats and cruise around the many islands and pull up to a ‘beach’ of your choice for a swim. You can pretend to be a captain, if you like.
  • Croatia has great mountains for running or walking up, but in the height of summer it is difficult to make good use of them because it's so hot. Croatia is also not overly suited for marathon training, in case anyone was thinking of going there with that purpose in mind. The best, and only, way to climb mountains or train is to wake up very early, and then sleep during the day.

  • Croatia is less of a back-packer destination, than it is a domain of families / the rich. But there are some backpackers there, most are Continental and Australian, most are groups of females or couples.
  • Ice cream vendors are a-plenty, and ice creams cost less than €1. The ice creams are about 1/3 of the size of a NZ ice cream in a cone, which can be perplexing, but that's ok because it gives you an excuse to have another one.
  • You can find accommodation as you go, since you will be surrounded by enthusiastic apartment owners upon arrival at each town.

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