Sunday, February 17, 2019

Eight Days in Croatia - Europe's Best Kept Secret

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Up early and out the door at 0830 we taxied to the bus station in Sarajevo and boarded out bus to Zagreb, Croatia.  It was a lovely ride, overcast and cool, as we passed through mountain valleys, small towns, and rushing rivers.  We crossed over into the Republic of Sprska, an autonomous region of Bosnia and then into Croatia near its southern border with Serbia.  The border crossing was quick, a scan of our passports, a smile, and we were off again.  The six hour ride got us into the Zagreb city center around 4PM and a short taxi ride dropped us at our new front door.

Our home is a two bedroom apartment on the first floor with window overlooking the boulevard and park.  We are five minutes from the main square.

On our first full day we enjoyed a free morning wandering the old town area and around noon we took a taxi to the airport.  Andi arrived on time and after getting our rental car set up we returned to the city and back to the apartment.  Andi was tired so after a lunch snack, we ALL took a nap, then made dinner and watched a bit of TV. We enjoyed a steak dinner with all the fixings.  It's great to have Andi with us again for a nice long visit.

We woke early, had a relaxing morning, and then strolled over to the central square to join a walking tour.  Unfortunately our guide had not received our confirmation email and was a no-show.  After a few phone calls, we were rescheduled for the following day and then took off on our own to explore the city.

Our first stop was the Archaeological Museum.  Covering three floors of an early 19th century building it houses a surprisingly nice collection of Roman and Byzantine artifacts.  The Egyptian were the biggest surprise.  The trees surrounding the plaza appeared to be maple.  We later learned their were "plane," a species from North America that we had never seen before.

We wandered through the old town and then climbed to the top of the second hill to visit the City Museum.  The museum is located in an historic building dating back to the 1400s and once again we were treated to a really, very well-done layout and great exhibits featuring the history of Zagreb from the early 1100s to the present.

The following day we drove north of town to the village of Varazdin to see the fortress/palace built in 1140.  The drive was great and the fortress was magnificent.  Later we strolled the city and had lunch at a traditional Croatian "fast food" restaurant before returning to the city in time for our schedule walking tour.

We met Ivan, our local guide, and for two hours we toured the upper and lower cities.  Ivan was pleasant, gave us a lot of information, and it ended up being a private tour since the other reservation was a no-show.

The world's shortest funicular
St. Mark's church originally built in 1180 and rebuilt a few times since.  The tiles on the roof are from 1850 and depict the coat of arms of Croatia and the royal family at the time.

The Stone gate with the miracle painting of the Virgin Mary, a painting that survived the entire destruction of the gate by fire and did not have a single scorch mark.  It is an an icon today with many pilgrimage visitors annually.

Statue of King George and the Dragon, one of the symbols of the city.

Republic Park and more of those Plane trees. 
 National Gallery.
 Train station.
One day five our our visit we departed zagreb and drove up into the mountains to visit Plitcive Lakes National Park in route to the coast.  The park features a river descending over 3000' creating over 50 lakes, all separated by cascading waterfalls.  We parked and walked the 4KM trail to view some of the lakes and falls up close.

We reached Split, a historic city on the Dalmatian Coast and settled in to our really nice, BRAND new condo Airbnb.  The host met us on the street, had saved us a parking space right in front of the building, and was as accommodating as ever in showing us around, bringing out a city map to highlight all of the cool things so see and do, and making himself available for any follow up questions.  And all this for $17 per person per night.  Wow.

We were in Split for two days.  On our first day we strolled through the ancient city and toured the Roman palace built in 295AD.
 The main square of the city.

The waterfront with loads of folks on a Saturday morning.
 The walls of the Roman palace.
Outside in the courtyard of the mausoleum of the emperor, later turned into a cathedral.
The underground of the palace, once filled with sewage and garage from 19 centuries, and now full of gift shops and a museum.
 The cavernous rooms of the basement.

 Roman sewer pipes.
 More of the cathedral.

 Greem Market and Flower Market.
In the afternoon we took a five mile hike into Marjan Park, a huge peninsula just outside of the old city.  The trail was up, and then across the mountain.  Andi was a trooper doing the whole five miles.

Small stone church from 1300.

The Adriatic Sea.

For our next day on the coast we opted to drive to the nearby town of Trogir to view the ancient Roman fortification.  We took the coastal route, had lunch in the city center, and wandered back in the afternoon.

Our last day on the coast was spent wandering the coastline up to Sednik and yet another historic Roman port.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the water, before heading inland and back to Zagreb.  Our one night stay was in a very nice Airbnb a few blocks from the bus station.  We enjoyed a quiet morning the next day with a noon departure by bus to Budapest, Hungary.

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