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In The Lap of the Gods

Get Your Game of Thrones On

CROATIA | Friday, 29 May 2015 | Views [1691]

I get asked about seeing to Croatia loads.

It’s my co-homeland, along with Australia and I travel here a lot.

Recently, Fern, a Kiwi friend said she was coming, so I came up with points #2, #3 and #4 for her.

I also saw a couple holding #GameofThrones novels on my recent flight from Athens to Split. On their way to Dubrovnik, I supposed. #5 is for them (and the throng of visiting fans).

#1 and #6 through #9 (food, drink, language, general tips) are for everyone else.

Enjoy!

If you’re busting to get to the Game of Thrones stuff, scroll down to #5. The other stuff is useful, too. I promise.

#1. Croatia: good to know.
#2. Getting here.
#3. What to do
#4. Budget / Timeline
#5. Game of Thrones
#6. Language tips
#7. Eating
#8. Drinking
#9. If you liked these tips

#1 GET AU FAIT WITH CROATIA

  • Croatia was founded in the 7th century.

5 brothers and 2 sisters, “Buga” (Sorrow) and “Tuga” (Woe) first set foot here. My father wanted to name me *Buga*. #PHEW #THANKSMUM

  • Yugoslavia, a communist state, lasted <70 years in total.

Croatia was one of 6 states who broke free in the ‘90s. This conflict is referred to as the Domovinski Rat, Homeland War. It is now safe, but you may see traces; Grenade marks on streets, scarred souls, signposted minefields...

  • Croatia has (again) been independent 25 years this AUgust.

We’ve been overtaken by Ottomans, Venetians, Austro-Hapbsurgs... it’s a prized piece of land overlooking the nicer side of the Adriatic. Who wouldn’t want to steal it for themselves?

  • Croatia’s 4th president is now in term. She studied (and worked) in the US and can take a stately selfie.

You can follow her Instagram feed on @predsjednicaRH or Tweets @KolindaGK
RH = Republika Hrvatska! NB Her tweets are in English and Croatian.

  • Croatian tourism generates 14% of its GDP. Tourism was already big before Game of Thrones.

 

#2 HOW TO GET HERE:

These are your options for each city:

Zadar - Fly, Bus, Self Drive, Ferry/boat.

Zagreb - Fly, Drive, Train, Bus.

Split - Fly, Ferry/boat, Drive, Bus, Train (from Zagreb).

Dubrovnik - Fly, Ferry/Cruiseship, Bus, Drive.
Game of Thrones. See Dubrovnik. And #5 for details.

Islands - sail, ferry (incl. car ferry)

Kvarner and Istria (Rijeka, Pula, Rovinj, Porec). Drive, fly or bus connections.

B) These are your internal options to connect with Dubrovnik.

From Zagreb: Drive time 8 or 9 hours. Longer by bus.
From Split: Drive time: 5 hours. Longer by bus. Ferry or boat. From Zadar: 6 hours. Longer by bus. Ferry or boat (likely, via Split)

The above cities also have internal flights (Croatia Airlines) to/from Dubrovnik. Allow approximately an hour getting to each airport. Cavtat is close (and a nice hour boat ride into Old Town). As “away” from the crowds as you can get, while still getting into Dubrovnik with ease.

Strategies (in ABC order) I use for getting here between nearby countries:

1. FLIGHTS: Check out Croatia Airlines website for connections. They’re expensive, but they connect well (and have the baggage allowance included).

CROATIA AIRLINES Tip 1: BUY RETURN. Often, tickets are the same if not more for a one-way flight.

CROATIA AIRLINES Tip 2: BROADEN YOUR DATES: Choose the “3 days +/- to get the matrix of flight options. Often, there will be cheap flights on a particular date range. Eg. I just flew Athens - Split return (1000 HRK) / (139 EUR) / ($200 AUD). It goes for double, triple this amount the days before and after.

For budget flights, and cities you can connect through (e.g. bus, train + fly). Here are some guides:

From/to Belgium : RyanAir operate out of Charleroi (1 hour bus from Brussels). Get your mussels, beer and waffles and Croatia fix.

From/to France: Fly. From the outer Paris airports, RyanAir flies into Zadar.

From/to Germany: Flights are best. Try RyanAir and GermanWings (and Croatia Airlines). There are buses from Munich to/from Zadar and Zagreb, but it’s a long ride. You can even try BlaBlaCar! If you’re on the Bavarian side, and driving, consider going through Istria. If you’re heading for Dubrovnik, stop in along the way at small towns. You can usually find someone flashing an “Apartmani” sign, expect to pay around 50 euro per night.

From/to Italy: I studied in Milan for a year, so these are based on Milan-Zadar or Milan-Split. Do the math yourself with train connections for Rome-Milan and Milan-Venice. Etc.

From Milan, the drive is (10 hours, 100+ on tolls). This is to Zadar. Stop in Trieste along the way (nice town and square).

Flights (in season) go from Malpensa to Split with EasyJet. (Rome also has good connections. NB August is peak travel for Italians).

Train + bus option. Train through Venice to Trieste, then get the bus into Zadar (late night) or Split (early morning) or Zagreb (decent hour, shorter ride). Have your bed sorted in advance for this one. You can also get the ferry across from Ancona or Bari to a Croatian port (a bit of a hassle getting into Italian ports, I’ve found. In August, don’t even bother!). There are however fast options into Split. If you’ve got time and Venice is on your list, it’s 4 hours on the fast catamaran to one of my favourite places, Rovinj. From here, you can explore Istria, or head down the coast by boat, bus or driving. Or, say, fly from Pula (30 mins from Rovinj) into Dubrovnik. Pula is ‘ok’. James Joyce described it as a Provincial Backwater, which always makes me laugh.

From/to The Netherlands: Consider taking the train from Amsterdam (about an hour to Cologne). See Germany options. Eg. Dusseldorf Weeze (1 hour out, up to 10 euro with public transit) gets you into Zadar for cheap.

From/to Scandinavia: Ryan Air have flights into Zadar.
To/from the UK: You’ve got options galore from Manchester as well as all London airports into a number of Croatian cities.

No idea yet?
Great! Let’s look at your options. 5 days is good. I would pick 2-3 places. I would fit in Plitvicka National Park, on the way to or from Zagreb or as a day trip from Zadar. A night or two in Zadar or Split (but stay in/near Trogir — which is closer to the airport anyway). And I’d fit in an island. For Dubrovnik (if you must see it in peak season), I would stay in CAVTAT (closer to the airport anyway). Take the bus into Old Town by day, return by boat (1 hour). Enjoy cocktails as the sun sets.

#3 WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?

Nature. Plitvicka Jezera (more of a stroll and picnic place). Halfway between Zagreb and Zadar. NP Krka (near Skradin) has waterfalls and an ethno museum -- see what life was like pre-Tesla.
Hike and Rockclimb: Paklenica National Park. Get to the cave (Takes about 40 mins to reach. Open 10am to 2pm).
Hike (Mountain): Biokovo, near Split

Island hopping:

From Split: Hvar and Brac. Busy. Party. Book in advance.

For Dubrovnik, you have the Elafiti. 3 islands, try Lopud for a day trip. Further up, Mljet.

Lastovo for off the Grid.

Korcula, well connected, a bit of history (Marco Polo’s birthplace).

Zadar: Novalja on Pag (Party).

Mali Losinj. Wellness. My favorite.

Also, try day trips on the local ferries. From Trogir, there’s Drvenik. Pack a picnic or find a restaurant. Zadar has some great ones. Saharun on Dugi Otok (“Long Island”). Or Iz. You can return as the sun sets. This is what I often do to break up my day.

Coast: Dotted along the entire coast are amazing gems... you can 1/2 hour away from a major town. Expect crowds. Talking 20 million tourists in the 2 month “peak” season.

Inland: Thermal Springs (17 of them), Truffle galore in Istria. The rolling hills of LIKA (home to Tesla!) you’ll see cheese and honey for sale on the side of the road.

Game of Thrones. See #5.Trsteno Arboretum is nearby (and also had filming). A 16th century holiday villa of a Dubrovnik Count.

#4 WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET / TIMEFRAME?
Car rental will cost you more, especially if drop off point differs to pick up location. Like anywhere. During peak season it’s worth it.
Call my friend at Pop Car Rental (Zadar) to assist. Tell him Tanja sent you. Buses are regular between major cities. NB you pay per piece of baggage stored underneath. You can usually get on and the conductor will charge your ticket when seated— but getting it from the agent ensures you a seat. Sometimes. They’re known to double book. Hence, my recommendation for self-drive if it’s available to you. Taxis are usually at all major places. And then there are the yachts. Find a charter, get a skipper if you please and sail the Adriatic in style. Onboard chef optional.

#5 GAME OF THRONES

There are several companies offering guided tours starting at Pile gate. Join one, or take a look at their schedule and DIY.

Here are some ideas on Dubrovnik and surrounds, to get your travels started.


ITIN IDEA 001 | Dubrovnik | 1-2 days (or more)
Stay in Old Town or Cavtat (bus into Old town by day, get boat back). Walk the Stradun (mind the gutters; you’ll never be rich!) Get up to Srdj for a view of the city (walk it down). Visit Museum of the Homeland War. Game of Thrones!

ITIN IDEA 002 | Split - Dubrovnik | Probably the most popular (albeit CROWDED) points | 2-3 days required.
Get to Split. See the Old Town. Bus/drive/fly/boat to Dubrovnik. See the Old Town. Vice versa if starting in Dubrovnik.

ITIN IDEA 003 | Zagreb/Zadar - Split - Dubrovnik | 3-5 days required.
Between Zagreb and Zadar, stop in at Plitvicke Jezera for a day trip. 6 relaxed hours (by foot and boat) around and across some of the most BEAUTIFUL natural wonders (lakes) you’ll ever see. See-it-to-believe-it #SITBI blues and greens. Return to Zadar, for a glorious sunset and the “Morske Orgulje” Sea Organ and Salute to the Sun (magic solar light panel dance floor). Rooftop bars. Roman ruins. Zadar bus station is about a 20 minute walk to the Old Town. Or take a bus. There are Hostels in the Old Town (or a really nice hotel, BASTION across from the rooftop GARDEN bar, run by the UB40 team). They host the Garden Festival in July in nearby Tisno. Add on the above (ITIN 1 and or 2).

ITIN IDEA 004 | 7 Days or more: Coast and Dubrovnik.
Land in Zagreb and head down to Zadar, then Split, stopping in at any of the small towns along the way. They’ve all got something to offer, or ask a local what to do. Alternately, start in Rovinj (Istria) from Venice and work your way to Dubrovnik. Or vice versa. ENJOY!

ITIN IDEA 005 | Tailored
Email me. It might take some time, as I’m semi off the grid, but I promise to reply!

#6 LANGUAGE TIPS

Hvala ~ thank you (FAR-LA will do)
Hello is “Bok” in Zagreb, “Bog” (God) South. “Hallo” will also do fine. Good morning: Dobro jutro (Yew-tro)
Good Day: Dobar dan (darn)
Good evening: Dobra Ve
čer (fetch-er)
Good night: Laku no
ć (lark-ooh norch--as in rhymes with torch). Used at bedtime.
Peace: Mir (Think Space Station = Slavic lingo!)
Cheers:
Živjeli / Živili (long live!) Ž =j in sojourn

Eat: Jedi. Yeah-dee, not Star Wars.

Drink: Popi. As in, Poor-pea. Poppy suffices.

Except in Dalmatia (i.e. Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar). Allow me to explain. DALMATIANS have a reputation for “LEAST EFFORT”. This extends to the language (ikavski dialect). We drop consonants. For example, “eat” is one letter; Drink, two. (Credit my singer friend, Dundo of Trio Gušt, for this revelation).

THUS, IN DALMATIA
Eat: i (pronounced like an elongated “E”).

Drink: pi (pronounced like “PEA” not π, 3.14...)

#7 EAT ~ i

There’s a few empires to thank, at least for the diversity of food options, not mistreatment. Ottoman, Venetian, Austro-Hapbsburg... Hence, you’ll get burek (cheese, meat or apple filled pastry at every bakery. The best #IMHO is Sibenik bus station. Midway between Split and Zadar. You usually get a 10 minute break.

You’ll get Italian influence all around (across the “pond” after all). Pizzas are plentiful and cheap. If you want ‘local’ try find one with KULEN (salami from Slavonija, upper part of Croatia). There’s even goulasch. Personally, I love seafood, so just ask if it’s fresh caught (and wild!).

Try: Crni Rizot (sepia dyed risotto), lamb from the spit (look for the photo or the spit itself outside a place). Odojak is suckling pig. Sometimes spelt sucking pig. Filled peppers (punjena paprika) are great. Grilled squid, too!

#8 DRINK ~ pi

Wines... Croatia has indigenous varietals. From Istra you have teran (red) and malvazija (white). ILOK Podrum (cellars) are a famous wine producer. Anything from there is generally good. You also have Peljesac (donkey on the label). You can find most at supermarkets. I like a Benkovac Rose (from near my area). NB there is no such thing as BYO. Local beers are Ozujsko and Karlovacko (but Heineken just bought them out). Rakija is the Croatian answer to ouzo. I like it best with herbs or honey inside. #medicinal. Go easy on it. You’ve been warned! Water: Some wonderful natural springs around, take your bottle and refill as you pass them.

#9 IF YOU LIKED THESE TIPS, LET ME KNOW
You can find my bucolic snapshots on instagram @tanjajp. Shoot me a hashtag. #Favoritedish #Croatia if you ate something I suggested. #rakija and the number if you’re #stillstanding.

If you REALLY liked them, feel free to PayPal $5 to my water bill; $10 to my oyster haul or $15 or mountain bike fund.

 

NB Check all the data on official transport websites as flight and ferry schedules change.

Tags: beaches, croatia, dubrovnik, gameofthrones, plitvicelakes, split, zadar

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