The interior of the theater glows golden like a giant bee hive as each honey comb fills up with patrons buzzing with excitement. We are seated in plush red velvet chairs in our little partitioned box, just one honeycomb in the three rows of box seats that encircle and rise above the orchestra seating of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb. Known as HNK (Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište), the interior of the theater is lavishly decorated in red and gold. A golden chandelier dangles from the center like a delicate jewel on a queen’s necklace. Claudia and I move our chairs to the edge to take in the old world beauty of the decor.
The theater was designed by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer, the same architects that built the opera house in Vienna. The theater first opened in Zagreb on October 14, 1895. Today, on the Fourth of July, Claudia and I wait to watch Petar Pan, a ballet by Giorgio Madia, that will be performed by the Ballet of the Croatian National Theater. The ballet premiered at HNK just five days earlier.
Continue reading Books, Ballet and Bajaderas in Zagreb
Rovinj, the Emerald City
As we wind towards Istria from Plitviče, we enter the high speed toll road and race through a series of tunnels to emerge in Istria. We enter a beautiful countryside of green hills and field lined with flowers. Everything is so green. The villages of stone houses topped with red roofs dot the countryside along the road. From Plitviče Lakes National Park to the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia is a easy and pleasant three hour drive.
Our destination for the sixth stop on our tour of Croatia is Rovinj, a town located on the Istrian Peninsula. Istria is the Italian influenced area of Croatia. We immediately notice that all of the signs in Rovinj are in Croatian and Italian. Even the Croatian we hear spoken has an Italian lilt to it. Rovinj is a short three hour ferry ride across the Adriatic from Venice. Rovnj has an old town and a harbor just like all of the other towns in Croatia that we visited except Rovinj feels substantially greener. Trees shade the street and flowers are blooming everywhere.
We check into Villa Kristina, a quaint bed and breakfast just a five minute walk from the old town. After check in, we find the absolute best restaurant in the absolute best location in Rovinj. The Restoran Stella di Mare is located on the edge of the sea just far enough around the bend of the port to provide a cool breeze and a spectacular view. Our waiter, a large gregarious man, is very happy when we order in Croatian. When we explain that we are mother and daughter, he grabs a young man who is also waiting tables and introduces him as his son. He gives us a Croatian lesson. Meanwhile his son shows us photographs of Rovinj during last winter when it was covered with an unusual snowfall. By the time we leave, we feel as if we have been embraced as part of the family.
Continue reading Crashing the Salsa Festival in Rovinj
It was about this time last year that I began the process of making my dream of a Croatian Vacation a reality. I had already spent several months listening to Pimsleur’s Croatian CD in my car. I was working with Branka, my brilliant Croatian tutor. Branka had provided me with many great ideas for my trip which you can read about on my blog under Branka the Brilliant Croatian Tutor’s Travel Advice.
It was now time to make the plans. I had so many places that I wanted to see in Croatia, from the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik, to the Italian influenced Istrian Peninsula to the fairyland falls of Plivitcka Jezera. I had a lot of ground to cover in just two weeks. I did not want to spend too much time in each place, but I also felt it would be difficult to book individual accommodations at so many stops.
Then I found RoutePerfect. In less than 30 minutes, I was able to book the entire vacation for less than $50 per person per day. Once I booked the vacation, RoutePerfect provided me with pre-paid vouchers that I simply presented at the hotels and inns that Claudia and I stayed at during our vacation. It was so easy. You can now book your own trip using RoutePerfect‘s easy travel tools on my blog. I plan on using RoutePerfect to book my upcoming trip to Vietnam.
Our vacation to Croatia was a great mix of coast, culture, nature and fun. I would highly suggest following our route if you have two weeks to spend traveling through Croatia. We flew into Dubrovnik and flew out of Zagreb. We spent the early part of the trip traveling from island to island via ferry (Dubrovnik to Korčula to Hvar to Split). In Split, we rented a car for the remainder of the journey (Split to Plitvička Jezera to Rovinj to Zagreb). Here is our trip via Route Perfect. I will take you through the logistics and provide a quick overview of the highlights. I have also provided links to the stories about each place on my blog if you would like more detailed information. If you want to make our vacation your vacation, just click on the “View trip details” to enter your departure date, number of people in your party and price your trip. If you like what you see, book it. It’s that easy.
Continue reading Our Perfect Croatian Vacation Planned with the Help of RoutePerfect
Now That Is What I Call A Rest Stop
Driving a car in Croatia is fantastic. We rent a small compact car at Last Minute Cars in Split. The car comes complete with GPS and a pre-arranged pick up at our hotel in Zagreb.
Now we are driving on a well-maintained toll road listening to Claudia’s Croatia playlist at full blast. Claudia is slumped down in the front seat, trying to sleep off her hangover. Split with its discos and friendly natives is Croatia’s fun-land. Claudia has a “Split”ting headache from too many Long Island Ice Teas from the night before. She moans at me each time I ask her a question that I have to yell at the top of my lungs over the blasting music. I am really having too much fun being the self-righteous mom of a twenty-something. I love road trips. We are on the road to Plitvička Jezera, Croatia’s enchanted fairyland.
Continue reading The Road to Plitvička Jezera
I have been abandoned in Split. Claudia and I kidnapped a young Australian girl named Steph who we met on our walking tour of Diocletian’s Palace. At the end of the tour, I am surprised when Claudia turns to Steph and asks “Would you like to join us for lunch?” Claudia’s simple gesture of hospitality is one that we have seen repeated by Croatians and fellow tourists throughout our trip.
It is ironic that although I learn the language of the country before I travel, we usually spend our international vacations talking to waiters and shopkeepers. However, this trip to Croatia is different. Croatians are warm, friendly people. Their desire to connect with each other can be seen in their eyes and their smiles as they sit at outdoor tables sipping drinks and watching the crowd stroll by.
On our third day, as I sit sipping a glass of wine in an outdoor lounge, it finally dawns on me what is missing from Croatian coffee shops; electronics. Croatians are not hunched over, doubled chinned, staring at their phones. They do not look like androids with white wires connecting their ears to their laptop. Their phones are not on the table standing sentry to their social interactions. Their eyes do not nervously, continually glance at its screen in case some important Facebook, snapchat, Instagram, twitter, text notification might go unnoticed and unanswered for more than ten seconds. The eyes of the Croatians in their gathering places are on each other, not on their hand held devices. All you have to do is smile and say “Dobar Dan” or “Bok” and you will find an enthusiastic participant for an enjoyable conversation.
Continue reading The Split Welcoming Committee – Making Friends Croatian Style
Hvar: The Sexy Party Girl Island
Hvar is like a hormone filled teenager compared to sleepy Korčula. Hvar wants to get you drunk and reckless. Hvar is a sexy island scented with lavender. There is a sexual fire that burns deep within the core of Hvar. I can feel its heat the moment we pull into the harbor.
Lavender stand at Hvar habor
Our catamaran deposits us in front of the bar, Carpe Diem, at 7:30 PM. Carpe Diem, has a boat that whisks people from the shore to an island dance club. The club on this forbidden island disco does not even start until midnight. As we walk towards the square to find a taxi, we pass restaurants that line Hvar’s port. The lounge music pulsates from the interiors of the restaurants as the tourists flow by dragging their luggage. Hvar is Croatia’s Riviera. The dance music, the lights, the people; glamorous Hvar is just starting to wake up, stretch her long, tan legs and party.
Continue reading Hvar, The Sexy Party Girl Island
Korčula: The Shy, Soothing Island
Korčula is cool by design. It’s old town was designed by the Venetians. The ocean breezes weave through the carefully laid out streets designed by the Venetians to optimize the natural cooling properties of the wind. Korčula is shy and laid back. She is the friend who takes care of you when you need to be soothed and comforted. She is not fancy or flashy. She is intimate and cares deeply about her home and her inhabitants
We ride to Korčula via the catamaran ferry. Riding the catamaran to the islands is like riding a Hop On Hop Off ferry. The line runs from Dubrovnik to Split everyday with stops at Mijet, Korčula, Hvar, Brac and Split. We buy all our tickets for all our island stops at the Jadrolinija office in the port of Dubrovnik the day we arrive. The tickets are very affordable and easy to purchase up front. Buying them in advance makes island hoping easy and stress free. The ferry is air-conditioned, has food and beverages and plenty of indoor seating. There are shelves at the entrance on which you can store your luggage.
Continue reading Korčula, The Shy, Soothing Island