Posts Tagged With: croatia

Trogir

I was disappointed to miss Trogir the last time I visited Croatia. Less than an hour by car from its much bigger neighbor Split, this tiny stari grad-on-an-island can often get bypassed. I was looking forward to my visit and had booked what looked like a great deal on TripAdvisor: a room with a private bath and kitchenette just over the bridge from the old town on the mainland. Three nights for a good price. Perfect.

[Side note: every time I entered “Trog-” in an online search, I would automatically want to complete the word with “-dor.” And then I would get the Trogdor song stuck in my head for the next hour. Which doesn’t even make sense: Trogir is a town in Croatia, while Trogdor is… the Burninator. No embedded YouTube link available at this time: you’ll have to look it up if it sounds intriguing to you. Thanks, Chinese internet censors!].

I could write a very long-winded and detailed rant about the accommodation disaster that followed, but I will try to sum up briefly. The apartment was NOT in the location shown on the map in the TripAdisor ad, but instead in a different town on a hill that cost $18 in a cab to reach from the old town. ($36 round trip just to see the actual town you came to visit is not a deal!) When I arrived and remarked to the owner that although the place was beautiful, it was not in the advertised location, she became incredibly defensive, nasty, and unwilling to have any type of discussion about it with me, concluding with the sentence, “If you don’t like it, fine. I will call the taxi back, and you can go find someplace else to stay.” So I did. I refuse to deal with someone who is so unprofessional. Minutes later, I was walking with my backpack back down a winding hill to the shore and finally found a water taxi that could take me more cheaply to the old town. Within 24 hours, I found that my full payment had gone through as scheduled, and I am still embroiled in a back-and-forth with TripAdvisor that I have a strong suspicion is going to get me absolutely nowhere. Updates to follow.

Back in the old town, I was furious but very nervous. I had just walked out of my place to stay for the night, and this was high season. I worried that there might not be any rooms left. I walked into a travel agency to ask to use their wifi; when I explained my situation, the staff there bent over backwards to help me. Between their contacts and my search on booking.com, I was able to find something in the middle of the old town for three nights. And it couldn’t have been a nicer place. The owner took me in, sat me down at her kitchen table, and fed me watermelon and sandwiches as she listened to the day’s events in disbelief. Then she showed me to my room:

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Every cloud has a silver lining: my new room was perfect!

Once settled in, I was finally able to enjoy my stay in the town. I spent the mornings getting groceries at the market and writing on my iPad over coffee at the bar around the corner (which liked to play techno music at all hours, but who’s complaining?) In the afternoons, I would slather on the sunscreen and head over to the pebbled beach of Okrug Gornji, skipping the lounge chair fee in favor of spreading out my towel for free directly on the stones in a less crowded area. The only rain that I felt for the entire month of August in the Balkans fell in sporadic droplets from a sunny sky my second afternoon in Okrug Gornji; it was followed by a rainbow that made for some amazing photos.

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Back in town, I climbed the rickety steps of the belltower of the cathedral of Sv. Lovro – not for the faint of heart, folks!- to get a fantastic panoramic view of the town and the surrounding coastline.

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In the evenings, I would wander around the Old Town, checking out the ridiculously posh yachts that had docked along the banks for the night. There were street musicians (including a house band that played an almost unrecognizable cover of “Me and Bobby McGee in a thick Croatian accent. Janis Joplin was turning in her grave that night), street performers (a puppeteer whose puppet reminded me of Franklin from Arrested Development) and vendors selling everything from necklaces to roasted corn. The smell of the corn was so enticing that it actually persuaded me to ditch my restaurant plans and just continue wandering, corn dinner in hand, for the rest of the night.

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IMG_4035.JPG A mini donut’s what? Call the grammar police!

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Lodging fiasco aside, Trogir was a beautiful, albeit crowded, place to visit. When I calculated how long it would take to get to my next stop, Kotor in Montenegro, by bus, my total time did not sound like it would make for a very fun day. Why not break up the trip by making another stop on the way? Time to head to Dubrovnik.

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Into Dalmatia

On Friday morning, my mother and Majda dropped me off at the bus station. My plan was to spend the month of August inching my way down the Balkan Peninsula, heading back north and ending up in Bulgaria by the end of the month. My reasoning? Not only have I not visited most of these countries, but I needed to get out of the Schengen area. As a US citizen, I am only eligible to spend 90 out of every 180 days within the countries of the Schengen zone without getting a visa. I had entered France on May 9, which meant that I needed to be outta there by August 9. (Not sure what the consequences are for overstaying your welcome, but I wasn’t about to find out for myself!) While Slovenia is a Schengen country, Croatia is not, so I decided to head there first, making up an itinerary as I went along.

I had not originally planned to spend much time at all in Croatia, since I have visited several times before and really wanted to focus this month on seeing new places. (Also, Croatia seems to be The Place To Go now. Not to sound all “been there, done that,” but since my family is Slovenian, Croatia had often been a natural extension of many trips we took back there. I was first in Croatia in 1994. A typical reaction to mention of any Croatian travel plans back then went something like, “Oh! Wow. Where is that? Wasn’t that in the news lately?” Now when you mention a trip to southeastern Europe, you hear, “Make sure you go to Dubrovnik! Have you heard of Dubrovnik?” So I just think the whole thing is really funny). My plans to bypass Croatia pretty much went up in smoke, however, when I perused a map: it is a really broadcountry. Unless I wanted to fly -which I didn’t- Croatia would be a necessary stop on my way southeast. This Zakelj had to decide between going via Zagreb or Zadar. (So many Z’s! I feel so at home!) I opted then to stick to cities along the coast that I have never seen before. Zadar would be my first stop.

My bus from Ljubljana to Zadar went without any problems. Once over the border, we stopped at a rest area. Upon leaving the bus and walking toward the building, I noticed a mother pulling her young son’s shorts down and allowing him to urinate on the treelawn. Um, ma’am, there is a toilet facility 100 feet behind you. Am I missing something? I bought some peaches from an older woman with a fruit stand, ate my lunch, and reboarded the bus. Soon, we were passing fantastic peaks like this:

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We arrived in Zadar, and I was picked up at the bus station by the owner of my rental apartment. She was incredibly sweet and offered me a glass of juice when we reached the place. Since there would be no other tenants that weekend, she allowed me to pick which bedroom I wanted. It was great: I had an entire place to myself! I took a short walk and bought some groceries. One thing I was looking forward to was cooking a bit for myself. Sometimes when I travel alone, I just crave a bowl of cereal for breakfast. That first evening, I was so tired that I ended up staying in: it was fun just to cook dinner and watch music videos in the apartment.

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The next two days, I got to explore the town a bit (which included getting lost on my run while trying to find the bus station). Zadar does not have quite the same level of tourism as say, Split, so it was pleasantly busy without being too crowded with people. The Old Town’s major attractions -other than the city walls and the old town itself – are the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. The Sea Organ is built beneath the steps of the waterside promenade: as the waves wash under the steps, the movement of the water plays the organ and creates a calm, whistling melody. (No video right now as I am still having WordPress video issues. I apologize!) The accompanying Sun Salutation is a large circular set of photovoltaic cells embedded in the cement of the promenade. Using the solar energy harvested during the day, the cells turn on series of colored LED lights whose patterns are determined again by the underlying waves. The combination of the two makes for fun people-watching during the evenings.

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Hrvatski Subota Night Fever

I really enjoyed Zadar. In addition to the sights of the laid-back Stari Grad (Old Town), they also had several free performances while I was there. I was on a walk in the evening when I heard folk music playing. I made my way through the crowd to see folk dancers and a Dalmatian band on a large outdoor stage. Back in the day, I used to do Slovenian folk dancing in Cleveland, so watching this made me really happy (and a tad wistful that I no longer dance!)

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View from the apartment

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I had a good experience booking my apartment in Zadar. Little did I know what a fiasco would occur when I arrived at my next destination, Trogir.

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