Europe 2.0 – Day 20 16 June 

Omg… Less than one month to school reopening. Dammit I feel really reluctant to think about med and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to dive back in. :/ imo I should be a travel blogger instead 😉 

This morning we caught a bus to Plitvice National Park, probably the most famous attraction in the whole of Croatia? (Dubrovnik is only well known because of GoT… I think.) Whenever we tell people that we’re moving to plitvice after visiting Split and Zadar, everyone has high compliments for this place so I looking forward to see it with my own eyes! 

And it sure didn’t disappoint! We booked accoms in a nearby village called Jezerce and walked for about 20 minutes from Munkinje bus station after alighting the bus. The village is extremely scenic because of the cute little wooden+rock houses with beautiful balconies and potted flowers. It’s the ideal countryside kinda village, like Tuscany! 

We couldn’t check in yet but that didn’t stop us from heading off immediately. From entrance 2, we took the tourist bus from station 2 to station 3, where we planned to trek down and then visit the lower lakes. 

My first and strongest impression of the whole park is how clean and transparent the waters are. THE WHOLE PARK IS LIKE WALKING THROUGH A FISH TANK!!! When you look at the water at either side, you can see the fishes going about their lives (i.e swimming), what’s on the base of the lakes and the roots of trees stretching hear there and everywhere. It is super duper cool! Look farther and the water changes hue from white/transparent to an azure blue. It’s really stunning and my jaw was literally dropping at every turn because the water is just so crystal clear EVERYWHERE. 

There was a road block in the upper lakes, where we started, and we found ourselves back at our starting point after 30 minutes… This was worrying because we were running on limited time since we only bought one day passes and planned to visit the entire park. But no matter, a ranger at the information booth gave us an alternative route and soon we found ourselves at P2, where we took a ferry to P3. 

In our journey there were SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE! And I was kinda frustrated by this because it stresses me out whenever someone behind me is stuck due to my slowness, or I’m stuck behind someone slower. Or simply inconvenience arising from squeezing in narrow trails. But the whole park was very clean, especially the water 😉 

We had quick lunch after arriving at P3, which is the ferry stop to visit the lower lakes. The lower lakes had more scenic stops and we were excited that we had considerable time left to walk at a leisurely pace. Yue shan had hamburger and sausage roll for me. Tbh many visitors felt that the food was overpriced but I felt that many affordable options were available at prices not much higher than fast food chains in town. Besides, the food was hot and came in generous portions to give us sufficient energy for the rest of the day. 

At around 415pm, we began the second part of our visiting. Unfortunately the sky became dark before we could reach the main attraction, Veliki Slap/big waterfall. A lesser known route nearby will take us to a panoramic view of the lower lakes and I was super excited to howghere because it looked AWESOME on photos. 

Unfortunately on our trek up to the panoramic spot, IT STARTED DRIZZLING. And before we even arrived, the light rain became torrential and gusts of wind made us feel super cold. We quickly took shelter at a nearby house. 

It was 520pm and the park would close at 7pm. We needed to hurry but we couldn’t predict if the rain would grow bigger or subside. At around 535pm, the rain became the smallest ever since it started and we abandoned our plans to wait until 545pm. Quickly we left the shelter and continued on the path that’d take us to the panoramic spot. Luckily, a portion of it was forrested area so we had some cover from the rain. But of course we were drenched before we even reached our destination. 

Finally we arrived 5mins later. Unfortunately, something that I was really stoked to see stood against grey clouds and there was nobody on the trails when we looked down. Perhaps everyone has quickly fled due to the rain. 😦

We took a few photos of our drenched selves with the scenery and left in a hurry so that we had adequate time to retrace our steps, which would now be slippery and dangerous. Upon emerging from the forest, YS spotted a couple inside a car and asked if we could get a lift. Lucky for us, they could drop us at a convenient location to take the ferry back even though they were headed for an opposite direction. And in another 30 minutes we were back at entrance 2, where we entered the park. 

The way back home would be tough as it is Ling and the weather was cold. YS thought I was purposely walking slowly and I thought she was insulting my snail pace (which I sweared was my maximum as it was very chilly). After being angry for roughly 10mins, we decided to snap out of it and tried again, for the 6th time, to hitchhike. 

I didn’t think anyone would stop for us because cars were zooming down the main road. But we manage to get a car on our second try, lucky us! They very kindly dropped us off at the doorstep of our accoms. 🙂 Hooray! 

It was about 7pm; we quickly washed up and went down for dinner at our accoms. We shared a trout and mixed meat with special bread, which tasted SO GOOD!!!!!! It was a very, very hearty meal and I’m so glad that Croats serve big portions of food everywhere! 

Epic day, imo HAHAHA! Lastly I’d say Plitvice lakes have been magical… (like going to Disneyland) Many people laud it for its many waterfalls but I feel that seeing fishes swim in clear waters around me, like as if I was diving, would be most memorable for me. 🙂 

Europe 2.0 – Day 19 15 June 

I’m writing this at 9:30pm, 45 minutes after the sun has set in Zadar, which boasts the ‘world’s most beautiful sunset’. Although Zadar will not be found on the list of top ten for seeing sunset on an unbiased travel website/source, it is nonetheless impressive in its own way. 

Right now the sky has its own ‘rainbow’, i.e. It’s own gradient of colours blended together in perfect harmony. 

Looking up, the sky is a deep shade of navy blue and there’s a few white clouds highlighting the sky. It becomes lighter as it reaches the horizon and finally there’s a small band of white. 

After white, it becomes light orange, sun-orange, baby pink, violet, purple and indigo. Then it meets the sea, which has its own ‘rainbow’ as well. 

As time passes, the indigo part becomes more and deeper, until it consumes the lighter colours of the ‘rainbow’ becomes consumed. Around it, the darker surroundings also consumes the rainbow inwards until the last of its brilliance is gone. 

Today we arrived in Zadar after a morning bus from Split. Beforehand, we did research and found that like all the old towns, Zadar’s is extremely small and filled with Cathedrals and some not-too-significant museums. So the day before, we already discussed over a plan to visit Paklenica national park. Quickly on arrival at our hostel, we headed to the bus terminal again to catch a 12nn bus. Along the way I already saw the great mountains that made up the park, and was afraid that the trails would be difficult. 

And I was right. HAHAHAHA! Although they are man made, the trails are extremely bumpy because they were made out of rocks and the cement didn’t fill all of the gaps completely, making plenty of easy traps to cause a bad fall or a sprain. 

Before that: we were fortunate to find someone who could give us a lift from the bus station to the park entrance, saving us 20 minutes of gruelling upslope hike under the scorching sun. Once there, we decided to follow the main road and used our limited time as a gauge for when we would stop and make our descent. 

So back to our hike: we walked carefully, choosing carefully to step on the flat rocks so as not to slip. I was moving at an extremely slow pace, perhaps even slower than 5km/h… Around me, many people were not having a particularly difficult challenge. Dogs, children and the elderly alike were having it smooth. Thrill seekers were even doing rock climbing on the steepest faces of the mountain. 

We were hiking for around 1h until we reached a long flat trail in an forested area, where we asked a man coming in the opposite direction if there’s anything to see. Unfortunately he was jaded and disappointed by the lack of waterfalls, prompting us to head back for the entrance. 

If the hike up was tough, going back was even more so because there’s higher chances of slipping. I managed to pick up a long wooden branch otw down and it have me some confidence to walk quicker. 

After exiting the entrance at around 330pm, we still had no luck finding kind souls who could give us a ride (because people either came in the morning and left by lunchtime or came after lunch time and left by evening). But luckily as we walked further ahead, YS spotted a couple who was getting ready to go into their cats and set off. We caught them in time and saved ourselves another 20 minutes of effort. Thank goodness! 

By the time we were down, it was 340pm and our bus was 30 minutes away. I was dying for a Coke so we sat down for a while at a cafe. Then the most interesting thing happened while we were waiting for our return bus – the guy from Saudi Arabia was catching the same bus as us! He was with a blonde US girl this time. She’s 27 years old and both of them met at the hostel. It turns out that she wanted to go Paklenica and the guy heard her asking around for company, so they went ahead the next morning. V spontaneous! They hiked to the peak and back, and spent the previous night at an open hut. I really admire their fitness and sense of adventure because I could imagine that it is v tough to navigate the trails and also trek through the rocky terrain. 

After we arrived back at Zadar bus terminal, we parted for good – the guy was heading southwards to Split and Dubrovnik, while the girl would be travelling to Slovenia, where she’d meet her friend. We took a photo and said our goodbye. 

On the way back, YS and I visited the supermarket for rosti, and the supermarket baked chicken (plus ready to go salad) became dinner for us. It’s v cheap and convenient considering that we had to catch the famous sunset at Zadar. 

At around 8 we arrived at the coast and the view is so perfect. 

Now I understand why famous people have given high compliments about its sunset. According to Zadar’s tourism website:

It may be that the loveliest inscription of Zadar´s exceptional sunset was written by the famous Alfred Hitchcock. On the occasion of his visit to Zadar, in May 1964, while observing the luxurious game played by the sun the Maestro said: »Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida, applauded at every evening.«

The view of the setting sun was unobstructed. Left to it was the silhouettes of mountains and little towns in the distant. At dusk, they looked purplish blue. To the right was the coastline or river front of Zadar, made up of a neat row of street lamps. The view in the middle was dedicated to the setting sun. There were occasional boats passing by and seagulls flying in the sky. Save for those, we had a pretty good view of the sun dipping into the sea. 
First the sun was orange, casting an glittery orange streak on the sea. As it went lower, it became red and its borders were more distinct. Subsequently the clouds around it were also set into orange flames and the sky was lighted in pink hues. Perfect 🙂 

p.s please see the picture which speaks a thousand words hahaha

Europe 2.0 – Day 18 14 June

Today we caught a 9:30am ferry (Bura Line) from Split to Trogir – I suggested this because I wanted to try something besides bus so that we can fully appreciate being in the midst of the great blue sea. The ferry left shortly after we arrived and there was a queue to board so we barely managed to get a seat on the deck, which has tables. (I was eating fruits and drinking my half full/empty bottle of coke while enjoying the scenery.) I love how the winds create waves, which give rise to beautiful patterns in the sea. The day was sunny was usual but today there were more clouds so as the boat moved ahead, there were moments of shades and then very glaring brightness.

An hour later we arrived. Trogir was much, much smaller than I expected. (Should have done proper research beforehand besides the only knowledge that ‘it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site’, to which Ben informed me that Dubrovnik and Split are also under the UNESCO, and so are many places around the world lol). Nonetheless, the old town in Trogir didn’t disappoint – it is the best for me so far. I feel the Dubrovnik’s is too centred around its Stradun and crowded with people, whereas Split’s is not well preserved and more famous for its beautiful promenade. Trogir has a less touristy, more authentic old town and also a fantastic riverfront.

Walking through Trogir feels like walking around Venice but minus the canals and characteristic architecture. The similarity lies in the small alleys and relative peacefulness. Most structures are built out of large, white stones(?)/bricks and the ground as well (except they’re well polished after being walked on for many years). The main centre is based on a square consisting of the St Lawrence Cathedral and the town Loggia+clock tower. Besides this and the riverfront, which has many restaurants, other parts are pretty quaint and are dotted by a few souvenir shops maybe every few 100m.

We first visited the cathedral, which boasts a famous portal that is made by a famous Italian sculptor when Trogir was under the Republic of Venice. The bell tower was super scary to climb up;  unlike the one in Split, which was scary because its windows are huge and one mistake might just send you toppling to the ground floor, Trogir’s has very steep steps nearing its top. And the gaps are so huge that I was worried about toppling through them.

Later we had lunch by the river front – we shared a marinated chicken set that comes with soup and dessert, as well as a green risotto. Like all meals that we had in Croatia, they were super tasty and we were filled afterwards.

With energy to spare, we walked to the Kamerlengo Castle but it was not well preserved/super impressive and required an entrance fee so we gave it a miss. I suggested that we go to Okrug beach (more for me because I was ready to swim) but it would be 5km by foot or 4sgd by boat for one way – too inconvenient/expensive.

So we had a leisurely stroll around Trogir, where I discovered its pristine, rustic charm. I bought lavender gifts for the 3rd consecutive day haha and we headed back to Split by bus (instead of ferry). The return trip was about 3sgd cheaper and 10min faster. We were asleep for most of the journey.

As it was a public bus, it parked at an unfamiliar terminal so we walked back to the hostel and I came out again to visit Bacvice Beach (AGAIN) because I’m just so sentimental and caught up about the value of ‘last time’ (for most people, they’d treasure their firsts more, I guess). I found a shorter route to get there this time (heh) but unfortunately I was kinda self-conscious about my one-piece to fully enjoy myself. There were more people (many local teenagers playing ball) plus the waves were more choppy, so I didn’t stay for long. We bathed and went out for dinner nearby, which we both felt was a hidden gem because it doesn’t have any outdoors seats and is barely noticeable save for a menu outside the shop. Plus the prices were so reasonable and the variety was great – they had pasta, pizza, risotto, meat, fish, soup…everything. It wasn’t crowded and we even ordered beer to share while making plans for tomorrow. YAY 😀

 

Europe 2.0 – Day 17 13 June

Today I was super reluctant to wake up because of a late night talking to 2 Korean guys who stay at our hostel! They’re really friendly and funny haha! We talked about many things, like travels, our age (both of them looked so much younger than their real age), Korean fashion and the incident of how their ‘waterproof’ pouches gave up on them just when they decided to bring it to the sea. All the best to them on fixing it!

The hostel is so good – besides everything being twin, there’s air con and also both the bed and blankets are thick . The pillow is non existent but everything else were perfect for such a low cost room.

I dragged myself outta bed at 8am and we headed to green market, which is really small but I expected it to be huge (and same expectations were applied for Croatia attractions so far, so I feel that I overbooked our time here… Oh Wells.) And most vendors were selling the same thing – cherries (a lot), other fruits, veggies, meat… Not a lot of variety or uniqueness unlike Asian markets imo.

We bought some strawberries and tried Burek, a local bread which is kinda like oily puff pastry w cheese inside. I really liked it a lot cuz the inside is chewy. ^^

Later we headed to the wet market, which was even smaller lol. Nothing much to see. We bought a goggles for me, went back and out again to Bacvice Beach. It wasn’t as crowded as I imagined! At least there was space on the sandy part to suntan/rest and in the ocean to swim about without bumping into others. The waters were super clear as I waded into it, and I could see beautiful patterns on the sand underneath me. So perfect.
YS ate her fruits while watching me swim. It’s my first time swimming in a beach/swim, not just waddling or playing. And it feels good because one moment I’m swimming in warm waters, and the next it’s very cooling. Super enjoyable. I was the only few in a one piece though oops.

Later we walked to Firule beach, which is 10mins by foot along the coast. It’s smaller and more sparse but for a reason – trees lining the pavement lie quite closely to it and so there’s many dead leaves in the sea… Not to my liking so we decided to head back before I even spent much time in the waters.

Along the way, we passed by a jumping board about 1m above the sea surface and I was tempted to make the leap because I saw other younger (and BRAVER) boys doing it – seems fun and it is something new to me. What happened next is something so embarrassing that I will not forget for the rest of my life.

YS found a shady spot to rest while I walked towards the platform with gusto. It was not a difficult feat, I thought. But when I looked down, I felt SO SCARED HAHAHA! Perhaps because I haven’t done this before, the uncertainty of whether I would crash into some rocks and to my death was overwhelming. The distance between me and the sea surface was unnerving even though it is, only 1m. So I walked forward, stopped, walked back, stopped, contemplated, shouted some stuff to YS about how scared I was, squatted down and considered to jump from a sitting position. I did this for about 5 minutes and decided that I had to consult YS for advice and some encouragement.

She gave me a lot of practical info – such as how the younger boys (maybe age only 7-8 years old) survived and how she and her friends jumped from higher heights (30m/60m) in Boracay beach and also survived. Ready, I went again but did the same routine of being terrified.

Just then, a little boy came close to the platform and just as I hoped, he wanted to jump as well. I gave way to him and within a few seconds, he was in the sea! BRAVO! Using this optimism, I also quickly followed suit before I chickened out again.

SPLASH! All the salt water went into my nose and the impact wasn’t too pleasant, but THERE I DID IT! 1m jumping * insert moon face *

We walked back to Bacvice again so I could swim again in the sweet, clear, salty blue sea. ^^ Suntanning myself dry, we walked back to the hostel to wash up. Evening’s programme was to visit Marjan Hill Park by bicycle.

The rental was crazy expensive and the vendors weren’t friendly at all… 😡 To make it worse, the ride up to the park was extremely unenjoyable. We had to cycle alongside cars on roads that aren’t super wide. Drivers in Croatia, as far as I knew, aren’t the kindest people on the roads. (The pavements? They are not wide enough either and there were many passers-by. Also not smooth at all, with cracks, holes and what have you.) The curbs do not slope off at their edges and sometimes, only one side of the road has pavement to walk/ride on, so we had to switch sides several times. I was frustrated and worried to no ends to enjoy the scenery, so I gave up and parked it somewhere to retrieve later.

The irony is that in the park itself, cars are prohibited so they were safe to ride on. But by then, I had given up on cycling so walking was the way to go. I didn’t mind, since I could stop easily to take photos whenever I wanted, and fully soak in the environment. After an hour or so, we arrived at the panoramic viewpoint, where we could see the land that both Trogir and the Slatine beach are located. So needless to say, we also had a fantastic view of the sea and sky – very wide and unobstructed.I was reminded of our hike in Riomaggorie, where we admired the beautiful Adriatic sea as well.

It was relaxing to look at the waves, observe the gradient of the sky and watch boats go in and out of our view. I closed my eyes and could hear children playing at the beach, the gentle splashing of the waves, the soft hum of the boat engine, occasional people speaking and bicycles whirring past. We stopped here for around 15-20 minutes and began to make our descent.

Dinner (around 9pm-ish) was at a burger bar, where we shared a pulled pork burger and ‘Toto burger’, a specialty of the shop. Then we walked by the promenade watched the lights of boats and nearby restaurants. It was very romantic. 😉 Along the way we bought some gifts and headed back for a good night’s rest.

Europe 2.0 – Day 16 12 June

Oh no… We are almost halfway through our trip! T^T Despite the small booboo, Yue Shan and I are still enjoying Europe very much.

Today we woke up at 6AM (SO EARLY) to catch our 7:15am bus to Split. Unlike our previous drivers, we had someone who had a sense of urgency and arrived 20mins than planned! (The bus driver had to specially come to let us know that we have reached our destination. I was still drowsy and half awake when we collected our backpacks and walked to our hostel.)

I LOVE OUR HOSTEL! We have a twin bedroom this time, and everything is SEPARATE. I love YS but sharing a double bed was sometimes frustrating because we are also fighting over one blanket or for space on the bed. This time, even the wardrobe is divided so yay, also no fighting for the hangers!

After checking in, we went to a bistro near our place, where YS and I shared a Lasos wrap (smoked salmon and cheese) and meatballs+mashed potatoes. It was cheap and really filling and off we went to the old town. We entered the Diocletian’s Palace without even knowing because most parts of the old town was already in ruins and made up of the palace. First we visited the St Dominius Cathedral, which is really small and had only 16 chairs in the main octagonal section (and other benches at the peripheries of the church). It is said to be the oldest and most well maintained Roman church in the entire Europe.

Then we headed to the bell tower, which is said to have the best views of the city and certainly it didn’t disappoint because we could admire the beautiful promenade from a bird’s eye view (perfect), the old town (perfect) and the surrounding neighbourhood (perfect). We also visited the crypt (dedicated to St Lucy), treasury and baptistery (same thing as the temple of Jupiter), which were all included in our ticket.

The surrounding area made up the rest of the palace but was in ruins. There’s also a small community of people living there. For dinner, we went to Kantun Paulina (recommended by one of the staff in our hostel) and had delicious and affordable Cevapi, a traditional local dish that is grilled skinless mutton, served with chilli (as in blended bell peppers), sour cream and onions. Perfect! We then wandered around aimlessly because this area had many shops like ice cream shacks, bars, supermarkets and travel agencies. By 10pm we were already back in our hostel, ready to rest…ahhh~

Europe 2.0 – Day 15 11 June

OMG Finally we reached Dubrovnik and it isn’t even as awesome as I expected 😦

For some reasons, we kept encountering bus drivers who are too chill with life – they take breaks too often and too long, meaning we arrived late in Dubrovnik, shortening the little, precious time that we already have… The bus station is surprisingly a considerable distance from our apartment – 3km by the main road. Because the whole city is located on a hilly area and the sun is scorching hot, it would be too pain staking to walk for half an hour. Furthermore, the bus to our apartment doesn’t run as frequently as the bus services to old town itself.

SO WE TOOK UBER! I am super glad that Croatia has this 🙂

We arrived at around 11am in our accoms, a far cry from the original plan (i.e. 6:45am, if we had caught the 9pm bus from Zagreb instead of the 12:30am one). Nevermind, we quickly bathed and made it to old town by 12nn! YAY!

It also helped that old town itself is SO SMALL! HAHAHA! I got a feeling some of the biggest shopping malls in Singapore, like the MBS complex, may be even larger. 😛 We had only a few main attractions whereas the rest were GoT filming sites. ^^

We had seafood risotto for lunch at a restaurant that we first spotted – no time for dilly dally! Surprisingly the food and price was GREAT! For 70kn, the portion was filling and there was a lot of seafood in the risotto. YUM!

Full of energy and excitement, we went up the city walls first. The entire stretch was start to end was extremely scenic and has been something which I really looked forward to after seeing it on my friends’ insta. Unfortunately the SUN WAS TERRIBLY HOT so the hike wasn’t as enjoyable as it could be… NO MATTER! We were both still very pleased by amazing sights of the blue seas and the pristine houses of the old towns (YS calls them the “small houses”).

By the time we exited, we both finished our water bottles and were super parched. YS lemon ice cream and I had orange ice slushie in a shop along the Stradun, then we walked to the old port to look at the sea up close. I felt really jelly of the people swimming in the super clean, clear and blue waters! Must be nice…

Later we walked about in the alleys, where we saw even more restaurants and specialty shops. I really, really love specialty shops wherever I travel, especially the artsy ones. We saw shops selling exquisite handmade magnets and they especially appealed to me because they were handmade and were made out of things you can find on the beach, like seashells and pebbles. ^^ The designs super cute and unique as well, but V EXPENSIVE! Around 8 sgd… Oh wells…

Then we walked over to St Lawrence Fort, which IMO has the best views of Dubrovnik because you could see how majestic and thick the city walls were. Very impressive. It is also less difficult to get up to and less crowded so we could relax and enjoy the sceneries properly. We bumped into many GoT walking tour groups so I could stand around ‘innocently’ stand around while the guides were holding up laminated photos of scenes from the shows and explaining behind-the-scenes info. One of the guides was an extra from the show itself and she explained that she was chosen from over 5,000 applicants! :O (She theorized that maybe she is around the same height as Emilia Clarke hohoho!) Super impressive.

And then DINNER TIME! We walked around for quite long to find an affordable place to eat but eventually we found THE ONE. We had such a good meal – calamari to share, black risotto for me and pork chop for YS. We were SO SATISFIED after the meal and I even charged my phone at the shop. (And side note, we also took their free bread x2 because the waiter refilled it for us HAHAHA ^^) Super amusing.

After dinner YS and I splitted up – she went to watch free cultural performances in the stradun (there was some festival going on) while I went to War Photo Limited, a gallery that displays, well, war photos. The gallery is v small, only 2 stories about the size of my house. But the images were of really good standard because they were so raw and reflected the true brutality of war. I was in great admiration of the photographers’ courage to step into conflict zones to shed light on the war situation, but in even more respect for the people who had gone through such a traumatic period when families and homes were destroyed.

Around 10pm, we headed back to our accoms. I’m thankful that despite what happened, we were still able to enjoy the old town as planned. Even though we didn’t get to explore other places that we/I had intended to, I was satisfied. 🙂 (And tbh I feel that Dubrovnik is very different from King’s Landing. Many parts were CGI-ed and old town is in reality, a very modern and simple place. Personally I feel that Volterra had a more medieval and untouched atmosphere. 🙂 But still, I am always thankful for what we were blessed with.)

Places to go next time:

  • Lokrum, Miljet, Gornji Ugao Tower (closed when we found out about it), Elaphiti Islands, Ston, Trstento Arboteum

(HAHA Croatia has too many scenic spots)