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Croatia and Ireland, May 2022 - Castles and Forts and Water--Oh, my! Croatia Trip Report.

On our way to Dubrovnik, we had a 20-hour layover in London. We booked a room at the Gatwick BLOC Hotel in order to be close to our early morning departure gate. We landed at 11:30 am after an overnight flight and were able to check into our room early. We had a bit of a rest and then took the train to Westminster Station. In London, one can now simply tap a credit card when getting on and off the train, which is convenient.

We had visited Westminster Abbey previously on a bank holiday weekend, and it had been so ridiculously crowded crowded that I'd had to leave. I couldn’t see a thing over everyone’s heads, anyhow. This time was much better. It was relatively uncrowded, and we were able to have a good look around, seeing all the tombs and memorials, the gardens, and the Coronation Chair. Afterwards, we stopped for a bite on the patio at St. Stephen’s Tavern nearby. The meal was good (I had steak pie and DH had fish & chips). We then took the train back to the airport, picked up some bananas and pastries for breakfast, and were in bed by 8 pm. Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/pRmN7j92ts7zpPNb9

The next morning, we were up at 4 am for our 6:25 am EasyJet flight to Dubrovnik. The airport wasn’t too busy at that hour, so it didn’t take us long to go through security. Our flight to Dubrovnik was quick and uneventful.

Rain was forecast for our first couple of days in Croatia. Indeed, it was raining as we landed. By the time we exited the airport, however, the rain had stopped, and the weather for our entire visit to Croatia was lovely and summery, with only a couple of brief showers.

We had booked a driver through our apartment host to take us from the airport to our accommodation, so we were at our apartment by 11:30. We were able to check-in right away, so we got settled, after admiring our fabulous view of the Old Town, harbour, and Lokrum Island.

We unpacked and changed and then headed to Old Town. The air smelled heavenly as we walked down our street toward the Buza Gate. The bitter orange trees were in bloom, and their heady perfume surrounded us. Upon entering the Buza Gate, we started down the many, many stairs. We were really hungry by this time, so we stopped on one of the cross “streets” at a restaurant that had a shady, outdoor patio. This was the Meditaraneo Food and Wine bar, and it was a wonderful choice. We learned that it had been open for only ten days! DH had the calamari and fries, and he wasn’t that taken with them, but I had the lamb chops, and they were seriously the best lamb chops I’ve ever had. I still think about them. The service was excellent, too.

After lunch, we made our way down the remaining stairs, stopping for a photo with a statue of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) outside a Game of Thrones shop. We ended up at the Placa, which was once a canal but is now a wide concourse. It felt baking hot in the old town, even though the temperature was in the low 20s (70s). We went through another gate which led to the harbour, where we walked around the fortress, stopping to pet a dozing cat and ending up at a little “beach”—a rocky area along the edge of the wall, with steps leading into the water. Kids were splashing and playing here. Of course, we were taking lots of photos. The Adriatic is so beautiful here—a brilliant turquoise—and so picturesque against the rocks and the old walls. We headed back inside the walls, wandering up and down the charming old streets, and ended up unintentionally at Buza Bar, where we stopped for cold drinks overlooking the sea. We then explored some more, petted more cats, and went to the TI near the Pile Gate to buy Dubrovnik Cards. We left the old town via the Pile Gate and walked uphill from there to skirt around the Old Town and take photos. On the way back to our apartment, we picked up groceries, so we had dinner at “home” while enjoying the gorgeous sunset views. Already, I was smitten with Dubrovnik. (To be continued.)

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Dubrovnik continued...

We had a Game of Thrones tour booked for the next day, Sunday. I actually hadn’t watched GOT when it was first on tv, but my husband had watched and enjoyed it. However, since we were (inadvertently) visiting two of the countries where the show was filmed, I decided to book tours in both Croatia and Ireland, and then I watched the entire series in the weeks before our trip. I actually enjoyed it, since I was able to fast forward through the gory and violent scenes.

We are more interested in history, culture, architecture, art, and scenery than we are in a television show, but our GOT tours encompassed those things, too, with a GOT theme loosely tying the choice of locations together. This suited us just fine, and we truly enjoyed ourselves.

That morning, we entered the Old Town through the Ploce Gate, since we were both confused about the meeting place (which ended up being just outside the Pile gate). We still made it to the meeting place in plenty of time and got to admire the “Amerling” fountain with its statue of Pan and Aphrodite. We met up with our guide, Mario, from Dubrovnik Tours, as well as the rest of our group, a couple from the UK and a couple from Colombia.

We started our tour at Pile Bay, the site of “Blackwater Bay” in the show. What a gorgeous place. It is nestled between the walls of the old town on one side and the hill topped by Fort Lovrijenac on the other. Jagged black rocks contrast with the azure water, and fleets of colourful kayaks float past. We then went inside the fort and had time to clamber around it, admiring the views, and petting the cat sitting on a cannon. Back inside the Pile Gate, we saw where a riot scene had been filmed, and then we went to the Ornofrio Fountain and learned about different movies that had filmed scenes near there, including Star Wars, The Last Jedi. After this, we went to the Jesuit steps where Circe did her “Walk of Shame.” I walked down the steps (fully clothed!), trying to hold my head high as she had, while the rest of our group yelled, “Shame! Shame!” :) We then headed to the Game of Thrones shop we had passed the day before and took photos on a replica of the Iron Throne inside.

We had a break for lunch on our own and went to a restaurant (Lanii) where, again, we could sit outside in the shade. Dubrovnik in spring was like a hot summer day for us! The food was good, and afterward we took a different route back to the Pile gate, just to see some different streets in town. At the meeting spot, we learned that we were the only ones doing the full-day tour, so it was just us, Mario, and another guide, Robert, who was learning about this particular tour. Once in the van, we headed north along the coast to the gorgeous Trsteno Arboretum, which is over 500 years old and overlooks the sea. One interesting sight there is a water-lily pond framed by a skull-shaped cave and statues of Neptune and two nymphs. We had some free time at the arboretum, and DH and I enjoyed exploring.

We stopped on the way back to look at a massive tree. It had a huge branch propped up by a pillar, and it grown around this pillar. This is an Oriental Plane tree, possibly the largest in all of Europe, and it is also around 500 years old. It is said to have impeded Napoleon’s invasion of Dubrovnik—dropping a limb onto the road—long enough for a truce to be negotiated!

We then drove up the mountain behind Dubrovnik, not far from where the cable car goes, but Mario said our spot gave us an even better view of the old city and the islands. Finally, we went to the southwestern edge of Dubrovnik to the old Belevedere hotel to see the arena where The Mountain and The Hound fought. We also stopped for views of Betina Cave Beach and Villa Scheherezade with its blue-domed roof. (This is now an astronomically-priced vacation rental.)

Mario and Robert dropped us off at our apartment, where we ate a light supper and relaxed before bed. (To be continued.)

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Dubrovnik, continued.

On Monday, we slept in a bit, as we did not have a time commitment. However, we wanted to walk the walls in the morning, so we arrived at the Pile entrance at about 9:30. In spite of it being a morning in early May, it was very hot on the walls. We were glad it wasn't crowded. It took two hours, with a stop partway through for iced coffee and pastry. We enjoyed the views of the red rooftops, the sea, and various buildings in Old Dubrovnik.

Afterwards, we hopped on the ferry to Lokrum Island where we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the “Dead Sea” to cool off. (The Dead Sea is a small salt lake that is fed by a a natural tunnel linking it to the Adriatic through surrounding rocks.) And cool off we did! The water is still cold at that time of year, so it took some getting used to, but it was refreshing. On the side nearest the cave, I could feel the push and pull of the current from the Adriatic. There were little crabs running around on some of the rocks.

After drying off, we went to some tents overlooking the lake, hoping for lunch, but they served only drinks there. We saw a path that led away, behind the tents and decided to follow it. Soon, we came upon some incredible rock formations, including an archway with a small natural pool in the bottom and an opening overlooking the sea in the back wall. We still had our swimsuits on, so we climbed down to the archway and cooled off again in the little pool while getting some stunning photos.

We were very hungry by then, so we changed out of our swimsuits and headed to the restaurant, Lacroma, that we had passed on our way from the ferry dock. We ate seafood on the patio while peacocks wandered among the tables and lay down beside us in the shade. Sated, we explored the botanical garden, the olive grove, and the monastery ruins. The garden and monastery ruins were used as the site of Qarth in GOT. Inside the ruins was the Iron Throne that was actually used in filming the series (even though the Iron Throne wasn’t in Qarth but King’s Landing (Dubrovnik)), and hardly anyone was there, so we spent a few minutes taking some goofy photos before we returned to the ferry dock. After we disembarked at the Old Port, we picked up pasta to make a simple supper back at our apartment and do a bit of laundry.

On Tuesday, we had most of the day to spend in Dubrovnik, since our ferry wasn’t departing until late afternoon. We were fortunate in that our host didn’t have other guests arriving that day, so she let us leave our stuff at the apartment until we were ready to leave for the ferry. After breakfast and packing, we walked to Old Town to visit the Franciscan Monastery and old pharmacy museum. The monastery and the pharmacy date from the 1300s. There are lovely cloisters inside, and interesting artwork. Afterward, we visited the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius with its replica of the grotto at Lourdes. We had a nice lunch nearby in a courtyard restaurant: Konoba Jesuite.

After lunch, we made a brief visit to a gallery (Gallery Dulčić Masle Pulitika, part of the Dubrovnik MOMA) displaying works by Dubrovnik artists before visiting the Rector’s Palace, with its interesting antiques, such as sedan chairs and old trunks with intricate locking mechanisms. We also viewed the gallery of photos from the war with Bosnia.

Finally, we went back to our apartment to freshen up before catching the bus (just down the street) to the port.

Note: the Dubrovnik Card was good value. A 3-day card, at 300 kuna pp, gave us entrance to the city walls & Fort Lovrijenac (normally 200 kuna), the Franciscan Monastery pharmacy museum & cloisters (30 kuna), the Rector’s Palace (100 kuna), Gallery Dulčić (120 kuna), the ferry/admission to Lokrum (20% off), & transit.

Next up: Hvar!

Note: DH = dear husband or damn husband, depending on my mood and his recent behaviour. :)

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/4QRTSZ6JcoDP1bkm9

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I was there about the same time so it was fun to see the same city through your eyes. Great photos too!

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It was a great time to be there, wasn't it?

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Lovely photos!
Croatia is on my list, but somehow I keep ending up in Italy. ;))

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We were in Italy in November. I haven't got around to doing a trip report for that one yet.

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Hvar

After waiting 25 minutes for the bus, we gave up and flagged down a taxi and got to the ferry port in 15 minutes. We bought snacks and drinks while waiting to board, and once on the boat, we sat outside, because of Covid concerns. The view on the three+ hour ride through the islands was lovely. We stopped in Mlijet, then Korcula and Prigradica. We started to get very cold because of the wind, so we tried to go inside to sit, but the passengers had spread out and there were no aisles left without a person sitting or lying there. So, we bought ham sandwiches and chocolate and went back outside.

We docked at Hvar around 7:45 pm. The port of Hvar is beautiful, and we walked along the oceanside walkway to the hotel as the sun set. We checked in and went downstairs to the restaurant patio for supper- DH had octopus and I had truffle pasta and passed bits of food to the two mooching cats who were working the room. Other animals we saw that day, besides cats, included a lizard on the wall of the restaurant, bats flying around our balcony, and a dog who walked us partway up the stairs to our hotel: Hotel Podstine.

We booked a trip to the Blue and Green caves through the hotel for the next morning (as we’d been assured via email that we’d be able to do), and were pleased to learn that the boat would pick us up right at the hotel’s dock.

Wednesday. After breakfast at the hotel (included) we met our boat at the dock and then picked up a few more passengers at the Port of Hvar. There were 13 of us in all, and everyone was friendly and nice. The sky was blue and the sea fairly calm. After about 40 minutes, we arrived at the Green Cave on the south side of Vis island. There were two openings and the boat went inside and stopped so we could look around and swim. A few of us got into the water. It took me a while, as the water was so cold, I kept hanging onto the boat, trying to catch my breath. Finally, I was able to let go and swim away from the boat. It was really amazing and a great start to our day. Apparently, once the season gets busier, it isn’t possible to swim here, so I’m glad I didn’t pass on the opportunity, no matter how cold the water was. Once we got back outside into the sunshine, I warmed up quickly.

Then we went to the Blue Cave on the island of Bisevo and arrived right around noon. We docked and went to the ticket office and got tickets for 70Kn each. Apparently, lineups for the Blue Cave boats can be very long—as long as 2 hours—during high season, but all 13 of us were able to immediately board a small boat, and it was just our group on board. On the way to the cave, the guide showed us the cliff that Ryan Reynolds dove from in the movie, Bodyguard. Then we entered the small, man-made entrance to the cave. It was unreal. The light that enters the cave through an underground passage is filtered through the water and reflected off the white sandy bottom. The entire interior of the cave is bathed in a blue glow. There are a couple of rooms, and you can see small, dark fish in the luminous water. When we entered and exited the cave, we had to duck, because there was little clearance.

We left the blue cave and went to a bay for a swim. DH swam this time, and I took photos. After the swim, we went to Palmizana Beach on the island of Klement in the Pakleni Islands for lunch and some beach time. DH and I chose the Toto Restaurant. I tried Monkfish (I wouldn’t have it again) and potatoes, while DH ordered shrimp risotto and Greek salad. We sat in the sun for a few minutes, but I was concerned about burning, so I went to relax in the shade in the back of the boat, while DH went to the beach for a while before joining me on the boat. When it was time to leave, one couple—honeymooners—were AWOL. We made a few jokes about this, and they finally showed up 1/2 hour late. It was funny, but also annoying, because the rest of us were stuck sitting on the boat, waiting for them.

(To be continued.)

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Hvar, continued.

After we got back to the hotel, we showered and had a rest before having dinner from the hotel cafe, eating on our balcony. We had sandwiches and fries, and the food was actually better than our pricier dinner the evening before. We had booked a room with a sea view. This was partially obscured by trees, but it was still lovely to sit there and watch the sunset and listen to the birds.

On Thursday, after breakfast, we walked along the sea into Hvar town. It was 22 degrees (~72 F) but felt much, much hotter in the plaza at high noon. We did our best to stay in the shade and opted to forgo climbing to the Fort at the top of the hill. I hadn’t brought mid-summer clothing and was tired of being too hot, so I bought a caftan and changed into it. Then we had lunch at a restaurant named Pavla Alga, overlooking the harbour. I had lamb skewers with yummy fried potatoes and a salad, and DH had Caprese Salad and chocolate cake. The waiter kept trying to give us free shots, but we declined, and we walked back to the hotel.

We changed into swimsuits and spent some time at the pool and at the beach, before moving up to a shaded lounger. Later, we came back down for supper from the cafe and then went to reception to pay our bill, and book a taxi and boxed breakfasts for the next morning, because we were catching an early ferry to Split.

On Friday we got up at 6 and our taxi arrived in good time. Unfortunately, our boxed breakfasts, which were supposed to have been left at reception for us, were nowhere to be found. Oh, well. The taxi took us to the ferry dock, and we enjoyed the early morning scenery while waiting for the ferry to arrive.

Next up: Split!

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ExQYzfEw2cWpQPtN6

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Split.

When the ferry arrived, there was no option to sit outside, but at least it wasn’t a long trip, so it was easy to remain masked the whole time. It wasn’t long before we docked in Split, and we used our GPS to find the hotel, which we knew was just inside the Golden Gate of the Diocletian’s Palace, not far from the statue of Grgur Ninski—which is why our small hotel was named Grgur Ninski rooms. We rubbed the statue’s toe for luck, which seemed like a prudent thing to do on Friday 13th. And it worked! Once again, we were able to check in right away, even though it was very early, and Milka gave us some restaurant suggestions.

We left our things in the room after noting that it was really nicely renovated and well-appointed, and then walked to Luxor Restaurant, down the street, on one side of the peristyle. This restaurant has an arrangement with the hotel, so we had vouchers to use for a hearty breakfast. We went back out the Golden Gate and looked around Strossmayerov Park, which is just across the street, and took some photos of the fountain. We then wanted to see Marjan Park, which Milka had told us about, so we skirted the palace and walked along the Riva. We cooled off in the shade of the trees and took in the lovely sea views there before heading back to the palace.

We entered via another gate off the Riva and saw a marker announcing that Freud had stayed there. We decided to look for the Makarun Restaurant that Milka had recommended for homemade pasta, and found it after wandering around a bit. Their patio was in a courtyard, and we enjoyed a relaxing lunch (me: steak truffle macaroni; DH: fish baked in parchment). We then wandered the streets some more and visited St. Martin’s, a teeny, tiny, old church built into what was once a guardhouse. After wandering a bit more, we went back to the apartment for a rest.

Later, we bought tickets for the cathedral, the baptistry (formerly the temple of Jupiter), and the crypt. The temple has been Christianized, but still retains some Roman elements. We visited the temple and the crypt but had to wait to visit the cathedral because children were practicing inside for first communion. There are a lot of Roman ruins—arches, columns, and what appears to have been baths—in the vicinity, so we explored those while we waited. After visiting the cathedral, we found an underground shopping area below the palace and bought a souvenir.

We then headed back toward our apartment, thinking about dinner, and we noticed that a spring food festival was happening at Strossymayerov Park. There were booths set up by different restaurants, lots of tables and chairs were set all around, and a band was playing. We felt fortunate to have stumbled upon this. Our Ninski’s toe luck was still in force! I had venison stew and DH had a lamb burger, both from a restaurant called Sug. At home, we have a similar festival called "A Taste of Calgary." We snickered with one another about this being "A Taste of Split." (Sorry, I have the sense of humour of a 12-year-old boy.)

We were tired by this time, so we went back to our room and slept. We had breakfast at Luxor again the next morning before meeting our driver from Octopus Transfers.

We had only a day in Split, but we felt like we saw a lot and had a good taste of it (ha!) during that time.

Next up: Zadar!

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/tPpDdWMbRMvaGg98A

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After breakfast, we packed up, checked out, and went to meet our driver from Octopus Transfers. He was already there, waiting for us.On the way to Zadar, he stopped at the Krka rest stop so we could see the views of the Krka river and Stradin. Stunning!

Our driver dropped us off right behind our apartment. We stopped for a coffee beside our apartment building, while waiting for confirmation from our host that we could check in early. That soon came, and we went inside to our lovely studio apartment with views of the promenade and the sea. We could even hear the Sea Organ!

After getting settled, we headed out for a look around. Wandering the streets, we first came upon a park with a lot of busts of important people, and then we visited the St. Anastasia Cathedral. This is a charming little cathedral that is in sore need of restoration.

Following that, we came across an area that is rich with Roman ruins, as the square was once a forum. There are columns, altars, and sarcophagi. There is also a 9th century church—St. Donatus. We spent some time exploring all of these before walking along the waterfront, looking for a cool place to eat lunch, because it was 29 degrees (84 F).

We sat at Restaurant Orgulje, which had lovely, shaded tables with umbrellas among the trees in a park, and, being quite hungry, we ordered steaks. This was a big 'mis-steak'. They were the toughest steaks we’ve ever had, so tough that I had pain in my jaw the next day from trying to eat mine.

After lunch, we headed back into the streets of the old town to find groceries. We found both a bakery and a small grocery store, so we purchased a few things for dinner and breakfast. Then we continued wandering and ended up at the Land Gate. This was once the main entrance to Zadar, built by a Venetian architect because Zadar was once controlled by Venice. The arched gate has the symbol of St. Mark on it: the winged lion, along with other lovely carvings. There is a small harbour right outside the gate. Very pretty!

We went back to our apartment for a rest and dinner, and we watched the incredible sunset—said by Hitchcock to be the most beautiful in the world—from our balcony. After dark, we walked down the block to see the Sun Salutation—a solar installation by NIkola Bašić, the creator of the nearby Sea Organ. This was really fun. Smaller, lit-up circles of solar glass led the way to the huge, 22-metre diameter circle with its ever-changing colours and patterns of light. People were taking selfies on it, and children were dancing. It was a festival atmosphere.

The next morning, Sunday, we decided to walk the wall that partially encompasses the old city. We enjoyed the views and saw some buildings that still had mortar damage from the war with Bosnia. We went into the Museum of Illusions, which was fun, and then we exited the wall near the Land Gate. We then explored Five Wells Square. Here, there are 5 wells, all in a row. There was a cistern below here, and the cistern and wells helped the citizens survive during the Turkish sieges in the 16th C. We went up a small set of stairs from the square, to Queen Jelena Madijevka Park, a small park built on an old bastion. It was the first public park in Croatia. We sat on a bench, enjoying the shade and the views of the square. On the way back to our apartment, we went back to the bakery for mushroom and cheese pizza, which we ate at a table outside, and then got hazelnut gelato cones to eat as we walked back to our apartment.

After a rest, we thought of going to the Franciscan Monastery behind our apartment, but it was closed on Sundays. So, we explored another street in the old town and, attracted by the silver dome, ended up at The University of Zadar. We climbed a sketchy-looking stairway in behind and found ourselves in a field surrounded by the wall. It seemed to be a neglected playing field of some sort. (To be continued...)

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There were some lovely views from the wall. There was no other way out from there but to return to the sketchy stairway, so we did that and walked along near the ocean back to the Sea Organ, where we sat on the steps and stuck our feet in the water to cool off. When a couple of larger waves came along, we cooled off even more than we’d expected!

We went back to our nearby apartment and had a light supper after which we watched the amazing sunset once more from our balcony. Then we did some laundry and got packed and organized for our trip to Plitvice the next day before going to sleep.

In the morning, we ate breakfast in the apartment before going out to the street to meet our driver from Octopus Transfers.

Next up: Plitvice Jezera!

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/9wadoXpyhqtWJGVw9

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Plitvice Jezera

For those who already think me a delinquent because I don’t carry my passport in Italy, this report will provide further proof of my lawlessness.

Our Octopus Transfers driver picked us up a few minutes early behind the apartment. We went over and through (via a long tunnel) a mountain range and passed a town that had been hit hard during the war. Some buildings were still vacant. The scenery was gorgeous, though, the fields dotted with red poppies.

We arrived at Hotel Jezero shortly after noon and put our bags in storage before going downstairs to the restaurant for lunch. Besides the a la carte options, there were two set menus available. I had Menu 1, which featured lake trout, and DH had menu 2 which featured stuffed chicken. Both meals were very good.

After lunch, we were able to check into our room. Although the public areas of the hotel are quite nice, the rooms are a little tired. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they are in need of a refresh. Also, we had booked a “lake side” room, but this is misleading. All it means is that the room faces the general direction of the lakes (which are not right next to the hotel) and there are trees outside the room, instead of facing the parking lot. Really, being on the parking lot side would be perfectly fine, as the entire area is very quiet at night. There’s no need to pay extra to be on the lake side.

The front desk had given us a voucher to exchange for a park ticket. We followed the path and stairs down to the entrance, where we exchanged the voucher and entered the park. The ferry to cross the lake was waiting there, with only about half a dozen other people on it, and we crossed right away. As we were crossing, I noticed a snake swimming toward us in the lake. We almost had a collision, but the snake turned aside in time. We could also see fish in the lake.

We took trail “C” to the upper lakes area. We started off shortly after 3 pm, and the weather was very warm. Parts of the trail consists of boardwalks that go right over some small waterfalls in places. We saw dozens and dozens of little waterfalls, and, eventually, we skirted a lake that had a large waterfall at the end of it. However, when we got closer to that waterfall, there was a barricade across the lower pathway with “construction,” “do not enter,” and “danger” symbols on the sign. So, we took the steep, upper path, even though we saw a few people ignoring the barricade and going around it. This path took us up beside the large waterfall (Veliki Prstavac?). Beautiful! After that, we were in forest for a time, and a family with a young daughter and a baby were walking ahead of us. The mother was singing to the young girl, “Walking through the forest. Walking through the forest. We are not afraid. We are not afraid.” Well, didn’t I have that stuck in my head for the rest of the day! LOL. We continued to climb and walk around the lakes until we reached bus Terminal 3. The bus was just pulling away, so we had to wait a half an hour. We didn’t mind the rest, though.

(To be continued....)

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We had seen some lovely lakes and waterfalls in the Upper Lakes area, but I hadn’t yet seen what I considered the iconic falls of the park—the ones I’d seen in multiple photos that had made me want to visit in the first place. I thought this might be at the Lower Lakes, then. We took the bus back to Entrance 2 and took the last two ferries to get to the Lower Lakes. Here, we followed Trail “F.” Although the Upper Lakes hadn’t been very busy, here, at this time of day, we were almost completely alone. The very few people that passed us seemed to be in a hurry, so we started to worry about the timing of the last bus. DH thought it came at 6:45, so we decided to forgo visiting Veliki Slap, because it was almost 6:30. We were tired and didn’t want to have to walk all the way back on the road. The trail up to Entrance 1 was very long and very, very steep. Since we were sort of rushing, we were huffing and puffing all the way. There were a couple of points where we had views of Veliki Slap, so we did stop briefly to look. I could see that it was a very tall waterfall, but it did not look like the one I’d been hoping to see. When we finally made it to the bus terminal, it was 6:43, but we learned that the bus didn’t come until 7. Oh, well. At least we hadn’t missed it.

Back at the hotel, we changed for dinner and went downstairs to the restaurant. The included (in our "half-board") dinner was a buffet, and it was quite busy—no chance of social distancing here. So, we went outside to the deck, and the staff set our table for us. The buffet was rather picked over. The only meat dish left was a pork dish, but at least it was very good.

After dinner, we went down to the pool. We were the only ones there. Yay! The pool was warm, but not hot, and the size of a small swimming pool. It had strong jets on one end, perhaps for swimming against the “current,” so we used them to pummel our sore muscles. Ahhhh. We felt relaxed and refreshed afterward.

The next morning, Tuesday, our plan was to return to the Lower Lakes and head for Veliki Slap, returning by 11 to check out. We ate our buffet breakfast on the deck and had our tickets stamped for another park entrance before we headed back down to the park. We had to wait a while for the first ferry, and we just missed the second ferry and had to wait 30 minutes. When we finally boarded the second ferry, it was much more crowded than it had been the day before. We also realized that we might not have time to cross the lake, get to Veliki Slap, and get back to the hotel in time for checkout, especially if we had to wait so long for return ferries, so we hopped off the ferry at the last minute. We decided we would be scofflaws and go back to the barricaded pathway we had seen others using. However, there was a fairly large and slow-moving group of elderly people ahead of us. So, we decided to ignore the one-way signs and go up the path in the opposite direction, since we hadn’t seen that section the day before. It wasn't very busy on that side. When we neared the waterfalls we had missed the day before, we saw that there was a barricade across the pathway on that side of the lake, too. There were a also few people ignoring the signs here, so we did the Dirk Gently thing and followed them past the barricade. We are normally very rule-abiding, but I am so happy we followed our instincts that day instead of following the rules, because there it was!!! The “iconic” view I had been seeking (Galovački Buk)! The construction on the pathway was a little farther along, closer to Veliki Prstavac, but we were able to get a pretty good view of that from below, too. Then, we turned back and passed Galovački Buk again, on our way to the ferry. We got back to the hotel just in time for check out, and we stored our bags while we went downstairs for lunch before meeting our Octopus Transfers driver for our ride to Zagreb.

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YMMdQBzw8hMVehug9

Next up: Zagreb

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What a sweet kitty, eh? She was very friendly.

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Zagreb

It was about a two hour trip from Plitvice to Zagreb. Our apartment building was tucked in just off of Ilica, the main shopping street. Our host, Alan, buzzed us in. There was a quirky little elevator inside, but we weren’t sure how to operate it yet, so we carried our bags up to the 3rd floor. Alant showed us around the apartment, which was fabulous! Alan is a model host. The apartment had everything: 2 bedrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, a huge living and dining room with a grand piano, books, games, a cd-player with a curated selection of CDs, and even a mini bar! The bathroom was equipped with extra toilet paper and towels, travel toothbrush kits in case a guest had forgotten theirs, a first aid kit, and spare sanitary supplies. The kitchen had a charging station with several different cords with which to charge almost any device. There were a lot of cute little touches, such as a Dali-style clock melting off the edge of a dresser. It was a lovely, comfortable, and entertaining apartment.

After a rest, we took the nearby funicular up to the old city where we first visited the Museum of Broken Relationships, a fun and thought-provoking concept. Then we looked at the outside of St. Mark’s Church with its amazing tile roof. The church was closed and roped off, probably due to the earthquake in March of 2020. Many of the buildings in the old city were damaged and left unstable by the quake and have been closed ever since, including most of the palaces and museums.

We then walked downhill to Stari Fijaker, a restaurant which Alan had recommended. It served delicious traditional Croatian fare. DH had stew, and I had a ham and sausage meal that I couldn’t finish, so we took some home for the next day’s breakfast. We then walked back along, Ilica, looking for a grocery store. We found a bakery and bought pastries and then had a look around the main square. On the way back, we found the grocery store and bought fruit and snacks.

On Wednesday, we had breakfast and did laundry before setting out to see if the Cathedral was open. We passed through a flower and produce market on the way, and crossed the road to the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We took photos of the outside and could see that it was under repair. One of the spires had collapsed onto the palace next door, and the other had been partly removed afterward, because it was badly damaged. So, of course, the cathedral was closed. We then walked up through the Stone Gate with its statue of St. George in front and a little chapel tucked in the corner. We wandered the old town a bit and then came back out to explore Ulica Ivana Tkalcica, a pedestrian zone filled with restaurants and shops. We ate huge hamburgers outdoors at the Black Piggy.

After lunch, we walked to the Botanical Gardens, enjoying the shade of the trees while we viewed the roses, irises, aquatic plants, and turtles. On our way back to the apartment, we got sidetracked by some fantastic buildings, including the opera house/theatre, the archives, the music academy, and the university.

After a break back at the apartment, we left again to explore the Gric Tunnel, since we had noticed one of its entrances earlier. It was originally built as a bomb shelter in WWII. The tunnel was well-lit and had toilets in one of the passages. We left through a purple painted exit and saw some other murals nearby. Then we stopped at the grocery store to buy pasta for dinner and went back to eat and pack.

Thursday morning, we got up at 5 for our flight to Dublin. We had breakfast in the apartment and then went to meet our taxi on Ilica. The ride took only about half an hour at that time of day. The airport, itself, is a lovely building, with many architectural elements that resemble parts of an airplane.

We said goodbye to Croatia, sad to leave, but looking forward to our time in Ireland.

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/X87rBv45F4jByHfn7

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Thank you for sharing your detailed trip report and wonderful photos! I visited Croatia in 2016 and loved Split and Plitvice Lakes. While I am the type of person who carries her passport at all times and guards it zealously (perhaps because I am a naturalized U.S. citizen who does not look like a "typical" American, I worry about being questioned/detained by government officials in case I am found without documentation), like you I did not hesitate to jump a barricade at Plitvice Lakes--the best paths lay beyond that chained barrier! I wonder if the park rangers just arbitrarily install those chains for crowd control?

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LOL, NYC Librarian. You may be right.

After I posted some pics and a description of our morning on Facebook, a friend of mine ("N") who immigrated to Canada from Croatia commented, "And here I've been telling my Croatian friends that Canadians follow the rules." So, I took a photo of a similar construction sign in Zagreb (at the cathedral) and posted it, saying, "Now that we’ve been in Croatia for a while, we understand the signs better. This one says, 'Very interesting and beautiful sights ahead. Please go and look.' Right, 'N.'?"