written 5th May
So, here we are, sailing away from Croatia. I'd convinced myself that we wouldn't be on the is boat, and that two more days here would be lovely, I we might get to Mljet and some more Dubrovnik and that it would be lovely, and suddenly we are gone. And I am both ready to move on and really sad to be leaving at the same time.
Thinking about it, as I now have time to, in the quietness of middle of the night on a boat - most people are asleep, the deck looks like a refugee camp, Will Smith and Gene Hackman have saved the day, or their lives, or the freedom and right to privacy of the american people (or some such thing - those that know me well will be amazed that I actually stayed awake through the whole film for once, even though it is now 1:30 am or some such time!) and Will is trying (and probably failing) to sleep on the floor, I had no expectations for Slovenia, and fell, gushingly, head over heels in love with the place when it blew me away. Croatia was a different matter, it was somewhere on my 'really want to go' list and having heard so much about how great it was, I had really high expectations. And I am pleased to say that it has met thoses expectations and way more.
I have read my lp croatia book almost from cover to cover (missed out Zagreb and the north east on this trip - Zagreb sounded like a lovely place for relaxed strolling in beautiful streets, lingering in pavement cafes and popping in and out of museums, galleries and parks, but with the eventually untaken trip home in the original itinerary, we just couldn't sensibly get there) and there isn't anywhere that we have been (and written about) that I wouldn't recommend.
The big 'thing' about Croatia is the stunning scenery and natural landscape. It is a wonderful, beautiful country. Full of places which are either stark, or stunning, or both at the same time. As cliched and obvious as it might be, Plitvice is probably, just about, our top place - it is certainly the place we have been asking everyone we have met if they have been, and rhapsodising about its beauty if they have and telling them to go if they haven't. But Krka was also unlike anything I have seen before too, in terms of sheer awesome-ness. Pag was fabulous, gorgeous in its simplicity. Istria was familiar in its similarity to bits of Italy and Slovenia, but no less lovely for it, and the star cities of Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik are unlike anywhere else we have been so far.
In the same way as I had had enough Moorish Spanish castles and perched Italian villages, I have probably also reached my limit on mediaeval walled cities on a peninsula - Korcula and Trogir were beautiful but you can't better Dubrovnik as a grand finale, but there remains so much left undone and unseen - particularly Mljet, Hvar, Brac, Vis, folk singing, sword dancing, Dingac vineyards and wine and cheese , sunset kayaking round Dubrovnik to name just a few. We have tried sljivovica (plum brancy - bit too strong for me), but didn't find Maraschino (cherry brandy from Zadar), and I did, at least, get my cheese!
If you are planning a first time trip - and aren't lucky enough to have a small vee-dub van to do it in! :) - I would say you couldn't go too far wrong with a two week trip that took in Dubrovnik, boats to Mljet, Korcula, Vis, Brac, Hvar and ultimately Split. A side trip to Krka. Another boat to Zadar and then trips to Pag and Plitvice. If you go out of season, like now, you could probably wing it and find perfectly nice private accommodation in one of the many, many, guest houses or appartments in every town, on arrival - you just need to get used to 'Tourist Office' is what we think of as tourist info and does maps and stuff, 'Tourist Agency' or 'Tourist Biro' is a private company and they're the ones through whom you find accommodation and excursions (or so we understand, not having done any of that!). Alternatively, for those who like a bit more certainty, the Jadrolina ferries seem to be reliable and the times are on the internet so you cannplan as much as you like. This would obviously miss out Cres and Istria, but would certainly give you a good taster and something to come back for.
But most of all, the memories we will treasure from Croatia are the people we have met here (and through people here, those in Slovenia and elsewhere), both in person and via the miracle that is the interweb. Hrovje, Ivan and Tereza, Klemen, Valentine, especially Kiri, thank you for all your lovely comments and help, and the others of you that have boarded the adventure bus - we hope you enjoy the ride from here on in!
So. Middle of the night, still awake. Oceans 12 on dvd I think!
Night all x