We considered heading north to Hamburg and then on to Denmark. But spring is slow to come to that part of the world and we were feeling in need of some Mediterranean sunshine. So with a spin of the globe, we landed on Croatia.
Here's what I know now: I'm so glad we went.
We spent the first weekend of our trip in Berlin – catching up with Jack, meeting his friends for dinner, checking out his apartment in East Berlin and wandering the city – taking in its deep history, beautiful parks and memorials, remaining portions of the Berlin Wall, multiple flea markets, museums and restaurants.
On Monday morning, Jack pedaled off to classes and we flew to Split, Croatia to begin 10 days of exploring the country's breathtaking natural beauty, interesting history, cream cakes and coffee, pungent truffles, incredible wine and fresh seafood.
Jack joined us two days later and travelled with us for the next five days. We rented a car (with GPS) and drove our way from Split, northward to Zadar, Plitvice, Rovinj, ending in Zagreb. (Because our time was limited, we did not make it to Dobrovnik.)
It is hard for me to pick out my favorite places because every where we went I would declare: "This is my favorite." Instead, let me give you a glimpse of three spots that I hope will entice you to put Croatia on your bucket list.
Plitvice National Park
We spent the better part of one day exploring Croatia's oldest and largest national park, comprised of a series of 16 crystalline lakes that cascade into each other via mineral-rich waterfalls. I don't even have the words to describe how magical it felt to hike the 6 miles or so (downhill) on wooden footbridges and paths, taking in the flora and fauna. Surely one of the best days of my life.
Chard Festival in Padna, Slovenia
We pride ourselves in finding local festivals and parades on our travels and hit the jackpot when we veered off course and made our way uphill to the tiny village of Padna, Slovenia – on our way to Piran. The entire town was set up to welcome neighbors and visitors to its annual Chard Festival -- yes, you heard me right -- a day of celebrating all things chard (and olive oil, and wine, and figs). We wandered through the streets sampling all that they had to offer, loading our backpack with bottles of fresh green olive oil and local wine.
Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationship in Zagreb grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their vestiges. The Museum offers the chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum's unusual collection. One of the strangest museum I've ever visited, it engaged me from the first exhibit to the last: stories of love, loss, regret, revenge and retribution. The above "doodlebug" lost a leg every time its young lovers would see each. Supposedly, when they ran out of legs to tear off, that would be the time to start a life together. The relationship broke and so the doodlebug did not become a complete invalid after all.
Of course, the best part of our trip was traveling with Jack, who lives so far from Farm Dover, but is always a happy, knowledgeable and appreciative traveler. Here's to many more serendipitous travels with our beloveds.
Details that I don't want to forget
Capital and largest city of Germany.
Former East German public swimming baths restored as a boutique hotel. Located on main avenue in Prenzlauer Berg.
Lovely bar in Prenzlauer Berg -- serving great regional wines and lucky-for-us: Spargel (white asparagus)!
Berlin's oldest and most beautiful beer garden, but too cold to sit outside this time. We met up with a table full of Jack's friends, including former Collegiate exchange student Max Freitag and his finance, Christina.
Second-largest city of Croatia; lies on the Dalmatian coast.
Located in the heart of the Old Town of Split.
One of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence. Labyrinthine streets packed with people, bars, shops and restaurants.
Small tavern, recommended by our taxi driver. We sat outside and enjoyed their excellent fresh seafood: Black Bream for Ed and Black Cuttlefish Risotto (made with squid ink) for me.
The oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia; situated on the Adriatic Sea.
Art Hotel Kalelarga
Boutique hotel located in the city centre.
A series of broad steps leading down into the sea. The lower steps allow water and air to flow into pipes, causing an undulating, chime-like notes to be produced.
We stopped in a nunnery to purchase a bottle of cherry liquor, which has been produced in Zadar since the late 15th century. Taste a bit like "yum-yum," the cough syrup from my childhood -- but better.
Plitvice Lakes National Park (see above)
A chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon.
Ethno Houses Plitvica Selo
Resort designed as an old traditional village, complete with farm animals.
Town located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula.
Hotel Angelo d'Oro
Charming small hotel set in the heart of Rovinj's historic center.
Lovely restaurant with outdoor seating just above the sea.
Rio Snack Bar
Don't be fooled by the name; the food was spectacular.
We took a number of day trips from Rovinj. Our destinations included Pula (with its incredible Roman Amphitheater), Piran (Slovenia), and Montovun. We were enchanted with Groznjan, a 14th-century Venetian fortress perched on a hill high above the Mirna river valley. Known for its truffles.
The capital and largest city of Croatia, located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava River.
Rooms Zagreb 17
Apartment located on the always-lively main cafe street: Tkalcica.
Small restaurant near the Stone Gate.
Museum of Broken Relationships (see above)
An emotional journey around the world through hundreds of break-ups.
We used JayWay Boutique Travel to book our hotels and rental car. Their selections were spot on and made planning the trip much easier.