Dobar dan….

27 Nov

….And with cao (bye) and hvala (thanks), that would be the extent of my Croatian.  Somehow we were able to get through the country using those three phrases.  However, it definitely helped that basically everyone under 30 spoke at least some English.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Recently, for a long weekend, two friends and I went to Croatia–why not?!  We left Thursday morning, and we decided to go and bought our tickets on, well, Tuesday afternoon.  Generally, I like to have things at least semi-planned out earlier than that, so I think it’s a good sign that I really had no reservations or anxiety about going on such short notice and not having every night or transportation paid for or even decided upon.

And I’m glad I didn’t.  It was a really fun trip!  We had to spend (had to, I know, right? Darn) one night in Paris because the only flight we could get to Zagreb was early Friday morning.  So, we took the TGV up to Paris; had the typical lunch of baguette, cheese, and wine; bumped into a fellow Montpellier study abroad-er; went to a fondue restaurant for dinner (which serves you baby bottles of wine, has graffiti everywhere, and forces half the party to climb over the table to sit on the long bench on the wall); and then spent the night strolling Paris.  We saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle, visited the Sacré Coeur (which is even more spectacular at night), had the tiniest hostel room possible (three twin beds litterally squeezed together; but it was only us and we had our own bathroom with a shower!), and had some fun on the metro.

Then, after three hours of sleep, it was off to Croatia!

Arriving in Zagreb, we were introduced to kunas, a currency as cheap as it is fun to say, and made our way to the hostel.  Well, when we got to the street that the hostel was supposedly on, we couldn’t find it anywhere.  We stopped in a little shop where neither of the women knew English, and all we had to go by was the “Let’s Go Europe” guide book’s helpful phrases.  Luckily, we found a young traffic cop who spoke English and directed us right back where we had been walking by.  Deciding to walk down the other side of the street, sure enough we found our hostel.  However, I think they badly need to rethink their signage. The only sign they had outside was a little postcard-sized logo on the side of the door, not even facing the street.  Fortunately, that was our only complaint with this hostel; it was actually pretty nice, and the people who worked there even helped Elizabeth track down her camera that she had left on the plane!  High five Hobo Bear Hostel!

That day, we explored Zagreb and visited the Cathedral, the cemetery (immense and beautiful), and had actual roasted chestnuts (a first, and they were as delicious as the song makes them sound).  We topped the night off at a microbrewery/restaurant that served traditional Croatian fare and great beer.  In fact, we liked it so much–especially one dish–that we came back our last night and all ordered the same thing.

Although Zagreb has its Yugoslavian hauntings, it’s a pretty thriving, young, commercial capitol with lots to do.  And the kaleidoscope of beautiful neoclassical architecture in the old town wasn’t too bad, either.  Quickly, though, it was off to Plitvice Lakes National Park–basically, our reason for going to Croatia.

It didn’t disappoint.  After a bus ride through stunning rolling hills and quaint villages and a hike to our hotel, we quickly settled in and ran off to explore the park.  Saturday afternoon, we did the upper lakes, and we returned Sunday morning for the lower half.  While the setting sun and following moon provided an eerie and cozy feeling to the lakes and waterfalls, Sunday’s blue sky and sun made it all come alive.  The park was gorgeous.  I don’t really know what else to say.  The paths of wooden planks were like docks as they wound their way over the lakes and waterfalls, giving no concern to the walker’s risk of falling in to the icy waters.  As we joked, it definitely wasn’t an American national park.  There were no handrails, no signs warning “slippery when wet,” and no guides walking around.  On top of Saturday not showing us many other visitors in the upper lakes, beside the wooden paths, it was really an escape into nature.

The waterfalls were amazing, the lakes were so clear and colorful, and the water ate my camera.  Whoops!  There I was sitting on a path on one of the lakes, enjoying the view, taking it all in, and stupid me stood up to move on.  Here’s a tip, make sure you zip up your pocket.

Snapfish Croatia album

One Response to “Dobar dan….”

  1. nancy lukens November 27, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    Your photos are gorgeous. Hvala!

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