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Adventures in the Balkans: Exploring Croatia

Welcome to our journey through the Balkans! Join us as we set out on an adventure with Andrew, Patrick, Patrick’s girlfriend Skylar and our furry friend, Bear, to explore the wonders of Croatia.  From the historical charm of Dubrovnik to the lovely vineyards of the Pelajisac, this blog will take you through our experiences and gastronomic delights.

Dubrovnik - The Pearl of the Adriatic

Our trip began in the enchanting city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a beautiful coastal town with a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries. Founded in the 7th century, it flourished as an important maritime and trade center during the medieval period. In the Middle Ages, the city developed into a prosperous city-state with significant political and economic influence. Known for its skilled diplomacy, Dubrovnik maintained its independence, even as surrounding empires rose and fell. Over time, Dubrovnik transitioned from a powerful republic to becoming part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In recent history, during the Croatian War of Independence in the early 1990s, Dubrovnik faced significant damage due to a siege, but extensive restoration efforts have preserved its historic charm, making it a UNESCO World Heritage site with a blend of history and beauty.


As we wandered through the Old Town’s ancient walls with our guide, climbing lots of steps as we went, we were reminded of its rich history and learned about the tumultuous times of the 90s.  Recently, it was the backdrop for Kings Landing in Game of Thrones.  The Old Town was built on two opposing hillsides with a marsh in the middle. As the town developed over centuries, the marsh was filled in resulting in a stradun or Main Street down the middle with mazes of paths and steps up the sides to the city walls. 

Our Airbnb was located high up on one side so we had lots of experience with those steps to and from anywhere. Bear did too!  Shops were low, restaurants were all over.  And wander we did - top of the walls gave a birds eye view of all the apartments still operating while the low alleys had the shops. One of those places we wandered to was the Buzz Bar - a bar high up on the rocks just outside the wall. Here people came to watch their friends jump from the rocks into the water 30 meters below. Quite the adrenaline rush for the jumpers - Patrick, Andrew, Mark and Skylar!


We had amazing dinners almost every night - mussels, sea bass and lamb were the local specialties. Up the stairs to the city wall,  down the stairs or outside of the Old Town with particular shoutouts to the Adriatic, a restaurant outside of the old town where we enjoyed a gorgeous beautiful sunset on a beautiful cove and shared a variety of seafood dishes. As well Lady Pi Pi at the top of our stairs with a self-explanatory statue where the vine-laden trellises provide refreshing shade.

Croatia is quite the sailing destination with over 1300 islands and beautiful little coves at every turn. While in Dubrovnik, we chartered a lovely skippered 44’ Beneteau for the day to explore a few of them. We sailed some and motored some, a typical day on a sailboat! In one cove, we dropped anchor and all jumped in for a swim in the clearest water I’ve ever seen! Cool and refreshing without being cold, and salty, we could have stayed in the water for an hour. But, places to go and more to see, we next stopped at a little island for late lunch. After choosing our fishes, a half hour later the table was filled with an amazing feast!  As we sailed back from the islands in a food coma we were all reminisced of our days on our sailboat Double Trouble. It was a lovely way to end our time in Dubrovnik. 

Split - Quintessential Mediterranean city with a relaxed vibe

Next stop, Split, a captivating coastal city situated a three hour drive up the Croatian coast, is a vibrant destination that offers a delightful mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. 


With origins dating back to Roman times, Split's most famous attraction is the amazing Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Diocletian ruled Rome for 20 years. When he had had enough, he built a retirement palace across the Adriatic (still part of the Roman Empire) in Split. The palace remains remarkably well-preserved and forms the heart of the city's historical center. About 75 years ago archeologists discovered the lower level with its massive columns and rooms. It took 30 years to excavate but what you see today is identical to what must have been above. 


The palace’s ancient walls now house a maze of narrow streets, with apartments, shops, and cafes, creating a unique blend of ancient and modern lifestyles. We loved the city’s diverse architecture, a testament to its long history with various influences, including the Venetians.  Beyond the palace, we found a captivating waterfront, with the Riva promenade offering stunning views of the Adriatic Sea as we enjoyed our coffee in the morning or aperitivos before dinner.


While Patrick and  Mark scuba dived around an old shipwreck, the rest of us meandered through the charming old town, enjoying the unique blend of past and present. One curious fashion note from Split - the necktie was apparently invented here. The knot on a scarf was part of Croatia folklore. The story goes that during the 30 Years War in the 1600’s Croatian soldiers wanted to differentiate themselves from the French in Paris. It became the rage in Paris when King Louis XIV sported the cravat and obviously remains a fashion statement today. 


Mark, Betsey and Andrew left the city late one afternoon to explore the nearby Krka National Park with its beautiful waterfalls. We hiked 4 km of shaded trails with very few others along the river which led to some wide cascading falls. 

Korcula - A Tranquil Island Retreat

On to Korcula, an island paradise that beckoned us with its crystal-clear Adriatic waters. Our Airbnb at La Banya Beach Club provided breathtaking views of the cove below. Days were spent relaxing on the beach, cooling off from the heat and savoring the delicious fish dishes at Adio Mare, next to Marco Polo’s house. We attended a performance of traditional sword dancing in which two groups fought for a princess’s honor. The evening was still quite warm and we were glad not to be dressed in any of their costumes!  While wandering the old town after dinner we stumbled upon a beautiful duet performance in one of the churches. It was a lovely way to cap off the evening. 


After a wonderful few weeks with the kids, we went our separate ways. Patrick and Skylar headed back to Philly and Andrew off to Sicily. We hated to see them go but we were ready to be on our own. 


Discovering the Wines of Peljesac Peninsula

While awaiting Bear’s rabies titer blood test results, a requirement for EU - nonEU - EU travel, we ventured into the lesser-known regions. Peljesac Peninsula, renowned for its wines, led us to the charming wineries of Mituska, Korta Katrina, and Grgic, the latter connected to Grgich Hills in Sonoma. It was a scorching afternoon, but we enjoyed every sip of the local wines, particularly a delightful Rosé, which we savored on our road trip.


Off to Montenegro

With Bear’s EU Pet Passport in hand, we crossed over to Montenegro, our next destination of our Balkans expedition. The breathtaking landscapes and intriguing culture of this country awaits us, promising even more unforgettable experiences.

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