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Trip Report Croatia

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Finally getting around to providing feedback on my travels last September. After hiking in the Dolomites my Croatia trip was mix of independent travel, relaxation, and a bike/boat cruise around the Croatian islands.
Day 1 -Sailed into Split in a beautiful sunrise, via the overnight ferry from Ancona, Italy. It was easy to change my money and store my pack at one of several such facilities between the ferry wharf and Diocletian's Palace, the major draw card here. Spent a relaxing morning, fruit in the adjacent markets, brunch in a cafe in the heart of the Palace, beside walls built in 3AD (when you're from a young country like New Zealand all this old stuff is amazing). Then enjoyed an enlightening and humorous/sardonic one hour tour, mainly of the Palace, by Split City Tours. I loved the history and humour and my daughter (not with me) loved my photos of Game of the Thrones locations.
In the afternoon I cruised by one hour ferry to World Heritage town Trogir, and checked in to my waterfront hotel Concordia. (Hint, the 4th floor attic I was in was cute, with good views, but there's no lift here.) Watching the super yachts mooring over an evening aperitif on the terrace was fun. Great value and location, and Trogir a beautiful small town, just perfect to relax after two weeks hiking in the Dolomites. Hint - go through the tiny streets away from the waterfront for less touristy restaurants.
Day 2 - Breakfast (a great selection) on the terrace was a treat. Took the local bus 30 minutes to Primosten, gorgeous little town on an island connected by causeway. Had read in a book about a hotel here that housed Bosnian refugees after the 1990s war. Sad introduction, tho it seems the coastal town continues to be therapeutic, as it was for the refugees in the story. Great swimming a little walk around the beach from the town. The Adriatic sea was clearer here than back around Split and Trogir.
Day 3. Bus to Split, then to Dubrovnik - day trip along beautiful coast to one of my bucket-list cities. A brief lunch stop en route. Stayed at Apartment Lavanda, just outside the city wall, with a city view, beach across the road, big terrace for hanging washing out and sipping evening wine with the mother of Stijepo, my host.
Day 4 and 5 - Dubrovnik, the city - next day moved to Stijepo's other, Apartment Center, inside the old city and up 100 narrow, twisting steps from the main street. It sounded romantic but actually felt quite claustrophobic inside the walls, off a narrow lane, in a tiny, albeit clean, one room apartment. Lavanda was far preferable. Nevertheless Stijepo was the perfect host, any restaurant where I mentioned his name they made me even more welcome. He carried my pack, told the tourists to pick up their litter, gave all the transport directions I needed, and gave a list of key attractions and cafes/bars to visit. (One hint was Buza Bar, the Hole in the Wall - brilliant spot for sunset watching outside the wall, but it's not as secret as some say it is, over-crowded and over-priced drinks when I was there. Worth a look, just the same.)
Walked around the city wall first thing - as recommended to avoid the crowds. Also learned to walk in the city first thing - by 8am the cruise ship hordes were pouring in and best option was to head to a beach (Lapad Bay was nice,bus is easy to get or it's a 30-40 minute walk) , take a kayak trip, get the ferry to Lokrum Island (20 minutes from the old port, swimming, gardens, cafes/bars, history, peaceful), or head uphill, via the cable car or walking track, to the fortress overlooking Dubrovnik and nearby islands. Grim history exhibition of the Seige of Dubrovnik in the fortress. There's a good, not too-touristy restaurant at the top of the cable car, too.
Back in Dubrovnik, outside the eastern Ploce Gate is quieter, with a small restaurant, laundry, supermarket then beach, more peaceful than the frenetic activity and transport centre by the city's main Pile gate. (Although the daughter was delighted with my photos from here, the scene of one of Game of Thrones most memorable scenes, apparently.)
Did a standard walking tour to learn about the city's key points, interesting and confirmed how easy it is to push the buttons with just innocent questions about recent history and relationships between the Croats, Serbs, Bosnians. Lovely, positive people who have been through a lot of tragedy.
Days 6 to 13 - cruised around the islands on a Croatian-crewed boat with a German tour company, called Island Hopping. Each day we mountain biked on a different island, most meals were on board. Lovely active holiday but perhaps a touch disappointing in that we had little opportunity to engage with the locals, the boat would sail off as soon as we arrived and loaded the bikes. But a great, well-run trip with fine food and comfortable cabins, nevertheless.
Day 14 - Last day in Dubrovnik in Stijepo's care. Present-shopping and packing. Easy to catch the airport bus from the stop up behind the old city, near the cable car terminal, with ticket purchased from the booth across the road. (The timetable changes daily, depending on flight times.)
The final memory? Idiot me had a blank, forgot the liquids rule and stupidly packed two bottles of local, island liquor in my carry-on. When they heard they were presents for my (adult) daughters the airport staff insisted of locating my checked-in bag and bringing it out for me to transfer the liquor!
Nice.

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