Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Friday, October 24, 2008

We took the bus from the coast to the interior of the country and we were treated to some of the most beautiful landscape we have seen on this trip. The Croatian countryside rivals the natural beauty that we saw in Scotland, Ireland, and Switzerland. It sure makes a five-hour journey go by much more quickly. We rolled into Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and were pleasantly surprised. We had heard a few not so nice stories about the place and most people don't seem to treat it as anything more than a stopover en route to elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The old town feels nothing like the Italian influenced coast. It has that Old World Viennese charm with a sprinkling of youthful hipness that gives it that extra bit of sass. We were quickly impressed with the VERY clean cobblestone streets jammed with students hopping from one cafe to the next. It seemed like a good vibe even if we couldn't distinguish one cafe from the next. We then retreated to our lovely accommodation in the heart of the action.
The next day we did a bit of a walking tour and checked out some of the history that the Old Town has to offer. We first strolled the "Gornji Grad" or Upper Town which is the oldest part of town and home to many of the churches and best views of the city. Here we found an oddly placed shrine in the old Stone Gate that lead to the town. According to the legend, an intense fire consumed most of the gate in 1731, except for a painting of the Blessed Virgin and Child that was found in the ashes undamaged. Since, people have come to pray and worship the painting. It is situated on one side of a road with church pews on the other with a view of the painting... odd. The Gornji Grad is also home to St. Catherine's Church. Built in the 1600s, it has a pink interior decorated with white swirls and is full of black and gold shrines that make visiting it a very unique experience. From there we headed down to "Donji Grad" or Lower Town. This is where most of Zagreb's beautiful parks and the Viennese-influenced buildings and squares are. Around every corner we found massive buildings that house museums and art galleries that would take weeks to visit properly. After being overwhelmed a little with what Zagreb had to offer, we headed to the movies to take in a little North American humour for no more than $5... not bad at all. After our fix, we went to a restaurant that our host recommended. We had wonderful wine, amazing beer, massive salads, delicious pizza, and incredible service for less than 10 dollars each! All said and done, a fabulous day.
The next morning we hopped on a bus and headed south to the Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was a bit of a trip to get there, but it was well worth it (Thanks for the recommendation Patrick!). The park has 30,000 hectares of wilderness, 16 lakes, hundreds of waterfalls, and a long list of wildlife. The trails are mostly made up of a wooden boardwalk that loops and weaves all through and around the still blue lakes and stunning waterfalls that are sprinkled all through the park. After a couple of hours of walking in 'crisp' weather conditions, we were not sure if our extremities were going numb from the cold or from the beauty of this place. We decided to take the rest of the day off from the elements and head back to town for another lovely, and more than reasonable dinner at Nocturno, the place where we ate at the previous night.
We have already raved about how much we love Croatia. The coast was gorgeous, the trip across the country was beautiful, and Zagreb was our favourite destination with its youthful vibe paired with classic Old World charm. We will definitely be back, hopefully before the rest of the vacationing world finds out about everything that Croatia is, and all the delights it has to offer. But for now, we head to check out a couple of spots in Slovenia! First up... Ljubljana.
Megan and Kevin
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