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Countdown to Croatia Direct Flights 2017; Plus Must See, Do, Experiences of the Adriatic Coast-Selce-Crikvenica to Rijeka

It’s not too late to get a great deal flying direct to Zagreb with Air Transat airlines now servicing Croatia’s capital Zagreb twice per week in 2017. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to fly to Croatia for around $1000 direct! 20160621_221009(Above, image of Kava Tava, Zagreb, all images photographed by Paula Erskine)

(Smart travellers booked end of season last year, around September, October and took advantage of round trip fairs for around $800 for 2017, by booking in late 2016!) Book as soon as you can for prices that still are very decent for truly direct flights to Zagreb, averaging 8 and a half hours flight from Toronto to Zagreb (although the flights are blocked for 9 to 9 and a half, it is less than that.) The new Zagreb airport will be open in 2017 and many are looking forward to landing at an airport built to accommodate the volume of tourists that have just discovered Croatia, or are introducing their kids and grandkids to the mother land and keeping them connected to familial roots.

Let’s take a photographic journey through the Primorje Region (pronounced Preemor-yeh) of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline and discover great things to see, do, eat…starting with Selce and the Crikvenica villages, and later heading towards Rijeka for a dessert bakery with ancient evidence of a mill displayed from under the floor of the café. We will also enjoy the view of Selce has of Krk island and its treasures. Selce behind the scenes, behind Marsala (Marshala Tita) street has many unique alleys and vignettes that please the artist within.

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Inspired artworks can be found by Marijan Mavric, local Croat artist in this Art Laundry Gallery in the village of Selce. Just walk up the hill of Slavka Jelicica street (left, and behind the Tourist Agency on the Riviera) for a local Croatian artist with real talent. It is my mother’s childhood friend, and without prejudice, has many stories expressed in paint and canvas. A great place for contemplation away from the madding crowd of the Riviera. After doing and visiting Art Laundry, head further up the hill to Marsala Tita on your right (single file as the sidewalk is tiny), take a right then first left and get lost in the alleys of Selce. Find your way back to the sea by walking downhill towards the Adriatic sea and panoramic Riviera.20160926_10502920160926_105900Marijan Mavric, Croatian Artist can sometimes be found in the evenings in Selce, at Art Laundry, or his gallery in Grizane . His landscapes capture his surroundings, resembling in some paintings the island of Krk just across the way, where many Selce residents have simple farms with stony-stacked fences, fig trees, potatoes, tomatoes and many other crops. My mother asked him if he is in front of these places when he actually paints them…he said, “It comes from my head, my imagination, my memories…” Having visited many of these corners of Krk island and other Adriatic gems, I can affirm, these places exist, and they are beautiful.

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Selce has a variety of beaches, you can watch Mihuric Scuba Divers suit up and set out to explore a shipwreck. In the distance past the campground, is the beaches of Slane, Selce, and up the campground steps, follow the forested trail to one of Selce’s many pristine beaches.

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Selce’s beach in front of the Tunar Restaurant shaped like a boat is great for families who want to ease in to shallow waters with kids and eat at Tunar’s restaurant. I enjoyed the generous, protein packed salads grilled with salmon (lots of tasty options at Tunar) and along with Kava Anka (kava means coffee, café) on the other side of Selce, are two of the best places to eat locally home-made ice cream. Both places also do coffee very deliciously, and the combination of them both, is quite decadent. Café Bonino in Selce has delicious food and a beautiful view of the beach and the docked boats of locals, with generous sized pizzas and fried squid (ligne, or calimare in Italian) all on Selce’s Riviera.

Next, we peek at my mother’s childhood home in Selce, a place I got to know and love as a child enjoying home-made morsels cooked by my grandmother and my mother with love oozing straight from their hands to my satisfied belly.

Be sure to buy fresh figs while on the Adriatic coast or you can sneak a fig from many of the houses that enjoy their fruits. Then enjoy the home-made jam and bring it home. You can bring anything back into Canada that does not grow in Canada. But a fresh fig, is mouth watering. Below the fig jam beginnings, potatoes coated with spinach, garlic and lemon, grilled zucchinis, and chufte (breaded meat-burgers), any meat you like, with delectable garden spices and parsley. Don’t forget the sautéed garlic and onions!

Also my mom’s cabbage rolls (sarma, similar to the Romanian style) with slabs of pork juices on top melting into the flavours of mixed meats and rice. I always make my mom add extra water a little at a time to make it soupy for me. I just love that sour-savoury combination. And don’t forget that other than home-made, the best place to eat Croatia’s seafood delicacies such as lignje (leeg-nyeh) or calamari or squid, grilled or fried, is Venus on Selce’s Riviera which is always packed with locals and tourists. Their grilled squid is drizzled in olive oil, parsley, garlic and melt in your mouth. Café Bonino and Rokan across from Tunar have good squid too, but Venus is the best.

Krk island has at least 3 great places to eat fried squid in the village of Vrbnik, including Lucy’s up the hill (very generous portions), the port restaurant, and in the many restaurants for a lunch time trip across the Bay of Kvarner.

My grandmother’s home…also known as my baba…

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Selce’s artistic and quaint corners…

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Savoury cabbage rolls only mama can make…

Fried squid, or grilled, or both…worth a try…if they are too big or too chewy, you got “tultsi” which are cheaper, and not real squid. Many good restaurants do have pictures to explain the menu and accommodate the many world-wide travellers that enjoy the Croatian cuisine. 20160927_192733

Selce’s Riviera…just park that convertible and stroll, swim, eat, explore…

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On the border of Selce and Crikvenica (Selce being the beach town portion with superior beaches and atmosphere, a Zabavna (Fun/Arcade) Park and Crikvenica being a bit more of a city with more variety of shops), right next door, is Duga Mall which houses a café veranda view of a section of Krk Island’s rocky coastline that will take your breath away. You can park underground, go above ground level, and this photo does not do the view justice. The cappuccinos and drinks are good but the view is priceless. It was very hard to leave the serene vista, so we took our time. Duga Mall has a few shops and groceries, but in general, Croatia is very affordable.

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Around the corner from Duga Mall is Café Ognjisce (Ognishchyeh) which has the best, most tasty cevapcici (chevaps, or chevapchichi) I have ever had in the area. My local cousins took me here and we ate these barbecued meat morsels with Ajvar (mild red pepper chutney) with such pleasure. We took the rest, to go. We fed lots of relatives with this platter. It was heaven. Ask your Taxi driver to take you here, then go for coffee at Duga Mall upstairs on the veranda (write down the names, show the driver). Well worth it. Come hungry. You know it’s a good place when you see Construction employees and locals frequenting Croatia’s restaurants, it fits their budget too.

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Another wonderful place to enjoy is the bakery Cukerin in Rijeka (take a bus or get a ride from Selce to Reeyehkah. (also known as Fume, Foohmeh in Italian). Cukerin (comes from the word meaning “sugar”) and has wonderful pastries and coffee (kava). Unique to Cukerin, is that when they constructed it, they discovered evidence of ancient wheat stores below, so they gave the café a glass bottom to enjoy a history of a wheat mill in this very spot. The atmosphere is creative, colourful, and well worth navigating the tricky alleys behind Rijeka’s bustling shopping streets. There are very unique shops hidden behind the main promenade. I personally know the bakers at Cukerin, who bake with lots of love and care. You can taste it! We pre-ordered lemon cookies, cinnamon cookies and chocolate pie to bring to friends back in Canada. The chocolate pie is one of my favourites! And it kept very well.

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Beside Cukerin in the old town part of Rijeka is Konoba Volta, their fried squid was absolutely delicious. It has a very romantic atmosphere with outdoor dining and candlelight, and you can go to Cukerin for dessert afterwards. Then meander the alleys and cobblestone streets of Rijeka and soak up the historical architecture.

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Back in Selce, we explore the back alleys behind the smallest church in front of the tourist agency near Kava Anka (arguably the best coffee and icecream in all of Selce). Be sure to visit behind the church all the alleys of 13th division and beyond for surprisingly charming vignettes.

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Crikvenica (below) has more of a city vibe, but a small one, beware the one way streets when driving! Shopping and groceries and the Crikvenica aquarium as well as the promenade and famous “dog beach” and of course “people” beaches are here. Selce-Crikvenica are often paired together, as Selce is a simple, small town that swells in the summer, and reverts back to small village after October. (Selce also has a “dog beach” for those with pets, in a small area near the campground.)

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Selce sunset, a monument to the Tunar perch that honours the tuna fisherman of yore and is lit up at night, like a stairway to heaven. A great view from most of Selce, but Café Bonino has a nice vibe any time of day, as well as Tunar which is the “tuna boat” restaurant just 100 feet away.

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My mom, a “Selcanka” (Selchanka, person raised in the village of Selce, Croatia) enjoying the spectacular view of Krk’s rocky coast from the café veranda of Duga Mall, on the border of Selce-Crikvenica.

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Selce’s walking promenade is very long with a lively panorama of lights, music, fashion and people watching.

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Vrbnik village on Krk island, accessible by boat from Selce, a great day trip.

Croatia Day Trips

Selce’s kupaliste (Kupah-lishteh) beach, (below) great for families with fine rocks added to ease your way into the Adriatic with a larger shallow end. Tunar’s boat shaped Restaurant in the background.

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Mihuric Scuba diving outfit in Selce is a great place to participate in some interesting dive sites at least one of which is a shipwreck. Ahoy! Hope this gives you enough reasons to visit Selce, Crikvenica, Rijeka and Krk. Explore this blog for many more places to visit in Croatia such as Plitvice Park, Rastoke, Zagreb, Krk Island and more!

Don’t forget to leave yourself at least 24 hours after diving before you fly to decompress from the effects of the dives which can interfere with your body’s ability to adjust to flying’s extreme altitudes of 30 to 40,000 feet.

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Scuba diving was my first foray into meditation…a world of beauty, just beneath the surface. Hope this blog inspires you to visit Croatia, leave a comment, meditate or share.

Thoughtless Peace, Andaman Sea, Thailand

curb appeal

Vrbnik on Krk Island across from Selce, a great day trip

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Croatia Direct Flights from Toronto and Montreal Continue into 2016-2017 with Air Transat

All photos and article by Paula Erskine

One can book an Air Transat ticket for a direct flight to Zagreb, Croatia right now for as early as next year, for example, May 30th, 2017 at a price of approximately $871 Canadian dollars and enjoy the comfort of Air Transat’s Airbus 330 fleet. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to book ahead and take advantage of cheap flights to Croatia flying directly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Air Transat will likely add a second flight weekly to Zagreb, Croatia as of May 2016. Book early to get the deals! Here are some places to visit in Croatia that may delight your senses.

Below, Plitvicka National Park, known to visitors as “paradise,” is less than 2 hours away from Zagreb and enjoyed year round. Easy hiking, hundreds of waterfalls, 16 turquoise lakes.

Rastoke Village, in Slunj (above), is 1 and a half hours from Zagreb, Croatia on the way to Plitvice Park. Imagine opening your window shutters and overlooking a waterfall below your window, with the sound rushing through your veins and the fresh, cool mist rising up through the atmosphere. In this valley, one is surrounded by trees whose roots run deep, taking a drink from the rivers they call home. Eat at Petro, visit Unique Rastoke park (just that part is closed on tuesdays) and eat there too,  the food is fresh and authentic throughout the village…or stay at many of the apartments built on waterfalls in this fairy tale mill town on pristine waters. Simply unmissable and picturesque, any time of year. A peaceful place. Take advantage of the pleasant off season weather with more elbow room than mid-summer to enjoy Croatia even more.

If you are still on the fence, wondering if Croatia is the right destination for you, let me share with you some favorite places to visit that are off the beaten path. Even within the usual hot spots, there are great tips to be shared on how to get the maximum value and enjoyment from your Croatian vacation. For those who travel yearly to the motherland, direct flights to Croatia this summer of 2016 have been a dream come true. In addition, Zagreb has proven to be a great hub for native travelers of Serbia and Bosnia and bordering nations visiting their families. It is very moving to see people of all these nations “going home” to introduce their children and grandchildren to the beautiful lands, lakes, rivers, mountains and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea which were their playgrounds.

It was especially convenient for the older generations to travel “home” on direct flights, most of them wanting to look out the window or watch the air show rather than the individual movie screens at each seat. The atmosphere on board is one of gratitude, appreciation and social friendliness without borders. Although the blocked time of the flight is 9 and a half hours, depending on head and tail winds, the average flight to Zagreb, Croatia from Toronto on Air Transat’s Airbus 330 consistently took only around 8 hours!

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! Below, Ozujsko Pub in Zagreb, beside the Naive Art Gallery Egg in Upper Town serves tasty meats stuffed with cheese and prosciutto (pershuto), grilled vegetables and chicken shishkebabs wrapped in bacon. Tender, fresh, tasty and very reasonable!

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Vinodol Restaurant, lower town, superb eating, Zagreb Croatia

Vinodol Restaurant (lower town), Zagreb Croatia above was absolutely superb eating, with a wonderful indoor skylit atmosphere and outdoor seating too. Below, Kava Tava (upper town)…find an excuse to eat palacinke (palachinke) the Croatian stuffed crepes, dessert, cappucinos, breakfast or sandwiches. Then,  for all you airline buffs, Kava Tava’s decor boasts passenger seats and airplane tables. 20160621_192442

Zagreb’s Upper Town can be reached by Funicular or stairs and is full of incredible places to eat with no lack of creativity, history, architecture, naive and modern art, fountains museums, bird’s eye views, Lake Jarun, shoe shopping in particular in the lower town, and delicious food everywhere. To say Zagreb is hip would be an understatement.

A hidden gem in Zagreb is MS Grill run by Olga who will cook like only a mother can, and specializes in Bosnian dishes such as cevaps (barbecued chevaps are mixed meats, usually lamb, on home made grilled bread served with kajmak (k-eye-mahk) cream cheese, chicken paprikash, and many stews and famous crepes.The truth is, I ate most of the mouth watering meat before I remembered to take a picture. The secret to all the juicy meats, especially the grilled chicken, is the time they take to marinate it all…and I enjoyed it very much on my flight. The portions are too generous, and the prices are ridiculously cheap! You can find them around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel, Zagreb, with the orange canopy, simple. Olga is open from 7 or 8 am till midnight and serves fresh, home made food, her most evident ingredient, is love, warmth and enthusiasm. I do not leave the restaurant without my goodbye hug.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ms-Grill/1549760118614667 This is the facebook page.

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! See you in Zagreb! Check out my other posts for more great places to visit in Croatia! This is StrossMarte, at the top where the Funicular station stop is. Very artsy, great views, puppet shows, and very whimsical somehow.20160906_18551320160906_18555220160906_185448Sveti Marco Square, tiled roof, straight ahead from the Funicular. Many ways to see the city, including a vintage car ride. Fresh fritule, powdered mini doughnuts sometimes filled with jam at a window in upper town. We drop in on an orchestra practicing amid rows of fountains, it was lovely. The architecture, the old gate to the city, is so interesting. I hope to visit Lake Jarun where locals swim and bike in the near future. Until we meet again, Zagreb, I will enjoy my memories. See you in Croatia until early October of 2016 and May 2017 onward.20160906_18491320160823_18350320160823_19023920160906_18403120160906_18503220160817_19534320160906_19051620160906_18185320160906_21042620160817_191813

Croatia, 24 hours in Action packed Zagreb and the Euro Cup

20160621_192442I just got back from 24 hours in Croatia which was preceded by 24 hours in Paris, where, many Croatians travelled to Paris, then Bordeaux by train, to attend the Euro Cup Games. I had the good fortune to be in Zagreb, Croatia where the streets and squares were adorned with Red and White checkered attire symbolizing the crest of the Croatian flag and the biggest TVs I have ever seen were setup all over the city.20160621_18152120160621_200710

I was lucky to be with an extremely knowledgeable Portugal-qualified soccer (or as they say in Europe) football fan on my crew who gave me the inside knowledge as Croatia played a very exciting game against Spain and ultimately won.

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We watched the game in the streets passing through Ban Jelacic square (pronounced Ban Yelachich). We also watched in the streets from our wooden booths in Kava Tava (Ulica=street, 10000 Ivana Tkalcica pronounced Tkalchicha) and sipped cappucinos to nurse our jet lag back to some semblance of normal. It was an emotional evening and ultimately celebratory and I really enjoyed the energy surrounding us.

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Scenes from Kava Tava Cafe…

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Nothing better than hugging and yelling and crying with strangers that are my brethren once removed. The street of Tkalicica is lined with wonderful outdoor tables, cafes, restaurants to cruise on a pedestrian street in the Upper Town of Zagreb.

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Kava Tava (www.kavatava.com) had many surprises, inside and out, with tea cups imbedded in the wooden booth outdoor seating and passenger airplane seating inside with all kinds of creative touches inside you will want to capture on film and say, you were there! Kava Tava appeals to the flight attendant in all of us, we can’t really put our finger on it, but the creativity of the decor is travel inspired, to say the least.

A very short, action-packed layover, and just a snapshot of Zagreb’s many cool places to be should you find yourself passing through. More exciting places will be added as my layovers in Zagreb progress into the summer.20160621_22064520160621_22191920160621_192546

Currently Air Transat (www.airtransat.com) flies direct to Zagreb, Croatia on your way to the most beautiful coastline and national parks like Plitvice’s turquoise lakes and hundreds of waterfalls which you can view in this blog as well as many wonderful places in the Bay of Kvarner and the island of Krk. See you there! Below, see the hand that beckons.

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The art and numerous hill inspired cafe’s that decorate simple, picturesque allies in Zagreb, Croatia. This is no stuffy, Croatian capital. The hills are alive with the sound of music, art, soccer and bustling evenings lived outdoors all summer long.20160621_20125220160621_19351520160621_20111420160621_19325720160621_19441420160621_222612In the words of Kava Tava Cafe, I could not have said it better, but only, after the Euro Cup Game. 🙂

Citizen of the World

Bon Appetit on Air France

Bon Appetit on Air France

By Paula Erskine

When I was a little girl on a plane ride to Croatia, for yet another privileged summer of bathing in the Adriatic Sea, a stewardess put a meal tray on my table top. Delighted at seeing all the mini compartments of food served neatly on a tray seemed like such a treat! “Mom! This is the life!” I exclaimed. A defining moment that was to shape my future in travel as a flight attendant.

Bororo Nomadic Tribe, Cameroon

Bororo Nomadic Tribe, Cameroon

For six months, I was stationed in the west-African country Cameroon. I had the privilege of interacting with gentle, humorous people that nurtured my quest to communicate in French. I drew on all the bilingual labels I had ever seen in the grocery stores living in Canada and racked my brain for remnants of grade eight French. I made notes and practiced talking with Cameroonians and ex-patriots. By month two I started to feel the francais flow. What struck me most was that the Cameroonian population, comprised of Muslims, Christians, ex-patriots and many tribes (speaking over 56 different languages) lived in relative harmony.

Getting over that French hurdle was key to landing a long-term career that pays me to travel. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to practice my French speaking skills with my Quebecois passengers who, gratefully, nudge me in the right grammatical direction. The more I integrate myself into authentic travel experiences, the more I see the common threads that bind everyone to each other. I feel very much as Socrates did when he claimed to be neither Athenian nor Greek, but rather belonging to a more universal identity. I too, am not only Canadian or Croatian, but also “a citizen of the world.”

Art, Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy

Art, Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy

Twenty-eight countries and counting, time really flies when you’re having fun! I have accumulated 1000 words of Russian since meeting my husband backpacking. I am nurturing international friendships. I have adopted many neighborhoods around the world to connect with as my home away from home. I choose my desired destinations on a monthly basis and my schedule is determined by seniority. My curiosity fuels my desire to boldly explore new territory and revisit favorite destinations. The quest for healthy, comfort food away from home, relaxing cappuccino corners abroad, discovering remarkable natural wonders, participating in historic excursions and shopping are just a snapshot of the perks.

Resolving conflicts, first aid, ensuring flight safety, improvisation, public relations, and serving coffee are all part of my job. Through the grapevine, I have heard of a study which claims that for every 3 months of flying overseas, a flight attendant loses up to one month of sleep. Based on my own experience and that of my colleagues, this is true. If I work a night flight and arrive in Europe by mid-morning, I will immediately recharge with a 4-5 hour deep sleep. This window of rest is sometimes shortened if shops, tours or restaurants are closing by late afternoon. Sleeping daylight hours away is not the solution for jetlag. A good dose of sleep shortly after arriving in Europe followed by a healthy walk, a lovely meal and aiming to go to bed at a more local time helps to get back on track. For those unpredictable sleepless nights, I pack a book, my computer, music and an occasional magazine left behind in a seat pocket.

Plitvice Park, Croatia

Plitvice Park, Croatia

Balancing travel with a healthy dose of family time and a sense of humour is the best medicine. Outside of work, I recharge by hiking halton and Hamilton trails, zumba dance aerobic classes, swimming and Sahaja Yoga Meditation which keeps me grounded and happy. On the subject of “seizing the day” of your vacation, I will be sharing the highlights of “my favourite things, places, people, experiences.” I hope that it inspires you to put your life on pause and enjoy the treasures that the worlds’ neighborhoods have to offer.

Croatia’s Beaches on Krk Island can be “A Pound of Therapeutic Dirt”

Muddy Escape to Klimno

Add Klimno beach bay area in the Bay of Kvarner on the island of Krk in the Primorje (Preemorryeh) region of Croatia to your list of reasons to visit Croatia with direct flights from Toronto at http://www.airtransat.com.  This beach is unique to even to Krk’s pristine, rocky and crystal clear beaches because of it’s healing mud and you can expect the shallow waters to be much warmer than other bodies of water. In mid-summer, it can feel like a bathtub! If you are like some of my relatives that prefer warmer water and sun for their joints, this is the place to visit and makes a great day trip.

For those planning trips earlier than peak season, around June, or after the madding crowds have thinned in September and October,  guesthouses throughout Croatia are significantly cheaper. Even the beginning of July you can still get good prices on rentals at private residences. September and October, the prices for rooms or “apartmans” drop collectively according to the tourist rates set by the board. Even in mid-season, you generally don’t pay per person, so you can get an apartment for two couples for the equivalent of 75-100 Euros which is very reasonable.

The shallow waters of Klimno are also ideal for families playing a game of “Pitzigeen” with a tiny ball in a wide circle and diving and volleying to keep the ball in the air. The game is a cross between water polo and volleyball, passing on scoring, in lieu of splashing. You can pack a picnic with your taxi boat or load up the car and drive across the bridge near Rijeka and follow the well marked signs and roundabouts.

Klimno can be reached by taxi boat from Selce, boat tour, or by car by crossing the bridge where Rijeka airport is located on the island of Krk. Unlike other pristine rock beaches typical of Croatia’s coast and islands, this area boasts therapeutic mud to cure anything from sports injuries, to arthritic complaints. It is also has great detoxifying properties when applied topically and deep cleans your pores. The sea is a plethora of curing properties in itself, cradling us in it’s elemental salt and minerals and purifying our soul. The mud and sea draw out aches, pains, impurities, negativity, and fill us up with positivity.

I was told to let the black mud dry on the skin in the sun which is part of the healing process. Enter the Adriatic Sea which is quite shallow here, rinse and repeat 2 more times for maximum benefits. Luckily, I had my wonderful Uncle Zvonko take us there by fishing boat.  We laughed and smothered ourselves in mud pits. The mud pits are tricky, so be careful with children and just dip from the shallow puddles of mud to be on the safe side, rather than immersing yourself into the deep pools.

Easily accessible from Selce or Crikvenica with some tours offered which include this beach. Don’t want to do the mass tour thing? Hire your own taxi boat and make a half day of it. A word of warning, you will have a faint, peculiar smell coming off your pores for about 2-3 days.  So, don’t do what I do and go on a lengthy road trip with your cousin…unless you roll your windows down. All that cleansing smells like a pound of dirt!

After our day trip, we parked my Uncle Zvonko’s boat near the red posted pier and ate the best grilled calamari (squid in English, or lignje-Leegnyeh in Croatian) I have ever had. While waiting for our savoury soups, I tried to gently shoo 3 wasps from drinking from my bitter lemon soda pop bottle. The waiter assured me they were domestic wasps with a wink. So I poured bitter lemon into a small dish on the side and slowly lured them away from the table.

Dinner ended with a final dip in the water and the start of the big “Bura”, or big winds where we fought against waves in his teensy boat. Fortunately, halfway to Selce, the waves subsided and the wind picked up as we made our way back to Selce by night. My Uncle is a very experienced fisherman, and we waited a little too long to get back to the mainland. We lived to tell the tale, but there was a lot of praying going on.

It is very important to consult the locals, the fisherman on matters of the winds, the “Bura” and take the car when the occasional weather change happens. The wind can look harmless and be fine to swim in from the shore, but avoid taking kayaks, floating beds or inexperienced boat trips which can carry you away.

To enjoy earth’s gifts, we have to respect that we can never conquer it.  The panoramic view of the village of Selce, our mainland refuge, can be enjoyed incoming from Krk, usually a 45 minute-1 hour ride. We would have strolled the riviera, but headed straight for bed after a day in the healing mud, sea and sun.

There are many more places to visit on Krk Island, like Vrbnik (a village built on cliffs), with a pirate ship and glass bottom boat tour from the charming village of Selce. The town of Krk, Baska (Bashka), and many more villages on Krk are as unique as the changing landscapes shaped by the sea. For more great places to visit in Croatia and around the world, please explore this world loving blog and let me know where you have enjoyed travelling.

Skywalker, Paula Skywalker-Croatia Must See Villages

Skywalking in Croatia-Vrbnik

At the base of the pier in Vrbnik, Croatia, is a heart-shaped cave opening with a secret beach which only stays sunny till mid-day, but is worth passing through the rocky archway. If you have a kayak, or flippers and a floatation board (and you feel confident in the water) you can venture from this beach into the water and around the right bend to another private beach which is harder to access and quite a bit further. My husband found many underwater artifacts there with his snorkel gear. He also got the bends diving too deep without a tank and surfacing too quickly. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Just off the pier is a small port where the water is quite a bit warmer than the coast. Vrbnik is located in the Bay of Kvarner and is less than 40 minutes from towns on the mainland, the closest being Selce on the border of Crikvenica. Vrbnik is one of my favourite go-to villages built on cliffs. They are famous for their home made “Zlatina” (pronounced with a soft “g,” “glatina,” meaning golden) wine, prosciutto, lamb stew (that graze on salt sprayed grasses), fried sardines and many typical Croatian dishes.

Region? Primorje, on the island of Krk. Krk, (follow the signs Otok Krk), also has the Rijeka airport on it, and the bridge to Krk island is near Rijeka. There is a small fee to cross the bridge. There are many tours offered by boat if you don’t drive that can be booked from Selce, Crikvenica and Novi that I have noted.

Wardrobe? This is a conservative town, so wear your beachwear on the beach. Put clothes on when strolling about town unless you want a Babushka shaking a stick at you in disapproval. I bought my maxi-dress in the store New Look which can be found downtown London, England or the suburbs. Maxi dresses are my favourite wardrobe item! It is a staple item for the summer and is always in my suitcase when travelling south. I keep it in my carry on bags in case my suitcase gets diverted so I have emergency clothing. New Look stores have a regular, tall and plus size section called “Inspire.” I always check them out when I am in their town for jeans and other offerings. A maxi dress with sleeves and long length will not offend when entering holy places of worship. Plus you can wear supportive undergarments without showing your bra strap, and it can double as a discreet “changing room” as you switch to dry clothes in some corner of the beach or boat. Yup, an inventive change-room maxi-dress. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Curious About Where to Go in Croatia? Behold Paradise, Plitvice National Park

Behold Paradise

If you think the photo is spectacular, I can assure you that a live viewing of this paradise will take your breath away. Paradise is this earth and I encourage you all to explore and enjoy it!

where? Plitvice National Park, Croatia

how far is Plitvice Park from…Rijeka (Italians call Rijeka Fiume)? 180 km drive, the closest points on the coast being in the Primorje Region. Other cities in the vicinity which make a great coastal base for such a day trip include Selce, Crikvenica, Opatija and Novi. As an example, add 30 min to the trip between Selce and Rijeka. Entering into the Primorje region can be done from several places. Zagreb airport, by train and bus from Venice Airport or just by bus from Trieste, Italy airport, or Ljublana, Slovenia. Once you’ve booked a “home base” guest house, bus tours can be booked or renting a car is a great option. Karlovac is quite a bit closer since it is inland, and Plitvice is 80 km inland from Karlovac. The four beautiful rivers of Karlovac Korana, Kupa, Mreznica, Dobra. The magical, pristine Korana river that runs through Karlovac begins from Plitvice National Park. The distance from Zagreb to Plitvice is on par with Karlovac, both inland cities.

We really enjoyed overnighting in the tiny village of Rastoke, Slunj the day before the 5-6 hour boardwalk light hike around Plitvice Park. Rastoke is super close, is only 20 minutes away from Plitvice national park, if you blink, you might miss the tiny sign near a bridge “Rastoke” to descend on a steep hill to it’s valley. Check out my article about this wondrous village built on waterfalls. Do not miss out on spending at least a half day or overnight in Rastoke, it is heaven.  Karlovac is quite a bit closer since it is inland, and Plitvice is away from the coast.

This gives you the advantage of showing up early at the park to hopefully avoid the crowds! Europeans and Asians know to visit this park paradise. It is brand new and undiscovered to most North Americans until now! It is my mission to inform you of all the treasures Croatia has to offer that are off the beaten track.

how far is it from…Split? Split is halfway down the Croatian coastline on the the way to Dalmatia and is 230 km away from Plitvice.

how far is it from Dubrovnik? Dubrovnik is 446 km away on the Dalmatian Coast at the southern tip of Croatia.

Entrance Fee? 110 Kunas (as of August 2012, 6 kunas=$1)+25% tax of 22 kunas

Includes: Walking boardwalk trails with options to take shorter routes, a boat ride across one lake, a shuttle bus that brings you back to your parking lot (remember where you parked!)

the official website of the park is www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr

FAQ

Why do I need a home base guest house?

At the end of every week, saturday and sunday, tourists are knocking on doors desperate for accomodation to fill the extra day or two gap between guest houses. It is very difficult to get a guesthouse for a day or two since people who have already been through this experience book for one or two weeks solid, whether they stay every night at one guesthouse or not. You can always leave early. North America may not know much about Croatia, but now that Tom Cruise has been on the island of Hvar this summer, and Sharon Stone and many others have visited, it won’t be long now. Pre-book everything you can, then if you do a day trip and want to sleep over, do that too. And do yourself a favor. Don’t try to leave saturday or sunday towards the Italian border town of Trieste. It is jammed and there is one long, winding, highway full of vacationers on the same wavelength as you. When all else fails, knock on doors. There is always a Babushka (slavic grandmother type) somewhere that is in the know about gaps in reservations. This happens when a family books for a week, but leaves a day early to avoid the traffic and sometimes, you luck out.

What route did I take at the park? I followed the boardwalk marked “c” which was the longest and did it at my own pace. A view from the top of the park reveals a gorgeous lake spilling into another gorgeous lake as pictured above. When you see the first sign for path “c” which indicates left, GO RIGHT as a brief detour and go down the steps for the best photo opportunities of this vignette. A little further to your right and another photo opportunity with a massive waterfall. When you do all that, go back to where you turned, and follow route “c” for a full day of scenery. Halfway through the park, before you get on the boat, there is a resting area with food and washrooms. You can refill your water bottles, enjoy the picnic grounds with a pint, and take a break. After eating and resting here an hour, we hopped on the boat where you will need to show your entrance ticket and crossed one of the lakes. The tricky part is that there are not too many official washrooms after this dropoff point. Fortunately, we were dehydrated and in awe of the beauty. But the last stretch is a bit of a challenge. The final destination offers ice cream, washrooms, snacks and some incredible trees rooted in the flowing river and cascading waterfalls. From here you can catch the shuttle bus back to your parking lot.

Is it worth it? In my humble opinion, the entrance fee should be $Priceless! Castles and Coastlines aside, this is a real natural wonder and a UNESCO world heritage site. You can’t afford not to go. It will change your life.

What should I wear? I wore walking on a cloud supportive sandals, mephistos or birkenstocks will work, sport sandals are ideal because I found my feet got hot in running shoes (also good). I did see some people wearing flip flops, but I would never advise those. I have seen sundresses to shorts to capris. I opted for the capris and t-shirt. Check the weather before you go in case you have to add a layer or bring an umbrella.

Tip! Go early because I got stuck once arriving there in the afternoon and some of the waterfalls were in shadow which did not make for the best pictures! You want full on bright sun from morning, mid-afternoon is still good for photos, but after 3pm it will be challenging to find non-shady waterfalls. Still there were other bright spots with green reeds and turquoise waters that saved the photographic day.