A lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, Brexit, the Royal Family, travels around the world, Europe, and being British in Berlin!
We’ve just returned from Croatia.
Even though I’ve travelled to 61 other countries!
Croatia is the first time that I’ve ever been to the Balkan States, my 62nd country, and the first (1st) new country for 2017!
It was better than I ever hoped.
My plans for 2017 (in alphabetical order) were:
Let’s see how we’ve done so far.
I went skiing!
I haven’t quite got around to writing about skiing in the Czech Republic this year yet, but this is what I previously wrote!
Now, to be frank, most people have never heard of Croatia.
Game of Thrones?
I love that show by the way…!
Isn’t it somewhere in Eastern Europe?
It can’t be both surely?
Well, geographically, it’s one of the previous communist states.
However, in recent years, Croatia has managed to re-invent itself, so that even though it is actually in Eastern Europe, it’s marketed as Central Europe too!
In truth, it has the vibe of the Mediterranean, and you’d be hard pressed not to think that in certain parts of Croatia, you could actually be in Italy, or dare I say it. Austria!
Croatia, otherwise known locally as Hrvatska, or officially – the Republic of Croatia – is a sovereign state between Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean!
Croatia covers 56,594 square kilometres (21,851 square miles) and is on the Adriatic Sea coast, which contains more than a thousand islands!
Croatia’s population is just 4.28 million, and the capital city is Zagreb.
The Croats arrived in the area of present-day Croatia way back in the early part of the 7th century, before becoming two Duchies in the 9th century.
Croatia became a kingdom in 925 and remained so, for almost 200 years!
After World War I in 1918, Croatia was included in the unrecognized State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which seceded from Austria-Hungary, and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia declared it’s independence which sadly, between 1991-1995, became a bloody war with Serbia, then known as part of the ex – Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia!
However, Croatia won it’s independence and since 2013, has also been a fully fledged member of the European Union!
Well, Croatia is in Europe!
It’s on the map where East meets West.
It’s entwined with civilizations, history and culture, that goes back centuries!
It boasts numerous architectural jewels and a world heritage that make parts of Croatia enviable. And UNESCO locations filled with buildings, marked by world history of thousands of years, that made me practically salivate when I saw them!
It’s modern, but also traditional with folk customs, rural traditions that are still adhered to.
In fact, we were all given traditional Easter eggs and Easter cake, handed out as gifts. And I can’t even tell you how many random people (many of them old), waved and smiled at me, on passing by!
Croatia is near the sea.
It’s pretty cheap by West European standards.
Fairly developed in services and infrastructure.
And I’ve never been to the Balkans before!
Because Game of Thrones!
Now when I pitched Croatia to my husband – The Music Producer – he wasn’t initially convinced.
He thought that Croatia would be too far into Eastern Europe, leading into the throngs of Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria.
He wasn’t excited at all!
However, one of the things that changed his mind, was the personal contact that I made with the Zagreb Tourist Board at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin!
I was so excited to be visiting their country, and they were wonderfully helpful.
Thanks so much!
Is it any wonder that The Music Producer was caught up with my enthusiasm too!
I have a lot of things to write about, and you’ll see them all.
As you all pretty much know by now, I’m a great believer in train travel. However, Croatia is quite far from Germany, so we flew!
We had planned just ten (10) days in Croatia – three (3) days in Zagreb, three (3) days in Split, and four (4) days in Dubrovnik.
We wanted to spend at least 14 days (yes, please!) but school commitments meant that the German Easter School Holidays this year, only catered for ten (10) days! But as I always advocate, be smart, use all the weekends, and make it work!
It’s not possible to fly non-stop from Berlin, so we flew with Lufthansa, via Munich on the way in, and Austrian Airlines, via Vienna, on the return leg.
Our outward journey from Berlin Tegel (TXL) to Zagreb (ZAG) with a stop-over, took 6 hours and 20 minutes. Our return journey from Dubrovnik with a stop-over, took just 4 hours.
However, you don’t even need to fly, as you can either take a cruise ship in from the Mediterranean States, a ferry from Italy, take a bus-coach from anywhere you like, or simply rent a car and drive from Austria or Slovenia!
Note: There aren’t a lot of inter-city trains. In fact, there’s no train station in Dubrovnik at all!
If you’re on a tight budget then many bus-coach companies such as MeinFernbus / FlixBus also go to Croatia. But do be aware that the fastest routes are usually only sold in Croatia itself.
We decided to use the coach-bus between Zagreb – Split and Split-Dubrovnik.
Zagreb – Split was a straight-forward ride, and took 6 hours and 20 mins. Cost: €24.00 per person.
Split – Dubrovnik proved problematic, as the coach-bus actually went backwards in the direction of Zagreb, then dropped us in the backwater town of Benkovac, at the Benkovac Busbahnhof!
Benkovac was yucky!
As soon as I saw the “bus station,” I wanted to get the hell out of there!
It was practically deserted and every “room” was boarded up.
We had a 1 hour stop-over at 10:30, and the next decent place was a bar. So we ran to it and ordered a few (non-alcoholic) drinks there!
It’s 10:30 in the morning remember.
Not that it stopped any of the local punters. Ho! Ho!….!
Our journey took 8 hours and 30 minutes, but the bus was 45 minutes late, so make that 9 hours and 15 minutes instead!
We probably should have rented a car, and be done with it!
Cost: Split – Benkovac €12.00. Benkovac – Metkovic €7.35. Benkovac – Dubrovnik €5.65 per person.
Not in the Spring it isn’t!
In fact, there were very few tourists around as it wasn’t yet “the season,” and many a restaurant were luring customers in with 10% discounts.
But in the summer, prepare to gird your loins, and fight your way through!
Zagreb is the capital city in Croatia, and it’s very small!
Split and Dubrovnik are even smaller, and receive up to 3,000 guests per cruise ship, in the summer!
I haven’t a clue how many cruise ships sail by, but it won’t be pretty.
Having said that, if that’s the only time that you can travel, don’t let anything get in your way, as most cruise visitors are only in town for half a day, so that evenings will all be yours!
We were only there for 10 days, but Croatia definitely made an impression on me.
It’s of historical and architectural interest, the food and wine is impressive, the waters are clean, green-blue, and crystal clear.
And it’s very, very pretty!
Not. A. Problem.
It’s amazing how many languages a typical European speaks.
Most speak a minimum of three (3)!
If you speak English, German, Italian or Korean, you’re good to go.
Besides, everyone pretty much speaks English too!
Ha! Ha! Not unless you want to!
Croatia isn’t cheap-cheap.
If you’re from the UK or the US, it’s as cheap as chips.
If you’re from Germany, prices are the same as in Berlin, and you can eat at gourmet restaurants, at far cheaper prices!
We pretty much spent a large amount of time drinking a few glasses of wine, whilst people watching. And a few more!
And on this trip, we decided to book apartments instead of hotels or hostels.
We had great difficulty with personal space in Madrid last year, as The Tall Young Gentleman has recently turned 15 (OMG!), and is very tall. We decided to either book two (2) hotel rooms, or a large apartment instead.
Prices are low, and the quality and standards of apartments available, are exceedingly high. I’ll write more about it in the next few weeks!
Frankly, if you’re paying between €45.00 – €60.00 per night, for huge apartments with terraces, working kitchens, and a piano, you simply can’t go wrong!
Book ahead to get good prices.
Book your apartment or hotel here!
Too many to write at the moment.
More next week!
All of Croatia is pretty small, so every city we visited was quite walkable.
In most cases, cars are not allowed into the Old Towns!
However, you could take the bus, the tram, or simply walk!
If you’re travelling to Dubrovnik, note that there’s a tiny strip of road that’s actually in Bosnia! It only takes about five (5) minutes, but make sure that you have your passport with you.
The motto in Croatia is to relaaaaaax & not rush things.
I think we did that rather well!
We all loved it!
Croatia has got art and culture, and has a vibrant history.
Because, Game of Thrones!
Or am I?!
You know nothing Jon Snow…..!!!!
For many international visitors, Croatia isn’t a destination that immediately comes to mind, but if you’re in the Balkan area, make it a point of duty to spend a few
weeks days, in as many cities as you can manage.
If you’re looking for a new destination that isn’t really on the beaten path, say hello – CROATIA!
Croatia is a sunny dream, and I can’t wait to visit again.
Let’s do it!
This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the delightful cobbled walks that we happily rambled through, are my very own!
In April & May, I’ll be writing more about Croatia, and visiting Sweden & Finland!
I’ll be there. Will you?
If you’re not in Berlin in April, you’re quite mad!
April is going to be superb!
Watch this space!
Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.
I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!
Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!
A win-win for all!
Thanks a million!
OMG you went!!
I’m not going to flatter myself that you went because I recommended it (hahah) but I’m so pleased you did! I’m on my way to Dubrovnik myself again this year. We’ll also be travelling further south and going to visit Montenegro.
And if you want to see more of the area, I highly recommend Bosnia (esp Mostar and Sarajevo)!
Oh and I see Slovenia is on the list – Ljubljana, Lake Bled and the Istrian coast are just stunning!
Thanks so much Lawrence!
Yeah! Croatia has been on my list since we went to Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia, back in 2015! However, all advice is readily accepted. 😀
We really enjoyed visiting Dubrovnik. We don’t have real plans to visit Bosnia or Montenegro at the moment, but Slovenia is very much on our book!
Glad you liked Croatia. It’s on our travel wish list for this year. We have blogger friends who just rented in Split because they absolutely love it there. We are getting a pretty late start this year as we moved from Seville. Now that we have unpacked and settled in, its time to go.. :-). We will be in Poland next month so l’m excited. Nope! Not a fan of GOT but seems everywhere we’ve lived, they’ve filmed there..LOL! Love the images you have. Can’t wait to get there :-).
Thanks so much KemKem!
We really did! And all three places – Zagreb, Split & Dubrovnik – were very nice indeed, and I can’t decide which place I liked best!
p.s I look forward to reading more about your move…! Poland is great. Where are you going?
‘Not a fan of GoT. We can’t be friends! 😉 Seriously though, I have to accept it, as the Music Producer isn’t a fan either. Just me. The Freak! However, it doesn’t matter if you like GoT or not, you’ll love Croatia regardless. 😀
Krakow, but we’ll have enough time to do a day or 2 in Warsaw. First London in a few days. Trying to decide on a day trip but can’t decide where :-).
Yay! Krakow! One of the best cities in Poland, as is Warsaw! I went to Warsaw in late 2015. Most people don’t like it, but I liked it very much! 😉
And London too. Loooovely! Day trips from London are plentiful – try Bristol, Cambridge, Kent, Bath, Oxford, Brighton, Hastings, Stonehenge, Canterbury, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare. Yay!), and the Cotswolds. All very beautiful indeed! 😀
We came to Split to get out of Schengen and found out we absolutely love it! I had no idea it would be such a blend of ancient and modern. We’ll be here a total of 90 days and already planning a return in the fall. Great, livable city with fantastic people.
Thanks so much Diane! ‘Sounds like you’re having just the best time. But isn’t Croatia great considering what they’ve been through? Like the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, Croatia is an East-Central-European success story indeed! 😀
p.s. I’m assuming you’re from North America re the Schengen. Is that right?
We really have had the best time. We leave in less than a week and are really dragging our feet because we don’t want to go yet. The people here are just the best… they don’t talk about the past much with us.. but what little has been said has pretty much been that they are looking toward the future.
We are from the US but have lived all over. We do a combination of house sitting and rentals for slow travel. On our way to Bulgaria next!
Thanks so much Diane! I’m delighted that you such a great time. I don’t blame you, we didn’t want to go either!
p.s. Have not yet been to Bulgaria. Nice one! 😀
Split was one of our best memory of our Croatia trip, it’s open to water and it’s relaxing.
Thanks so much Abdelnourfarid! I’m so glad that you liked Split. We loved it! In fact, ALL of Croatia was simply fantastic – the food, the water, the town. Everything!
I sure hope to visit again soon. 😀
The Balkans are amazing, Victoria! Everyone should visit those amazing countries!
Thanks so much Agness! I absolutely agree and hoping to visit some of the other countries too! 😀
Victoria, I had a stopover in Dubrovnik and Split during a Mediterranean cruise back in 2012, it is definitely time to go again and spend some proper time there. My daughter loves GoT, but I have never watched it…lol. Sounds like you are getting through your list very well indeed. Safe travels 😄
Thanks so much Gilda! It certainly is!
I would love to meet your daughter and have a good natter about GoT as none of my family watch it either! Sigh!
Yep! We’re getting through the list and I’ve even added another destination, but until we’ve actually bought the flight, I’m not saying where it is except that the last time I was there, was 10 years ago!
p.s. Safe travels to you too. 😀
Hi, I saw your post through “Dangerous Business” blog!
I’ve been to Dubrovnik (and the Dalmatian coast) twice and it’s among my favorite places in Europe. It’s an amazing place! Not to mention it was once a city-state that rivaled Venice.
Dubrovnik has been used as a shooting location for TV and movies; it so happens that “Game of Thrones” got the attention. When I first visited Dubrovnik in 2010, “GoT” hadn’t yet become a TV series. When I returned in 2014, it was a blast to revisit and to see what I’d missed the first time. 🙂
Thanks so much Elisa!
Isn’t Dubrovnik a wonderful place! No wonder you returned! This was our first time ever, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I was so pleased to see the GofT stuff as I only began to follow it in 2015! I was such a late starrter but it quickly grew on me. In fact, in both Split & Dubrovnik, I felt as if all the scenes were pretty much everywhere.
I’ve watched GoT about 4 times, and I’m about to watch them through. All over agin! 😀
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I haven’t seen Croatia since the 1980s, when I passed through Yugoslavia heading south on a road trip. It’s become extremely popular as a summer destination for Dutch people, which tends to discourage us from going there. But I’ll take your recommendation and look into going there off-season! Thanks!
Thanks so much Rachel! My! That is a very long time. It must have been utterly different, but quite beautiful!
Yep! Summer in Croatia would be awful. I usually don’t take my own advice and travel whenever, ‘cos of the school holidays, and because I just feel like it…however, Croatia is really tiny, so at peak times, and with cruise ships coming in too, would be utter madness! 😀
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Croatia is spectacular. A beautiful place to visit.
Thanks so much David!
That is absolutely true. An amazing little country! 😀
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