Brač: life on the big island

Brač (pronounced “Bratch”) is the largest island off the coast of Split, but also one of the less touristy (compared to Hvar and Korcula). It’s mostly known for 2 things: its white stone and the Zlatni Rat beach, which were about the main highlights during my 1 night stay there with a Croatian family. 

The easiest way to get to Bol (the city on the other side of the island where I’d booked a small AirBnB room in the home of a Croatian family) from Split is probably by the once-daily direct ferry. But since I didn’t want to wait until afternoon to take the ferry (it runs at 4:30pm during the summer and 4pm the rest of the year), I got the 9am catamaran over to Supetar first, and then the 1 hour-long bus from there across to Bol. Let’s just say, I think I underestimated how much of an ordeal it would be getting there, just kind of floating with the idea of “island=small” in my head when I booked the room without much research. Oh well. The bus ride allowed me to see a lot of the piles of white stone I’d read about (mostly after my visit). Did you know that a lot of the stone from major monuments (like the Reichstag in Berlin, Diocletian’s palace in Split of course, and even the White House), comes from Brač? Pretty cool.

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“Old Boys Club” at a bus stop in the middle of Brac island

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Split: when a city doesn’t always live up to expectations

Sometimes you get to a city and instantly know you’re ready to leave- that the main “story” you’ll get out of it is “well, I guess now I’ve seen it.” If you’re thinking of going to Split for more than just a stopover, below is my account of why this city, for me, was Split. I also considered titling this post “French tourist mecca.” Take it with a grain of salt.

I decided to head to Split because I’d heard good things about the city. Granted, this is all from people who’d never been there. First mistake. And I admit that I can see how the city might have held a certain charm before it exploded from being just a transit hub into being a full-blown tourist mecca. Maybe I’d just hit it too late.

On my way to Split from Šibenik, I did get into a mess that I knew would happen at some point. Since I was sick of being that obvious tourist and repeating “Split? Split?” (insert name of city you’re trying to get to here), I did my best to check the signs on the front of each bus, and hopped on board the one I thought was headed to Split. Big mistake. Turns out, the bus was coming from Split. 5 minutes after we pulled out, the ticket guy got to my seat, checked my ticket, and said roughly and matter of factly: “Split? No. Zagreb.” And just as I’d mentally resettled on making the best of it and changing my plans to include the 8 hour trek back up north to Zagreb and a new city, I was (kindly) dumped at the next bus stop.  Continue reading “Split: when a city doesn’t always live up to expectations”

Krka National Park

Imagine bright green water, cascading gently over mossy rock and forming beautiful pools. Little wooden walkways just above the water offer a path right through this unique landscape and biosphere. Now imagine you can get in that water on a warm day and swim right up near these waterfalls. Surprise: you’re at Krka National Park. 

My ride to Krka National Park from my hostel in Sibenik was in the very back of a van, carefully balanced in a wicker chair. Bumpy ride. The roundtrip had been arranged by the hostel owner for 30 kuna, but you can also get there by bus or by bus to Skradin (which, by the way, is known for its 12 hour risotto) and then by boat in, which I hear is a very attractive option.

The entrance fee was 110 kn this time of year (roughly $16 USD), and once paid, it’s a straightforward walk down a dirt path. When you reach the water, you’ll amble on wooden footbridges hovering just above the water, snaking through fish-filled green ponds and overhanging trees. Given the mostly barren landscape leading into the park, it’s an especially interesting little oasis.

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Šibenik: small town with the gorgeous sunset

“What’s your favorite city you’ve visited so far in your 6 months traveling through Europe?” I once asked another traveler. Without hesitation he answered “Šibenik.” This charming city boasts all the best parts of Croatia (sunsets, great seafood, quaint alleyways, and historic churches) all in one small, magical location. As the oldest native Croatian town on the shores of the Adriatic (others were founded by Greeks, Illyrians, or Romans), it deserves to be enjoyed as much more than just a stopping point on the way to Krka National Park.

The Croatian part of my stay started in Šibenik, a small Central Dalmatian city that serves as the gateway to Krka National Park. I sauntered off the train in Šibenik around 11pm, three trains and a bus later from my farmstay in Semic, Slovenia. When I finally made it to my hostel, the middle-aged woman at the front desk looked tired and relieved that I’d finally made it. She was very nice in broken English, though, and got me a seat in the back of her son’s car to go to Krka National Park the next day, the main reason I’d come.

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Slovenian train stop on the way

Some of the bombing evident in the town of Karlovac, Croatia – pit stop on the way to Sibenik

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