How to behave in Croatian National Parks

We visited two parks in Croatia. The first was the Krka National Park in Dalmatia, North of Split. It’s famous for its pretty waterfalls, some of which people are allowed to swim in. We arranged a day tour with the hostel and set off at an ungodly hour in the morning. The park itself was pristine and beautiful, with ample spots for you to either chill out by the waterfalls, have a bite, hike up a trail or nap under a tree.

The second park we visited was Plitvicka (or known to the rest of us to don’t speak Croatian as Plitvice) National Park. This UNESCO heritage is bursting with lakes and waterfalls that look like they’ve come out of a fairy tale. Again we arranged a tour with the hostel a day before and were off at another ungodly hour. The bus ride to the park was rather windy and I would recommend a tablet of Kwells for those of you who, like me, are prone to getting nauseous on buses. According to our guide, the best time to visit the park is in spring (May & June) as that’s when the snow from the top of the mountains have just melted causing the lakes and waterfalls to literally burst at their seams. The weather would be cool and breezy, yet warm enough to explore the park in shorts. Plus, tickets would only be 300 kunas, much cheaper than the 1100 kunas we paid (with a student discount, valid with an expired student ID) during peak season.

Apart from enjoying the heat beating down on my back and a perpetual SULA (someone please get this reference), I thought I’d list a few Do’s and Dont’s for national parks.

Do

  1. Do bring water, lots of it. And if you run out, there’s always a water fountain or fresh water from the river to fill it up again. It’s os much better than spending 140 kunas on a bottle of Sprite (although I did succumb to my temptation in the heat).
  2. Do bring a packed lunch or snack. Parks charge extortionate amounts for mediocre (I’m being generous here) food. Since seats are free for all to place their bottoms on, grab a seat and whip out a packed lunch. There’s no shame in being forward thinking and saving a bit of moolah.
  3. Do enjoy the park for what it is. Smell that fresh flowing water, knowing that in a few days, you will probably return to a city with fresh flowing sewers instead. Take it all in and enjoy nature and the freedom of being unplugged. I say this like it’s an easy thing but try resisting the urge to whip out your phone after being starved of any stable connection for three days when you spot that “WiFi Zone” sign in Krka.

Don’t

  1. Don’t be this guy, the inspiration for this post. Do you have any idea how many photos he’s ruined with his ugly cap and stupid tripod? I’m glad some American yelled at him to MOVE because I was about to throw a rock at his empty skull. It’s inconsiderate, honestly. Everyone’s paid to get to the park to enjoy a lovely view and take a few pictures of the waterfalls and the lakes. They did not ask for it to be ruined by someone who wants to get closer.

    The shot was perfect except for his ugly hat.
    The shot was perfect, except for this dimwit in my shot. 
  2. Don’t be this couple. Apart from reason #1, they’re also ruining something that has taken a lot of time, energy and money to preserve. In some parks, people are allowed to swim in the lakes. In others, they’re not. Follow the rules, it’s as simple as that. Unless you’d like a €500 fine to make that clearer. Imagine all that suncream and make up ruining the flora and fauna in the rivers, the very organisms that give the lakes that glorious emerald/turquoise hue.

    Park rangers take such offences very seriously.
    Park rangers take such offences very seriously.
  3. If you’ve joined a tour, don’t be that person that wanders off instead of waiting for the rest of the group like the guide told you to. We had four girls wander off in the opposite direction and our guide spent 20 minutes looking for them. Guess who waited for 20 minutes in the heat? Again, it’s just inconsiderate and it dampens the mood of the whole group because, believe it or not, we tend to worry for strangers we’ve walked next to for the past few hours.

PS. This is what a SULA is:

Sweaty Upper Lip Alert

Till my next rant, ta!

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Split – Museums and The Bright Nights

In between cutting my feet and eating, we managed to visit two museums. The Split City Museum wasn’t too bad and we got in for free as we had the Split Card. As we entered, I heard music playing from the distance. As we gradually made our way up to the second floor, we found a mini 10-piece orchestra rehearsing. It felt like we were walking through a magical kingdom with an amazing soundtrack.

The second was by far my favourite. It was the Split Modern Art Gallery or Galerija: Umjetnina. We got in at a discounted rate with our student cards (always ask for a student discount because you save so much money). Tickets are priced at different rates, where one ticket includes entry to the temporary exhibit and the other only to the permanent show. The works in there were breathtaking, especially the temporary exhibit titled Phlogiston.

At night, Split never sleeps, very much like its older and more cultured sibling, Zagreb. Walking around at 10pm, the streets are still filled with music from street performers and free concerts. The clubs don’t even fill up till 12am, when the night really starts.

On our last night in Split, before jumping on a 7 hour night bus, we walked through the busiest evening yet. Many locals were out and about that night as there was a football match happening between the local Split FC called Hajduk (pronounced Haidook) and Prague’s FC. The atmosphere was joyous as always, with many people half drunk by 7pm. Drivers honked as passengers stuck their bodies out of the windows and waved Hajduk flags around town. A short person attempting to take a picture of a large crowd.

Split – The Market, The Beach and My Bloody Birthday

After the palace, we wandered out beyond the very sturdy walls guarded by Roman soldiers (or really fit men in roman soldier uniforms, who knows really) and found ourselves in the market. I love local markets as it gives me an authentic snapshot into the life of a local.

We bought enough fruits to make any girl happy before heading off for lunch in Fife. We decided to splurge a little for our meals today to celebrate me turning 23! Back to Fife, they have probably the fastest Wifi connection I’ve had the pleasure of using. And awesome food, of course. We had a simple meal of grilled fish and vegetables and my mind has never been so blown. The waitstaff were hilarious and the prices here were much more affordable compared to those by the harbour.

LUNCH
LUNCH

After lunch, we took a long stroll to the beach. We decided to go to Ježinac (pronounced Yezhinyek), far away from town as it was quieter and had nice lookout points. It was also well-known for being a swim-y beach compared to the shallow, more populated ones at the other end of town.

After lazing around for a while, I decided to stop being a baby and put my feet into the cold waters. I took my first step into the sea and found that it was rocky and uneven. I took my second step only to land on something pretty sharp. Before I could take my third, the waves crashed on my tiny human body and I found myself having to find my footing on anything stable. This was the dilemma – the waters weren’t deep enough to swim in, but the seabed was too uneven to walk out on. I decided to swim out because I’m light enough, or so I thought.

As soon as I had gulped down enough sea water to make me gag, I decided to call it a day and got out of the sea. As I walked back to our spot, my feet felt funny. I looked down and found a pool of blood and about three cuts per foot.

I braved the situation by freaking out, on the inside. It definitely looked worse than it felt but I was shocked at how much blood multiple small cuts and one gash could make. We decided to head back not too long after that.

For dinner, we went to Atlantidia and it was great. A specialty here is cuttlefish risotto, which we shared along with shell fish in wine sauce. Dinner was nothing short of awesome.

That night, we headed back nice and early to catch up on some 30 Rock and a good night’s rest.

Split – Diocletian’s Palace

*I’m typing this out of a Croatian bar in Zagreb at 4 in the morning. It’s more like a Croatian mamak with the smoking and loud radio playing in the background if you ask me.* 

*But I’m posting this up 11 hours after typing because I couldn’t get a steady connection at the Croatian mamak*

I spent three days in Split, along the coast of Croatia. Although I was there for an incredibly short time, I fell in love this sunny place almost immediately. It is protected by mountains and fed by the sea. The views here are absolutely breathtaking.

I’ve been staying in an Airbnb with a friend and it’s just in an amazing location. We have a giant room that we could definitely do a couple of pirouettes in. They also have a very cute dog who will do anything for food.

She will use those eyes to get anything.
She will use those eyes to get anything.

My Croation Fairy Godmother

Upon exiting the airport, I had trouble finding the bus stop that would take me to the city. That’s where I met my fairy godmother. (I have a feeling that I’ll be meeting many fairy godmothers in the next three months.) I asked if she was heading to Split too and she said yes. At this point, it was clear that I didn’t speak Croation and she didn’t speak English. We walked to the bus station together and tried conversing a little more. I found out that she was born and raised in Split. She offered me a sweet too. That was about it. When the bus arrived, we got on and she disappeared into the crowded bus never to be seen again.

Diocletian’s Palace

This dude was swimming in money back in the day, AD305 to be precise. His crib is ginormous. Today, it’s become a UNESCO heritage site, also a major tourist attraction. Apart from museums, there are loads of shops and cafes sprinkled all over the palace. It’s also where Game of Thrones is filmed and the famous tunnel where the Unsullied were ambushed and Khaleesi’s right-hand man, Ser Barristan was killed.

The Palace is always busy, with lots of restaurants that open into the courtyards. 

We (Sue Huey and I) visited the Cathedral and the Bell Tower in the palace. There’s a small entry fee for both places but we got into the Cathedral for free with a Split Card (get one at the Tourist Information Centre or a Hotel or a Travel Agency).

Outside the cathedral is the bell tower. It takes a lot of guts to climb up the steep stairs and the flimsy metal steps that seem to hang out of the air.