When chatting with friends and colleagues, the beautiful and stunning country of Croatia always comes up! IT is ABSOLUTELY “THE” place to go if you are stationed here in Germany. Whatever people told you about Croatia…well it’s all true! In true fashion, maybe because I’m married to a Missouri man but you’ve got to “show me” has rubbed off and… I have to say for me, Croatia is one of the friendliest and prettiest places I’ve been to in Europe. And that’s not ALL… the food is spectacular too! Our experiences were authentic and we left new friends we are eager to see again.
Not wanting to PRE-PLAN every detail of our family vacation was a challenge for me. As a travel writer, blogger and photographer it was especially hard not to read and research a trip, however, at my family’s request. I DID not organize an itinerary for our adventure to lovely Croatia. Surprises abound!
We flew Ryan Air my new smaller (not-so-smaller anymore) favorite airline from Baden-Baden to Zadar. I booked them far enough out to get a €72/person flight round trip. If you are unfamiliar with the smaller airlines in Europe there are “things to know” before you book.
- Book as far out as you possibly can
- Almost no-one gets the same exact price fare
- Luggage restrictions are well…strict, make sure you have the correct size
- On-line check-in 48 hours prior to your flight AND printed tickets are REQUIRED (for Ryan Air) €45 per ticket fee if you don’t have yours “ready to go” (so better not to lose them either)
- EasyJet is super strict luggage restrictions, when they say “ONE CARRY-ON” they mean it, your purse counts as a second carry-on, prepare to stuff it in your luggage or very small backpack to avoid an additional €50 or £50 charge
- Boarding gates close quickly before the flight (20-30 minutes) don’t dilly-dally
- Priority boarding (usually €5/person/leg of flight will ensure your luggage is included (only the first 80-90 are guaranteed) and most times they’ll include a better seat selection for your flight with Priority booking
- Airlines typically sell products and food on their flights for revenue (sometimes I go ahead and get stuff because well, I’m hungry or thirsty and I want to keep them in business)
- Seats aren’t huge – but they are typically direct, fast flights
Enjoy the views – our flight to Croatia over the Swiss Alps and into Malta was absolutely unforgettable, so glad I got this shot.
When we have a family vaca~ I usually book an AirBnb for several reasons. Our host Ivana was one of the best AirBnb hosts I’ve ever had. She greeted us with hugs and smiles and made us feel at home as soon as we arrived. Attentive to our every need, meeting us in the pouring rain but welcoming us so sweetly into Croatia.
Here are a few reasons our family likes AirBnb/HomeAway/VRBO
- Have our own space
- Meals aren’t on a schedule (kids can snack in a kitchen)
- Usually pretty cool accommodations that make you feel a little more at home
- You can tailor it to the type of vacation you would like
- Beach, beach access
- Downtown, close to the action and sites
- Ski house – skiing, etc.
We stayed in Zablaće within walking distance of the beach, a quiet, little fishing village. It was off-season so not too many businesses were open. But we were o.k. with that ~ we had a little convenient store and the best pizza place all within walking distance of our apartment. Our apartment was great for what we were looking for, peaceful and tranquil and all the amenities we needed.
It’s wasn’t huge, but we weren’t there long enough that it mattered. If you have a larger family rent two units as they were quite affordable too. The balconies and the courtyard to spread out with canopied trees made our little oasis just perfect. Thanks, IVANA!
Call it occupational hazard but I can’t help myself from planning an adventure. I love the research, the wonder and excitement of planning the next trip. However, with this spring break, my family requested we create a Non-Plan. No itinerary to stick to, just ideas of what was possible to explore. Of course, the closer we got to leaving we chatted with fellow travelers and found some “MUST-SEEs” where we would be and I just couldn’t help myself. Here are a few highlights of our discoveries ~
We were only a few kilometers from Šibenik, the UNESCO World Heritage city that is also a site for GoT(Game of Thrones) so we just had to explore. An absolute beauty and charmer, the little rain we had did not deter us from walking all four fortresses and being a little daring on some. With almost thirty sites to see, just inside the city walls, you’ll be busy. Be sure to grab a map of Šibenik at the tourist office (if your sweet AirBnb host doesn’t give you one)
- St. Michael’s Fortress and the Barone Fortress have a combo ticket and are a nice walk from one another
- St. John’s and St. Nicholas’ Fortress are under excavation (you can still tour it ~ but at your own risk. (As you can see)
We found the little village of Trogir, another UNESCO World Heritage city, on the coast after reading a blog on why you have to visit. I’m so glad we did, I think it was my favorite village. Not just because it was MARKET DAY when we arrived but the sailboats in the bay and old architecture brought me back to my New England days and the nostalgia was overwhelming as we passed through the marina full of yachts, fishermen and the smell of the ocean.
One of the most popular city’s to visit along the Adriatic coast, Split is beautiful. We happened to have amazing weather the day we arrived, (only an hour down the coast from Zablaće.) The narrow streets and ancient church bells reminded me a little of Malta but there were tons more people. We even ran into Heather and Don on their last day of spring break in Croatia too ~ small world!!
- We took a boat around the bay to see more of the coast (20kn (Kuna/person)
- Split has daily tour boats that go to Dubrovnik (this was off-season) so the schedule wasn’t going to work for us
- Split is really a busy town compared to Šibenik with lots to do and see – so depending on our travel goals this might be a better fit for your trip as it’s closer to Dubrovnik and you can fly in and out of Split quite easily.
- The Diocletian palace (the old town now) is the best way to investigate and tour this incredible ancient city. Map is also available at the Tourism Office
- The Cathedral is unbelievable ~ if you are afraid of heights, you might want to skip this – 183 steps (16m-200ft) to the top cathedral and the first church of Europe.
- There are four gates to the palace (old town) and all equally beautiful
We tried so many amazing foods in Croatia I just have to showcase them here. One of the best features of social media today is that not all chatter is bad. One night Jon and I walked down to quiet Zablaće for a night cap to a bar that looked new and like it was just opening up. We met Malin (Babin) a Croatian, German resident who was very happy to serve us cordials and port and show us around his new restaurant. While posting our beautiful pictures of our vacation, friend and fellow Croatian lover, Boris told me of his cousin just opening a restaurant in Zablaće. Malin or Babin (who we met the night before for drinks) happened to be his cousin. Talk about meet-cute! The best meal we had in Croatia here are a few highlights!
Fresh sardines with garlic and pepper
Mussels with Garlic Lemon Sauce in Zablaće
Dorado (like Mahi-Mahi) citrus sauce
Here are some other seafood favorites
Not all Croatian food is fish – here are a few other favorites to try
Need a coke? Try a Cockta (local coke made with rosehips and 11 different herbs, almost organic it’s actually quite delicious)
Other notes ~
- Dining out is incredibly affordable
- Parking is easy (great signage) and affordable
- Roads are fantastic, luxuriously wide and well-paved, and tolls are inexpensive
- Rent a small car and drive, I think visiting would have been a challenge without the freedom of having a car and Croatians were polite, smart drivers (albeit European streets)
- Beaches where we were, were more rockier than we are use to in the states (think Beach shoes) still GREAT
- Everyone speaks great English, however, learn a little Croatian before you go, especially Hvala (haVala) Thank you
Too much for one blog ~
Believe it or not we found so much we liked about Croatia I couldn’t fit it all in one blog ~ just amazing, so look soon for my upcoming blog on KRKA. A national park that will get it’s own feature as our full day of hiking, exploring and picture taking was just too much to add here.
It was time to say goodbye to lovely Croatia, Babin, Ivana and her sister, Marianna. Such a lovely country to visit, you can see why people come and why some decide to stay. With people so warm and friendly, food so delicious and a totally affordable destination IT is definitely a favorite!
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