Croatia – Land of Beautiful Coasts and Charming Cities
Our little boat had set out from Dubrovnik for the Elafiti Islands. The sun was shining as we carved our way through the azure sea to our first island, Kolocep. It is the smallest of the three main islands and car free. This should be a bonus except that no cars here also meant no signposts. We had just one hour to explore. I walked for thirty minutes during which time I found a pretty stone church dedicated to Saint Nicholas. I followed a track that indicated it lead to another church. I could not find the church and turned back intending to re-trace my steps. I was sure I had followed a single track and was dismayed to find, after a short distance, a junction with four options. I thought I had chosen the path that went downhill but it actually took me up to the highest point of the island. The views were amazing and I just had to stop and take a photo. I could see my boat. A small dot on the wrong side of the harbour way below me. I had just ten minutes to get there. I dived down the first track I found. It took me through a small holding, across the patio of a house and into an olive grove. The path suddenly petered out and a solid fence barred my way. Some people were working there and I asked for directions. A smartly dressed lady understood that I needed to get to the port quickly. She slid a section of the fence to one side and motioned me to follow her. I stepped through. We crossed a path and she unlocked a gate and I followed her through that wondering where I was. I had gate-crashed the luxury hotel by the harbour! I raced between the sun beds strewn around the pool – probably spattering the occupants with the sweat that was now pouring off me – and galloped down a flight of steps to the harbour. I sprinted around it to our boat and arrived just four minutes late.
Even tour leaders can get lost but I was greeted by a frosty silence. But it soon thawed as we settled down to enjoy the beautiful coastline of Croatia. We had started our tour in Split. Whatever the origin of the name (a broom-like yellow shrub that grows in the area I believe) it is definitely a town of two halves. The amazing palace built by the Emperor Diocletian and Marjan Park that spreads across the hill that rises up behind the town. Diocletian’s Palace has been absorbed into the old town of Split. The main buildings are empty but the peripheral buildings are still occupied and line the narrow cobbled streets. Emerging from the old town visitors can stroll along the wide Riva, past the Venetian style Prokurative or Republic Square and into the Marjan Park. From the top of Marjan Hill there are lovely views of the town below.
Trogir is a pretty island town that features a cathedral with a bell tower. I love climbing up to belfries but this was quite a challenge. Several sets of randomly placed stairs got narrower as I neared the top and finally I had to remove my rucksack and push it through the narrow hole before crawling through myself. A howling wind then pinned me to the wall – thank goodness for the fine mesh over the openings that prevented me from joining the pigeons perched outside. Below me I could see the main square, home to the Town Hall and Saint Sebastian’s Church. Beyond the square I could see the old defences of the town.
From the coastal road that snakes above Dubrovnik the town looks like a fairy tale citadel sheltering behind its circle of walls. There is so much to do in this lovely city. Stroll through its narrow bustling streets browsing the shops and maybe visiting a museum such as the old pharmacy. Go up a level and walk around the walls. A cable car takes visitors to the escarpment above the town for great views of the city below. A three tier experience.
Croatia is definitely emerging as a popular tourist destination as it offers a good variety of sightseeing and adventure.
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