One of the first things my dad ever taught me was an expression I have lived my life by. He taught me that “In life there are only good experiences and good stories.” If there ever were an experience that completely embodied this expression, it would be my past week in Croatia. Croatia is one of the most incredible places I have ever seen, and it will always be memorable both for the unbelievable beauty I saw there and for some of the more unfortunate events that occurred. So 5 days, 8 bus rides, over 36 hours of travel, and 1 very broken phone later, Croatia was quite the trip.
Our holiday began in the capital city of Zagreb. We explored the city and walked through the botanical garden, enjoyed some fruit at an open market overlooking the Zagreb Cathedral, and visited “the book sea”, a park covered in sand and hipster street vendors all with books at every corner free to read. We teared up at the museum of broken relationships, grew two sizes at the museum of optical illusions, relaxed in a jazz café in the heart of the city, and enjoyed some delicious traditional Croatian food.
After a long day, we headed back to the hostel for a few hours before we woke up at 4:00 am for a bus ride to Plitvice Lake National Park, one of the highlights of my trip. Walking through the park, you can see caves, beautiful clear water, huge waterfalls, and gorgeous mountains. After Plitvice, we headed to Rijeka.
Though Rijeka is not one of the common tourist spots as an industrial town, the coastal city has an interesting energy to it that I did not expect. While Rijeka is not as well preserved as some other European cities, the cracked buildings give it an interesting charm, at least when you’re not staying in one of them. When we arrived at our hostel, we were a little shocked to see such a run down building. Inside, it was covered in graffiti (and not the cool European kind) and no one seemed to be around. After some exploring in the building, we eventually found the owner. We checked in and he showed us to our room. While his office was air conditioned, a promising sign in the 90-degree Croatian heat, our room was not. Our room reeked of B.O and there was no place to store our belongings. That hostel was quite the experience. The walls were painted with weird patterns and shapes; there was a disco ball that ran at night that shone into the room from the hallway, and there was almost always loud rock music coming from the owner’s office. Not to mention the coed bathrooms with shower doors that couldn’t close properly. While the hostel wasn’t quite ideal and was a bit of a shock considering its 9 out of 10 rating online, I did feel as though I was living the authentic backpacking through Europe experience, and we still had a great time in Rijeka. We found a great, modern beach with fun music and lots of nearby restaurants. I also got to eat shark for the first time, a nice treat after living in land-locked Prague.
The next day we took a bus to a small town called Labin. Though we initially went there for an excursion to one of the nearby islands, the tour had been canceled the day before. The bus ride there was absolutely gorgeous. We drove through the mountains and got to see the sunrise when we arrived. From Labin, we hiked to a nearby town called Rabac. The hike was breath taking as we overlooked the Adriatic Sea and all of the surrounding mountains. Once we arrived in Rabac we found a beach that we had all to ourselves since it was so early in the morning. We later explored the surrounding town and we were excited to find other excursions that left from Rabac.
We took a boat ride to the Island of Cress where we explored the old town of Valun. After lunch on the boat featuring a full fish, head and all, we traveled further on the boat to the blue caves. Here, we jumped off the boat, relaxed on the beach, and swam through the caves. Also here, I learned that while my phone is waterproof, it is not saltwater proof. Although I can no longer use my phone and I lost all of my photos (except for the select few I sent to my parents when I had wifi), I am glad I got to experience Croatia even if I can’t show others.
After our excursion, we headed back to Rijeka then Zagreb and enjoyed our last remaining hours in Croatia at a nice restaurant. While I had an amazing time in Croatia, it was definitely nice to come home to Prague.