72 Hours in Croatia
It's hard to articulate the magic that infused our four days in Croatia. I joked- in front of a particularly unamused taxi driver- that I didn't even realize Croatia was a real place until this year. While both borderline-offensive and a dramatization of reality, this statement did have a little bit of truth backing it. Recently, the privileged world of study abroad students, travel magazines and post-grad backpackers have experienced what I can only refer to as a Croatia Craze. Over the past decade, the tourism industry has sky rocketed in this discreet Mediterranean gem, hitting the costal city of Split- and my weekend destination- especially hard. What was once an exclusive escape for the social elite now runs bi-weekly buses of study abroad students. Game of Thrones, travel bloggers and cheap airlines are equally responsible... and I'm not complaining.
SPLIT AND DIOCLETIAN'S PALACE
Split, Croatia's second largest city, is centered around Diocletian’s Palace, a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments. Built in 290AD this palace is now a labyrinth of homes, restaurants, bars and boutiques. Even though there are about 3,000 inhabitants living there today, it feels as though you've been transported to Roman times. Still intact is the marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt and original bell tower- and- for the price of a coffee you can access them all. We found singing men, pink palaces and secret alleyways. It was so incredible I even had to lie down a few times. See below
Bacvice Beach is a quick 15 minutes from the heart of Split. That brief walk, however, will jolt you severely back to reality. Instead of slippery white marble steps and imported Egyptian Sphinxes' there are casino cruise ships, folding tables selling beer and taxi drivers eating fried fish out of newspaper napkins. Instead of mutually apologizing to the Swedish family you brushed in the Bell Tower you are dodging 14 year olds playing hooky and women with cigarets and strollers. You might be a few feet from busses going 40 miles an hour, but that walk is a much needed slice of day to day Croatian life. Bacvice Beach itself is an unsurprising mix of traditional European beach goers; tan families, boys playing frisbee and the occasional speedo-clad grandpa smoking a cigar. Bacvice beach boasts hot cement stairs that lead straight to the sea and crystal, knee deep water that is so tempting we swam in our jeans.
BOAT CRUISE AND THE BLUE LAGOON
Our second day in Croatia was spent hopping from island to island off the coast of Split. As we pulled away from the port, we found ourselves surrounded by solo sailboats that can only be described as strongly resembling paper. Each boat represented a different country and they were all piloted exclusively by bearded men wearing windbreakers. That view, although hard to beat, was rivaled by the most beautiful beach I've ever seen.
OTOK SOLTA "MY GREEN ISLAND"
The aqua waters, smooth stone beaches and rows of stone houses being slowly swallowed by purple flowers all instantly convinced me that Otok Solta is the Island from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It's not. It is, however, silent; a welcome and beautiful change from the typical tourist destinations I often find myself in. We had two hours and I wish it was two years.
It's official. I've caught the Croatia Craze and there's no going back. Well... at least this semester.