A Travellerspoint blog

Croatia

Zagreb for the Finish

Four nights in the big city to finish off our epic trip

Day 24 - Introduction to Zagreb

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As we drove to our last destination, I could feel the pace and energy slowing down among my family. I had one last coffee in Rovinj before we hit the road. It gave me a moment to reflect on the incredible adventure I had been so lucky to share with my favorite people in the world.
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We continued to be impressed with the toll roads in Croatia. We made great time and decided to stop in the town of Karlovac just 45 minutes outside of Zagreb to explore a small castle and eat lunch. The castle had been restored and was pleasant, though not dramatic.
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We were lucky that one of the best restaurants in town was in the castle's small courtyard. The burger and steak sandwich were the winners this time.
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We drove into busy Zagreb (about 800,000 people) and easily found our apartment. What a place! The apartment was huge with striking lighting fixtures and only about 5 minutes walk to the center square. There was only one small AC unit in the entry way which did not cool the place down as much as we would have liked. We have found that most places in Europe do not provide fans. That would have helped a lot. Oh well.
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We headed into the main part of town to get a feel for the place. Such beautiful and grand buildings! Many buildings were surrounded with scaffolding most likely due to two large earthquakes that occurred in 2020. One local told us that each earthquake happened during separate Covid lockdowns. She joked that lockdowns didn't go well in Zagreb.
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DH and I ditched the kids, who needed more hang-out time by this point anyway, and found happy hour. Zagreb is known for their craft beer scene so we were excited! I even had the Fakin IPA right below the mural.
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We reunited and located a beer garden for dinner. The menus in Zagreb were decidedly different from coastal Croatia. It almost felt more German or Hungarian. I enjoyed goulash (better than it looked) and DH had smoked pork knuckle. So yummy!
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Everyone was wearing down, except for me, so I decided to take a night stroll and get my bearings in this new vibrant city.
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Day 25 - Day-trip to Samobor and more Zagreb

We still had our rental car for one more day. I had envisioned a more ambitious outing but we opted to stay close to the city and explore nearby Samobor. This cute town is known for its delicious cream cake and had another crumbling castle waiting to be explored. First we had to earn the cake by hiking up a rather precarious trail to a castle that had seen better days. I still can't get enough of these old things!
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We found our cake lunch. The Samoborska kremšnita cake was not a disappointment!
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I snapped a few more pictures of pretty Samobor before we returned our car to the airport. The Volkswagen T-Roc had served us well.
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Once we settled back at the apartment after an Uber ride from the airport, DH and I decided to check out the Museum of Naive Art. I loved the masterpieces by these untrained artists. Many were painted on glass, cardboard, cloth, and other nontraditional materials.
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We had a nice look at St. Mark's Cathedral with its striking tiled roof. This area is considered upper town and had a great view of lower town below.
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We made dinner reservations at SOI Fusion Bar for Asian food. The place was popular and we were unable to get in the night before. It was so refreshing to eat Pad Thai, Khao Soi, and Poke. We all loved our dishes.
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Even I was tired by this point so we relaxed in the apartment and began imagining how we could get our belongings packed and on an airplane home.

Day 26 - Covid Testing and More Wandering

This day's entry will be short. I started with a memorable run around the city. All the parks and greenways made for a scenic run. We bought pastries again. This happens way more than the blog admits! We found a local chain called Dubravica that was fabulous! We also found delicious coffee before coming back to the apartment for do-it-yourself Covid testing. This antigen test was super easy and linked with an app on our phones. We live-streamed with a person who lead us through the process and confirmed the results. Luckily, we all tested negative.
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We met at the famous Dolac Market for a little exploration. The produce section was enormous as was the indoor cheese section.
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Zagreb was full of bicycle food delivery people. They zoomed by at impressive speeds! I would assume this sort of food delivery became even more popular during Covid.
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We found a delicious and well-known sandwich place for lunch. The portions were enormous!
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The girls went off to do a little shopping while DH and I explored the Museum of Broken Relationships. This museum was filled with heartfelt, funny, and very tragic short stories about breakups. Each story was accompanied by an artifact from the relationship. There's a sister museum in Los Angeles. We spent over an hour reading the stories.
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We met up again and had a little trouble deciding on a restaurant for dinner. The city is full of choices but sometimes that makes decision making even harder. We walked about 15 minutes away from the center and found a great meaty place. Eating like this will have to stop!
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We found generous gelato on the way home and called it another day.

Day 27 -Last day in Croatia and Tram Riding

I went out for morning coffee. Twice. I like the Croatian/Italian coffee culture but also miss the larger sizes of American coffee. I was craving a 16 oz mocha by this point!
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We bought tram tickets for the day and enjoyed the novelty of riding them to lesser-known parts of Zagreb. The first stop was Mirogoj Cemetery. This place was enormous with beautiful buildings. We wandered around after riding the nearly-empty trams.
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It started to rain a bit so we took the tram in the opposite direction to a recommended beer place. The place was in the strangest area and was nearly deserted. It was surprising because it was a really nice bar! I should mention that it was Sunday and many things were closed in Zagreb. The streets were quiet and I can only assume that locals spend their Sundays at home and with family.
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We found a sushi restaurant for an afternoon snack. Kids were thrilled!
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Sushi was expensive so we were still hungry. We were also running out of things to do with the energy levels we had! We rode the tram another 30 minutes in a different direction for more food. Such a healthy snack this time!
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Sadly, it was time to pack. We headed back to our pretty apartment and managed to fit all our belongings plus a few new ones into our luggage. We arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 4:20am. Yuck. DD#2 and I did take one final stroll around the center of Zagreb. We found gelato, filled our ears with the Croatian language for the last time, and brought our tired selves back for a good night's sleep. It was hard to say goodbye to Croatia but we also felt ready to go home.

Day 28 - Goodbye Europe

The early taxi situation worked well and brought us to Zagreb's pleasant airport. We found exactly one place open for coffee that early.
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We took a short flight to Munich where DH and I decided to try the typical Bavarian breakfast of weisswurst, pretzel, and weiss beer. It was delicious and a perfectly unique start to a very long day.
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The flight to San Francisco was long involving lots of movies and average airplane food.
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It is nice to be home yet I would fly back to Croatia tomorrow if I could. There are so many reasons why we return to Europe as often as we can. If travel is permitted, you can bet we will be back in summer 2022!

Posted by familyineurope 22:19 Archived in Croatia Tagged zagreb tram munich samobor Comments (1)

Adventure in Rovinj

Glavani Adventure Park, Instralandia Waterpark, Pula, bicycle riding, swimming, and then there's the human catapult!

Beautiful Rovinj
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Day 20 - A long drive and first impressions of Rovinj

After a long drive on the impressive toll freeway, we arrived in a suburban neighborhood just on the outskirts of Rovinj. The toll road was especially impressive with its many tunnels, changing scenery, and weird automated mannequin flagger in a construction zone.
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The scenery in the Istrian Penninsula (where Rovinj is located) reminded us a lot of Oregon. Lots of green with impressive valleys. Our apartment was roomy and gave us lots of room to spread out for the next 4 nights.
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We trekked to the old town and were impressed with the colorful buildings. The sky was threatening rain but also looked striking at the same time.
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We found a nice meaty place for dinner. We started our meal outside but had to move indoors when the rain arrived.
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Day 21 - Exploring Rovinj

We started the day with breakfast in the apartment. DD#1 found a weird hot-doggy pastry.
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We wandered the old town taking more pictures while heading up to the church that tops the town of Rovinj. Rovinj has definitely been discovered by tourists. We saw so many license plates from Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, and many more. It turns out that the Istrian Penninsula is one of the most popular vacation destinations for many land-locked Europeans looking for a beach fix.
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We hiked up to the church and climbed the tower. Big surprise! This tower was particularly challenging due to the narrow and very old woody crickety steps. Of course the views were lovely at the top and we needed another family selfie. I stayed on top of the tower until noon just to hear the loud bells.
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Can't you see their enthusiasm about climbing another tower? Haha.
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We had a quick snack and DD#2 and I decided to rent bikes and head to a recommended beach on the Golden Horn. This was a pretty peninsula park that was popular with cyclists. The ride was easy and very scenic. We found a great little beach for a swim.
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On the way back, I snapped what could be one of my favorite pictures from this trip!
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We also found many photo ops of the old town from a different angle.
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After a necessary gelato stop, DH and I went for a relaxing walk around the old town. It was fun listening to all the languages being spoken and hearing very little English among them.
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We sent the kids an address for dinner and they met us at tasty Dario for dinner. We researched this place on the outskirts of town. We enjoyed local pasta with seafood and grilled squid. A really nice way to end a full day.
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Day 22 - Glavani Adventure Park and Pula Arena

We were motivated to get up early today to head somewhere extra unique - Glavani Adventure Park! This park had many challenging ropes courses, zip-lines, and even a human catapult. It was all set over several acres in a remote spot. At first, we were the only ones there. Both girls had such a great time being challenged by clever obstacles. DH and I stayed firmly on the ground taking pictures of our daredevils above.
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The human catapult was the highlight of the day for DD#2. She was the only one brave enough to experience 4 Gs and travel around 60MPH. You could hear the wind that she produced. She loved it but I definitely had jitters just watching her.
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After this exhilarating and somewhat nerve-wracking morning, we drove about half an hour to the town of Pula. We found a delicious local place for sandwiches. You can tell DD#1 was excited at how good it tasted!
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We were powered and ready to explore one of the world's best-preserved ancient amphitheaters. Pula's amphitheater was a work of art and a joy to explore. We climbed on ancient rocks, took way too many pictures, and actually relaxed inside the arena.
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Dad photo-bombed this one!
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Check out all these ancient olive oil containers that we stacked beneath the arena.
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And of course we took a family selfie.
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It was hot but we wandered around the old town of Pula mostly so I could see this mini-pantheon.
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After such a busy day, we drove back to Rovinj, found some take-out pizza and called it a day.

Day 23 - Instralandia Waterpark and Goodbye to Rovinj

DD#2 and I decided to hit the 3rd best waterpark in Europe. DD#1 was needing a day to herself. DH was kind to drive us 40 minutes to the waterpark and entertain himself while we whirled down some of the most fast and exciting slides ever! We had so much fun and agreed that it was the best waterpark we had ever been to.
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DD#1 took a few pictures of her relaxing day around Rovinj.
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We took our tired bodies back to Rovinj and had another delicious seafood meal.
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Finally, DD#2 and I took one last walk around beautiful Rovinj to get those special sunset pictures that we will never forget.
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Goodbye to beautiful Rovinj!
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Posted by familyineurope 20:05 Archived in Croatia Tagged park adventure human pula amphitheater rovinj catapult glavani istralandia Comments (0)

Historic and Bustling Split

Diocletian's Palace, Beaches, Towers, Trogir, Zip-Lining, Yummy Food!

Impressive Split!
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Day 14 Continued

We had a mostly uneventful drive into Split. The traffic was a bit intense and getting into the parking spot proved a challenge for DH. The owners of our apartment were ready to meet us and describe the nice 2 bedroom place along with providing tips about the city. We were happy to be here with 3 AC units for 4 nights!
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There's a really nice view from the window and a rooftop terrace that we have been using every evening.
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We got unpacked and settled and walked the short 5 minutes into the old town. We were so impressed by the architecture and bustling scene. We walked through part of Diocletian's Palace and the Riva boardwalk. It was a nice overview of the city that we would start exploring more in depth the following day.
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We found a nice konoba (restaurant) for dinner along the waterfront. Konoba Fratelli was tasty with gnocchi, pizza, and pasta. Hit the spot. Naturally, we found good gelato our first night as well. Luka Ice Cream and Gelateria Emiliana were our favorites in this town.
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We enjoyed drinks on the rooftop and called it a day.

Day 15 - Digging into Diocletian's Palace and Hiking Marjan Hill

We started our day with pastries from the bakery steps from our apartment entrance. Pretty good! Next we found a recommended higher-end coffee roaster called D16. It was delicious and set in an old building with stone walls.
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We were fueled and ready to explore Diocletian's Palace. DH and I started with the cellars. The gigantic under-city rooms were impressive. It was extra neat being nearly the only ones down there.
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Then we bought tickets to see the cathedral and climb the impressive tower. This is one of my favorite towers ever! I love how it is open-air with breezy pillars. There were too many places for photo-ops!
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DD#2 has nailed the family selfie.
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We were inside the tower when the noon bells rang. It was so incredibly loud! We found more scenic viewpoints around the cathedral and enjoyed the maze-like alleys and lanes.
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After a little break, the girls took our money (they are good that) and did a little shopping.
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DH and I set out to hike Marjan Hill. It's a large forested park right in the city. We worked up a good sweat and were rewarded with wonderful views overlooking Split.
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We did a little beer research and found a place with local craft beers. It was a bit of a hike from the center but well worth it to try new brews.
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The kids were getting along so well that we decided to split up again and let them have their own dinner out at Sexy Cow. Haha!
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We found a nice restaurant called Bokeria where we had fancy things like sea bass and pasta with truffles. It was nice but honestly, more simple food is usually our style.
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We ended our day the same way once again. Drinks on the rooftop. So nice!

Day 16 - Day-trip to Trogir

We are over two weeks into our vacation and I'm sad to say that the time is starting to pass more quickly. We started this day with a 9:30am boat ride to a quaint town called Trogir. The ride lasted about an hour and was really pretty.
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There are so many seaside villages all along Croatia's shores. We found a cute cafe for coffee, again.
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Then I ditched the family so I could climb another cathedral tower. I can't get enough of these things!
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We took a few more scenic pictures around town and I splurged on a cute hand-woven purse. Naturally, we found more ice cream and snacks before walking about 10 minutes to Trogir's beach.
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DH and I stayed dry this time while the kids swam and used these nifty beach swings.
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We returned by bus this time and spent some time relaxing in our nice apartment. I went for a walk around town and found earrings and a holiday ornament.

Split is full of cafes and restaurants everywhere you look. Yet we still had a hard time picking a place for dinner! We put in the effort and lucked out with a local place outside of the center. Konoba Stare Grede was well worth the walk. The food was incredible. The tuna steak was the favorite with the creamy gnocchi, octopus salad, and chicken caesar not far behind. It was a nice treat to eat in an atmospheric AC indoor restaurant after having most meals outside. With drinks, our fancyish meal coast around $50. It didn't look like much from the outside.
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Day 17 - Zip-lining and Beaches

DH and the girls got going early to go zip-lining in the mountains high above Split. They were shuttled about 30 minutes outside of town to do a series of 6 zip-lines. They had a great time and enjoyed the scenery and speed! I have been zip-lining twice and it just freaks me out. I skipped and did my own thing.
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Views from high above Split.
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I set off for a run to Kasjuni Beach. It was a little over 2.5 miles from our apartment. The run along the water made the distance seem even shorter. Once I got to the beach, I couldn't resist a morning swim.
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I spotted very neat old monk's quarters (maybe) carved into the rocks above the beach.
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After my swim, I had a cappuccino at the scenic beach bar.
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After cleaning up, I wandered around town, had another cappuccino and did some exploring.
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Once we all reunited, we had a casual lunch of kebab-type wraps. Tasty but nothing remarkable.

We were all dragging a bit but I insisted we go back to Kasjuni Beach. It was so pretty and the water felt amazing. This time, we used Uber to get to the beach. It wasn't as peaceful as morning but it still felt refreshing to hop into that clear blue water.

After the afternoon swim, DH and I found a neat old pub for a craft beer.
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Eventually, we all met up for an easy pizza dinner at the place closest to our apartment. Pizzeria Gust.
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I had one last morning run in Split before we set off north for more exploring. Next stop - Sibenik and Zadar!
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Goodbye Split!
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Posted by familyineurope 20:30 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Sunny Bol, Croatia! (Plus some travel & Frankfurt)

Sunshine and blue water. Let's get this vacation started!

The clear waters in Bol, Croatia. Just how did we get to this beautiful place?
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It is still feeling a bit surreal to be so far from home after such a complicated and tumultuous year and a half. Somehow after two long travel days, we have found ourselves in a little bit of paradise on Brac Island in Croatia. We left Oregon on Monday and I am finally starting to unwind on Friday as I write this entry.

Day One - Loads of Travel and a Frankfurt Layover

We flew to San Francisco where we discovered the new outdoor lounge. It is so nice to get outside when you are waiting in an airport. As we were waiting and hearing announcements in other languages, it was hard not to be a little emotional about how lucky we felt to be able to travel internationally. This trip was complicated for a number of reasons. We had to change dates rather last minute, kept close track of covid restrictions in every place we would transit and visit, and plan for a variety of scenarios.
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When we settled into the giant plane that would fly to Frankfurt, it all felt a little real and oh so right! Even the plane food tasted better than ever.
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We all managed to sleep a bit and watch a few movies. We arrived in Frankfurt around 9am and had eight hours to spend in the rainy city. We bought an all-day u-bahn pass and took a short metro ride into the city. After some wet wandering, we found pastries, coffee, and traditional German architecture that we had missed so much!
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Germany had only recently opened up to tourism and covid precautions were very much in place. When we finally found a nice restaurant for lunch, we had to show our vaccination cards and register to eat there. It was so worth it though for a fabulous meal! The Frankfurt-famous green sauce was my favorite! I also enjoyed the flammkuchen (onion and bacon pizza-like thing), spaetzle, and schnitzel. We were stuffed and ready to head back through security at the airport.
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We were hitting our limits of exhaustion. We all took turns taking naps in the airport and on the final short flight to Zagreb, Croatia.
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We arranged a short shuttle ride to our simple room for the night right near the airport. It was already nearly 8pm and somehow we were still a little hungry. We found excellent salad and pizza nearby and called it a night. Those two travel days were long, a bit painful, but worth every minute!
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Day Two - Drive, ferry, and drive a little more

We had an incredible breakfast feast at our hotel (Rooms Barba Niko if you need a place by the Zagreb airport).
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DH rented a Volkswagen T-Roc and we were on our way. We took a long but easy toll road all the way to Split. The countryside was green and lush with very few towns or traffic. This was a good thing because we were trying to make a 1:30 ferry to Brac Island!
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We made great time and were super impressed with the giant ferry. There was even a below-deck secret passage for small cars. One woman begged the ferry worker to not make her drive down there! We got an easy spot on the main level. Phew!
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The forty minute ferry ride was beautiful but boy was it hot!
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When we arrived on the island, we had another 40 minute drive through some twisty roads to finally arrive in Bol. We were struck immediately by the beautiful blue water and white stone buildings.
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We bought a few groceries and checked into a nice two bedroom apartment about 5-10 minutes from the beach. The AC was working well in each bedroom. Thank goodness!
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DD#2 and I checked out the cute town, found some ice cream, and a friendly looking place that had Czech Staropramen on draft. The rest of the family joined us and we still felt a little disoriented with all the travel we'd accomplished in just two days.

We ordered easy pizza for dinner. Pizzeria Gogy was just next door! The kids and I hiked down at night for a late-night swim. Ahhhh! We'd arrived.

Day Three - Bol, Bol, Bol!

I was determined to pack as much as possible into our one day in Bol. Even though it was in the mid-80s, I set out for a hot run to scope out some of the nearby beaches. I found the perfect spot just beneath a monastery outside of town. I went back, had a simple breakfast in the apartment, gathered the family, and hit the beach! We loved swimming in the clear waters. I especially loved hearing the church bells as we swam.
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Here are some abandoned communist-era hotels with some impressive graffiti.
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Amazing cemetery with a view.

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We cooled off in the apartment for a while, ate some snacks, and DD#2 and I set off for the most iconic and famous Zlatni Rat beach. The beach was very busy but we still hopped in and enjoyed people watching. I was happy with the smaller beach we spent more time at in the morning. The famous beach was about 20 minutes away so we looked at little shops, and swam in another beach on the way back.
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DD#2 remarked on one of our walks that she had forgotten all about covid. It's true. There were few masks (except for indoor situations) and people just seemed relaxed and in holiday-mode. There were random covid testing sites - even along the beach! There were cute beach cats everywhere.
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Somehow, the heat was keeping us from being very hungry. But is was happy hour again!
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We bought a couple souvenirs in the small town, ate more gelato, and enjoyed an amazing dinner at Ranc Restaurant. We had black risotto, octopus salad (my favorite), calamari, and Greek salad. I tried my first Croatian wine (very good) and we were stuffed. I love that my family is willing to try new foods!
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A few of the kids cute instragram shots around town.
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Between the heat, walking, running, and swimming, we were exhausted. In our short time on Brac, we felt like we got over our jet lag and remembered the true bliss of being in vacation mode!
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Day Four - Bye Bol, Hello Dubrovnik!

The kids had been eyeing this amazing floating obstacle course so naturally, we had to start our day here before leaving the island.
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DH and I relaxed with coffee at a little cafe that overlooked the obstacle course. I grabbed a few pastries at the local bakery, and we cleared out of apartment number one. It served us well. We drove about 25 minutes to another part of Brac (Sumartin) where we caught a very different ferry to Makarska. This was one tiny ferry! I had serious doubts that we would fit. DH had to back the car onto the boat along with trucks and vans.
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The dramatic white and grey mountains jutting out of the sea in the distance were stunning!
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It was hot once again so took refuge in the air conditioned car and drove about three hours south to Dubrovnik. We passed through a small part of Bosnia where we had to show passports both leaving and reentering Croatia. The communist-style architecture was most evident in Bosnia.
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We found a large grocery store before finding our apartment in Dubrovnik. We were stocked for four nights in this fabulous city. I will stop the entry here and save Dubrovnik for next time. This adventure just keeps getting better. We feel so lucky to be so far from home.

Posted by familyineurope 19:27 Archived in Croatia Tagged swimming croatia frankfurt brac bol layover air_travel covid Comments (2)

Ten Years of International Family Travel

We are off to Croatia in exactly one month!


View Croatia 2021 on familyineurope's travel map.

A New Adventure in a New Time

I started this blog ten years ago with four and six year old daughters. What an adventurous, memorable, and challenging six week trip around Europe!

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Croatia 2021

Now we are off again (fingers crossed) to Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia for one month with fourteen- and sixteen-year-old daughters!

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Throughout the last decade, we have fully embraced travel as our number one family activity. The four of us dream and brainstorm future trips pretty much every day. I still do most of the itinerary planning. DH is the flight booking and car rental guru. After a lot of practice, I have a pretty good idea of what kinds of activities and pace our family enjoys. The girls are speaking up a lot more about their preferences. DD#1 even has her sights on college in Europe.

Like everyone I know, we experienced sad cancelations in 2020. Our six-week trip to Europe was postponed among so many other activities. Luckily, we have stayed healthy and have all been fully vaccinated. The timing feels right for us to get out of the country. We chose Croatia for many reasons:

1) It is open to American tourists. It was actually open to tourism in summer 2020.
2) Our family absolutely loved Greece in 2019 so it makes sense to visit another country with a beautiful coastline.
3) We have never visited this region and think a month will be a good amount of time. I can't wait to get lost in old towns and eat new foods!
4) We are sticking to a smaller region just in case Covid causes border closures or last-minute shut-downs.
5) Croatia has always been on the list!

We planned this trip in April which is rather last-minute for me. We relied almost entirely on booking.com for fully cancelable apartments.

Here is a brief outline of our itinerary.

Zagreb

4 nights. I am so excited to be in a European city again!
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Rovinj, Istrian Peninsula

4 nights. This region is very close to Italy and has hill towns, beaches, a great waterpark, an adventure park, and an ancient amphitheater in Pula.
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Zadar

3 nights. I am drawn to this city because of its famous sea organ! It also looks beautiful and is maybe less touristed than other cities.
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Split

3 nights. This is Croatia's second largest city and has tons of history. I can't wait to explore Diocletian's Palace and the nearby towns of Trogir and Omis. We might even go zip-lining!
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Bol, Brac Island

3 nights. We will ferry to Brac and drive to the town of Bol. Bol is home to one of Croatia's most famous beaches. There's also a great hike to the island's tallest point.
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Dubrovnik

4 nights. This is the most visited and most famous Croatian city. We will walk the famous walls, get lost in the old town, and take some day trips. This city is usually mobbed with cruise ships. I suspect summer 2021 will be a little different.
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Kotor, Montenegro

3 nights. We will hike up the old city walls to the fortress above, drive around the bay, and the mountains. Another new country!
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Mostar, Bosnia

3 nights. I'm so eager to see this picturesque city with its famous bridge, minarets, and delicious food.
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Sibenik, Croatia

1 night. I knew I wanted to visited this beautiful town so I decided to break up a drive with our only one-night stay.
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Plitvice National Park on the way back to Zagreb

2 nights. This national park has always been on my radar for obvious reasons!
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I will be updating this blog as we travel and hope to provide not only stories about Croatia, but some insight about traveling during Covid. It feels like it has been so long since we have traveled and we know how incredibly lucky we are to have such an opportunity. Let the countdown begin!

Posted by familyineurope 16:28 Archived in Croatia Tagged zadar croatia dubrovnik split zagreb mostar kotor brac bol rovinj sibenik Comments (1)

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