There has been a bit of a gap between Part One and Two on our trip to Croatia so apologies for that. Despite the current ‘Lockdown’ I’m always busy and when the weather is good, as it has been, I’m out in the garden rather than my office. Anyway that’s my excuse and now that gorgeous, sunny weather has left for a while, it’s on with the Blog …
You might remember if you read Part One that the reason my man and I went to Croatia was to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. John had booked a rather splendid hotel on the Island of Rab. The island is just off the northern coast of Croatia. It’s famous for its beaches and the old town which is full of character and boasts four belfries rather like the ones you see in Italy. It all sounded idyllic so we were slightly surprised on or arrival to be faced with a completely barren landscape. Top left picture below). This couldn’t be it …surely?! Thankfully when you drive off the ferry about five kilometres down the road you hit civilisation and there below is the town in all its splendour.
We absolutely loved Rab and had a great time. The four-star hotel, The Arbiana was built in the colonial style and is right by the seafront. It was a perfect place to celebrate our wedding anniversary and although we had a very disappointing meal, the setting was delightful and there was even a full moon that night. We had a wander around the town before we ate and outside one of the churches was a bride having her pictures taken before the Ceremony. We gave her our congratulations and then told her we were celebrating our fortieth that day which amused her. We wished her well and walked around the corner to look at the gorgeous sunset.
As we were the only ones having a meal at the hotel, (clearly the rest of the guests knew better than we did!), we wandered into the town afterwards to find the square teeming with life with bars full of people, stalls selling jewellery and even a German-style Oompah Band!
The next morning we caught the ferry back to the mainland and had an interesting drive along the coast to the small town of Primosten. It’s actually built on a small island but is connected to the mainland and attracts lots of tourists because of the clear, blue waters which stay warm right up until October! The beach is very pebbly and tricky if like me you hesitate walking over them so I bought a pair of rubbery thick soled shoes. Not surprisingly every beach stall sold them but you don’t see the locals wearing them, I guess they’re used to the pebbles and the sea urchins with are everywhere in the water.
Of all the places we stayed on this holiday, Primosten was our favourite. The apartment was right on the sea front and had been newly renovated by the owners and was superb. I felt quite pleased as it was my choice – I’d chosen it above the three others in the town.
We had a lazy two days in Primosten; great swimming in the clear, warm waters although we never quite got used to lying on the pebbly beaches with just a towel as padding. There were lots of restaurants all along the waterfront – all a stone-throw’s away from our apartment. The seafood as you would expect was superb and I loved some of the small, local shops. It was just a perfect place – very unhurried and quite beautiful, we were sorry when we had to leave.
Our next stop for the last two days of our holiday was near the town of Trogir. It’s a famous place in Croatia and has always been popular with tourists but since the screening of ‘Game of Thrones’ it has seen a huge increase in visitors . The programme used many locations in Croatia which isn’t surprising as many of the historic towns and cities were a perfect backdrop. The harbour at Trogir doubled up as the trading harbour of Qarth; the doorway into the historic old town featured several times and the monastery of St Dominic was yet another location. From the pictures below you can probably see why Trogir was chosen as the ideal location.
It was only a short drive from our hotel, Vila Tina along the seafront to Trogir. Even in the low season the place was teeming. For ‘people-watching’ you can’t do better than have beer at one of the many bars along the harbour side. It was also interesting to see some of the very smart yachts arriving and mooring up there. Walking through the famous gateway into the old town it was obvious why Trogir is listed as a World Heritage Site. – it has a rich cultural heritage with intact medieval architecture everywhere. Great for photographs especially when you come across little corners where no-one else is around.
You won’t be on your own though when you stand outside the Cathedral of St Lawrence. This is definitely on the tourist trail and boasts a superb doorway if only I could have got a clear shot of it without people in the way! We paid 25kuna to go into the Cathedral which included access to the 14th century bell tower. The climb up the circular staircase was well worth it for the fantastic views from the top making sure you didn’t bang your head on one of the large bells!. Climbing all those steps gave us an appetite for lunch but it took quite a while to find a cafe in the old quarter which wasn’t full – goodness knows what this place is like when it’s busy!
We were chatting to the hotel receptionist saying we were going to spend the penultimate day of our holiday in the city of Split. We were thinking of going by bus until she recommended taking the ferry from the little village of Slatine which was just further down the coast. This has got to be the best way to arrive in Split. The ferry is used by locals too and wasn’t expensive.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and is famous for Diocletian’s Palace built in 305AD for the Roman Emperor of the same name. The palace is a massive structure and covers half of the old town of Split. It’s rather like a giant fortress and was built with four gates none of which survive but you can still see the carved stone pillars and arches. The Palace and the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was yet another location used in ‘Game of Thrones‘.
Just before we went into the complex I took this picture (below) which I have ‘aged’ a little. I liked this dilapidated building and the clothes on the line made the picture for me. Perhaps I should have photoshopped out the satellite dish and the air-con unit …? Looks like people still live there.
Walking into the basement of the palace gives you a good idea of just how thick those walls are(Picture on the left hand side). Once you’ve walked through you’re then into an amazing open space, a Roman square which feels like a film set -what I would call The Forum but apparently it’s called The Peristyle. It wasn’t overly busy when we were there but I gather in summer it’s not pleasant because of all the crowds. Turning to go into the cathedral there are two very impressive large Egyptian sphinx which are 3000 years old. No-one seemed to mind that tourists were sitting on them!
So far everything is free but you have to pay to go into the Cathedral which was about three euros. Its quite small inside as it was originally built to house just the grave of the Emperor. He ousted all the Christians and it wasn’t until a few hundred years later that the building became a church again. Lots of gold leaf in here.
Of course we had to climb up the bell tower where you had to pay again. Bit of a rickety staircase but it was well worth the climb for the gorgeous views of the city, its harbour and the hills beyond.
After lunch we left the palace through the Golden Gate to look at the statue of ‘Gregory of Nin’. (Great name). It’s an iconic feature of the city and is one of the most visited sights in Split. Apparently Gregory was a Croatian religious leader in the 10th century. Nowadays visitors, including us, give his big toe a rub to bring you luck. You can just see in the picture, bottom right that’s exactly what the little girl is doing.
After all this sightseeing it was time to head towards the harbour, grab a cold beer before catching the ferry back to Slatine and picking up our car.
That evening we went back into Trogir and had a superb meal in the old town. Stunning sunset too which was a fitting end we thought to our week in Croatia. We’d driven quite a few miles, visited several places, enjoyed the weather, the beaches, the people and the history, We didn’t have time to visit Dubrovnik but I think Split and Trogir were enough for us. We would thoroughly recommend a trip to Croatia but maybe avoid the High Season.