And finally…a post on Zadar, Croatia, where I was lucky enough to spend this past week!
9. Zadar, Croatia – Just 7 hours from Budapest, highway all the way, and you are at the stunning coast of Croatia, where beaches, hotels and villages alternate along the shore, facing an Adriatic dotted with gently sloping islands. There’s something calming about the sea in general, and the stretch of islands opposite the coast make it an even calmer, almost cozy experience. The first week of April is certainly not the best time to go there, but of course it’s possible to enjoy the seashore without going swimming (neither the water nor the air never went above 15C). It was actually interesting to see the villages and our hotel awaken to spring as more and more visitors arrived for the Easter weekend. My kids were thrilled with the opportunity to just be outdoors, and they can vouch for Croatian towns as both playground-rich and fully rollerblade-able.
Zadar is so old it had 2,000 inhabitants as early as the 7th century BC. It belonged to the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire, then the Venetians, then the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, which my Hungarian husband had never heard of… anyway, you get the picture. The old town has been beautifully restored, with new urban art installations, for lack of a better word, such as the Sea Organ, which looks like just steps to sit on by the sea but hides pipes that carry musical tones and chords generated by the waves.
There are all-day tour boat trips to the islands, including some of the 140 islands that make up Kornati National Park, from both Zadar and Biograd (a resort town further south). Since we were well into vacation mode by midweek, we overslept and missed our boat tour, so we opted to take the car ferry from Zadar to the nearest island (10 minutes), visit some of the villages and then drive south to the next island for the ferry to Biograd.
We also took a day to drive north (just 10 minutes) to the too-cute peninsular town of Nin, home to the world’s smallest cathedral. The town was something of a disappointment, but we drove on (about 45 minutes) to the island of Pag, where sheep wander the almost moonlike rocky landscape and the town of Pag at the tip was just charming.
So, Croatia is worth discovering. It’s important to remember that it’s not Italy – the run-down houses are not quaint relics of a long history but often the result of the war for independence that ended in 1995. It has all the markings of a long communist past, such as ugly, dilapidated high-rises and lots of concrete. Nor is it cheap – we found prices for food and accommodation higher than we expected and higher than in Hungary. Nevertheless, people were friendly and helpful, roads were well-marked and bank machines and grocery stores (especially bakeries) were abundant, and the seafood… well, that’s worth another post. Risotto with scampi…
10. As with my last Top 10 list, I’m going to cheat and list a few places I’d like to visit, because I’m sure many of them would make it into the Top 10. If you’ve been to any of them, write me about it!
- Plitvice, Croatia – a national park with stunning waterfalls http://g.co/maps/bu2je
- Bled, Slovenia – mountains, lake, biking, skiing… http://g.co/maps/x92hw
- Krakow, Poland http://g.co/maps/4apcz
- Erdély, aka Transylvania, Romania http://g.co/maps/zv3gk
Stay tuned next week… and I’m still taking requests for future Top 10 Lists!