If I asked you to point out Croatia on a map, how likely is it that you would be able to find it? If you’re anything like me, it’s probably not very likely. For me, Croatia is one of those places that I have heard of but haven’t learned much about. As for the location, my guess was the Caribbean. I wasn’t even close. Croatia is located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, between Slovenia and Bosnia. Knowing absolutely nothing about a country you’re about to visit sounds scary, but it was surprisingly refreshing.
Seven of us from UF booked the trip through a company called Bus2Alps last week and left for the trip at about 9:45 p.m. on Thursday. The drive takes about eleven hours, so we arrived in Croatia mid-morning on Friday very exhausted (let me tell you, sleeping on a bus is not comfortable), but very excited. Maybe it was luck, but this unfamiliar country that we stumbled upon is quite possibly one of the most incredible places I have ever been or will ever go. We stayed in a small town called Split, which is a coastal city with a gorgeous view and an intriguing history. During our walking tour we learned about the history of Split, such as how it has been conquered by several countries, with minimal resistance on the Croatia’s part (which is likely the reason why Croatians are stereotyped as lazy; they didn’t gain independence until 1995). Split was also home to Diocletian, a Roman emperor whose palace is still an integral part of the city today.
Apart from the history, Croatia is a generally wonderful country. The currency, called Kuna, is worth about seven and a half Kuna to one Euro. That being said, when you pay 60 Kuna for a towel, the automatic response is shock, maybe even disgust. Then you realize that it’s actually only about seven euros, and you’re shocked in a different, more pleasant way. Everything in Croatia is CHEAP. A large portion of seafood risotto that would have been at least $15 in the United States was about 50 Kuna. That’s less than seven euros. Wait, seriously? YES. And let me tell you, it’s incredible.
Now for the fun stuff, let me tell you about our activities for the weekend. First, we participated in a pub-crawl Friday night, which was organized through Bus2Alps. There were students from many study abroad programs on the trip, so it was a great opportunity to get to know people from all over the United States and hear about their European travels.
On Saturday, we participated in a cruise to the island of Brač. Have I mentioned how beautiful Croatia is? This was even better. From the boat we could see the coast, the mountains and the water, which was a shade of blue that was so beautiful it almost hurt to look at it. The island of Brač was also gorgeous. It was very quaint and a nice escape from the more touristy cities of Split and Florence. We were given lunch on the boat, and I ate a fish. Not just part of a fish. No, this was an entire fish, bone and all, and it was delicious. The struggle of pulling the occasional bone out of my teeth was worth it because the seafood in Croatia is so straight-out-of-the-sea fresh.
On Sunday, we packed our things and hopped back on the bus for a short drive to Krka National Park, which is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Here I am in a country that I could not have pinpointed on a map just a few days earlier, and now I can’t wait to go back. The waterfall was insanely gorgeous; one of those places that a picture can never portray properly. Despite spending the morning feeling nauseous from the bus ride, our time in Krka was refreshing and reminded me that sometimes the best places are the ones you have never even heard of.
Stayed tuned to hear about my day trip to Siena and San Gimignano. Avere una bella giornata!