No More Posts

I’ve decided to shut down this blog for a number of reasons.

  1. I looked at the photos I took over the past four days and they are all of old churches, old buildings and old statues; pretty landscapes; food you’ve almost certainly seen before. They are not exciting when I look at them, I can’t believe they would be for you.
  2. Readership is way down from my Portugal blog which tells me that the Balkans aren’t so interesting or my posts aren’t. Most of my several followers haven’t even read a single post. Friends of mine who signed up for email notifications haven’t read anything, either. I know this because I know where they live and their country hasn’t shown up on my map widget.
  3. Most importantly, I’m not excited about this trip and what I’m seeing. It’s a rehash of other countries I’ve visited. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between Poland and Croatia/Slovenia. Churches, castles, similar foods. Writing about it is work, not joy.

I chose Croatia because of the hype. It was the new hot place to go. My curiosity was piqued. In the future I will listen only to my instincts as I’ve done in the past.

If you really want to learn more about this part of the world, there are thousands of blogs online written by people who are enthusiastic about the Balkans.

Until next trip…

 

Zagreb – Lots to Offer

Activities

This city of almost 1 million people–the country has 4 million–offers something for a wide range of tourists’ interests. I love zoos and Zagreb’s is located inside a lovely lake-filled park, Maksimir Park.

Zagreb Zoo.jpg

As soon as I took the photo, it turned its head away

One of the best ways I’ve found to learn about a city’s center is to take a walking tour. In Zagreb, a free tour is available through https://www.freetour.com/zagreb/free-spirit-walking-tour. Our guide, Kristina, covered the important sights over two hours, added some historical context, and sprinkled in her personal thoughts and experiences. It was informative and enjoyable as Zagreb is her hometown.

I visited two museums. I wanted to see the retrospective of the Croat impressionist, Izet Đuzel, at the Mimara Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art featured a fascinating look at life in the 1960’s in Croatia, then part of Yugoslavia and under the control of Russia. The decade seems to be one of rebellion, avant-garde ideas in the arts and product innovation. I took a few photos of products that looked like what we had in the US at the same time.

Mimara Museum.jpg
Mimara Museum

Talk about sightseeing rarely includes cemeteries, but Mirogoj is an exception. Huge crypts can be found everywhere because entire families are buried together. I saw one headstone with 10 names. If cemeteries can be beautiful and architecturally interesting, Mirogoj fits the description. Two main features of Mirogoj are the wall surrounding it and the impressive looking tomb of Franjo Tudman, the first president of Croatia.

Zagreb – Where to Stay

This post isn’t specifically about Zagreb, but I’m going to use it for this one. Zagreb is home to close to a million people and as with most large cities, the action is downtown, or as it’s called here, “The Centar.” Most people choose to stay where they can find everything they want within a few blocks. I usually do that. But, this time I chose an Airbnb outside the center in a middle-class residential area called Ravnice. My room was $12/night; rooms in the center averaged $25 and up.

From my house I had to walk 10 minutes to reach the tram (cheap, popular and lots of them); the ride downtown took 10-15 minutes. It never seemed like a long trip and I saw some of the city that I otherwise wouldn’t have, like the big football stadium.

Negatives: time spent commuting unless you use Uber, which is pretty cheap, too; not as many of anything to choose from, especially restaurants; menus only in Croatian because the clientele is 99% locals, but most of the waiters speak English and are happy to translate.

Positives: seeing how the locals live; finding unexpected restaurants that serve quality food at non-tourist prices; being closer to some popular attractions such as the zoo and a beautiful park with many small lakes; peace and quiet.

I’m still a city guy at heart, but I’d do the occasional stay a short distance from the tourist hub again. You can’t put a price on peace and quiet.

 

Planning My Itinerary

Normally when planning my itinerary I look at the map of the country I’m visiting and decide whether to go north or south first, write down the names of some cities and go from there. I’m trying to do the same thing with Croatia, but it’s a little more difficult because of the country’s irregular shape. It’s not always easy to get from here to there.

area-map-of-Croatia

Most tourists fly into Zagreb, spend a few days and make haste for the coast. Croatia is a country of 1200+ islands, lots of beaches and a couple of “must see” cities, Split and Dubrovnik. I plan on taking a different route.

I want to stay mostly inland for two reasons. One, two-thirds of my trip is in October which is past the sunbathing season and two, so many of my previous trips have centered around beaches that I’m not as enthusiastic about them as before. I’ve also read that Croatia has mostly pebble beaches. I’m sure they’re nice, but I’m a white sand kind of beach guy.

After a week in Zagreb, I’ll visit towns/villages around it, such as Varazdin (north of Zagreb), Samobar (20 km west) and Plitvice Lakes (a day tour). From Varazdin I can take a bus into Slovenia for a few days if I want.

Making my way back to Zagreb, I will then bus my way to the far eastern border city of Ilok, across from Serbia. Places to see on the way include Vukovar, Marija Bistrica and Osijek, among others. There are regional foods and wines to be tasted and I believe the culture will be a little different than the capital and the coast; fewer English speakers, too, is my guess.

From there I have two choices. I can fly from Osijek to Dubrovnik and make my way up the coast, or I can take a bus into Bosnia-Herzegovina to visit Sarajevo and Mostar before returning to Croatia.

These plans are very flexible and I’m still doing some research. I have six weeks to plan for and I’m thinking I won’t stay in Croatia the entire time. You can see from the map how close I am to Italy, so a week there is also an option.

That’s my update. I’m getting more excited by the day. If you become a follower you’ll be notified every time I publish a post.

Seeking Information

Hello again. I’m heading to Croatia for six weeks, from September 17-October 29. I know I’m posting this a trifle early; maybe more than a trifle, but there is a reason for doing so. I’m soliciting advice, recommendations and anything else that doesn’t fall into those two categories. Anyone who has been there within the past two years or less (preferably) please leave a comment for me. There is so much information about the Balkans online, but one can never have enough.

I’m not going to spend much time, if any, on the beach in October so you don’t have to leave “best beach” recs. 🙂  One thing I’d like to know is whether 6 weeks is too long for Croatia. Should I go to Bosnia for a spell?

If you don’t leave a comment then just take this as the first notice that I’ll be blogging again in less than 3 months.

Thanks.

Michael

Off to the Balkans

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia

Earlier this year I traveled to Portugal for three months. Well, two months actually, because the cold weather in February drove me to Morocco for a month. Anyway, my initial plan called for an additional 3 months in the Balkans, but I needed to get back to Mexico and some heat. So, figuring the temperatures will be acceptably warm in September/October, I’m going there for 6 weeks. Maybe longer if I’m captivated by the area.