Croatia: Motovun, Pula, Rovinj, Opatija, Plitviče, Split

After a lovely journey through Slovenia, our group traveled on to Croatia. We began with a stay Hotel Kaštel in the hilltop town of Motovun. From the town walls we could see out over the valley and enjoy an amazing sunset during dinner.

The following day we explored the Istrian peninsula. Here’s a map for reference:

This area is known for its wine, olives, and aromatic herbs (lavender and rosemary). The local wine varieties include Malvazija and Maraština (white), and Teran (red). If I had a farm in the region, i’d grow one or all of these plants!

We visited Pula for a brutally hot and sunny walking tour. Thankfully our guides were excellent, and worked hard to keep us all in the shade and well-hydrated. The amphitheater in Pula is the best preserved in the world; its walls are unbroken and form a ring with the (mostly) original stone. Apparently, people used to plunder the Roman sites for stone! Restoration was underway on some sections of the structure. Notably, James Joyce did a teaching stint in Pula! He hated the place (“Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic, peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear red caps and colossal breeches”), but the town gave him a statue anyway, right outside his favorite café. 🙂

Onward to Rovinj! It’s amazing how much land we covered on this trip. In Rovinj my sister and I enjoyed our first dip in the Adriatic! Crystal clear water and rocky coves– this was very different from the muddy and sandy beaches of the Georgia coast. Much Malvazija was consumed.

The next day we traveled to Plitviče. Along the way we stopped for lunch and sorbet in Opatija, another riviera-feeling town. Plitviče Lakes National Park is known for a chain of 16 naturally terraced limestone-bed lakes, joined by waterfalls. Boardwalks and hiking trails wind through the park. The Lake Kozjak ferry links the upper and lower lakes. The lower lakes are the site of 78m-high Veliki Slap (slap means waterfall 😉 ).  I should also mention that the Brexit decision was made during our time here. It was a fascinating thing to witness the foreign currency monitors change before our eyes in the hotel lobby, especially since I had just left London the week before.

That night we stayed in the “big city” of Split. During this trip, the Euro finals were going on, and nationalism in Split was at an all-time high. Flag hats, shirts, towels, bandanas, etc were for sale everywhere. You didn’t need to watch the game, you could hear the crowds of people reacting to every on-field incident. Of course, I did watch some games, too!

Split is where the emperor Diocletian chose to build his retirement palace! The result today is a beautiful old town within its walls. We took a comprehensive walking tour of the town, and by accident, my mom and sister and I took an arduous tour of the city park, Šuma Marjan (we were just trying to find a nice, shady beach!!). Accidents like that are just part of exploring a new place. We eventually did find some nice water, too. Even mom went for a swim.