Leaving Slovenia behind, we travelled by bus for approximately three hours from Ljubljana to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia!
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and quickly realised that unfortunately most shops are closed in the afternoons on both Saturday and Sunday. Tourist tip:- plan your trip to Zagreb for a weekday as there is not a lot open on weekends, including supermarkets which close early!
During our stay in Zagreb, we hit two fantastic museums. The first was Nikola Tesla Technical Museum – a museum about energy and its application in the modern world, aptly named after Mr Tesla who was a Croatian himself. This museum has a replica coal mine which you can explore at 11am on weekends or 3pm on weekdays. At these times, you can also witness some science experiments which replicate Tesla’s work. We learned that Tesla was the first scientist who harnessed alternate current into it’s useful application today, by combining it with magnetic fields to create electromagnetic fields. Voila! Electricity as we know it today was born!
The second museum was called the Museum of Broken Relationships. This was a museum dedicated to the stories behind relationships that didn’t make it – all by anonymous donors from around the world. It was humbling and amazing to wander this museum, reading stories of the relationships of strangers. The dress of a mother who passed from cancer, the books belonging to a lost lover, trinkets which have been ascribed value by virtue of their history.
Of course, whilst in Zagreb we also walked around the Old Town, seeing Saint Mark’s Church and taking a ride on the funicular to the old town. We finished the day at a wine bar in town, some cheese and wine to end the perfect day! We highly recommend Cheese Bar. The wine list was extensive and the truffle cheese was delicious!
Taking a five hour bus we travelled from Zagreb to Rovinj, a popular town in the northern Istria region of Croatia. This area has an interesting past. It has been part of the Venetian Empire, Austrian Empire, Italy, Yugoslavia and now Croatia. Between 1945 and 1954 this area also had no legal identification, only becoming part of Yugoslavia in 1954! Indeed, some of the elderly occupants of this area can remember time under all these rulers! For this reason, the town of Rovinj looks like a mini Venice and the food has a strong Italian influence. The town of Rovinj has approximately 14,000 inhabitants but this grows each summer exponentially due to the influx of tourists, many of which are Europeans who have purchased their “summer” house in this area. Just like the Batemans Bay Area for our Canberran readers!
Whilst in Rovinj we spent most of our days relaxing on the rocks which surround the old town and swimming in the crystal clear and warm Adriatic waters! You could literally see the fish swimming around your feet!
Finally, to experience all that Rovinj had to offer, we decided to take the Istrian Hilltops Tour with Gulliver Travel. This tour took us to some of the old Istrian towns, including Oprtalj and Groznjan. Groznjan is a small village with 736 people. It is the town of music, filled with musicians from around Croatia and it has become a town for arts and culture. We wandered this tiny village listening to musicians practising their pieces in the apartments above us whilst also browsing the many art galleries and souvenir shops! Wandering to the outer edge of the village, we looked at the surrounding valleys where supposedly the largest white truffle in the world was found! Yes, we did sample a few truffles ourselves. Absolutely delicious! In the village of Oprtalj, we witnessed first hand the devastation of war on this area. Following the end of WWII, the Istrian region of Croatia lived in legal limbo. They were not legally apart of any country until 1954 when it was incorporated into Yugoslavia. As such, many people migrated to other countries leaving their homes behind. As the houses are stone houses, over time they have been worn away by rain and the weather generally. Today, the settlement of Oprtalj has only 850 people living in the surrounding region. Despite its small size, Oprtalj had some great samplings of wine, cheese, truffle, cured meats and olive oil! This served as a perfect culinary end to our tour of the Istrian Hill Tops! Our tour guide Tin was fantastic! Knowledgable and personable, ensuring everyone had a good time (although the wine sure helped as well)!
We reluctantly said goodbye to Rovinj and travelled inland for approximately 6 hours to Rastovaca, a small village near Plitvice. The purpose of this detour was to see the famous Plitvice Lakes! The Plitvice Lakes are within a UNESCO world heritage park, the largest in Croatia. There are over a million visitors to this beautiful park each year. This park is renowned for its 16 Lakes arranged in cascades. The upper and lower Lakes can be accessed via a wooden platform that spans the majority of the park. The Lakes are renowned for their intense colour, changing depending on the presence of minerals, organisms and sunlight!
With only one day in Plitvice, we were unfortunate to visit the park on a rainy and miserable day. However, the weather (including thunderstorms) did not deter us! We chose Path C which was approximately 8 kilometres. The views were amazing! Tourist tip:- the parks open at 7am. Head there early to avoid the swarms of tourists. Some of the wooden platforms can be quite narrow so the earlier you go the better!
Until next time,
AP and DT