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Entries about croatia

Venice compared to Croatia

Our experiences in both

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We’re in Basel now and it’s raining, so I figured I’d write a bit more. I was just thinking about our trip, and I have to say that Venice was all really beautiful, but I found it a lot less enjoyable than Croatia in some ways. The prices were one thing, but you can over that if you know what to expect. We knew Venice would probably cost us more than all of Croatia, and anyone planning on going to Venice is probably not going because it’s a great cheap place to visit. There were just a lot of other little things that took away from the atmosphere of the city. I’m really starting to understand what people mean when they say “don’t go there; it’s too touristy”. I never mind the other tourists – that’s all we are! – but there were a lot of little things about Venice that made it feel like the whole city was just a giant tourist trap rather than a functioning part of Italy. It’s not the same visiting a place where it feels like there’s absolutely no one who actually lives there. In Croatia we saw people every day just going about their lives – in the grocery stores, on the public transit, in the cities. It was always really obvious who was local and who was a tourist. In Venice though, it seemed like there were no locals – we especially didn’t see many Italians.

Another big thing was that there were ads and graffiti all over all of the things you would want to see in Venice. In St. Mark’s square there were building-sized ads for clothing stores and other things hanging, there was even one on the basilica! There were also ads hanging on both sides of the Rialto Bridge and it was covered in graffiti – not nice street art, just white letters and symbols everywhere. It kind of ruins the city when you can’t see the characteristic buildings. I couldn’t imagine seeing a billboard ad for Hugo Boss hanging over the edge of the Dubrovnik City Walls.

Another thing was the “souvenir” stands. There are always tons of gift shops in a tourist city, but in Venice there were stands loaded with kitschy T-shirts, cheap masks, Chinese glass, crappy scarves, and everything else, every few metres! There were also tons of people selling knock-off sunglasses and purses and various children’s toys on the streets, just with sheets laid out and all of their merchandise on the ground. And all over the place, on the sides and in the middle of the road, on the bridges, steps, in the alleys – everywhere! It was really difficult to escape it. Anyway, we knew it was “touristy” before we went, but it was touristy in a different way than Korcula or Dubrovnik. Most of the time in Croatia there only a dozen or so people in the museums, shops, squares, or tours, even in Dubrovnik.

We saw some good artists selling their work on the streets, though, and I appreciate the paintings of Venice a lot more after visiting it, because there are no people or ads in the paintings. I think it would be impossible to get a decent picture of St. Mark’s basilica, or the Rialto Bridge, but the artists paint such beautiful paintings, you can kind of imagine what things looked like before they became full of garbage and tourists.

Anyway, we’ll definitely be back to visit the rest of Italy, but I would think twice about going to Venice again, and certainly never go in August if you can help it. It wasn’t too hot – that would be the only reason I wouldn’t go back to Croatia this time of year – and the accommodations were probably cheapest because you can camp, but there were just so many people, and so many vendors. I’m not sure what it’s like at other times of the year, but it’s really hard to enjoy and appreciate a city as unique and beautiful as Venice when there’s garbage, ads, construction, street vendors, and loud tourists everywhere.

Posted by kmclean 20:11 Archived in Italy Tagged beaches venice tourist croatia souvenirs traps Comments (0)


A change of scenery

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We’re in Zagreb now and it’s lovely. It’s different being in a “regular” city, as opposed to the very old and touristy ones we’ve been in for the past week. Zagreb does have a section that’s 1000 years old, but it’s not like Split or Dubrovnik with city walls and fortifications. The newer part looks very European. The museums here are beyond comparison to any of the others we’ve seen. On our first day we went to the archaeological museum here and it had three floors, including and Egyptian exhibit, a Greek one, a Roman one, and an Etruscan one with a mummy! We also saw the Croatian history museum which had an exhibit on about the Homeland War, it was tragic learning about the destruction and violence that went on here only 20 years ago. The subject’s still very touchy here, I think, although less so in Zagreb than in Dalmatia.

There’s also a very old and beautiful cathedral here. It’s massive, and they’re in the process of restoring it. The new parts look great, but they’ve left a couple of pillars untouched, which is really neat. It’s definitely in need of repair. It’s about 600 years old, but on the sign outside the cathedral they made sure to mention that the disrepair is a result of the disrespect shown for Catholic sites during the Yugoslav era.

Overall Zagreb is a great city. The museums are great, the shops are good, but I do miss having a beach to go to half way through the day. It’s just as hot here as it was in Dubrovnik – 38 degrees sometimes! There are enough air conditioned buildings that we always find a place to cool off, though. Another bonus is free washrooms! There are far fewer tourists here than in the other cities we’ve seen — I’m starting to understand what people mean when they say “don’t go there, it’s too touristy”.

The culture here is really different, there are cafes everywhere and it seems like all people do here is shop, smoke, and go for coffee and drinks. Anytime of the day the cafes are packed with people drinking; most of the places don’t even sell food. It seems like smoking is legal just about everywhere, although the drivers a lot better here than anywhere else. Anyway, we’ve had a great time but we’re packing up yet again. Next up is Ljubljana.

Here are some pictures.

Posted by kmclean 19:59 Archived in Croatia Tagged church shopping summer croatia war zagreb homeland Comments (0)

Last day in Dubrovnik

What an amazing city

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It’s our last day in Dubrovnik. It feels like we had enough time – there’s nothing here I really wanted to do but couldn’t, but this is such a beautiful city I wish we didn’t have to leave. Today we went sea-kayaking in the morning. It was well worth it. We left from a beach right in the old town and then kayaked around the island of Lokrum, which is very close to Dubrovnik. It took us a little over an hour, I think, and then we stopped at a cave beach. It can only be reached by boat, so it wasn’t crowded at all. The water was so clear, you could see everything. Our guide told us that’s an advantage for Croatia, because nobody can use submarines to attack since they can be seen up to 50 m down from the sky. I find that the people here talk about the war a lot more than in other parts of the country. They’re always mentioning how defensible Dubrovnik is, and how well it has been restored – which is absolutely has. It’s just interesting. From here we’re flying to Zagreb, and we’re about half way done our trip.

Here are some pictures from our last day in Dubrovnik.

Posted by kmclean 19:56 Archived in Croatia Tagged beaches kayaking summer croatia dubrovnik Comments (0)


A day trip from Dubrovnik

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On our second day in Dubrovnik we went on a day trip to Montenegro. We got to see Kotor and Budva, which are both very nice. Kotor is a lot like the other towns we’ve been seeing, very old and fortified. We only had a short time there, but there’s a fort at the top of 1600 stairs that we’d love to go back and (try) to see. We were also in Budva, which is a beautiful city on the coast. It also has an old section, but it’s not as big as any of the other towns we’ve seen so far. The city walls are also not as prominent, but it never gets boring wandering through thousand year old stone alleys. I still find it weird that there are just cafes and shops in these old forts, some of them are thousands of years old. I guess the buildings needed to eventually get re-purposed. We also had time to get to a beach in Budva, which was amazing. It was a little more crowded than the ones in Dubrovnik, but not so bad you couldn’t get out for a swim.

After Budva we headed back to Dubrovnik. It’s only about 100 km, but the ride takes almost 3 hours because the roads wind up and down mountains, or don’t exist in some parts. We were driving on an unpaved gravel road for about 20 minutes, but the driver assured us that this “new” road is much better than the old one, which is only one lane through the woods, but not one way! The ride was pretty crazy in some places, there are lots of roads on the very edge of cliffs where you can look over and see the rusted remains of cars. Luckily we made it back safely though and then headed out back into the old town in Dubrovnik after getting cleaned up. We went to the same restaurant where we were on the first day to listen to another jazz band and called it a night.

Here are some pictures.

Posted by kmclean 19:52 Archived in Croatia Tagged mountains beaches croatia dubrovnik montenegro Comments (0)


Our first evening and the next day in Dubrovnik

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Wow! Dubrovnik is an absolutely amazing city. I can’t begin to describe how overwhelming it is walking through the old town and seeing it from atop a centuries-old fortress. We got here on Friday and spent our first night wandering through the old town. We managed to find some great Jazz music and spent the night listening and relaxing.

Our first day in Dubrovnik we started out at the Jewish museum and synagogue. It’s the second oldest synagogue in Europe. It was small and out of the way, up the street that was a ghetto 500 years ago. After that we went to a museum dedicated to the defenders of Dubrovnik and saw a memorial to them. It’s unbelievable to think that such a beautiful city came under siege only 20 years ago. 95% of the red clay roofs are new since the war, and the main street in the old town, Stradun, is almost completely new since the restoration.

After a morning in museums we started looking for a beach but we took a wrong turn and found Fort Lovrijenac, so we went in. The view from the top of the fort was stunning. From there you can see the entire old town from the top, rising out of the sea. You can also see the beach that we were looking for all along, so we tried to take note of a way to get there. Eventually we found it and jumped in. The cold water felt so good, it’s unbelievably hot here. All the beaches here seem to be at the bottom of cliffs or in caves. I guess that makes sense, but it’s very interesting. After the beach we walked the old city walls. They were absolutely stunning. It’s a much longer walk than I was expecting, but luckily we brought lots of water. That’s one thing we’ve learned so far – bring water because when you need it it won’t be cheap. Walking the city walls was absolutely amazing, definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. The view is breathtaking, and humbling.

Tomorrow we’ve got a trip to Montenegro planned and after that we’ve got one more day in Dubrovnik.

Here are the pictures.

Posted by kmclean 18:44 Archived in Croatia Tagged beach forts city summer croatia walls dubrovnik Comments (0)

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