To Croatia, with love
Eight days, good friends, ferries and locals. That was it.
Over the past few years, I've noticed Croatia making its way into the public eye through word of mouth and through platforms like ABC's hit show The Bachelor. Now, I understand why.
Croatians love their seafood, love tourists and genuinely want you to learn about their culture. I spent 8 days venturing through the the town of Split, as well as the islands of Hvar and Brač and a seaside port called, Trogir.
The country was nothing like I expected. Every person we met was eager to help us get around, find restaurants, meet other locals and discover hidden secrets. Coming from Paris where they seemingly dislike American tourists, it was a welcome feeling. Croatia boasts some of the most beautiful coastline on the Mediterranean, home to the famous Diocletian's Palace, dating back to the Roman Era... a towering castle that brings you back to 1500 AD. It's indescribable walking across the hand placed stone paths and stumbling upon tiny, family-owned shops and bars.
The restaurants that line the streets are the similar to those in Barcelona, but they have a slightly different, more calm energy. The community bustles around the palace talking to each other, laughing, buying foods from the outdoor markets and playing music. The unforgiving sunshine beams down on your head as you hear bilingual tourists chatting nearby.
What they don't tell you about Croatia, is how easy it is to make friends. From the little scrappy cats that are uncharacteristically snuggly, to the restaurant owners who wave to you as you walk by, you'd think everyone knows your first and last name.
Public transportation in Croatia is very tourist-friendly. Riding the ferries is a genuine pleasure as they treat you like your on vacation! You can sit on the top deck outside in the sunshine and no one bothers you. The water is so blue, it seems Photoshopped. On each island we visited, there were young kids sitting on the side of the piers messing with fishing line as the adult fishermen sold freshly caught sea bass, octopus and squid from the bow of their motorboats.
Cuisine in Croatia quickly became comparative to what you'd find in top restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, without the drama. I live on the Pacific Ocean, but the Mediterranean has something more unique to offer. In the morning, restaurant owners walk to the pier, buy local seafood and by seven o'clock, they have a perfectly presentable tray tray of food ready for their guests. Even in gelato shops, where the machines churn our fresh gelato right in front of your eyes, seems out of a storybook.
On the first night in Split, we were told to try Konoba Korta. Though Croatian isn't my first language of course, it sounded appealing. Finding the restaurant was not an easy task, but after pointing and gesturing to the scribbled name on our cafe receipt to random passerby's, we finally turned a corner and found what was supposed to be the restaurant.
We enjoyed fresh sea-bass, tomato soup with a hidden flavor we didn't recognize, tomato couscous, bacon-wrapped chicken skewers and a whole lot of laughter. After a long, hearty and blissfully enjoyable lunch, the waitress gently placed the bill on the table. As I glanced down, I almost laughed at the total. A meal I thought would cost $75, was only 80 Kuna, which is equal to about $11.36. It felt like a mistake. The waitress however, did not make a mistake.
That afternoon, we stumbled upon some pre-teens tossing a soccer ball around a basketball court. With our spontaneous spirits thriving and desperate for attention, we asked them to play with some pointing and kicking moves. None of the children spoke English. The language barrier seemed to calm both groups and forced us to use our gut instincts and facial expressions to communicate. After two hours, no words were spoken and laughter filled the air.
Our world is spinning faster by the minute, yet Croatia lives by a slower pace. This country is filled with kindness, savory flavors, beautiful sunshine and a slower, more manageable lifestyle.