Living in southern Croatia provides the perfect opportunity to travel to neighboring countries like Montenegro. Montenegro, or Crna Gora in Croatian, means “black mountains,” and refers to the black pine tree forests of the north. Montenegro is only the size of Connecticut, making it easy to explore.
Check out the below pictures from Perast (including the Our Lady of the Rock island) and the old city of Kotor (including some traditional Montenegrin cake from Forza).
Last weekend I took a quick day trip to Niantic, CT to visit The Book Barn, and I ended up having the cutest day. Check out the photos below of downtown Niantic, Book Barn Midtown, and the original Book Barn location, as well as a few shots from the boardwalk of the shore.
Croatia is home to more than one thousand islands scattered along the country’s sprawling coastline. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Elaphiti Islands in southern Croatia. The Elaphiti Islands are thirteen islands northwest of Dubrovnik, easily accessible by ferry from the city. They are composed of small traditional villages, nature reserves, beaches, and hiking trails, offering many activities for both locals and tourists.
I visited the islands of Koločep, Lopud, and Lokrum. Of Koločep and Lopud, Koločep is the closer of the two islands to Dubrovnik. I only stayed on Koločep for an hour, and was unable to fully explore. Based on first impressions, Koločep has a few beaches (with sand, a rarity in Croatia) and beautiful scenery. While I enjoyed Koločep, I wouldn’t spend more than a day at there. It’s a good stop for beach-lovers (beware of the sea urchins), but there aren’t too many activities away from the coastline.
The next island I visited was Lopud, one of the most popular Elaphiti Islands. The beaches on Lopud aren’t as secluded and picturesque as Koločep, but there are more opportunities for shopping and eating out. Golf cart taxis are the easiest (and cheapest) way to travel across the island for 3 euros. Lopud is easy to spend a day or two exploring.
Sunj Beach was one of the best beaches I’ve visited while in Croatia. It’s relatively shallow, which makes it super easy to cool off and swim when the sand (yes, it even has sand!) gets too hot. Lopud also has some cool shops, like the one below with the hand-painted anti-Trump shirt.
It’s debated whether Lockrum should be considered an Elaphiti Island, but it’s a 10-minutes ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Old City, and therefore just as easy to visit as any of the other islands. Lokrum is famous for its appearances in the HBO show “Game of Thrones” and eerie history.
According to legend, the monks living on the island were forced to leave during the 15th century after the island was sold. For their last night on Lokrum, they gathered in their hoods and walked around the perimeter of the island three times, each holding an upside-down candle. They cursed Lokrum and anyone who inhabits it. Visitors are warned not to remove anything from the island (rocks, feathers, souvenirs), and are required to leave by the final ferry at 6PM. You are not allowed to stay overnight on the island, and volunteer firefighters will call any remaining guests an expensive taxi if they are found after the final ferry leaves.
Despite this strange past, Lokrum was my favorite island to visit. It hosts a beautiful garden, two museums, and a fort. There are also hundreds of free-range rabbits and peacocks roaming the island, which you can hand-feed bread and carrots. Lokrum is the perfect island to visit for anyone who loves swimming, scuba diving (through Blue Planet in Dubrovnik), and exploring. There are also a few food stands and restaurants on the island, although it’s way cheaper to pack your own lunch from Dubrovnik.
Croatia offers so many beautiful and unique cities, Split being no exception. Split is Croatia’s second-largest city, and a top destination for anyone traveling through Croatia. A 4-hour bus ride from Dubrovnik, Split excels in its seaside cuisine, night life, and overall charm.
I traveled with six other Americans from my program for the weekend. While in the city, we found a centrally-located and reasonably-priced Airbnb. For less than $40 each, we were able to stay in Split for four days and three nights. If you’re interesting in renting an apartment or hostel in Split, I suggest finding one near Diocletian’s Palace (where I stayed). It is within walking distance of the bus station, and there’s a town square less than two minutes away where you can drink wine, listen to live music, and dance.
As an American with no knowledge of Croatian culture or the language, Split was as easy to navigate as Dubrovnik. Split is very English-friendly, but doesn’t cater to tourists as much as Dubrovnik. Because of this, Split feels more authentic, a welcome change from the herds of bustling tour groups I have to wade through in the Old City.
Some highlights from my trip include Bokeria Kitchen & Wine, Charlie’s Backpacker Bar, and Krka National Park.
Krka National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Located near Sibenik, Krka is home to a variety of wildlife (which I unfortunately didn’t see much of) and some of Croatia’s most iconic waterfalls. While I wasn’t able to see all seven of the park’s waterfalls due to time constraints, I saw the most popular one; Skradinski buk.
The easiest way to visit Krka is with a tour group. Trips can be booked from virtually any city, although it’s cheaper to travel to Split or Sibenik before finding a tour. I left with a group from Split, taking an hour-long bus ride to Krka. Depending on how you get to Krka, the price of admission may vary. I paid 320kn (around $50) for transportation and admission, which was a pretty good deal.
Park visitors are able to swim in designated areas and walk through the woods on trails. The entire park is beautiful, and I wish I had more time to see it. Swimming near Skradinski buk was amazing, although no one told us about the current. You’re not allowed to swim directly near the waterfall (for obvious reasons), but the surrounding area has a semi-strong current and awkwardly-placed rocks, making it difficult to navigate yourself around.
Check out some of my pictures below!
Madison and I were lucky enough to attend one of Kerri Art Studio and Gallery's Color Uncorked paint nights as guests last week, and I pulled together a little photo journal for you all!
Color Uncorked was super fun and great for creatives at all levels! According to the Studio:
Guests can choose to paint the displayed painting or whatever they might feel inspired to paint. The Artist gives step-by-step instructions for the displayed painting and guides guests through the process. Guests are free to bring their favorite beverages and snacks. Everyone takes a completed painting home at the end of the night!
I'm an avid painter, so I had a blast. Madison was a little stressed initially, but as she painted, she loosened up a bit. The group was great, lots of fun personalities, and plenty of wine! I couldn't think of a better way to spend a rainy night. Check out more details about the event here, and be sure to reserve a seat at the next one!
Finally, stay on the lookout for a post with a little more detail about Kerri Gallery, coming soon on the art tab!
Here's our lovely instructor, Deb Gag, with what we were aiming for!
Hard at work...
And the group shot!
I left Dubrovnik (again) to visit a botanical garden, see the village of Ston, and eat some traditional Croatian food. Nikolai, a student at DIU from Germany, offered to drive myself and three of my roommates to Ston, stopping along the way at the gardens and then eating at a restaurant he found on Trip Advisor.
First, the gardens. The Arboretum Trsteno is the oldest renaissance garden in Dalmatia, and were believed to have been constructed during the 15th century. Filled with beautiful plants, a beach, an old villa, and fountains, the gardens reminded me a lot of the Villa D’Este in Italy (read my post from January here). It was unfortunately raining when we visited, so we’re definitely traveling back soon.
The village of Ston is very small, but is well-known for its walls. Ston hosts the second-longest stone walls in the world, right behind the Great Wall of China. The Walls of Ston were originally more than 7km long, built in the 14th century by the citizens of Ston and Dubrovnik to protect the region.
Visitors can purchase tickets (40kn for adults, 20kn for children/students), to walk part of the walls. We chose the shorter walk due to the rain and our growing appetites, but also because of the never-ending stairs we would have to climb to complete the longer walk (although I will return to walk them soon).
We left Ston to find a restaurant Nikolai found on Trip Advisor, but we quickly realized said restaurant no longer existed when we stumbled upon three isolated (very expensive) restaurants on the coast where the original used to stand. We made the executive decision to save our wallets and return to Ston to eat at Bakus (which was a good decision in hindsight). Bakus was better-priced, and still offered traditional Croatian seafood (and other meals for the other vegetarian and I).
Revelation 1 of 3: I cannot wear a full face of makeup here. I have used the same makeup routine since freshman year of high school, only changing my eyeliner routine junior year of high school. Dubrovnik is too hot to wear full foundation, concealer, contour, highlight, and eyebrows; my face was a sweaty mess in less than ten minutes after reaching the beach.
Revelation 2: Long hair is also a problem. I was debating cutting my hair before my trip, but decided to embrace the long-hair-don’t-care life a little longer. It’s day 3 and I already regret it.
Revelation 3: Dubrovnik gelato is no match for Rome gelato, but it’s still better than Friendly’s.
I will be spending the next four months in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where I will be studying at the Dubrovnik International University (DIU) through API Abroad, and exploring the region. I was first attracted to Dubrovnik because the DIU is the first private university in the city, and specializes in economics, diplomacy, and international business.
I wish I could say my first impression of Dubrovnik was the view (specifically the picture below, which was taken from the balcony of my apartment with an iPhone). But my honest first impression was the stairs. There are stairs everywhere. Built along the Srd mountain, Dubrovnik spans down the hillside and meets the Adriatic Sea. From my very rough, not at all precise calculations, 300-400 steps separate my apartment from the water you see below.
Another impression: the water here is crystal clear. You can see almost everything below you, from swimming fish to reefs. I have been told to look out for sea urchins, but have yet to encounter them.
Final impression: The power of the U.S. dollar is very strong here. With an approximate conversion of 1 USD = 6.5 HRK (and 1 EURO = 7.5 HRK), the dollar has a lot of spending power. I just spent 15 HRK (less than 3 USD) on an amazing cup of coffee this afternoon, in addition to a few 4 HRK bottles of water (less than 1 USD), and relatively cheap groceries. The strength of the U.S. dollar here is going to make traveling around the country that much more exciting.
Park Guell is very high up in Barcelona looking down on the entire city straight to the coast. I would recommend taking a taxi up the hill unless you are ready for a bit of a hike. It is a very busy park and after two tries my friends and I realized that it is best to buy a ticket for a later time and come back for that time because only a certain number of people are allowed into the park itself at one time.
When we returned to the park for our time slot, we quickly learned that there is a huge free public picnic area surrounding the actual park. Our visit in the picnic area was a bit rushed, but I would suggest spending some time in there before entering the park area. It has some views that are better than those in the park, and the only downside if that there are street vendors everywhere, but that comes with the territory in a European city. Once we eventually found our way into the park itself, it was rather small, and I wished that we had more time in the picnic area. But the first thing you encounter is this amazing swerving mosaic bench that overlooks the entire Barcelona landscape and coastline. The bench is huge, and beautiful if you take the time to notice the designs and colors throughout. Just below the bench is an overhang with many huge columns and mosaic dome ceiling all in different colors and patterns. This overlooks two buildings that look like they were taken out of a Gingerbread house designed by Dr. Seuss, and I mean that in the best way possible. There are also a few fountains and mosaic animals in that area. Unfortunately that is all of the park that we explored, but both the park itself and the surrounding grounds are amazing.
Places we've gone, things we've seen, stories worth telling