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Croatia

Places I've Been

Throwback Thursday – A Croatia Must: The Plitvice Lakes

September 16, 2015

The Plitvice Lakes are located in Croatia, just by the Bosnian border. It’s a national park with absolutely stunning scenery that makes you feel as though you are living in an actual painting. We rented a car and drove from Zadar, which takes around 2 hours, but there are also tourist buses who offer tours here from all the bigger cities in Croatia, so it’s fairly easy to get to one of Croatia’s most beautiful places. One fair warning though: no matter how hot it is by the coast, always bring a warm sweater to the lakes, because it does get really cold up in the mountains if you walk around in a top and shorts (I learned the hard way). And do memorize where you park the car because it can be hard to find again when the parking spaces fill up (Side note: my mom’s boyfriend was 100% sure that his car had been stolen until they realized they just looked in the wrong place).

The first time I was here was in 2005 and I was amazed by the greenery, the blue, clear lakes and the overall tranquility. So when I visited this part of Croatia again in 2013 with Jacob, I just had to show him how beautiful it was. Although pictures don’t really do this place justice, I still want to share some of them with you:

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Me. It may not look cold but I assure you that it was!

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Hello fishies!

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Blue lakes…

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

My dad, who grew up in former Yugoslavia and often visited the lakes, said that when he was a child it was allowed to swim in these waters. What a dream!

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Waterfalls

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

A small cave

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The two of us <3

Plitvice Lakes in CroatiaPlitvice Lakes in Croatia

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The Plitvice Lakes from above

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The big waterfall… 28 metres high.

Plitvice Lakes in CroatiaPlitvice Lakes in Croatia

 

Places I've Been

Walking the Walls of Dubrovnik

August 19, 2015

Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik

– George Bernard Shaw

Dubrovnik – the stunning, beautiful medieval city in southern Croatia known for its famous walls, still intact many centuries after they were built, was the highlight of our trip. You see, I didn’t think I’d like Dubrovnik. I had heard that it was very touristy, crowded and expensive from several people who had been there, and so I had never set foot here before, despite my many vacations in the country, both as a child and an adult. But this time, we were flying to and from Dubrovnik on our way to Montenegro, so I suggested we’d stay in Dubrovnik for a few days, to cross it off our list and see what all the fuss was about (because I’d heard many good things as well). When you drive down the coast from Montenegro, you get a beautiful view of Dubrovnik and it certainly doesn’t get any worse once you enter it – although the traffic queues were a nightmare.

After finding the apartment we were renting, a place located within walking distance to the old town, up on the hills with an amazing view of the city, we headed downtown for a quick bite to eat, a dose of WiFi and to walk the infamous walls of Dubrovnik. We bought our tickets and headed up the very first steps to an awe-inspiring view of Fort Lovrjenac to the right and the old city to the left. If you’ve ever seen HBO’s popular TV show Game of Thrones, you might recognize Fort Lovrjenac as it plays a very prominant role as King’s Landing in the series.

Walls of Dubrovnik - King's LandingDubrovnik

 

Dubrovnik

Walking around on the walls, I started imaging what it looked like back in its heyday – who walked here back then? What did they do? What clothes did they wear? What did they eat? My mind started wandering off and my imagination went wild, but was interrupted once we’d climbed up to the top and had the most striking view of the Adriatic sea and the island of Lokrum. I can definitely see why this location was chosen to be in GoT, and why it is a part of UNESCO.

Walls of DubrovnikWalls of DubrovnikWalls of Dubrovnik

Walls of DubrovnikWalls of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

The whole walk took around 1.5-2 hours for us, as we stopped along the way to take in the surroundings, watch the sun go down and take some pictures. Thankfully, we had brought good shoes and bought some water at one of the small shops on the wall, so it wasn’t really the physical challenge we thought it would be, although the scorching sun sure made us sweat along the way. We were really glad that this was the first thing we did, as it allowed us to experience the city from above and see how truly splendid and charming it is. We were tired after a long day, so we found a cafe with good people-watching, drank some wine and beer and headed home to get ready for the evening.

 

 

Places I've Been

The Other Side of Dubrovnik You Need To See

August 11, 2015

When you wander the streets in Dubrovnik, it’s easy to be swept away by its charm and beauty and completely forget that just 25 years ago, the city was under attack in the Yugoslavian war. I was living in former Yugoslavia at the time of the war and have very detailed memories of the things I experienced even though I moved from the area when I was six. I remember the day before we fled to Sweden. I was sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen with my relatives all there and I was crying so loud, the neighbours said they could hear me. I could not understand war then, and I can’t understand it today. The story of the Yugoslavian war is a complex one, and we don’t need to go into the details here, but it’s safe to say that many people of all religions and nationalities suffered. Some wounds were physical and some are in the mind. Those are the wounds that never heal.

The cross on top of mountain Srdj

The cross on top of mountain Srdj

If you take the cable cars in Dubrovnik, you will reach mountain Srdj, which has fantastic views of the city and the Adriatic Sea. Here, tourists gather to admire the beauty, with cameras and selfie-sticks at hand. But if you walk just one minute to the Fort Imperial, you will find the Homeland War Museum of Dubrovnik which has an exhibition on the how the war affected Dubrovnik, called War Photo Limited. It shows a whole other side of the historic town known as “the pearl of the Adriatic”. The exhibition features photography of a city under seige, of its citizens and its defenders, and many artefacts from the soldiers who fought the war as well as documentaries made during the war.

Walking there, I felt an immense sadness. I was just a couple of years old when the war broke out in former Yugoslavia, but I still remember many awful things and those scars that have been there, slowly healing, were all torn up about 10 minutes after entering the museum. It’s hard reliving memories, and it’s surreal to know that those people on the pictures, well – the ones who were lucky enough to survive, are stillwalking among us, with scars so deep they’ll never heal. With memories so dark, I can’t begin to understand how they cope with life. They have suffered, they have lost homes, loved ones, and sometimes their minds. Because, really, how do you even deal with being a victim of war?

If you’re visiting Dubrovnik, you owe it to not only learn about the history of how the city was built, but to also educate yourself on what happened here just 24 years ago and  learn the history of how the city was almost destroyed as well. Dubrovnik has been through restorations worth over  $9 billion to look the way it does today, and may I say they’ve done an excellent job.

Fort Imperial where the war museum is located

Fort Imperial where the war museum is located

This is what happened to Dubrovnik's famed city walls during the war

This is what happened to Dubrovnik’s famed city walls during the war

Dubrovnik-6

View of Dubrovnik from mountain Srdj

View of Dubrovnik from mountain Srdj