A Croatian Holiday…Zagreb to Split!

A Croatian Holiday...Zagreb to Split!

Waiting for a tram in Ban Jelacic Square

I hesitate to use the word Holiday for my trip to Croatia because some of my readers get testy when I talk about “going on holiday” as if I am undeserving of a break….Ha!  The Merriam – Webster Dictionary uses holiday and vacation interchangeably with this definition…a period of time that a person spends away from home or business usually in order to relax or travel. I think my trip fits the description perfectly…undeserving or not.

My friend Barbara Weibel who writes the blog “Hole in the Donut Travels” was spending a month on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia in Kastela Novi, which is a small town northwest of Split on the Adriatic…she invited me to come for a visit and I was delighted to say yes.  The Balkan Peninsula and Croatia have long been on my radar not only because of the beautiful coastline…which is stunning.. but also because of its long and interesting history.  In the Middle Ages the area was known as the Kingdom of Croatia and as such it survived for 400 years. In 1527 in order to protect its self from the invading Ottomans it merged with the Austria Hapsburg Empire, a relationship that lasted until 1918 and the end of WW l. From 1918 until 1991 it was part of a united Yugoslavia. So much history and so many wars…I wanted to see for myself what this region was all about.

 I flew from the southern coast of Turkey to Zagreb the Capital of Croatia.  Once there, I knew that I was going to love Zagreb. The city has a wonderful old world charm about it…everything from it’s beautiful public parks and gardens, baroque churches, public squares and  “Upper Town” which is a splendid collection of Medieval buildings and streets overlooking the rest of the city.

A Croatian Holiday...Zagreb to Split!

The streets of Upper Town in Zagreb

I stayed in a small Air B & B apartment only a block from Ban Jelacic Square which is the cultural and social center of Zagreb.  Since 1641 this is the place where everything converges and people gather.  Filled with cafes, restaurants, flower markets, street musicians, tram lines and surrounded buy the commercial center of the city, it is also the place to start for any exploration of Zagreb. It is an easy walk from the square to most of the major museums and on my way to the Academia Moderna I strolled along observing the people hanging out in the small city park that runs through the center of the business district…one block wide and four blocks long…filled with flowers, fountains, sculpture and a beautiful old bandstand for free concerts. Zagreb felt like an oasis to me after having been in Turkey for three months.  The Academia was an interesting collection of art ranging from late 19th century to present time. It showed examples of  great Croatian painters of the early 20th century like Vlaho Bukovac with whom I was complexly unfamiliar, but was delighted to discover.

A Croatian Holiday...Zagreb to Split!

Always time for an ice cream cone in the park.

When I arrived they were holding Zagrebfest which is a month long music festival. All over the city there were free concerts in public squares and parks of every kind of music…folk, rock, jazz, blues…you name it. This was a treat because there is no public music in Turkey. You never see anyone on the street in Turkey pull out a guitar and start playing .  I don’t know if it is forbidden or just not part of the culture in Turkey but street music here in Zagreb was plentiful and is one aspect of European culture that is so appealing to me. Last year in Montpelier, France a guy had a piano on wheels that he rolled around the city and he would stop on a pedestrian street and start playing show tunes and the American Songbook…sometimes a person would stop and sing with him…it was great. 

A Croatian Holiday...Zagreb to Split!

The noisy church next to our apartment in Kastela Novi

 I only had three days in Zagreb before heading over to the coast to see Barbara and it was not enough so I am already planning another visit for this fall. The bus ride over to the coast was uneventful and the countryside is not that interesting until you get a view of the Adriatic. Once you start traveling down the coast road it is easy to become dazzled by the turquoise water and the quaint villages of stone and stucco terraced down the steep hills to the waters edge. Barbara and her landlady picked me up in Trogir a historic town north of Kastela Novi and gave me a short tour of the villages along the coast. Kastela is a series of seven small towns all linked together along the sea. You can walk along the sea from one town to another and not even realize that you have crossed over the dividing line from town to town. Our Village Kastela Novi was a wonderful old 15th century collection of stone houses, squares and a fort or two. The area was under the control of the Republic of Venice for 400 years and has a very Italian feel to the architecture. It was a great place to hang out and do almost nothing except read, write, have coffee by the sea in the morning and stroll along from village to village looking for a place for dinner. Very relaxing…just like a holiday.

A Croatian Holiday...Zagreb to Split!

Diocletian’s Palace in Split

It is an easy bus ride on the local commuter coach into Split, a historic city of 179,000 on the Adriatic. The trip took 20 or 30 minutes and dropped us close to the city center where we could enjoy the palm lined esplanade or the historic remains of Diocletian’s Palace.  The palace built in 305 AD is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth the visit. Over the centuries the towns people built homes and shops inside the palace so that today you have a Medieval, Renaissance city within an accent Roman palace. It is a great place to visit and wander through but I would suggest coming after the cruise ship season is over.  The huge boats disgorge a flood of tourist which can quickly overwhelm the tourist sites in the old city. On one of our trips into Split we arranged to have lunch with Kate & Brian Gallagher, a couple who had just moved to Split from Cuenca, Ecuador. As always it is interesting to get peoples impressions of their expats life and insights into their journey. They were delighted with the move and did not miss Cuenca one bit.

A Croatian Holiday...Zagreb to Split!

Street musician in Trogir on the coast of Croatia

My time with Barbara was short only 8 days but I had a wonderful time and it was a great introduction to Croatia, a place that I want to return to very soon. I am off on the bus and the next stop is Bosnia – Herzegovina.  More on this trip soon…

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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7 Responses to A Croatian Holiday…Zagreb to Split!

  1. Barbara Hood says:

    Glad the boy is having a wonderful “holiday”!

  2. Ron S. says:

    Onward and……….onward!!

  3. LindaRose says:

    The Rolling Stone begins his roll again, happy trails, mi amigito…

  4. chesney turner says:

    i’m just saying hi ! I love following your adventures, looking forward to Bosnia XO

  5. Frank Perrone says:

    Great to hear from you. Glad you’re enjoying your “VACATION”!!
    Stay safe.
    Frank & Linda

  6. Jan Darbonne says:

    Looks fabulous…that part of the world is very enticing. Are you finding a place to live in Europe?

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