Pearls, bullet holes and dissolved emeralds

We leave behind the snowy mountains of Slovenia, their thick forests, kind people and beautiful bears, and drive towards the Croatian coast looking for some sun. We find it on Krk island. Our first stop is in Krk town, which despite not being a major highlight, has some nice corners, a pleasant promenade along the harbour and sea front and a picturesque old town, that well deserves a stroll.

On the south of the island is Baska, a smaller town, with a nice white sandy beach, laid back and enjoyable, with a heart made of little colourful houses which give the town a dear silhouette from the distance. We stay at little and friendly campground Mali, which is very close to the beginning of the promenade, granting us lovely walks by the sea. In town there are plenty of restaurants offering seafood meals and typical food. Good stuff.

As the weather turns for the worse on the coast again, we drive towards the Plitvice Lakes National Park in the interior, hoping for clearer skies. Well, not the case. We arrive to the park in the early afternoon to learn that a substantial portion of the walking paths is closed due to flooding. A ranger tells us that it´s been raining non stop for the past 10 days. Sigh. Rain or shine, we are determined to do what we can the day after to explore the park. We go to the campground, buy some strawberries from a local farmer and prepare a couple of gin & tonics. Cheers.

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The morning after we get up early and it´s not raining, so off we go. Get to the park about the time they open, to find that there’s already about 10 buses of people queuing to go in. Never mind. We knew there was going to be some people. On the good news side, today there are some more walking paths open than yesterday. This brings some cheer to our hearts. But the bigger cheer comes when we manage to get into the park and contemplate in astonishment the sheer beauty of the place. Just looking at the big waterfall, precipitating its foamy and steamy greatness in an ocean of green.

The paths on the park are designed very nicely, in a way that you can, for most of the time walk truly next to the water or even on top of it. There are steps of waterfalls and areas of mirror calm water. The colours vary from emerald green, to dark green, to light green, to pure white. In some places the sound of the pounding water is magnificent, in others, the silence and the stillness are hard to believe.

Our walk is thoroughly enjoyable and, despite the frustration of only being able to walk through part of the paths, and the fact that some corners are truly crowded, I dare to say it is one of the highlights of our trip. We thank the skies for giving us a few dry hours to enjoy it.

As soon as we are back in Polaris, the rain starts again. Through soaked roads, turbulent skies and dissolved landscapes, we drive towards Zadar. We find a place to spend the night in the outskirts of the city. Through the gloomy light of the rainy day we see that some of the buildings in front of us still display bullet holes and artillery explosions scars from the war. It´s mind-boggling. We wonder why have they not been repaired. Is it because they don’t want to forget or because they need to remember? Or is it just that nobody has the money to apply some concrete and some paint?

Luckily the rain stops, so we go for a walk to the sea front. It´s some kind of magic that as soon as we reach the water, the atmosphere sort of cheers up, the colours soften, the water glows, the buildings look fresh, the city feels lively.

We then reach the western side of the Riva, which is the designated sunset point. There we find 2 emblematic landmarks of the city. The first is the Sea Organ, a series of steps descending to the sea and tubes emerging from it, which is fundamentally like a organ played by the water, the waves, the current. Amazing. The music is real. The second one is the Sun Salutation, a collection of multilayered glass plates, levelled with the pavement of the waterfront. Under them, multiple photovoltaic plates absorb the sun energy during the day and transform it into electrical energy, creating a fascinating light show, after sunset. Both were designed by architect Nikola Bašić. Quite spectacular and enhanced by a beautiful sunset.

Next stop is Split. Incredible place. The old city center piece is the Diocletian Palace, claimed to be one of the best preserved Roman Architecture pieces in the world. It´s amazing. Also for the fact that along the years, different constructions of different styles have been amalgamated with it and the result is fascinating. Also because it´s not only a monument, it a sort of maze of structures and constructions where people live and there are shops and bars and restaurants.

In one of the narrow lanes of the maze we find the very inspiring Marulus Library and Jazz Bar. Once upon a time the building was the house of Markus Marulus, the father of Croatian literature, today is this place manned by a trio of Argentinian men and woman of fluent conversation, rich in details, strategically dark or lit, depending how you look at it, with a great soundtrack on the background, great wines by the glass, a good array of cocktails, a couple of delicious nibbles and something to read here and there.

We also hop into the cathedral, which is quite small, but tremendously rich and has the external shape of an octagon.

The Riva, or sea promenade, is basically the facade of the palace and its quite beautiful and special, even if lined up with restaurants and crowded with thousands of tourists, like the rest of the city, in fact. But you still have chance to have some nice squares for yourself.

Before reaching Dubrovnik, we need to cross Bosnia-Herzegovina. From border line to border line, this takes us about 10 minutes, and this is because we stop to fill diesel, which is a couple of cents cheaper.

We arrive to Dubrovnik in the early afternoon and the sun is shining. The campsite is about 10 km out of the city, on top of a cliff. You can go down an innumerable amount of stairs and a few ramps and reach a little harbour where you can take a boat to the city.

Arriving to the old harbour by boat is like travelling in time. The imposing stone walls of the city hide the pearl behind, the harbour itself is bustling with boats and action and, next to the walls, crowds of people come and go. Crossing the gate, reveals the historic core of the city, with impeccable historic magnificence, looking like time hasn’t gone by over the last 4 or 5 centuries.

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This is of course a mirage and a miracle in equal proportions, given that more than 60% of the city was destroyed during the war. But the citizens were committed to give it back all the glory and splendour that had been fiercely stolen by the war, and stone by stone it was reconstructed using original techniques. The results can be greatly admired taking the walk on top of the old walls that surround the whole city. Astonishingly beautiful.

For the rest we find the city crowded with Game of Thrones fans, since we learn that many of the scenes were film in the castle and around the city, but since we are two of these rare people that have not even watched an episode of the series, do not quite understand the fervour in the masses. We just discretely climb the innumerable amount of stairs that flank the city left and right, up and down, and explore more remote corners, and have some wonderful grilled fish in a pergola roofed with wine leaves and great views over the city. The place is called Lady Pi-Pi and we love it.