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Temporary Residency in Croatia

November 10, 2017 Favorites, Freewheeling No Comments

We just left Croatia after almost five weeks in the country, the longest we’ve stayed in one country by far. We absolutely loved it and see why it is the new “it” place in terms of beach vacations. We took a ferry from the Istrian Peninsula (Pula is where we stayed for two nights) out to the islands and then returned to the mainland after 3+ weeks of island hopping. The mainland alone has 1,104 miles of coastline. On the islands, the waterfront bliss is pretty much endless. Quaint little towns line the coast and hillsides and you just can’t believe the beauty.

No Stress on Cres

No Stress on Cres

 

Losinj, The Island of Vitality

Losinj, The Island of Vitality

 

Baska, on Krk Island

Baska, on Krk Island

 

Rab, The Happy Island

Rab, The Happy Island

 

Novalja, Pag Island

Novalja, Pag Island

Great big caveat: we were here in the off-season. Not just barely past the high season, the OFF-season. We arrived on October 4. Many (now most) campgrounds, restaurants/bars, markets were/are closed for the season. All of the beaches are empty. While I am still mourning a summer devoid of hot, sandy beaches and warm water, I found comfort in warm afternoons and having entire villages to ourselves.

From what we read and heard from locals, we would have been miserable in Croatia in the summer. “What you see here,” referring to any given beach, “every spot taken! You could not find one place to sit down – and would never be able to park this big van! Pfft – and no dogs allowed!” As it is, we parked overnight right on the waterfront, where it was quiet and secluded. We enjoyed happy hour with Miles on the beach, bringing our chairs and drinks, throwing the ball for him. He was happy, we were happy. Life is good!

Camping Stoja, Pula

Camping Stoja, Pula

 

Split

Split

Things we loved:

  • The scenery. From the small towns dotting the coastline to the hills and mountains that rise from the sea, it’s so stunningly beautiful. Even if the buildings themselves are somewhat run-down, the red roofs that dot the landscape are visually appealing. And where we went, there’s water everywhere. Waking up to a sea view, riding my bike along the water and on hills where there’s a view of the sea all around, running on a waterfront promenade… I mean, come on. This is my kind of place!

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  • The people. People seemed to go out of their way to help us, and with a genuine smile. Whether it was navigating on unmarked trails, parking our big van, or accommodating Miles, we felt very welcome here. We met locals and other tourists who were anxious to chat with us and share their tips and suggestions on where to go next and what to expect. We met fun people who were happy to buy us a drink to keep the night going, chatting about anything and everything. Whether we were in big cities like Zadar, Split, or Dubrovnik, or the small villages on the islands, we enjoyed ourselves even more because of the kind and helpful people.

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  • English is prevalent. The small villages on the islands accommodate a lot of European tourists, and English is often the common language among them all. In the bigger cities, English is written (signs, menus) and spoken everywhere. If not, we got by on smiles, gestures, and Google Translate.

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  • Cheap drinks. We drink beer and wine. At restaurants and in grocery stores, these items are quite inexpensive. So inexpensive, in fact, that I lost my perspective. “Can you believe they are charging 18 kuna for this glass of wine? This place is expensive!” Then I reminded myself that 18 kuna is the equivalent of $2.77 and ordered another. In the grocery stores, I would buy box wine and was able to score a 10L box for 69 kuna. That’s 13.3 bottles of wine for $10.63. And it’s a good daily drinker! My go-to wine has been a boxed Vranac, which I can find for $7.55 for 3L. Done and done, time and again. Greg’s beer runs about $1.50 for a half-liter bottle or can in the grocery store and is 18-20 kuna in restaurants. Drink up!

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  • The pizza. We eat a lot of pizza. I’ll get to the main reason below, but we would go to a restaurant and each order a pizza that’s 14″ in diameter — G always orders the frutti di mare and I always get the vegetable. Each pizza costs 50-60 kuna. That’s $7.70 to $9.24 in USD. And the kicker is that it’s so big that we would usually only eat half of the pizza in one sitting, so we’d have another meal waiting for us in the fridge. At that price, we couldn’t afford NOT to eat pizza for almost every meal! (Between the two of us, I can’t believe we don’t have a single picture of pizza!)
  • Water is everywhere. I’m not talking about the Adriatic Sea this time. I mean that we had access to potable water — for free — at every gas station, as well as at several places in each town and/or along the highways. We’ve got a 40-gallon tank and we do our best to conserve. But as any #vanlifer knows, where to get water is always on your mind.

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Things we don’t love:

  • The price of gas. Fuel is quite expensive everywhere in Europe ($5-6/gallon) and it’s no different here. So it’s not something we disliked specifically about Croatia, it’s just worth noting as a general dislike.
  • The limited cuisine options — and no spicy condiments! This is why we ate so much pizza. Even in the cities we visited, the variety was really lacking. We would have loved to see a taco truck parked on the corner! What we would have done for a quick pad Thai or curry! Greg ordered a hamburger a couple of times and was really disappointed, so he stopped ordering it. There’s fresh seafood on the menu at most places, but they want over $20/plate and any side dishes are extra. We’re on a budget and don’t want to spend that much for a quick lunch, so we opt for pizza.
  • Rocky beaches. This is really stretching as a dislike, if only to come up with a third item for the list. In an ideal world, the miles and miles of beaches would be sandy. In Croatia, most of the beaches are rocks or pebbles, which isn’t ideal.

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During our stay, we paid almost as much for ferries as lodging fees. We spent eight days in paid lodging (which is average for the three months), costing $262. We took six ferries, costing $180. It’s the cost of doing business, and we were very happy with the mix of staying at campgrounds or apartments versus free camping, and the opportunity to visit all the islands was well worth the ferry expenses.

Our last stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik. We spent two days touring the city, including hiking up to Fort Imperial for a view of the city from above. It was windy and cold, but so worth the trek up the mountain.

Dubrovnik

We said farewell to Croatia during a strong thunderstorm and headed to Montenegro, a stop on our way to Greece. From there, the plan is to take a ferry to the boot of Italy. Adventure awaits!

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