Travel is about exploring new places and unearthing gems that you never thought you would find. Croatia is a gem.
Our travels took us from Venice via ferry to Croatia, to an island called , Mali Losinj. Mali, is in the North of the country and is part of a chain of islands that stretch to Zadar, a large city on the West Coast.
Our accommodation turned out to be better than expected as it was next to the crystal blue sea, had views for miles and a braai area…. what more could you ask for.
We’ve travelled substantially over the last months and have spent time in some great beach destinations, but Croatia was just on another level. It’s the only place that I’ve been to that has scenery that rival’s Cape Town’s. Mali Losnj has the clearest water that I’ve ever seen, it literally is turquoise.
As transport on the Island isn’t that great, we hired a car for 5 days so that we could explore the area.
Italy has Portofino and the island of Mali has Veli Losinj, a quaint little town situated on the waters edge, with restaurants, touristy shops all overlooking a little harbor. We always try to let the kids have new experiences and took them on a submarine tour, needless to say it was a real hit.
Another bonus for Croatia, is that the prices are on par with South Africa, which you don’t find too often when travelling in Europe. This enabled us to spoil ourselves a little and eat some incredible food, especially the local lamb.
We left Mali and traveled by ferry through the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen. It’s what paradise, in my mind looks like. Deserted islands scattered all through the Dalmatian coast. We both just can’t seem to figure out why we have never visited Croatia before.
We spent a few nights in Zadar, with a great “old town” and then headed to Dubrovnik, possibly the most famous City in Croatia. One little known fact is that when you drive to Dubrovnik, you have to pass through passport control, as a small part of Bosnia crosses to the Croatian coast, cutting the country in two.
Nell’s mom managed to get us a flat just outside of town, close to the harbor, but far enough away from the thousands of tourists that flock to Dubrovnik each day. The old town is beautiful and is surrounded by a two kilometer wall dating back to the 12th century, which you can walk around to get fantastic views.
The prices are also three times what we were paying up North, but that’s expected with the amount of tourists that visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We did manage to climb through the city walls and find an amazing little bar that served chilled beers and had a huge great rock, where tourists were jumping off into the ocean.
After a few relaxed days down South, we started the trek to get to Budapest. Originally we weren’t going to travel that far with Piet and Renette, but Budapest looked like an amazing city and life in the road was fun. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a flight directly to Budapest, so we flew to Zagreb and then trained to the Hungarian capital.
We were very happy when we finally hit Budapest and waking up the next morning in this amazing city was one of our travel highlights…
We named Croatia and Hungry, the new Europe. Not only because it was our first time in both places, but the energy was palpable. Budapest is filled with University students and everywhere you go there are young people, which really makes the city feel alive. On top of that, for the first time in our travels in Europe, we could actually call a country “cheap”. Budapest has everything that the more traditional touristy European cities has, but also has the benefit of being hip and trendy.
Like many other cities that we have travelled to, we opted to do an open top bus tour to acquaint ourselves with the landscape. Budapest is massive and although the public transport is very good, we’ve always found that if we do an open top bus tour on day one or two, we’re able to really get the best out of the city.
Budapest is a city of two halves, divided by the Danube River, with Buda is on the West bank and Pest on the East.
One of the highlights was eating the local cuisine. The meats were all slow cooked, pork was crispy and the beer was cold and cheap! Top this off with a local Kurtoskalacs or chimney cake and you’re in heaven! Although it might not look like it, it certainly rates in the top three meals of our travels this year. Budapest has so much to offer and it’s on our return bucket list.
On a sad note, we also said goodbye to Piet and Renette, our traveling companions who continued on their travels. It was a bit of a weird experience, as for the whole month of August, we had friends and family visiting us from home and now it was back to just the four of us again.