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Croatia’s Must Sees

Croatia is a gem of a country that provides breathtaking views, great food, fabulous beaches, and all around fun! There is much to see there but here are Croatia’s Must Sees! Click on the word TRANSCRIPT to see a transcript of this podcast with audio player at the bottom.

[00:51] Geographic Location

[02:50] Natural Parks-Natural Beauty

[03:23] Split and Dubrovnik

[06:12] History of Croatia

[08:39] Croatian Islands

[10:39] Language

[12:30] Tourism and Currency

[13:29] One or Two Places-Where to Go and Stay? 

[15:32] Wineries

Dream. Learn. Plan. Prepare. Go to Guidester/Virtual-Vacation

Season 1: Episode 4

#Zadar #SeaOrgan #PagIsland #Split #Dubrovnik #Island #English #Travel

Transcript
Arnold:

Travel to Europe is off limits for the time being, but we can still keep the flame of wanderlust alive through the Virtual Vacation with Guidester, the weekly podcast, where host Jack Baumann, founder of Guidester and travel enthusiast Arnold Stricker, dive into new destinations, exploring their unique history, culture and special vibe. You will also get insider tips about these destinations. You won't get from other sources. What are the best cities to visit in Croatia? Find out why Croatia is one of the most affordable and economical travel destinations in Europe. You get the answers to these and more questions in this episode. Now let's join our host, the Guidester himself, Jack Baumann. Jack. I saw a picture of Croatia the other day, and I was amazed at the beauty. You've got some spots that are along the sea, and you've got some spots that are mountainous. What are the things I really need to see when I go to Croatia?

Jack:

How long do we have?

Arnold:

First of all, let's identify where it is in Europe, because it may be confusing to some people. It was a little bit to me.

Jack:

Yes, it's gotten a lot more popular too in the last 10, 15 years. In the nineties, who was going to Croatia. So it's in the last 10 years, especially five years, it's really picked up pace. So it's good to know where it is. I understand a lot of people might not know exactly where it's located. It's a country at the crossroads of central and Southeastern Europe. It's right on the Adriatic Sea. Adriatic Sea is that sea to the east of Italy so it shares a sea border with Italy. Slovenia is bordering it to the northwest, Hungary where the capital Budapest is to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast. And then as I said, it shares a maritime border with Italy.

Arnold:

And it's a unusual shaped country. Isn't it?

Jack:

It is. It is. I wouldn't know quite how to describe the shape.

Arnold:

Kinda like a boomerang.

Jack:

Yeah. Yeah. Maybe like a boomerang. It, it's not that big, either. 21,000 square miles or so. Basically Vermont and Maryland combined.

Arnold:

Okay. Okay.

Jack:

So not tiny but not huge either.

Arnold:

Now are these must sees along the sea or they inland?

Jack:

I'd say most of them, if not all of them, depending on again, how you're going to see it, you're going to do it by boat, by car. However, you're going to see Croatia will depend heavily on that, but by sea. Most of the major cities that you've heard of, like Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar; they're going to be on the coast. And then Croatia is known for its islands, beautiful coastline, beautiful islands. But there are some things inland we're seeing the capital's Zagreb is inland, that's where seeing. Some of the national parks like Krka and Plitvice are absolutely spectacular, those are inland. What's great about Croatia, most of it is within driving distance of the sea, Zagreb is a couple hours from the sea. But most of what you're going to see is either on the coast or within easy driving distance of the coast.

Arnold:

Now they have rivers there just like most of Europe. A lot of cities along the river or major rivers they're in Croatia?

Jack:

Yeah. Croatia is really known for its abundant natural beauty including rivers, lakes, waterfalls. The two I just mentioned Krka and Plitvice are really the top national site's worth seeing. Krka is the one I've been to. It's it's a tiered waterfall going up hundreds of feet into the landscape. So it's just that experience is really cool, but you can do that within a day trip of Split. So if you're staying in Split, if you're staying somewhere on the coast, you don't have to go inland. In America, if you're going to go to Yellowstone, that's all you're going to see. Their national parks are easy to reach mostly from a major city.

Arnold:

You talked about Split? What's Split?

Jack:

Split is the city on the Adriatic coast in Croatia. So this is going to blow your mind, Arnold. Okay. You ready for this? The city center, the high street, if you will, the main piazza in Split is the remnants of the emperor Diocletian's palace.

Arnold:

No kidding.

Jack:

So the main square is his peristyle. Peristyle is a Greek word for like their garden. So the peristyle is where their main corridor was. It was part of Greeks and Romans house and if you were an emperor, you had many peristyles. They are basically just a colonated garden and this is their city center. So you're literally walking around, quote unquote, the streets were the corridors of this guy's palace! So the intimacy; all the streets are literally, you're like, WOW this is a small street. It wasn't a street. It was not built as a street. It was a hallway. It was a hallway and this might've been a servant's hallway. You don't know. And so you've got all these little bars and restaurants tucked into these little nooks. I'm walking down a tiny little street. And I looked to my left and there's literally, it might've been literally a 10 by 10 box built into the wall. And that was a bar. It was like a shot bar. So do you just do your little shot and continue moving on and then it'll open up and do a little square and then it'll narrow back down. So the whole little city center is this old palace 2000 year old palace.

Arnold:

That's crazy.

Jack:

It really is crazy. It really blew me away. Split, is great for roaming the ancient streets. There's a promenade there that's beautiful, but just getting lost in these little ancient corridors is spectacular.

Arnold:

And on the coast.

Jack:

On the coast. Yes. Now the one we're seeing on the coast is to Dubrovnik. You've heard of Dubrovnik? Yes. Game of Thrones. That's really what popularized Dubrovnik was Game of Thrones. Now one note; it is the most touristy city in Croatia. I am almost positive it is. If it's not, it's gotta be, but one of the top ones, but millions of visitors every year. This is really one of the cities that made Croatia big and well-known because of Game of Thrones. It's still worth seeing. Yes. It's gonna be a little crowded, depending on when you go, if you go July, August. Yeah. But their city walls;. we should talk in a second about the history of Croatia, and the history of Dubrovnik because it is worth mentioning, but Dubrovnik was like the jewel in this maritime empire that rivaled Venice at one point. So what you've got is this old wealthy city; now it's hundreds of years old, but the city walls that are just imposing onto the coastline, you can walk all the city walls. You can even jet ski around the walls. I've done. I did that. Got lucky; was in the right place at the right time, but you can get on jet skis and jet ski around these old ancient walls. Then you add into that the small little corridors and you're on the coast. There's actually a cable car that'll take you up the hill, overlooking all of that. So as far as the history, the beauty Dubrovnik is definitely tourist city, but man, it's worth seeing. I just wanted to emphasize that.

Arnold:

Let's talk a little bit about the history of Croatia.

Jack:

Let's do that. This is my sweet spot. I love history and Europe is just full of it. Full of history Croatia goes back to ancient times. It was a Roman province called the Illyria which was at one point notorious for pirates. So if you ever heard the term or heard the name Pompey the great, [who was one of the chief foes, first friends, and then an adversary of Julius Caesar who was ultimately killed in the civil wars with Julius Caesar], Pompey the great cleared the Mediterranean of pirates in three months. They all went back to Illyria, which was their kind of home base. He showed up and said You're either going to die or you're going to be tax-paying Roman citizens. They chose the latter. It had been around many centuries before that, but that's really when it was started to be a productive part of the empire and it became the source of some of the greatest soldiers the Roman empire ever knew. It was, just cause of the rough terrain, very Rocky craggy, but for many reasons, I think iron ore also maybe came from this area, so a lot of the metal weapons were made here. But some of the greatest Roman emperor soldiers came from Illyria. In fact, there's a thing called the crisis of the third century in the 200's where Rome almost fell. Rome was very close to falling; barbarian invasions from Germany, pressures from the east, the Eastern empire. Pressures from the south, the economic misalignment, the aristocrats; there's so many reasons. An old joke. There's 252 reasons that the Roman empire fell. But it definitely would've fallen earlier had it not been for these Illyrian emperors Aurelian, Diocletian. Diocletian's palace is the one that's the city center of Split.

Arnold:

Right?

Jack:

So this is that emperor and then it all culminated with Constantine the great. And if you don't know much about Roman history, Constantine the great was one of the greatest or most notorious Roman empires. He was the first Christian emperor and Constantine was from Elyria. He was from Croatia.

Arnold:

Really?

Jack:

Modern Croatia. So this whole area was called Illyria and it was really one source of the greatest Roman legionaries. The fighting emperor of Rome, that really pulled Rome out of the depths of falling centuries before it could have.

Arnold:

Interesting.

Jack:

Yeah.

Arnold:

We've talked about some things along the coast. What's inland?

Jack:

Inland really is the natural beauty that we discussed. Plitvice, Krka national park, there are towns and monasteries worth visiting, but in my view, I think staying along the coast is the thing to do. Staying in Dubrovnik, staying in Split, staying in Havar.

Arnold:

You mentioned a lot of the islands there too that that was one of their points that makes them stand out on the map.

Jack:

It really does. There's hundreds of islands. There's a few that are well-known; Pag Island, Brac, Hvar. The beauty of the islands is you get the coastline. You can run a little moped, I did this on Pag Island it was really cool. So the thing with the islands is you want to try to go at the right time and you want to make sure there's no festivals going on. So you want to do your due diligence on what islands you're going to and when. Example, Pag Island. You've heard of Ibiza in Spain? That's like the number one party destination in the summer for festival goers and party goers. Zrce beach, which is on Pag Island is number two in all of Europe. I think one of two or three in the world. That doesn't start until a specific time period in the summertime maybe Juneish So if you go before that, you get this Island basically to yourself. So I was with some friends and we rented some scooters and mopeds and went. Even if you're not a party goer, go to this island before the party starts going a couple of weeks, month before, if you can, and you get this whole island to yourself. Running a little moped, and you're just cruising around these desolate streets, well-maintained roads, but nobody's on them. You've got mountains in the back. You've got the coast, the water. It really is something cool. Another worth mentioning is Brac. It's a popular Island off the coast of Split. So you can stay in Split, accessible by ferry or catamaran. It's Croatia's most photographed beach called the Zlatni Rat. The golden horn. I definitely didn't pronounce it right, but the golden horn. It's a cluster of pine trees offering shade overlooked by rocky heights. It's just a really cool, the whole setting is beautiful, so that's Brac. And then Hvar is the longest and sunniest Croatian Island. It's counted as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. So you've got Hvar town which has some of the top hotels and best seafood restaurants. It, dates back to the Venetian world, the 15th century. So you've got that old classical look and feel, plus the island look plus the beaches. So Hvar is really a great combination of that history of the coastline of the beach, the sun and the sand kind of experience.

Arnold:

Let's talk a little bit about language. If I don't speak Croatian; is English going to get me by?

Jack:

Yes, it will. It's actually amazing how easy it is to get by with English. I think I was in Croatia seven or eight days. I started, I went through Zagreb, did basically north to south Dalmatian coast all the way down, ending in Dubrovnik, which is in the southern part on the border of Montenegro. I didn't have a single problem getting around with English. To get to Dubrovnik if you're driving through from Southern Croatia, you got to go through Bosnia. So that's true for the surrounding countries to Bosnia. I stopped and brought Bosnia and had some lunch. That was really cool. Just I had some Bosnia lunch in Bosnia.

Arnold:

So, it wasn't a problem going through another country?

Jack:

Just make sure you have your passports handy and don't have any, illegal, elicit or any issues going on, don't have kidnapped anybody and yeah, you'll be fine. They'll look at you and if you're American; they'll ask you where you've been, what you've been doing, but yeah you're doing everything right. You're going to come through, we're going to breeze through. But that's only if you're driving, a lot of people they'll take boats from one city to the other, they'll get on a guided tour; maybe they'll take a bus. I wanted to drive. Croatia, the roads that were highway system was good. I didn't have any major issues; highly recommend doing it. It was pretty inexpensive to rent from one of the other. It wasn't too bad. So it was worth driving, but the language barrier is basically non-existent. Certainly if you go further inland and you go to the real rural areas, I would bet there's going to be more of an issue, but Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar. Zagreb even some of these islands that are not necessarily the top islands; I never had any issues. English menus. English speaking waiters. It actually shocked me, how good, better than Italy, better than Spain, better than France. And these countries are visited 10 times more than Croatia. So it really is fascinates me the level of proficiency of English.

Arnold:

So is tourism the number one industry there then?

Jack:

Ooh, good question. I don't know. It's certainly growing. I wouldn't have said that was always the case, but today maybe. Definitely in certain areas, you go to Split and to Dubrovnik absolutely. They get millions of tourists each year. Country wide, I don't know. I think still have some natural resources that they provide, that they outsource or they sell. It's really blowing up by multiples of 10, as far as how much the tourism in Croatia is blowing up cause keep in mind too, it's not on the Euro. It's on the Croatian Kuna it's on its own currency called the Kuna and the rate of exchange is pretty good and things are cheaper. So you're going from, let's say Switzerland, gosh, that's so expensive, or even Italy, any place on the Euro is going to be somewhat standard. And you go to Eastern Europe like Croatia, Bosnia, or Serbia or Macedonia, which is awesome. It's pretty nice not having to spend those prices in your it's seven to one, 10 to one Macedonia I think is 60 to one now on the denar. Croatia not having been on the Euro yet is an asset.

Arnold:

Now, if I have to pick one or two, because of my time that I'm going to be in Croatia, which ones should I pick Jack?

Jack:

Really tough question. It depends who you are and what you want to do. The most popular are Dubrovnik and Split. And then from Split, like I said, you can take a boat over to Brac and some of the other islands. So Dubrovnik or Split are good because you can do that and then take a day trip to the Krka National Park, which is really worth seeing. So split is really a good middle ground. It's halfway in the country on the coast. It's not all the way at the south, like Dubrovnik is, so it gives you more flexibility. So staying in Split is really a good middle ground if you want to see a lot in a small amount of time. Another one I would mention that is really cool, it's called Zadar. It's in the heart of the Adriatic, it's an urban center of Northern Dalmatia; rich cultural heritage set in a gorgeous landscape. Now it's really cool because it's a car-free old town. It's one big monument. The city has, medieval churches and treasury of archeology riches from ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times. Locals have the benefit of fresh fish surrounding them and the soil and clean environment provides great conditions for growing fruit and vegetables. So the markets in Zadar are awesome. The open air markets actually put out signs- they produce produce of Zadar because it's so well-known. So you get that and you get these cool little things. One of them is called the Sea Organ. They have an organ built into the landscape. They're basically pipes they're tubes, and there's like a platform with steps. It's right on the coast. So you can jump right off the platform into the sea and you don't even know you're sitting on it. So there's some concrete steps you're sitting on and then you hear this noise and you're like, what is that right underneath you is this sea organ and the waves come into the pipes and they splash in the pipes and they make different noises. So it creates this natural music. And so you're sitting there enjoying this gorgeous scenery and, the landscapes and the mountains in the back and obviously the Adriatic sea. And then you just got this haunting deep sort of sound coming from the waves. It's just a really cool scene.

Arnold:

Interesting, interesting. In that area, are there any wineries?

Jack:

There are, Croatian wine; wine's not necessarily my forte definitely know some awesome wineries in Tuscany that I could tell you about and France. So me personally, haven't been to the Croatian wineries, but from what I understand, because the fruit is so rich that they do have a wine industry, but it's not going to be on the same level as France or Tuscany or, these other wine producing regions.

Arnold:

Gotcha. Croatia. If you want to see that there are some must sees. We are glad you decided to listen to this episode of Virtual Vacation with Guidester. We know that there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, and we are glad that you have chosen to listen to us. Virtual Vacation with Guidester is produced by Motif Media Group. For Jack Baumann and Virtual Vacation with Guidester I'm Arnold Stricker.

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